Information about living in the Dominican Republic

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Articles by Ginnie Bedggood

 

Safe Haven In The Sun?
Is It Still Safe To Live As An Expatriate In The Dominican Republic? ~ by Ginnie Bedggood

Published in Escape from America Magazine October 2005

Dominican Republic - safeThis was Ginnie Bedggood's first article for Escape from America Magazine and arose from her bemused observance of some of the incorrect assumptions being made by some of the newer expat population in the DR or those looking to move here; assumptions which ranged from 'crime is rampant, no foreigner is safe' to 'I'm ok, I've got a security guard!'. The author reflects on changes which have occurred in Dominican society in the 13 years she has lived in DR & sets these in the context of what is happening in the rest of the world in relation to crime and security. She uses her backgound experience of working in the criminal justice system in UK and concludes that potential expats. could do a lot worse than move to the DR.

Headlines in the daily newspapers in the Dominican Republic attest to rising rates of crime, some of a violent nature, a burgeoning drug culture and some 36% of the population living below the poverty line (which means on less than US$2 a day). So, is it still safe to live as an expatriate in the Dominican Republic or is Dominican society falling apart? Can the American and European retirement population still find their piece of paradise in the sun, to make their golden years truly golden, or do they have to surround themselves with high tech security devices in order to protect themselves against robbery ... and worse ...

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Debunking Seven Myths about Living in the Dominican Republic

by Ginnie Bedggood
Published in Expat Focus February 2006

Some brief notes on the sort of assumptions new residents in the DR arrive with: some accurate, some not..............

Each year more and more foreigners move to the Dominican Republic, lured by the tropical climate, inexpensive property (if you know where to look), high rates of return on investments and a very reasonable cost of living compared to Europe and the United Kingdom and, in some respects, the US also. After 13 years of living here I have noticed that some of the more recent arrivals are different in both calibre, adjustability and simpatico with the locals, from those already living here when I became an expat. A small amount of research has shown that newer arrivals probably could be described as “followers” rather than “pioneers” and many arrive with false assumptions and a set of myths internalised which do not assist in a happy transition. These brief thoughts are penned with the aim of easing the passage of future groups of arrivals.

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Don't Bring Wigan With You!
Advice for those thinking of relocating to the Dominican Republic ~ by Ginnie Bedggood

Published in British Expat Magazine January 2006

Relocation Dominican RepublicIn this two part article Ginnie Bedggood, herself a British citizen who has been living in the Dominican Republic for some 13 years, targets Brits. who are thinking of relocating here. She notes some of the unwise decision making processes which have been used to 'inform' such a move recently and cautions on the necessity of thorough homework and preparation. The author outlines 6 necessary items in the relocators skill kit in order to adjust to life in the DR with the minimum of difficulty. She also spells out some of the scams awaiting the unwary and unprepared and advises how not to get one's fingers burned.

Puerto PlataThe heading could just as well have read Eastbourne or Swansea, or anywhere else in the UK. The first piece of advice is: do not base a decision to relocate to the Dominican Republic on a two-week holiday at an all-inclusive resort here. Real life is very different. Well, of course, it must be, silly woman, what sort of advice is this? I can hear the seeds of scepticism slowly bursting into bud in your cerebral cortex. But... it happens!

We know of at least one British couple who did just this, about a week into their two-week holiday. They even bought a property and thus committed serious money... and they are currently having a difficult time adjusting. They will have an even harder time selling their property - it is in an area notorious for robberies ...


To continue reading Part I of this article, please click on this link. Part II can be read here.


The Mysteries Of The Term 'Mañana' In The Dominican Republic
A Rough Guide To Getting Things Done In The Dominican Republic ~ by Ginnie Bedggood

Published in Escape from America Magazine November 2005

relocation Dominican RepublicYou think 'mañana' means tomorrow? Think again! Ginnie Bedggood analyses her experience of getting an embossing stamp made in the Dominican Republic. Whilst this tale is humourously written it is full of understanding of why things appear to take so long to achieve in the Dominican Republic, as well as containing advice as to how not to let this increase your blood pressure. The author draws on some 13 years experience of living in the DR to inform her obvious simpatico with its indigenous inhabitants.

