Dominican Republic Culture
The Dominican Republic has a rich and interesting culture, which sadly many tourists to not get a chance to experience. The country has an amalgamation of influences, with a combination of European Spanish and Latin American.
Dominican people are by nature, friendly and warm-hearted. It’s not unusual for them to invite you into their home to share in a meal. They like to smile and you will often see a group having a light hearted chat, slapping each other on the back, and generally enjoying life. You will generally be greeted with a friendly “Como Estas?” which simply means, “How are you?”
The country is viewed as a poor country, and indeed by Western standards, many people live in conditions you would not consider bearable. Far away from the tourist enclaves, Dominican houses are typically small, usually without running water and often without electricity. Many streets are narrow and unpaved, and when it rains, water gushes along the street. This isn’t to say that everybody is poor. The major cities and some of the tourist towns have their share of well-off people as with most countries.
One thing you will notice when you first arrive, is the ‘mañana’ attitude. Mañana basically means ‘tomorrow’ in Spanish, but is commonly used by people who don’t want to put a specific time and date on it! Most things do take longer here. People are more relaxed – it is the Caribbean, remember. The important thing is not to get annoyed too quickly. Showing your displeasure to a waiter or anyone else in a service industry is likely to get you less service rather than more. You’ll get a much better response if you smile, keep friendly and use as much Spanish as you can.
One of the aspects that many tourists are concerned about is safety. Many travel reps will often warn tourists from going outside the all-inclusive boundaries, with stories about how dangerous the country is. This is not accurate. As with all countries there is crime. But many expats live here and enjoy their life in relative security. As with everything, it pays to be sensible. Petty crime is the most common. It’s not advisable to wear highly visible gold chains and loads of jewelry. Don’t leave valuables unattended and take all the usual precautions you would back home. Serious crime is probably less here than any of the major cities such as London or New York.
Many people will also advise you not to hire a car here. If you are a nervous driver, then that is good advice. The first time to drive down a busy Dominican road, you will get a shock. The most popular transport here, is the motoconcho, usually a 100cc or so motorbike, scooter or moped. They generally ignore all road signs and will quite happily go against the other traffic, if it’s a shorter route to where they want to go. Expect oncoming cars to overtake in your direct line of travel – and you will need move out of the way. Dominican driving is not overly aggressive – just different. People use their horns all the time, not so much to say ‘get out of the way’, but more to say ‘I’m here, watch out!’. The state of the roads is another hazard. Even the main roads have large potholes and even manholes without covers. Some of them could damage your vehicle if you hit them unawares! If you do intend to drive, take it slow, relax and don’t rush. You stand much more chance of getting to your destination unscathed if you forget the European or North American style of orderly driving!