Aura De Los Santos is a professional living in the Dominican Republic. In her Dreams Abroad debut, she recommended visiting Montaña Redonda. For Leesa Truesdell’s latest interview, she asks Aura how visitors can live like a Dominican during their stay in the Republic. Aura tells us how to go local in the Dominican Republic.
1) Going local in the Dominican Republic means understanding the native language. What one word or expression should visitors use to be accepted?
“It’s not about being accepted because Dominicans love to make people feel comfortable. So, it doesn’t matter if that person can understand the language or not. But, if someone wants to learn some basic words, people, in general, can say hola. Klk is also used in a very informal way.”
2) What is the difference between spending a vacation at a resort and experiencing the island as a local?
“In a resort, you’ll get all the comforts like food, the hotel bedroom, and some activities that people do in resorts. This is okay if people want to come to the DR to spend a week, relax near the pool, and enjoy the good weather. Getting to know the island as a local, on the other hand, is understanding that the Dominican Republic is more than Punta Cana or Casa de Campo. There is a lot to see and discover. Talking to people on the streets, trying the local food, and just living the experience as a true Dominican is something that a resort won’t give you.”
3) How do you go local in the Dominican Republic?
“Living as a local is knowing that seasons are not going to change and we are ok with that. Sometimes we can complain, and if it is too hot we just go to a beach with some beers and have a good time. In the DR, people work from Monday to Friday, sometimes until Saturday. After that, we like to visit another part of the country with family or friends.
You can always count on your neighbors in the DR if you need anything. Neighbors are the second family and they are there every time you need them. Another thing about the DR is that everything is close by. We like having things close, making our day very easy.
It does not matter how hard the situation can be. Dominicans are always in a good mood and are always trying to look for the bright side of each situation. This is not a perfect country, but we make the most of what we have.”
4) Is there a Dominican look? What should one wear to fit in? What do you wear to work vs. the weekends?
“Over the twelve months of the year it’s always summertime, so it’s normal to see people wearing dresses and shorts. However, because we are used to the hot weather people also wear jeans and shirts with long sleeves. At work, most people wear a uniform. It is very common to see people wearing tuxedos, for example. I am someone who wears shorts and dresses but at the same time I also wear shirts with long sleeves.”
5) Do most Dominicans go to college or is vocational school most popular after high school?
“Over the years more Dominicans are going to university. We have grown up listening to our parents say that we have to go to school and then university. Dominicans like to study and more people have seen the importance of having a good education. Over the years more people are setting themselves up with self-started businesses and helping others to have a better lifestyle.”
6) What is the national dish?
“The national dish is rice with meat and beans, with some salad and avocado. We love eating rice so much, we can eat it every day. It just tastes so good.”
7) Which drink is most traditional in the Dominican Republic?
8) How much does the average three-course meal cost?
“It all depends where you buy it. There are some places where you can get rice, beans, and meat for three dollars. Actually, it is not expensive to buy food here in some places.”
9) What’s the most photo-friendly spot in the Dominican Republic?
“This is a hard one because the Dominican Republic is full of beautiful places to take the most amazing photos. La Zona Colonial, located in the capital city Santo Domingo, is an amazing place to take some good photos. When it comes to places with water, Bahía de las Águilas, located in the south part of the country, is a virgin beach.”
10) Where’s the best place to buy ingredients to make a traditional Dominican dish?
“You can find the most amazing ingredients in any little market. Is very easy to find what you need to prepare food. Also, people can go to what we call a colmado which is a place that you can find in any neighborhood and buy exactly what you need in the quantity you want.”
11) What do you do as your profession and what do you do for fun on the weekend?
“I am a clinical psychologist who works at a school but I also work online as a therapist and as a content writer. On weekends, sometimes I stay at home or I just go to another part of the country to discover more about it. I prefer going out on weekdays because there are fewer people and I like to be calm. I love going to the beach. It is my favorite spot ever. I also like to meet with my friends to cook and have some drinks.”
12) How do you interact with tourists on your time off?
“If I am in a place where they are and they need some help or just want to talk I will do it. When people from other countries visit the DR, I would like them to feel comfortable. I want them to know that the Dominican Republic is a warm place and that a lot of people here are open to offering some help or just being nice. I have a lot of friends that are not Dominican and when some of them come it is always good to show them more about the country and to know more about me.”
13) What should you not leave the Dominican Republic without doing?
“From my own personal experience, the Dominican Republic will always be my home and the place where I see myself spending the rest of my life. I love the hot weather, I love living close to some of the most beautiful beaches on the planet, and I am growing as a professional. This is a place where everyone can come and call it home.”
Aura is working each and every day in a field that she enjoys. She is also interacting online with tourists providing guidance and her expertise on how to go local in the Dominican Republic. She doesn’t have a specific recipe on how to make life on a tropical island magnificent. Nonetheless, she feels the environment plays a role in the overall vibe of the island. Happiness and relaxation are a forever feeling when living or visiting this tropical dream destination.
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