Etiquette in The Dominican Republic
The Dominican Republic is a Spanish speaking country occupying a large proportion of the island of Hispaniola sharing a border with Haiti. Located in the Caribbean, the Dominican Republic’s cultural heritage stems from both Africa and Europe, and the country itself retains close ties to Latin America. These cultural links have intrinsically shaped the customs and etiquette practiced in the Dominican Republic today.
Class, Appearance and Dress CodesAs with many Latin American countries, the way in which you dress and your overall outward appearance is particularly important. The Dominican Republic is a society that still recognises class distinctions, many of which are determined by race, familial heritage and financial status. This is not such the case in the more cosmopolitan cities and populated urban areas.
You should therefore be aware that clothes are thought to be one of the main indications of social status, which in turn denotes accomplishment and success. In particular, designer brands are favoured, but this does not mean that you are expected to wear such clothing all the time! Generally, by dressing modestly and trying to appear smart and well groomed - even when in casual attire - you will be seen to upholding your personal appearance and self-respect.
As with many other Caribbean islands, beach and swimwear such as bikinis or swimming trunks are absolutely fine for wearing on the beach, but should only be worn on the beach. You should never wear swimwear out and about in town, at cafes or restaurants. If you plan on eating out whilst at the beach, always bring a suitable change of clothes and bear in mind what is considered modest and appropriate casual wear.
Language and GreetingsAs aforementioned, the Dominican Republic is a Spanish-speaking country, with its own Dominican Creole (also known as Dominicanismos or Dominicanese). It is therefore good manners and proper etiquette to learn some conversational Spanish before departing on your holiday or visit. This would be seen as respectful and a gracious gesture by your Dominican counterparts.
Learning some basic phrases will also assist you when meeting, greeting and addressing people in the Dominican Republic. When meeting someone in the Dominican Republic, a handshake between both men and women is the ‘usual etiquette’, although it is best to wait for the lady to offer her hand first. The handshake should then be accompanied by a salutation such as “Buenos dias” (good day) or ¿Cómo está?(formal “how are you?”) or “¿Cómo estás?” (informal “how are you?”, used amongst children or friends). Educating yourself with some conversational Spanish will also allow you to differentiate between formal and informal forms of address, particularly the use of ‘usted’, so as not to accidentally offend or seem disrespectful. It is also good manners to try to make a point of smiling and maintaining eye contact during introductions.
When addressing or introducing someone, it is polite to opt for a more formal title such as Senor (Mr.), Senora (Ma’am/Madam/Mrs), followed by the family name if it is known. Remember that family is a very important aspect of Dominican culture, and seniors are given the utmost respect. Therefore you should always make a point of showing a degree of undue respect to elders.
SocialisingWhen dining out or at the home of a Dominican, you should always make sure that you are dressed smartly and have an overall well-groomed appearance. If you are bringing gifts, you should be aware that as with many European countries, the colours of purple and black have associations with death, funerals and mourning and so should be avoided. Appropriate gifts are sweets, chocolates, cakes, pastries or flowers, and you should expect that any small gifts will be opened and graciously remarked upon in your presence.
If you are invited to a party or social event, it is acceptable for you to arrive up to thirty minutes after the stated start time.