It’s been about exactly one week since I’ve landed in Santo Domingo, and I couldn’t love this place more! This is not only my first experience outside the United States, but also the first time I’ve lived in a city with more than a few thousand people in it. I went through my fair share of culture shock when I first landed, but I’ve adjusted quite well here and met some amazing friends. Before starting my semester abroad I researched a ton about the Dominican Republic and learned as much as I could, but here’s my list of first hand experiences during my first week in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic.
1. The Lines on the Road are an Illusion
My very first experience in Santo Domingo was the taxi ride from the airport to my homestay, and right away I realized I was in an entirely different world. I’ve been in crazy traffic before, visiting Chicago and Los Angeles, but at least there the roads still have rules. In Santo Domingo, forget any of the lines in the road that you think you see because they don’t really exist. And you know those things that look like speed bumps? Those are just bumps.
Things get even crazier once you get off the freeway. In Santo Domingo, the horns do not stop, ever. Where I’m from in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan we only use horns when we see someone we know in the street, but here it’s almost as if the locals are playing their horns to the rhythm of the Merengue blasting from their speakers. The taxi driver wasn’t exactly sure where my street was, but I told him it was near UNIBE, the campus I attend here in Santo Domingo. Once we got directions from some helpful locals (We “stopped” several times to ask for directions) we started making our way down the side streets which included driving in reverse, going the opposite direction down one way streets, and being passed on the sidewalk by speeding motorcyclists.
2. Work to Live. Don’t Live to Work
Something that surprised me the most was how friendly everyone is here. I was expecting Dominicans to act how they drive, always in a hurry and ignoring everything in their way, but it’s not like that at all. It’s amazing how relaxed all the people can be in such a lively city. During my week here, I’ve already been lost here more times than I’ve been in my entire life. Maybe not lost, but definitely confused, and no matter who you ask or what they’re doing, the locals will help you. Dominicans love to socialize, whenever, wherever, and they always greet you with a smile on their face and go out of their way to help you. I think the city just seems fast and busy at first because there is just so much going on, but if you relax and take a good look, you can see that no one person in particular is in a hurry or too busy say hello. The locals want to speak English with you as much as you want to speak Spanish with them.
“The city as a whole is fast, but every individual is relaxed and just enjoying their life.”
And about the taxi driver I mentioned earlier, when we finally found the building of my homestay, we still didn’t know what apartment I lived in. When we stopped he opened the trunk, grabbed my largest bag, and started walking all around the building yelling my host mom’s name, until he knew I made to my home safely. It’s a very comforting place.