Blending in - tips for foreign residents

juanita

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I am one of those single mothers living in a medium class neighborhood; not the typical neighborhood where you would find foreigners. I have been living in this area for the past 7 years (15 in the country) and I have learned over the years that you really need to blend in to stay safe.

We have to accept that we are living in a totally different culture from our own and we have to adapt, even if that means closing our eyes on behaviors that we would never accept in our own countries. On a daily basis you will have to deal with the ?macho man? culture and you need to be careful how you react to it. We all know that their behavior is wrong, but getting upset at the ?jefe? will only bring you double trouble. You have to mimic how Dominicanas would respond in the same situation: smile, be friendly even a bit ?coqueta?, turn it into humor and make them feel that you NEED their help, and don?t EVER insult their authority or you will burn your own bridge. If you are dealing with people that have less education you have to think at their level, not yours.

And for the ones saying not to hang out with Dominicans I say its bull, totally the opposite, make friends, get to know the people at your colmados, always treat them with respect you never know when it will come handy in a bad situation. For example, when I first moved to the country I had a police officer give me a ride one night and I guess he was expecting more and was upset. So the next day at 3am he was drunk and yelling at my gate; I was new to the country so I didn?t know anybody but the only people that I dealt with on a daily basis were the taxi drivers I was using to drive me around. They knew me as ?Canada?, so at 3am I called the taxi station and told the operator that ?Canada? was in a bit of trouble, next thing I knew; I had 4 units at my door dealing with the annoying officer? never seen him again.
Sometimes it?s better to let them deal with their own people.

Be nice to the security guys on your turf, take them some juice once in a while, some leftovers, treat them with respect and let THEM handle the bozos at your door. On my street I make sure that I mingle with Dominicans; at the colmados, walking on the street I take time to chit chat with my neighbors. One of them is a general so even if it?s not the type of people I would usually hang out with, I take time to go there, have a beer with him and his wife, mingle, help his daughter with her French homework and show him RESPECT even if I disagree with his macho attitude. Once he hit on me while his wife was in the kitchen; normally I would have gotten really upset at the situation but I simply turned it into humor and he never tried that one again. But he also told me that if I?m ever in trouble I can call him at any time. Another neighbor is a lawyer and he loves gardening as I do, so I take time to go to his house chit chat, bring him new seeds and when I need legal advice, I get it for free. Become their friend and these people will become your safety.

All my neighbors know that I am a single mom so they watch my back and my daughter?s. The other night there was a ladron that jumped in my yard as an escape route, well the next day I had every neighbor asking if I was ok.

I NEVER give out money; even to the street guy that used to come to my door, he would always ask for money and I would only give him food, after a while he stopped coming.

Treat them with respect and you will stay out of trouble, and if you can?t handle them yourself, let your Dominican friends do that for you, but NEVER insult their intelligence.

I have been single for some 6 years now, probably because I don?t accept that macho type as a partner that is also why I got divorced. Sometimes I even think that I would be better to move back to my country to find a decent man but I keep my hopes up. It is true that Dominicans don?t really understand how a woman can be single but they also don?t bug me with it; only the general that tried to match me with his bodyguard.

Humor and respect will get you somewhere, yelling won?t. Negative attitude will get you negative response. I often see gringos treating Dominicans like monkeys, rubbing their level of intelligence in their faces, well that won?t get them anywhere in this country, those people are better off to stay in their own countries.

You either adjust to this culture or you don?t. So my advice is mingle, be respectful, use humor as your weapon and let them handle their own people when you can?t.
 
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Chirimoya

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As suggested, this post is being given a thread of its own due to its excellent advice for residents.

Feel free to add your own tips.
 
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tflea

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Just a suggestion:
"Sometimes it’s better to let them deal with their own people." from Juanita's comments posted, I would simply add:

ALWAYS let them deal, whenever possible; the best way and the safest and surest way is to keep problems at arm's length; it is called plausible deniability. The last thing a foreigner wants to get involved in is the legal system here, for any reason whatsoever, large or small. The Golden Rule also is of great value; basically already stated in Juanita's post.
 

Chelleyyyyy

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Apr 7, 2007
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I'll definitely take your advice, as I am leaving for dominican in february.

I would just like to add that althought you say it's 'blending in', I would also call it being an extremely nice person. Must be a Canadian thing ;)
I'm only staying for 3 months, but I hope for an enjoyable time while I'm here, and I'm sure your advice will come in handy.
 

Hopes

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May 11, 2009
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I NEVER give out money; even to the street guy that used to come to my door, he would always ask for money and I would only give him food, after a while he stopped coming.
Thank you for this excellent advice. It's invaluable. I would have tipped people constantly. After reading your post, I realize that would attract beggers and people pushing for money. Providing food is an excellent alternative. It shows generosity and appreciation without making a target of oneself.
 

