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The Dominican way of life.

When travelling to the Dominican Republic it is good to know some of the countries culture, customs and etiquettes. I researched my archive and surfed the web to compile some of the most interesting customs and characteristics of the wonderful Dominican people.  more...


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When travelling to the Dominican Republic it is good to know some of the countries culture, customs and etiquettes. I researched my archive and surfed the web to compile some of the most interesting customs and characteristics of the wonderful Dominican people.

You will be surprised to see how Dominicans who have never met each other can strike up a conversation like they have been best friends forever. Strangers greet each other as amigo or amiga. Mi amor (“my love”) is used commonly among men and women – even if they don’t know each other – and no one takes it as sexual harassment. Dominicans also typically say joven (“young one”) or amigo (a) (“friend”) to get someone’s attention, such as a waiter in a restaurant.

Before addressing someone it is expected that you properly salute this person. When you step into a bus, or shared cab with a general greeting like “Buenos días“, you will notice that everyone will greet you back. Dominicans welcome each other and say goodbye by touching cheeks while making a kissing sound. Kisses are always exchanged between women and often between women and men, but only if the woman initiates it first. Dominican men usually greet with a hug. Keep in mind that kissing isn’t necessarily limited to people who know each other. If you make friends with a Dominican and you are introduced to another friend or a family member, don’t be surprised if that person lands you a big kiss.

Dominicans have no problem cutting in front of you while ordering a cup of coffee or a burger. This is part of the culture and has nothing to do with you personally. Just stand your ground while maintaining a smile. When buying goods on the streets or beach you are expected to bargain but keep in mind that an extra couple of dollars go a long way in the Dominican Republic and helps putting food on the table for large families spanning various generations who are living together under one roof.

The main meal, comida, is served at midday and often lasts two hours. Families prefer eating at home. Desayuno, or breakfast, is usually light. The cena, or evening meal, is also light, often not more than a snack or leftovers from comida. Guests are served first, sometimes separately and more generously. Rice is served at most meals in large quantities. La bandera (the flag) is a popular national dish; the white rice and red beans remind people of the flag colors, hence the name. The third ingredient is stewed meat, and it is usually served with fried plantain and a salad. Another favorite dish is sancocho, a meat, plantain, and vegetable stew. On the coast, fish and conch are enjoyed, and coconut is used to sweeten many seafood dishes. Root vegetables include sweet potatoes, yams, cassava, and potatoes. Small quantities of chicken, beef, pork, or goat are eaten with a meal. Food is generally not spicy. Dominican coffee is served in small cups and tastes very sweet and strong.

Dominicans love to receive houseguests who are treated like royalty. If you are bringing gifts, you should be aware that as with many European countries, the colors purple and black have associations with death, funerals and mourning and therefore should be avoided. Appropriate gifts are sweets, chocolates, cakes, pastries or flowers, and you should expect that gifts are opened and graciously remarked upon in your presence. Arriving between 15 and 30 minutes later than the stipulated time is considered on time.

Tipping is widespread in the Dominican Republic, as the average salary is low. You will find that a fair and generous tip will ensure a good service. As tourism is an important industry, you should be aware that should you need to photograph or require the assistance of a local, it is good etiquette to show your gratitude by tipping them a small sum of money.

Being well dressed and groomed is a matter of extreme pride in Dominican culture, with even the poorest person going all out to look his or her absolute best in public. As a traveler visiting the country, you won’t always find it practical or necessary to dress up, but there are times – such as visiting a museum, a public building, or a church –it is appreciated if you dress up a bit. In these cases, men are required to wear long pants and a shirt with a collar, while women can dress as they please – providing they don’t show too much skin. Many Dominicans especially those living in Santo Domingo consider wearing shorts to dinner, to be the height of tackiness and even offensive. This is partly why upscale Dominican all-inclusive resorts also discourage wearing shorts at dinner. Keep in mind that some churches, like the Cathedral in Santo Domingo’s Zona Colonial may not admit women wearing pants, so to prevent disappointment women might want to wear a dress while sightseeing.

There are a variety of religions present in the Dominican Republic culture. The population is more than 95% Christian, with 88% of the people being Catholic and 4% being Protestant. Because of some immigration and mission efforts, those of the Spiritist, Buddhist, Islamic, and Ba'hai faiths may be seen as well. During World War 2, Jews fleeing from Europe settled in the Dominican Republic and founded the city of Sosua, which became the center of Jewish religion in the country.

Roman Catholicism has been combined with traditional folk religion, particularly in rural areas. It is quite common for devout Catholics to consult a folk practitioner for spiritual advice or to prevent some calamity. The ensalmo is a healing chant that is usually performed by an elderly woman, and is among the most respected folk practices. Although many voodoo products are for sale in markets, voodoo is unpopular with most Dominicans.

Race unfortunately still plays a dominant part in the Dominican society. The Dominican economical higher classes historically descended from European ancestry and is light skinned. The middle class is divided into Indio claro, who have lighter skin, and Indio obscuro, who are darker skinned. The term Indio (Indian) is used because many Dominicans still don’t acknowledge their African roots. The poorest Dominicans are often of Afro-Caribbean or Haitian descends.

Baseball is the most popular sport in the Dominican Republic. Many Dominicans have become famous major league players in the United States and Canada. Dominicans, especially men and children love playing dominoes at outdoor tables in front of homes, bars, and rural colmados (neighborhood markets). Cockfighting, too, is very popular, and people lay large bets on which bird they think will win. The Dominicans’ love of gambling is also evident from the large number of lottery tickets sold.

One passion of all Dominicans is music, especially merengue and bachata. Music, often way too loud, reaches you from cars, corner stores, bars, restaurants, shopping malls and gas stations. If you jump on a bus your ride will be livened up by tunes and at least half of the passengers sing along!

Even more popular than singing to music is dancing to it – and Dominicans, it seems, are more drawn to dance than perhaps any other people in the world. Be it at a nightclub along Santo Domingo’s seaside Malecón, on a packed small-town dance floor on a Sunday afternoon, or at a baseball game – the other Dominican national passion – where pretty cheerleaders pump out dance routines to a merengue beat, it’s beautiful to watch the sheer showmanship and passion of Dominicans as they dance. What’s more, you are always invited to join them.

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