What is the difference between Panama and the Netherlands?
I often get the question, "What do you love about Panama?" I can answer briefly: Everything is beautiful. To the question, "What are the differences between the Netherlands and Panama?" I can also answer briefly: Everything. Not because I don't feel like answering or want to exaggerate, no, really everything is different.
I looked around me during my trip in Panama to see if there are similarities with the Netherlands. But actually no. Some things are the same, but no. The culture, the food, the nature, the architecture, the electronics, the objects. Everything is different. No doubt I am forgetting categories, but really everything is different. And not everything is an improvement. Read this as a sneer at Dutch culture. My heart is in Panama.
Grocery shopping in the Netherlands can be very quick. You go to the supermarket, grab a little computer to scan the groceries. You walk through the store with that. You scan the barcode on the products and put the products in your own bag. When you get to the checkout, you have to be lucky to talk to someone. After all, you charge yourself. If you are "unlucky" you will be checked. This is because you have to use the handheld computer to scan the cash register and your groceries are loaded. You pay with the cash register and a receipt comes out. With that receipt you can leave the store. At a random time, you get a sample. An employee then comes to you and you scan 5 products from your bag. If you scanned those as well, then you may checkout. If you have scanned alcohol, then you have to identify yourself. I sometimes have weeks when I don't speak to anyone in the supermarket. So I make a sport of talking to the greengrocer myself. But at the checkout, it's boring. If you say, "Have a nice day!" they look at you funny. I can hear them thinking, "Why are you talking to me?" You see this self-scan checkout in more and more stores. So not just in supermarkets. At the drugstore you only buy medical stuff or possibly toys. In the Netherlands you see almost nowhere images of Maria. You have to buy those in specialized stores. But you can't find them everywhere. Many towns don't have them. I'd better say: only a few towns have a store for religious articles.
As for food. We don't really have our own cuisine. We have a multicultural society. We like to eat at restaurants with food from other countries. We do have some dishes that are typical of our country, but you can't eat them in a restaurant. We import a lot of products from other countries. For example, you can buy a mango in the supermarket. The price of one mango varies so between $2 and $4. Sweet bananas are cheap, though. You can buy a lot of those. But the platano verder or platano duro are not many. The quality is very poor. Every week it comes from a different country. It has been frozen at sea for weeks, and in this cold country it hardly ripens. Sometimes you can just throw away a banana after 10 weeks. Yuca and yame are not known in our supermarkets. You have to go to a special Chinese store for that. But the difference is that that yame is frozen and yuca is not from Latin America but from Africa, or Asia. So it's a different product. And if you buy it and buy as much as you can all the ingredients for Sancocho de Pollo, you will spend $40.
The architecture in the Netherlands is different from Panama. You could kind of compare it to the skyscrapers in Panama City. All the houses have glass in the windows. And we like to keep the doors closed. We have to heat our house in the winter (December/March). During my last trip, I saved a lot. I came back and saw that I pay 5 euros/5 dollars per day to heat my house. In the summer (June/August) I don't have to. Then I have to cool as much as possible. But because I have windows that don't open well, it can be pretty hot at the end of summer. But I like that. It's his Panamanian temperatures. In the streets we have small gutters. That's where the rainwater drains into the sewer system. In the summer when there are downpours in the evening (because the water evaporates during the day and falls down at night) sometimes the gutters can't handle it. But often it is not a problem. Now with the changes in climate it can become a problem. With us, then, everything is filled up. We call some gardens "paved gardens" these are gardens where there are only tiles, and not a single plant can be found. Furthermore, we fence off our gardens, often with large fences. Privacy is a big thing. We often have no contact with our neighbors. There are even TV programs of neighbors having conflicts over the fence, which is 5 centimeters wrong. My apartment has no garden or balcony. I have my front door of my apartment on the inside of the building. I have not seen my neighbors this year. There are 4 others living on my floor. I see them maybe 10x a year. So totally a difference from Panama.
As for traffic, it was a big change to get to Panama. The pedestrian always has the right of way. If a cyclist hits a pedestrian, the cyclist is always at fault. If a motorized vehicle on 2 wheels hits a cyclist or pedestrian, they are automatically at fault. If a 4-wheeled motorized vehicle hits a pedestrian, cyclist or motorized vehicle, for example, the car is always at fault. It can be very bad sometimes. If a cyclist does things in traffic that are wrong, and he gets hit by a car, then the car is at fault. Even if it is not physically the car's fault. In traffic, the one who is the weakest is less guilty. Pedestrians actually always have the right of way. Okay, cyclists and pedestrians are not allowed on the highway, but almost everywhere there is a footpath for pedestrians. For cyclists, a bike lane. So on many roads in cities, the inner roads are blacktop. Those are for cars. In addition, in the two directions there is often a red lane. Those are for cyclists. On the outside is a raised edge where pedestrians can and should walk. This is not the same everywhere. For example, near the major roads between cities, there is only a bike lane. The walking distances are too great. But pedestrians are allowed to walk there and cyclists must always be careful not to hit pedestrians. Furthermore, we also have pedestrian crossings . The difference with Panama is that cars are required to stop. They don't always do that, but they can get a fine from the police. Speaking of fines, you are not allowed to put colored lights or sirens in your car. Cycling with a cell phone in your hands will cost 95 euros. As does honking your horn when in no danger (as is normal in Panama). Not wearing a seat belt is also fined. This is €149. So according to Dutch law, I committed over $1,000 worth of violations last vacation.The road signs are pretty much the same in terms of usage in the Netherlands. Except that in the Netherlands the slopes are marked with a percentage. According to the Dutch signs, on the road from Soná to Santiago, there would be a sign every 200-400 meters that a turn is coming.
As for electricity. I am getting used to power outages in Panama. In the Netherlands this happens very rarely. The past few days the power has gone out somewhere in the Netherlands. This is reported separately in the news. In case of a power outage of more than 4 hours you get compensation from the power company. Furthermore, in the Netherlands we do not have 100 volts, we have 230 volts. The devices don't get so hot while charging. The cable to the houses are underground. It makes for a safe and tidy streetscape. Only the high-voltage pylons disturb the landscape. The trains resemble the subway in Panama City. The trains are almost all electric. They are connected by electricity. In winter, when the overhead wires are frozen, you can see sparks when the train is running.
As a summary, I can say that in the Netherlands we have many luxuries and rules. We are selfish and on our own. For example, there are stories of people lying dead in their homes for 6 months. Bills are paid automatically because we have benefits. With a positive bank balance, you can lie dead in the house unnoticed. Because people have no contact with neighbors, they are not missed. This happens maybe once a year or more often. It's not a habit, but I don't think you can lie in Panama and rot away in your home unnoticed. The togetherness in Panama ensures that you are not missed. There is always someone who misses you.
Since the golden age (the century when we started looting other countries) we have gained much prosperity culminating in the period after World War II where prosperity increased, and we can buy anything we want. A downside is that the culture in terms of interconnectedness has crumbled and we decide for ourselves whether to kill fetuses. If we feel our life is complete, we go to the doctor and our life is ended. The Netherlands is the first country in the world to legalize same-sex marriage. These changes in society result in churches being empty and closed. We no longer need God because of this prosperity. We are our own God and in a selfish society we do not have to consider our neighbor. As children in school, we used to say "Me, me, me and the rest can choke."