People and Local Customs
Currently, there are about 10.3 million people living in the Dominican Republic, with a median age of only 27 years; the capital, Santo Domingo, is home to almost 3 million people. Family values, religion, and hospitality are the cornerstones of life in the Caribbean country, thus, it is not rare that three generations of the same family live under one and the same roof, with the oldest male making the important decisions affecting the entire family.
Although you are free to choose your own religion, Catholic beliefs influence many aspects of life in the Dominican Republic; 95% of the overall population is, after all, Catholic. Dominicans often go out of their way to treat their guests royally and to make them feel particularly welcome. In return, you should be a respectful guest in order not to upset your hosts while living in the Dominican Republic.
Language in the Dominican Republic
As you’ll be aware from the description of the country’s historical background in our article on moving to the Dominican Republic, it does not come as a surprise that Spanish is the official language of this country. So, before starting your expat life in the Dominican Republic, you should brush up on your Spanish language skills, even if your business partners speak English. Expats living in the Dominican Republic may find it hard at times to understand the locals, even if they have a basic knowledge of Spanish.
Dominicanese and Dominicanisms (the local dialect with Dominican elements) can prove somewhat of a challenge for foreigners. Nevertheless, it can also be great fun to learn these new words and phrases. A baby, for example, is called chichí while small children are referred to as carajitos. While living in the Dominican Republic, you should be careful not to confuse bonche and boche: the former is simply a party, but the latter describes a scolding or disagreement.
Local Food Culture
Dominican cuisine is heavily influenced by its Spanish roots but includes a touch of local Caribbean spices and herbs. While spending your life in the Dominican Republic, try some dishes that are prepared a la criollaor guisado, which means the meat or seafood is served in a tomato sauce with garlic, olives, onion, and cilantro.
Dominicans also particularly enjoy all types of fried dishes such as carne frita (fried pork chunks) orchicharrones de pollo (Dominican fried chicken) with plantains dipped in salt water and fried in vegetable oil. This fondness for fried food is also reflected in a typical Dominican breakfast which contains mashed plantains (mangú) with onions, fried white cheese, fried eggs and orange juice.
Coconuts also play a dominant role in Dominican Cuisine. Pescado con coco, fish stewed in coconut and tomato sauce, is a particularly prominent dish. At the same time, rice is king in traditional Dominican kitchens. While living in the Dominican Republic, you should definitely try the nation’s most popular rice dish, which is served with red beans, meat and plantains. It is, in fact, so popular that it is called la bandera(the flag) and no expat experience is complete without it!
It doesn’t cost much to eat out in the Dominican Republic, even in Santo Domingo, as long as you stick to the local cafeterías. A meal at one of these shouldn’t cost more than around DOP 100, which is less than USD 2.50. Wherever you’re living in the country, authentic food can also be found in a comedores. These little restaurants are family-run businesses, often part of the home, where a good meal costs around DOP 150. As an expat, you could take the opportunity here to talk to Dominican people, learn a few new things, and get to know what life is like for them!