 

 

Forget The Sunscreen, Bring Your Patience

Dominican Republic relocationThe sub-header is not medical advice. Of course you will need your sunscreen in the harsh sun of the Dominican Republic. But it is a cautionary tale for new and would be residents as to exactly how long it takes to achieve a fairly simple task. New residents who come from cultures where provision of goods and services is but a phone call away are easily identifiable here in the Dominican Republic during their first few months. They can appear frustrated, short tempered and wear an incredulous look. Yes, getting even simple things achieved can take a lot longer than you are used to. It is part of the charm of the country. No neurotic 100 miles per hour lifestyle here, accompanied by cries of 'I haven't got time'. Dominicans always have time ... for people. It is just tasks that take a little longer! A hint. Never let your frustration show for real. Be laid back about all of this, demonstrate that you, too, understand the mysteries of the term mañana. And smile ...

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Walk In Their Shoes
Tips On Dealing With Staff In The Dominican Republic ~ by Ginnie Bedggood

Published in Escape from America Magazine January 2006

Relocation Dominican RepublicCommunication difficulties with those working for you in the DR stem not from language alone, but from an inability to understand where the other person is coming from and a failure to share a common set of expectations. In this article Ginnie Bedggood shares her understanding of Dominican staff, based on some 13 years experience of living in the Dominican Republic. She focusses on staff most expats will employ, such as a maid, gardener, car mechanic and, for those brave enough (!) electricians.

Relocation Dominican RepublicMost new residents in the Dominican Republic, certainly the retiree population, will have weekly if not daily contact with a maid (cleaning lady) and gardener, so I'll start there and come on to other contractors and employees later. We have had the most marvellous cleaning lady for the past 10 years; she is now part of our family. But unfortunately, illness has put her on long term sick leave, although, of course her job is always here when she recovers sufficiently. So, I have had to find a new cleaning lady and thus am reminded of some of the issues. Boy, am I reminded! I have been spoiled for 10 years - when you get a treasure, since not everyone is, cherish her. And walk in her or his shoes for a better understanding of what to these people are ordinary life challenges, yet to you and I would be insurmountable problems.

Time keeping, as in punctuality, is not a Dominican Republic speciality ...


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Culture Shock Revisited
- Groping Towards A More Useful Conceptual Framework - by Ginnie Bedggood

When I first became an expat I had not read any of the mountains of material available about the psychological processes one goes through in this transition. Bad preparation, you may think, but it really never occurred to me and I certainly never felt the need. And that coming from a background as a University teacher of social work and as one familiar with notions of change, loss and transition.


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Exprats Or Offshore Waiverers?
Planning For A Move To The Dominican Republic - by Ginnie Bedggood

Published in Offshorewave.com February 19, 2007

No, it isn’t a typo. The ‘secret’ of a successful relocation to any country in the world lies in careful planning and preparation. Some ‘secret’, huh? But if it is so obvious, why don’t more people do it? Maybe because human nature does strange things when outside of its comfort zone.


In the case of the Dominican Republic which is a tourist destination, the idea of actually moving to become a resident probably occurs during a vacation. This is unfortunate since life as a tourist and life as a resident are two entirely different things and should never be confused. Furthermore, the amount of research carried out prior to a vacation is likely to be minimal. After all, if it turns out to be a disaster you can comfort yourself that it was but two weeks out of your life and cost a couple of thousand dollars at most. Notch it up to experience and look elsewhere next year.

Moving to live in the DR takes a different kind of preparation and a good place to start is reading. Instead of diving into the internet for real estate, try consulting a few books on the history, politics, culture and customs of the country. The Dominican Republic A National History by Frank Moya Pons published by Hispaniola Books gave me some ‘light bulb’ moments and provides historical insights as to how and why things are the way they are today. Reading this book a second and third time after exploratory visits to the DR may have left you scratching your head somewhat, is also beneficial. Those who are really keen could extend their reading to works about other parts of Latin America; the DR in many respects has more in common with other Spanish speaking Latin American countries than it does with the nearer English speaking Caribbean islands.


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Building A Home In The Dominican Republic - Part I
- by Ginnie Bedggood

Not for the faint-hearted, gullible, stupid or otherwise impaired adventurer but, if you are none of these things other than an ‘adventurer', building your own home is eminently do-able in the Dominican Republic.

