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Social Customs & Etiquettes in Panama


Panamanians are formal in dealings with strangers. There is a minimum of greeting behaviour in public, and manners tend to be stiff and not courtly. Once included in family and friendship groupings, a stranger can be incorporated into a party-going network quickly.

There is a dress code to follow to enter in all banks and governmental institution as well as many stores and supermarket. If you enter these establishments with inappropriate dress like wearing Bermuda or skirts above the knee, security will probably refuse access and ask you to leave.

Panamanians tend to place more emphasis on people and relationships than to the strict adherence of set schedules in social situations.

It’s acceptable for women to dine alone, but going to local bars unaccompanied is not advised.

Meeting & Greeting

Men shake hands when greeting one another and maintain direct eye contact. At a first meeting, a handshake will suffice and is sometimes combined with slight touches on the arms or elbows. As for women, at a first meeting, women usually shake hands. Friends and close acquaintances generally kiss each other once on the cheek. Between the sexes, a regular handshake will do at a first meeting. Friends, family and close acquaintances generally share a light kiss on the cheek.

Communication Style

Panamanians are comfortable standing an arms length from one another while talking. There is little to no touching between men and men, and women and women and men and women while conversing.

Panamanians tend to favour direct eye contact over indirect. During conversations sustained eye contact is commonplace rather than sporadic.


You point at most things with your lips, by making sort of a kissing/pouting gesture in the direction you want to point. To hail a cab you put your hand out, palm down, and pull your fingers in (sort of saying “come here” with your hands).

Showing someone a raised middle finger is an obscene gesture.





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