Part of the charm of living in the Dominican Republic is how different it is from your country of origin. Walk down the street in any small village or town and you will be amazed at how many people appear to know you. They don’t, of course, all know you but they will all greet you and smile – it’s the way things are here. Resist, if you can, the urge to turn to your partner with a wary, suspicious ‘Do I know him?’ Do what the locals do, acknowledge the greeting, return it and smile back.
– Photo: Pedro Guzmán
The slow pace of life will probably also come as something of a surprise. Warm temperatures year round make for a more relaxed, slow pace but so too do high unemployment or under-employment which means that many people have time on their hands. No sense in rushing to do what little you need to do today when, in fact you have all day in which to do it. While this can bring frustrations for the new expat, conditioned by half a lifetime of frenetic activity, it is, in the long term, better for one’s health.
Some things about the DR are less productive of good health or even of an extended lifetime. Witness the driving skills or lack thereof and you might well wonder how the DR’s 10 million inhabitants have actually managed to live as long as they have!
What the new expat won’t know, and can’t be expected to, at the start, is how to achieve the normal tasks of everyday life in this environment and it is for that reason that Ilana Benady and Ginnie Bedggood have written Moving To and Living In the Dominican Republic. Between them they have been living in the DR for some 30 years. There was no ‘How To’ manual when they moved here, so the information contained in the book has been gleaned from their own, not always easy, experience.
Yes you can ask the helpful locals, assuming you have Spanish, but be prepared for literal responses rather than being told everything you need to know! This is partly because other people don’t know what it is you don’t know and don’t wish to offend by assuming you know very little. The second reason is that interpersonal relationships are considered very important in the DR and people do NOT want to upset you by telling you things you would prefer not to hear, even though they are the truth. Thus ‘Is the bread shop open all day?’ will elicit the response ‘yes’ because to a local ‘all day’ means the time bread shops are open here viz. 8 am (give or take!) to midday and 4 pm to 8 pm. Go at 2.30 pm and it will be closed.
After 4 or 5 experiences of this nature, the new expat could end up feeling that the locals don’t know what they are talking about, or are being deliberately obtuse. Neither is the case, but the new expat’s lack of information can place them in both a vulnerable and powerless position. Moving To and Living In the Dominican Republic seeks to remedy this by providing page after page of factual information as well as advice. Looking for a school for your children? Read the section on Education and see the directory of schools. Looking for a doctor or surgeon? Read the section on Health Care and see the directory of medical facilities. Want to become a legal alien? Read the section on Immigration and Visas. Not only does this book provide the information, in many aspects it also walks you through how to use that information.
Have it under your arm when you apply for a driving licence or set up a company in the DR and you’ll impress even experienced expats with your level of knowledge!
Ginnie Bedggood May 2010