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    Cuba: Sandy beach. Go Now!

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    Panama: Panama City skyline. Go Now!

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    Panama is best known for the Panama Canal, but the beaches draw tourists, as does Panama City (pictured), a modern capital quite different from most nearby cities. Explore Panama

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Social Life in Panama

Behavior

The Panamanians are conservative in most aspects of their lives and this is best seen in their behaviors, dress, and dining etiquette. They tend to dress and act conservatively, much of which is based on the doctrines of their Catholic faith. However, there is also great variety in the way the Panamanians behave as the country is quite diverse ethnically and geographically.

As a visitor to Panama try to follow the lead of the locals by dressing conservatively (see below for details), dining in the local etiquette (see our Panama Dining & Food Page), and avoid sensitive conversation topics, such as politics, finances, and business unless initiated by your local counterpart. Also try to avoid being loud, rude, showing off wealth, or getting noticeably drunk in public.

Dress

The national dress of Panama is called la pollera, which is a colorful dress likely inspired by the flamenco dancers of Spain. This one- or two-piece dress is typically white and is usually filled with patterned embroidery of numerous images, but generally of flowers or animals. Men don't have such a particular national dress, but the light-colored woven Panama hat is popular, despite the fact that it originates in Ecuador; it gets its name from the fact that most hats were shipped to Panama prior to shipping to Europe when they first became popular.

Today the people of Panama generally wear western-styled clothing, not unlike that which they have worn since Spanish colonization. However, the Panamanians can be fairly conservative in the way they dress; in cities long pants and long-sleeved shirts are common for most occasions, but on weekends and along the beaches shorts and short-sleeve shirts are popular. As a visitor you are welcome to wear just about anything you desire, but in business and religious settings the clothes should cover up your arms and legs and dress is on the more formal side. On the beaches sunbathing naked or women sunbathing topless is often restricted so check with locals before doing so.

This page was last updated: December, 2013