by J Robertson Miller, 2023
The US dollar. This one is easy, no exchange needed, no conversion tables. Panama has its own coins, the Balboa, which can be used interchangeably with the US dollar in Panama but not in the US. The photo of coins shows US coins paired with their Panamanian counterparts.
Tipping is 10 to 15%
Centigrade, not Fahrenheit. Here are two ways to estimate what the degrees centigrade mean:
0 to 10 = coat, 10 to 15 = light jacket, 15 to 20, hoodie, over 20 good, over 30 hot.
30s hot, 20s nice, 10s cold, 0s ice.
For cooking just measure weight on scale as chefs do in fine restaurants. Many measuring cups and spoons are labeled with both measuring systems. Produce like fruits and vegetables and fresh meat items are weighed in kilos (short for kilogram). A kilo is roughly 2.2 pounds.
Volumes – metric system
Gasoline here is sold by liters (wine is sold by the liter in the US).
In stores, prepackaged items (food, cleaning supplies, grooming products and pet supplies) are usually labeled with both measuring systems.
Distance – a kilometer is a thousand meters. A meter is 3.28 feet, slightly longer than a yard
If you’ve ever participated in a 5K marathon, you traveled a distance a little more than 3 miles.
Photo with tape measure compares inches and centimeters with coin sizes.
Speed is measured in Km/h, thus if the speed limit is 100 Km/h that translates to about 60mph
Almost all countries in the world use the metric system. For short stays, most of this won’t impact you, but if you drive you will have to understand the speed conversion.
People coming for longer periods of time will need to decide if they want to put in the effort to learn the system or not. This is when you discover how much you internalized the culture in which you were raised.
You have a sense, or feeling, about how long an inch is, but the same length in centimeters becomes a new language, a new way of thinking. Stretching your mind (learning new things) helps make you smarter. Your brain stays healthier for a longer time.
Welcome to Panama.