MikeFisher

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don't get confused between tipping and giving food to somebody shopwing up at the front door.
if somebody provided any kind of services/work at your house of course a tip is appropriate, to the people mentioned by Juanita showing up at the front door asking for asistance the advice of Juanita is the perfect one, give them help in form of food aso, not in money.
Mike
 

Hopes

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May 11, 2009
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don't get confused between tipping and giving food to somebody shopwing up at the front door.
if somebody provided any kind of services/work at your house of course a tip is appropriate, to the people mentioned by Juanita showing up at the front door asking for asistance the advice of Juanita is the perfect one, give them help in form of food aso, not in money.
Mike
Thanks for the clarification. When I first read her post, it reads as if she never gives out money, period. I don't know why it read that way to me. I'm glad tipping will not get me into hot water. It's always been my experience that tipping does ensure quality of future service.
 

minerva_feliz

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Tips for appearance:
-Don't wear shorts, especially ladies.
-Don't wear nasty flip-flops/sandals out of your house.
-Wear nice clothes, but not too nice or with flashy jewelry.
-Go to the salon now and again. It's cheap enough.
-Wear professional looking clothing and closed-toed shoes to meetings and in offices.

At home:
-After moving in, take some time to get to know the neighbors. They are your safety net. Go over and have some juice/coffee, show them pictures of your family and pets (so they can watch out for them). Don't reveal too much personal information or answer any inquiries related to money or stuff you have. Don't give anything to your neighbors off the bat or because they ask shortly after meeting you. Don't feel bad, no Dominican would do that for another Dominican. Smile and saludar when you see them.
-Don't give anything to anyone who actually comes to your house to ask for something. You need to establish some limits and be consistent or you will be in over your head really quick.
-I don't give anything to someone who asks me for it. I'm not mean, actually my entire existence here is focused on helping poor Dominicans. After I got to know people around the neighborhood/town and made more contacts, if I had something that I didn't need like some old clothes, food that would go bad, or a toy or something, I would give it to the person without them asking or send it to them anonymously. There are better ways to help people than giving some money in the street. If you want to make a contribution to local development, find a legit organization or project that is going on and support that.
-Don't leave your valuable stuff sitting in plain view from the outside, whether you are at your house or gone. Thieves will look through persianas before they break in to see if there is anything worthwhile or will actually end up being someone who has been in your house before.
-Don't use GLOBE brand locks, they are junk.
-If you cooked a lot of food and have an extra plate, send it over to the neighbor's house. They would probably like to try your foreign cuisine and you can expect some moro in return.

In the street:
-Don't look confused or lost, even if you are. This includes walking really fast.
-If you need help, ask someone who is selling something or from a comercial establishment. They are a safe bet because they can easily be identified later on if something happens to you so won't try anything.
-Ignore any random piropos. They are not worth your time and only want attention. If it is someone you will see on a regular basis, and it is repeated, stop and take the time to introduce yourself in a very formal way without being too friendly. If they have any verguenza at all they shouldn't keep doing it. Friendly interaction is possible, but it should be gained and not given to people in the street.
-Be friendly to the local colmado so you can get fiao!

In da club:
-Don't drink your Presidente out of a grande bottle! Get a vaso!
-If you are a woman, don't dance with the first person who asks you, every person who asks you, anyone who is drunk or high, or anyone you don't feel like dancing with.
-If you stare or make eye contact with people, they are gonna make assumptions about you wanting to dance or otherwise.
-If you let a guy buy or send you a bunch of drinks, they MIGHT be expecting something in return if you get me.
-If you are dancing and someone tries to get to close and dirty, use the arm you have on their shoulder to firmly keep the distance.
-If you are a guy seated with women and another guy asks a woman to dance without asking you first, they are disrespectin'.
 

sylindr

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Nov 29, 2007
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shorts for women?

that would be my question.... my sister-in-law who is dominican wears shorts all of the time.... not sure what that has to do with blending in. their whole family wears flip flops also.
 

las2137

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that would be my question.... my sister-in-law who is dominican wears shorts all of the time.... not sure what that has to do with blending in. their whole family wears flip flops also.
From what I have seen here in Santo Domingo and from what has been confirmed by female, Dominican friends and coworkers, most women do not wear shorts/flip-flops outside the home in formal occasions.

Wearing shorts for quick errands, gym, to the beach, etc. would be accepted of course. But wearing shorts for more "formal" occasions like a trip to the mall, dining out, etc would raise eyebrows and certainly scream extranjera. In other countries where I have lived (Latin America and Africa), flip-flops are considered to be household shoes, like slippers.

