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Expat Advice: Culture Shock in Santo Domingo, Dominican Rep

Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic

What is the name of the city or town that you are reporting on?

Santo Domingo

Did you receive any cross-cultural training for your move abroad? If yes, was it before or after the move?

Yes, it was before I moved.

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If they speak another language in your new country, do you speak the language? If yes, did you learn the language before you moved or while abroad? If no, are you planning to learn the language?

Yes, I speak very little Spanish. I learned using a visuale link Spanish Course and many of my friends have been Spanish speaking to me for over 30 years.

Were you worried or concerned about culture shock before you moved abroad?

I was never worried about culture shock before I moved, due to the fact that I have traveled to several spanish speaking countries in South America for many years.

How significant was the culture shock you experienced when you moved abroad?

It was extreme. It caused me to bunker down at my apartment and only travel outside with my fiance when she was not at work.

Expats often talk about going through the "stages of culture shock." Examples include the honeymoon phase, the irritation-to-anger stage, the rejection of the culture stage, and the cultural adjustment phase. Do you feel like you went through these or any other stages as you settled into the new culture?

Yes! I've been through all of the above stages.

What, if any, were some of the changes you noticed in yourself that might have been caused by culture shock? These might include things such as anger, depression, anxiety, increased eating or drinking, frustration, homesickness, etc.

#1 Anger, #2 frustration, #3 anxiety, #4 depression.

What are some things you appreciate most about the new culture?

I appreciate the fact that under extreme poverty, the people somehow seem to survive on so little.

What are the most challenging aspects of the new culture?

The most challenging aspect of the new culture for me has been getting business people to understand that when I pay for a service, I expect to get what I pay for in a timely manner. Example, ( I went to a local bank to open a checking account and I had to come back and forth four times to complete the process) ( my apartment lease includes TV internet and cable. The TV was a 30 year old TV that never worked, the cable only sometimes and the internet is much like waiting for a snail to travel one mile. I requested to have my lease reflect the fact that none of these services are being used due to the fact that the landlord removed the TV during my first week and I had to purchase my own, plus I had to purchase my own internet and cable to ensure that I have service. However, the landlord wants to stick to our original agreement even though he is not providing what is promised in the lease. These sorts of things are very common in Santo Domingo). Beware.

Did you "commit" any embarrassing or humorous cultural blunders? If you did and you'd like to share them, please do tell!

No I did not.

Do you have any advice or thoughts about culture shock you would like to share?

I am only able to survive here because I have enough cash to move if I want. Make sure that when you move here, you have at least $7,000.00 usd saved to fall back on and at least $2,500.00 usd a month income. Money is the great equalizer. With it you can call your own shots. Without enough you will become a victim of circumstance. Other than that, do not expect people here to render good customer service. You must expect that if you purchase a item from a store to be delivered, you better ask before giving the cashier your money to have your merchandise there at the counter and have your own truck to transport it to your location, or you may have to wait several weeks for a delivery. Learn to be very patient. To sum things up, Just don't ask for anything and you will not go through the frustration of people here doing things in their own time frame and not yours.

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Comments about this Report

Jan 7, 2013 03:13

As with all the Culture Shock Reports, after defining which country/city etc is being discussed, the burning second question is missing . . . i.e; Why did you travel there, or why did you go and live there? This sole reason alone can put all the other answers into perspective and put the reader on the right track when considering the replies to the other questions. I was in the Dom Republic for nearly four years and loved every minute of it, I never spoke the lingo before arriving there. The fact that this guy was holed-up in his apartment, perturbed about venturing outside alone, tells me that he wasn’t there to work. The pictures I get of him peeking through the curtains waiting for the first signs of his girlfriend coming home are disturbing to say the least! I guess going to a place to work, as I do, has immense impact on your view of the culture you have immersed yourself into. My first international posting was India and let me tell you that place could be a culture shock. The recent case of a young girl being raped with an iron bar on a public bus service puts life into perspective in that country and the first accidentally amputated leg you come across on the railway line is a small step to appreciating what’s to come. But a little bit of Due Diligence beforehand in the library or these days on your doorstep in Google, Youtube or the TV should give you a sound outlook on what to expect. The big thing missing in all that digital data are the aromas, smells and stenches (in that degree). Open sewers and end-of-street garbage dumps that can make you reach are common in third-world countries or developing countries as we now euphemistically refer to them for political correctness. But as with everything, small steps is my recommendation. I would have recommended the author of this report to have sat outside his apartment each day waiting for his girlfriend to come home, and quietly nodding to local passer-byes, then move up a step to the end of the street or the town centre etc. Small steps to release the baggage and comfort-blankets you may have taken with you. The ‘paying-for-service’ is common in all second and third-world countries and only the most parochial person who hasn’t done his due diligence would not expect to ‘dash’ the border guard, local cop or whatever. Small Steps with little expectation but maybe Brits are more acclimatised to this than most!

Jan 7, 2013 12:43

I have been to SD and seen all the barbed wire and embedded glass on all the walls surrounding houses...not to mention guards with shot guns or auto weapons. SD is not a safe place to be.

Jan 7, 2013 19:34

This is hilarious! Obviously you did not visit DR for any amount of time prior to moving. It is a third world country and an island. All things happen on island time a lot slower than what US and Canadians may be use to. You can get ripped off easily, but you have to beat them at their own game. Get someone who speaks Spanish to negotiate all contracts for you. I have no idea why it took you more than once to complete the bank account process. My husband and I did it in 45 minutes, but we are fluent in Spanish. The best rule is to expect the worse and hope for the best. But most of all enjoy the beautiful place you are living and the cheap cost of living. We live in La Vega so I know our expenses are considerably less than yours. It really is beautiful place with faults just like every other country. Learn the embrace the craziness and appreciate the beautiful island. Its really not that bad, you just have to learn to give them what they give. Like what is your landlord gonna do if you move out, ruin your credit?! No! He is gonna get somebody else to take your apt. Dont permit anyone to run over you. If you do they will continue to do it. Thats the same rule worls wide! I hope you learn to love it and laugh at the craziness because you are missing out of you stay hunkered down in your apt.

Jan 9, 2013 08:27

Thanks for all of your response's. I moved to The Dominican Republic to retire in a warm climate. I lived in Florida and did not like the terrain because it was flat. The Dominican Republic has a more diverse climate and terrain than Florida. I understand the comments of the person who works. Of course when you go to work everyday you have more exposure to people and life is less boring. Santo Domingo is just my first stop here. Unlike many who want the beaches, I used to live in Marina del Rey, California. I was on the beach everyday for many years. I also lived in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil in Copacabana on the beach, so I'm not as excited as someone who thinks that beach life is paradise. I'm here for the climate first. I have taken steps outside of my apartment to take the Metro/Subway around town, and get on the bus and taxi's alone to blend in with the locals much more. I also went to visit the mountain range in Jarabacoa a month ago, and I'm returning there in two days to meet with a realtor to rent an apartment/house with two bedrooms for USD$ 200.00 a month. Living in Jarabacoa is like living in the Alps or mountain region of Colorado but with warm days. The culture shock is subsiding now, as I've become more intergrated into the Dominican Society, as I now have healthcare here at a private hospital and the people at the bank and supermarkets and cab drivers have gotten to know me better. I am somewhat familiar with La Vega, as I passed through the town on my way to Jarabacoa. I agree with the responder that the same will apply there but with a much cheaper cost of living and less conjestion than Santo Domingo. To sum things up, life is improving for me as each day passes.

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