Top Cultural Differences Between the USA and The Dominican Republic!


LaIndia Santos-Phillips is a student at Widener University and an ISA Featured Blogger. She is currently studying abroad with ISA Service Learning in Santiago, Dominican Republic.

Study abroad is an experience that requires one to be open to learning and adapting. One must keep an open mind and remain flexible in order to benefit from the experience and also survive the culture shock that may come with it. Of course the food is different, but here’s some other differences you may not have known about.

1. Coffee – So it is known that many in the United States love coffee. I mean “America runs on Dunkin,” right? Well, the Dominican Republic has great coffee, HOWEVER, in much smaller amounts. In the US it is not uncommon to see people walking around with 12-20 oz cups of coffee. In the Dominican Republic, coffee is served in tiny tea cups. My host mother was amazed to see how much coffee students from the US usually  drink!

This is an example of a cup used for coffee known as a “tacita.”

2. Time – So there is “time”and then there’s “Dominican time.” And when I say “Dominican time,”I don’t mean the time difference. In the US time is very valuable, many of us are always busy, rushing to go places, or feeling as if there is never enough time in the day. Well, the Dominican Republic is just the opposite. There is even a word for it which is “ahorita“which in other countries means “right now,” but in the DR, one uses it to basically say “later,” which in turn translate to “could be tomorrow, next week, or never.” If you set a time to meet a friend at 6, don’t expect them to arrive until around 7 or later. However, a lot of time in the Dominican Republic is spent with family and friends which is very valuable.


This is the view from the famous cable car that I was able to ride on an excursion to Puerto Plata. The land ended but the Ocean looked endless.

3. Clothes – Dominicans seem to always look nice when going places, whether it’s to the store, school, and especially to the nightclub. Men usually wear a collared shirt tucked into slim pants with a belt and loafers and of course cologne. Women wear jeans an a blouse with sandals or high heels. Of course, they wear T-shirts and sneakers too, but that may be the most informal I have seen. This is unlike students in the US who can be found going to class in pajamas or sweatpants with a big cup of coffee.

My host mom and I having a night of fun in the city!

4. Lastly, this next one may be the biggest difference of all. TRAFFIC LAWS. Traffic laws seem to have as much value as a penny on the ground. The biggest form of public transportation is the “conchos“which cost less than $.50 USD and are regular-sized cars in which two people sit up front with the driver and four people are squeezed in the back (Personal space is non-existent). Though there are lines for lanes, they seem to be unimportant, as are the enforcement of speed limits. Pedestrians are not a top priority, so crossing the street can feel like one is trying to escape death. But it’s not too bad, kind of like driving a car as if you were driving a go cart :)

My Friend Candy and I during my first experience in the Conchos.

The world awaits…discover it.

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