I can only speak for Santo Domingo, but I rarely see Dominican women wearing shorts, unless at the gym or running down to the colmado. Or if they are 16 and younger. ;)
 

minerva_feliz

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that would be my question.... my sister-in-law who is dominican wears shorts all of the time.... not sure what that has to do with blending in. their whole family wears flip flops also.
Most people do not wear them outside of the house, yard, gym or beach, it's a fact. You sister in law probably wouldn't go to any place requiring a remote degree of formalilty wearing shorts and flip-flops. You will find exceptions, in tourist areas, wealthier families, Dominican-Yols and people emulating U.S. dress style. But the thread is about blending in, and since most people don't do it, you won't be by doing so. There are Dominican's with piercings and tats (see above group, include rebelious youth) but that isn't the norm either and you won't blend in by having one visible.

You CAN wear shorts, but someone a mile away will spot you as a foreigner. If the shorts don't give it away, the exposore of all glaring white skin on the legs will, not to mention draw even more unwanted attention. Make sure you put on a fanny pack and visor too so I can get a good laugh.
 
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KateP

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Man does this bring back memories... 12 years ago my mom and I used to go to calle Duarte in shorts and sandals. From the little bit of spanish I knew back then, we were able to figure out that the men were offering us everything from their car to marriage for us to look at them...lol What can I saw? It was hot! Que inocentes eramos entonces!

Now, it's jeans or at best capris whenever I leave the area. In Punta Cana you see plenty of people in shorts but in Santo Domingo? Oof! Pssst! Americana!...Chula!...Diache que mami!...
 
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MikeFisher

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yeap,
it is a big difference if you talk about that in case of a city like st dgo or about a more rural area or like in my case a beach area.
the usual behaviors vary on such.
for my dominican wife, her sisters, dominican neighbours aso aso within the pueblo it is usual to wear shorts and 90% wear flipflops in the near area around the house, including a walk to the colmado, and sure on the beach of course.
it is different when leaving the "near the house area", like driving a few minutes up the road to the bigger supermarket, for that my wife would never go in shorts or simple flipflops, for such the usual female 20 minutes 'change' is appropriate, ha ha.

when living in the City i could not imagine that my wife would leave the house in shorts/flipflops or such.
those things are only used within the 'private sphere', like in the house/garden/beach in front of the house/walk around the corner to the colmado(only if it is AT HOME at the Colmado around the corner).
Mike
 

sylindr

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Nov 29, 2007
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won't blend in

Lol... that was my point.... I am not sure about others by I am white everywhere not just on my legs!!! So not sure how that would help me to blend in... I wear what I want wherever I want. That means when I am going somewhere more formal I dress accordingly but won't be uncomfortable because someone thinks I should have on long jeans in June.
 

Lambada

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Just to remind people, if you're visiting Governmental offices, there's a dress code. C?dula office in PP applies it to the last detail, DGII is more flexible (but then you're usually going there to pay taxes ;) ).
 

MikeFisher

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ha ha ha
if this is all about "not to be seen as a non dominican",
just forget about it.
locals will always see that you are not local,
dress or hat or sunglasses or shorts make no difference.
and it's like that everywhere on the planet,
locals will always see from far that you are not from "here",
it is not just the way you dress, it is also the way you talk, the simple way you walk, like you behave.
where ever you are,
locals will always notice right away that you are not from there, lol.

anyways,
why to hide/camouflage such??

we are who we are,
from where we are,
the way we are.

the basic of that theme of course is clear and has all it's reasons to get informed about, like the kind of "appropriate" clothing a women can wear when going for some smokes to the colmado, or for a walk in the city, or for a stroll on the beach aso aso.
or just for a visit to a bank or gubmin office aso.
at home i would not enter a bank office or pay my taxes at the gubmin office in a bayhing suit neither.
but hey,
that's just my own given education,
i see on weekly/nearby daily bases that there are differences depending where people come from, lol.
Mike
 

sparky11867

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Jan 5, 2008
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piercings/tattoos...

There was a comment made earlier about tattoos and piercings. I'm just curious about the attitudes in the DR about these things as I visit often and have both exposed. Is it offensive? Or just a little weird? I've only had one dominican point out my lip piercing, and I just blew it off. Didn't want to make a bigger deal out of it than it was.
 

MikeFisher

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depends where they are placed and how they are styled.
tattoos are a sign of low key/ex-cons have tattoos/hookers have tattoos, not many dominican women would do that. but times are changing here like everywhere else, the acceptance of such depends always on the exact spot where you are/surroundings.
Mike
 

ExtremeR

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Mar 22, 2006
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I've know several high class ladies who have hidden tattoos or in exotic places. Tattoos are ok if are in hidden place (you can hide it with a short sleeve shirt).