We've been in Panama City, Panama for about two weeks now. From May up until then, we were in the mountain jungles of Panama near Boquete, which is very quiet and, well, jungle-y. Before that we were in San Carlos, Mexico which is a small sailing/expat town. Boquete and San Carlos are relatively quiet and peaceful, allowing one to keep to themselves for as much as they'd want. We like keeping to ourselves. In preparation for having our second child in Panama City (which is where our Doctor/Midwife pair is), we were expecting to hate it. Traffic, crowds, standing in line, and high cost of living is not our cup of tea. We like it simple.
Having said that though, we are both actually enjoying Panama City. It is actually nice to be able to find things you need to buy. The major drawback to our previous locales is that if we wanted to find something special such as maternity clothes for Yana or parts for the boat...we were either out of luck or paying tons of money for international shipping. In San Carlos, getting special items normally meant a special 5-hour drive to Tucson in the States, some nights in a hotel, and the trip back. Fun! We are now on the 6th floor of a 3 bedroom, 3 bath apartment and while it's the most we've ever paid per month for a place to live, it's really close to things that we normally don't enjoy.
I actually think that the laid-back "mañana" attitude of both Boquete and (especially) Mexico, prepared us for this. Yes, we still have to wait in line, pay more than things really should be paid for (did I mention that a $6 Thickburger from Carl's Jr. in the US costs $10.29 here in PTY?), and hear sirens and horns honking all the time. But the mañana life has helped us deal with those things a little better...I think. We aren't content to stay here long term or settle down in Panama City, we will definitely be back in Mexico in a couple months. But it really lets us appreciate how those two different lifestyles can be beneficial and can work together. We are looking at the option of maybe sailing the boat down next summer as opposed to leaving it in Mexico, and alternating our time between Panama and Mexico. They are both lovely and so different that it makes sense to enjoy the benefits that both can bring. If we had never come here, Doodle would have not yet had the experience of moving about the city using the subway (which is super-handy and inexpensive, by the way).
I'll leave you with the view from our balcony, which probably helps us not feel so much like we are in the city. This is in the Albrook area, which used to be part of the Canal Zone and where people working with the canals lived when working with the US. It's probably as "suburban" as you can get in Panama City living in a high-rise.