Locals in the Dominican Republic are known for their warm, friendly characteristics. However, just like anywhere else, knowing the cultural dos and don’ts can go a long way towards understanding and acceptance.
Greetings and Communication
Use the formal pronoun (usted) when addressing seniors and anyone who isn’t a close friend. Utter an energetic greeting when entering any public place or someone’s house, shake hands upon meeting someone, and make eye contact when speaking.
While these mannerisms are optional in the U.S., it’s considered rude to omit them in the Dominican Republic. Since Dominicans are friendly and outgoing, don’t act surprised when men and women greet each other by kissing the right cheek.
When you meet locals, don’t get offended when they ask you about your family because it’s an important topic in the Dominican Republic. They’re likely to ask about where your last name comes from, and in turn, they will appreciate your interest in theirs.
Just like in any other place, don’t discuss religion and politics.
While in the U.S. it’s acceptable to turn down an invitation for a drink, meal or to come inside a home, don’t do that here. That’s because locals can view this as an insult to generosity. Since Dominicans are so cordial, be prepared to socialize.
Don’t use casual excuses when locals extend their hospitality.
Despite the humid climate and regardless of individual social status, Dominicans dress in fitted clothing. The work environment calls for formal attire where women mostly wear pantsuits, and men dress in suits and ties.
However, colors tend to be bright, not the dark and somber shades that are known in the American business world.
Regardless of gender, people frequently get their hair done at a salon as well. Even when it’s hot outside, Dominicans place a high emphasis on a polished appearance. However, tank tops, shorts, and sandals comprise acceptable attire when in their own homes.
Do reserve the most casual apparel for private use and chose more polished attire in public. This shows respect for the Dominican culture.
Time perception works differently in the Dominican Republic for locals. Because of a relaxed attitude, people don’t take time concepts too seriously. The business world has more structure, but even meetings often start and end later than announced.
Whether you’re hiring a contractor or you’re meeting an acquaintance for a meal, do expect the other party to arrive later than the scheduled time, or not show up at all. However, don’t exhibit tardiness because foreigners are expected to show up on time.
Taking a public bus (guagua) makes a cheap transportation option, but it can take a while to get where you want to go. That’s because buses operate on irregular, sporadic schedules. This can work in your favor because you can hail them anywhere on the road.
Before boarding one, make sure it has the name sitrabapu or tramabapu on the front. Those are the public transportation syndicates.
Each bus has a conductor (el cobrador) and a driver. Do have small change on hand for the conductor who collects the money. There will be no tickets, and don’t wait for a designated stop when you want to disembark.
Instead, do tell the driver to stop when you’re at your destination.
Carritos function as the local taxi service and they travel along fixed routes. Do hail these public cars from the side of the street. Always let the driver know the moment you want to exit the vehicle, and he will pull over.