AU PAIR CULTURE QUESTS
The following information is generalized and compiled from questions posed to the agents and interviewers in Panama. Although au pairs from this country may or may not have had these experiences/beliefs, Au Pair in America wishes to share this general information with our families.
Child Care Skills
- It is very common for Panama adolescents to take care of their siblings, cousins, neighbors’ children, etc. It is an accepted part of everyday life that older children in all families help take care of their younger siblings while their parents are at work. In fact, while the requirements to become an au pair specify 200 hours of certified childcare experience, our average Panama au pair has more than 2,000 hours and 2 years of college behind them before they apply to our program.
- Preparing meals for children is very common and often preferred to eating out.
- Panama families are friendly and warm and the children grow up surrounded by family, cousins, and friends, often visiting parks and enjoying the outdoors together.
- Two or more children per family is very common in Panama but larger families with three or more children are often desired. Probably 98% of our au pairs grow up caring for their younger siblings, cousins, etc.
- Most children are taught responsibility by giving them light tasks and duties such as babysitting from an early age.
- Panama is a very friendly, family-oriented country. It is quite common to visit other family members over holidays or weekends. For most parents, spending time outdoors and organizing sports activities is the idea of “quality time” spent with their children. Most boys and girls play soccer and football, ride bikes, roller skate, swim, and and about 35% of Panama au pairs also have equestrian skills.
- English is the second language and Panamanians are very USA-oriented. With the U.S. building of the Panama Canal in 1903 and the subsequent dozen US Military bases here for more than 95 years, many Panamanians worked for the US Military or American families in the Canal Zone. Most English classes here focus on oral and written skills.
- English-language movies and TV series are fantastically popular in Panama. There are at least a dozen US movies playing here at any given time and there are movie theaters from one end of Panama to the other. As a result, Panamanians have contact with spoken English when watching TV, going to the cinema or using the internet.
- The opportunity to improve their language skills during the Au Pair in America program is one of the primary reasons Panama applicants join our program. Many ex au pairs work for U.S. airlines in Panama such as United Airlines and American, and US banks such as Citigroup, Bank of America, Merrill Lynch, etc. Many more work in our Panama City hotels such as Marriott, The Hard Rock, Holiday Inn Express, Intercontinental, Hilton, The Waldorf Astoria, the Ritz Carlton, etc. Many other ex au pairs find a career in additional areas of tourism where they can continue to use their improved English.
- The minimum driving age in Panama is 18. Most applicants obtain their driving license at this age although with their parents’ permission they can get a learner’s permit at age 17.
- The process of obtaining the license includes a written test and a driving test.
- Panama drivers experience a variety of weather conditions, including heavy rain and heavy traffic.
- Elementary education in Panama is free and the national university is very low cost. There are also branches of the Florida State University, Louisville University, Columbus University and American University in Panama, in addition to at least a dozen other local universities.
- Many young Panamanians complete university education with MA or BA degrees.
- Parents focus on their children’s education from a very young age. Children usually learn dancing, ballet, arts & crafts, sports and horseback riding.
- Panama’s healthcare system is based on an all-inclusive nationwide medical insurance program. State subsidized healthcare is available to all citizens who are covered by this general health insurance program.
- It is common to visit the dentist on a regular basis here.
- Panama is also home to a branch of the famous Johns Hopkins Hospital, and the Cleveland Clinic.
- Panama people describe themselves as friendly, hospitable, warm, ambitious, easy going and very resourceful.
- They have very strong family ties and usually live with parents until marriage.
- Family events, tradition and culture are very important values they inherit from childhood.
- Mother Nature is BIG in Panama. About one third of the Panama land mass, more than two million acres, is designated as public parks and national preserves. Panama borders both the Pacific and the Atlantic oceans with a total of more than 900 miles of beautiful coastline. There are more than 1,000 beautiful tropical islands surrounded by sandy beaches and emerald green and blue waters with many colorful, fun coral reefs to explore. Panama has lots of fish and more game fishing records than any other country in the world and, in fact, the native word “Panama”, means…”Plentiful Fish”.
- Our biggest city today is the capital, Panama City, bordering the Pacific Ocean with a population of about 890,000 and a total of almost 1.5 million within the metropolitan area. Bordering the Atlantic Ocean is the old city of Colon with a population of about 250,000. Cristopher Columbus on his fourth voyage to the New World in 1502, discovered Panama. In fact our two Atlantic cities of Cristobal and Colon are Spanish for Christopher Columbus. Today, Colon is home to the second largest Free Zone in the world.
- The Panama Canal was built in Panama as opposed to other countries because Panama has no active volcanoes, no hurricanes, no tornados and few earthquakes that exceed 4 or 5 on the Richter Scale. Panama became a melting pot for many cultures who arrived in the early 1900’s to help build the Canal. Today, there are more than 30,000 retired Americans who live in various parts of Panama.
- How are you? Como estás?
- Fine, thanks. Bien, gracias.
- My name is… Me llamo…
- Nice to meet you! Es un gusto conocerte.
- Thank you. Gracias.
“I am living the best experience of my life.” – Yejeira, au pair from Panama
“I’ve been here for almost 9 months and I’m having the time of my life. I’ve matured, learned so many things, went to many places and I love my host family – they are THE BEST!” – Diana, au pair from Panama
“I am really happy with my experience here in USA, I’m enjoying every day, particularly the winter season, I was excited with the first snowfall. I am learning and improving my English every day. I am meeting new friends of different countries like Brazil, France, Jamaica, and Thailand.” – Arelis, au pair from Panama
“I like that I can go off to work knowing that I am leaving my children in their own home, happy and eager to spend the day with someone I trust and like very much.”
Hannah, host parent