This blog post was inspired by one from Latina.com entitled “10 Things Dominicans Do That Americans Might Find Weird.” A Dominican friend of mine posted it on my Facebook wall, and of course I felt compelled to click because I am, indeed, an American living in the Dominican Republic. I happen to be very in love with this country and figured I would get a nice giggle out of the things that were “weird” for me at first. Sadly, I found zero giggles in any of the things on the list. Bummer. Sure, the things listed do, in fact, go on among Dominicans. They just aren’t the things that struck me as “weird” when I first got here. So, while this is a nice list, I figured I could add a little sass to it with a few things that immediately popped into my mind after reading it. And in the name of due diligence, I polled some of my fellow expats along with a few of my Dominican friends to see what they had to add. The following list is what we came up with. Hope you find some giggles.
Pointing With The Lips
Who needs fingers when you have lips? The first time I experienced a Dominican pointing with his lips I thought he was blowing kisses at my boyfriend! Imagine my confusion. Turns out he was just asking my boyfriend to move over to the next seat on the guagua (Spanish for minivan or bus) by pointing to the empty seat with his lips. Whew!
I’m not sure how this type of gesturing became a thing, but I often find myself in deep thought on the topic. Like, maybe because it can get very hot sometimes people need to conserve energy. And rather than lifting a finger to point, it is more energy efficient to just move your lips. I digress.
Guagua Stuffing and Surfing
Speaking of guaguas, riding in one for the first time can be quite an enlightening experience. You will very quickly find that a van meant to hold 12 people comfortably can actually hold somewhere around 20-25 people in the Dominican Republic – albeit not so comfortably. And when the 20 or so seats on the inside are taken up, there is still always room for a few muchachos who have no problem hanging out of the door in lieu of waiting for the next possibly full guagua. Emphasis on muchachos because you will be hard pressed to see a muchacha guagua surfing. That’s because the men are very chivalrous when it comes to giving up their seat for a lady.
Using a Moto Like a Pick-Up Truck
It doesn’t take long to realize how resourceful the people of the Dominican Republic are. They seriously have a knack for finding a way to get things done with very little to work with. This surely has to do with the fact that there are limited resources on an island. And because the Dominican Republic is on an island, gasoline is expensive, so many people drive motorcycles for transportation. This is where the resourcefulness comes in. There is not an hour that goes by that I don’t find myself awestruck by the things I see being transported by a 60-125cc moto. Everyday items might include things like 2 meters of rebar and/or wood dragging from behind. Some not so everyday items that I have seen in my day include things like a casket and a large refrigerator tied to the back of the seat. I’m not even surprised anymore when I see 4 people stacked on a tiny moto, because once you have seen someone dragging a shark behind a moto, you have pretty much seen it all. Yea, that happened.
Wrinkling Up The Nose
If a Dominican doesn’t hear you well or doesn’t understand what you just said, they will wrinkle up and twitch their nose at you – sort of like a bunny rabbit. It’s actually super cute! The first time I had it happen to me, I thought the guy was implying that I had B.O. (body odor). I was a little offended and embarrassed all at the same time. After all, I had been drinking a lot coffee and was going through the process of getting acclimated to the strength of Dominican Coffee. So I had worked up quite a sweat after I had a cup (or five) too many on this day. I was relieved when I realized it wasn’t the smell of cebolla (onion) that was getting to him. It was just that he didn’t understand my poor Spanish accent and was basically asking me to repeat myself…in not so many words.
One thing you should never, EVER do is open the fridge while ironing! You should even take some time after you have finished ironing before you open the fridge. Otherwise, you stand the chance of getting pasmado, which means stunned in English. To elaborate a little further, according to my Dominican friend Alejandro, “The temperature change from the hot iron and the cold fridge will kill you.” And furthermore from my Dominican friend Alberto, “You can’t get any cold weather while ironing because it may paralyze your muscles! Something like that.”
I had never heard of this particular superstition until 4 of the 10 friends I polled brought it up (2 Dominicans, 2 expats). I thought that was a striking percentage and I found it strange enough to include on the list. It is maybe worth mentioning that my expat friends had a slightly different version from my Dominican friends, but it was an exact deviation for both of them. Their version states that you should not iron while it is raining. Which coincides with the “fact” that you “can’t get any cold weather while ironing…” as my friend Alberto tells it.
DISCLAIMER: Some of the things on the list are not exclusive to the Dominican Republic.
There are many other things that didn’t make it on this list that deserve some recognition. So, give us a few in the comments that you think we should add to a future post on this topic.