The ingredients for this recipe include a sense of humor, a good lawyer (which does not necessarily mean one who speaks good English), patience, a plot of land, an architect (same applies as for lawyer), the ability to laugh at yourself, an engineer/master builder (see lawyer and architect), plans, permissions, your hard earned money to purchase all of the above, and………..did I mention a sense of humor?

Readers will note that the article is entitled building a home in the Dominican Republic. I am assuming that your wish is to build a house that you will one day live in - either immediately it is finished or at some stage in the future when you retire from the working world. I am not addressing myself to the concerns of property investors who buy up large numbers of properties or large tracts of land with a view to building homes for sale to others or for rental to vacationers. This is considered a business here and different rules (and taxes!) apply. And in any event I have some reservations about the ethical principles on which that could be based in a third world country and how much the indigenous inhabitants really benefit from such activity. But, I will keep those to myself as they are no part of ‘home' building!

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Building A Home In The Dominican Republic - Part II
- by Ginnie Bedggood

Last month I covered finding your plot of land, ensuring it was saleable by the vendors, finding a good lawyer and title searches. The next step is drawing up plans, finding an architect and subsequently finding a builder.

Before you go looking for an architect it is a good idea to have sketched out, however roughly, the idea for your dream home which is in your mind, either using a computer program for this, or even a pen sketch on paper. It is so much easier to explain what you want from a drawing than from thin air, particularly if language issues come into play. It is also easier to get concepts across from paper, rather than assume a two way telepathy between you and your architect. When looking for an architect make sure they are a member of CODIA - this is the professional association of engineers and architects. Without the architect's CODIA registration number on your plans they will not be approved by the innumerable authorities to whom they need to be submitted.

When hunting for an architect take the recommendation of someone you trust who was satisfied with the service provided by their architect. Some of the development companies will offer you a ‘job lot' of lawyer, architect, engineer and construction company. Personally, I am wary of these set ups as I am not convinced that this ‘team' approach is in the consumers best interest. You may be told certain things are not possible simply because it is outside the team's experience, or too much trouble. Your own independent architect is far more likely to work to your interests.

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Building A Home In The Dominican Republic - Part III
- by Ginnie Bedggood

In Parts 1 and 2 of this article I covered finding your plot of land, title searches, finding a lawyer, architect and construction engineer. Now you are almost ready to begin construction work…….almost, but not quite!

A range of building permissions are required before building commences. This is the owners responsibility to obtain, not the architects or the builders, but of course if either of these people have contacts in the relevant departments you can fix a price with them for doing this extra work. Some rich foreigners building here in DR do not ‘bother' to get planning permissions. This is very unwise since at the end of the day any one of the authorities could apply for an order to demolish the building. In Spain recently and as a result of unauthorized use of green belt areas, house owners are now likely to be held criminally accountable as well. This hasn't happened in the DR and usually lack of permissions is not seen as providing grounds for prosecution so much as a financial opportunity.

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Floods In Puerto Plata - Torrential Rains In The Dominican Republic
- by Ginnie Bedggood And Photographs by Bob Hildreth

You look out your window, you see cars floating past and you pinch yourself to see if you’re dreaming about a James Bond film remake. But this is no dream, this is for real. And where is this happening? The normally sun-drenched tourist destination of Puerto Plata on the north coast of the Dominican Republic.

Two weeks ago on a Friday afternoon and night we had the most torrential rains. I’m no global warming boffin but in the nearly 15 years I have lived in Puerto Plata I have never seen anything like this. Even our house situated in the uptown area developed a new feature – a fast flowing river in the back garden. If ever one needed proof that when building in tropical climates it is a good idea to build higher than the surrounds, this was it. The fast flowing river sped and tumbled towards the area behind us and disappeared through the back gate into the coach parking lot leaving just the detritus in its wake. We kept the dogs in the house………not that they were exactly volunteering to go out!

RUptown had new rivers, the town centre had floating cars so it does not take much imagination to guess at what happened in the low lying areas, those areas down by the port of Puerto Plata which coincidentally house the barrios of the very poor. Everything which wasn’t nailed down went. Hundreds of barrio shacks were totally inundated. Some homes could not withstand the pressure of the water and simply collapsed, their wooden plank walls and zinc roofing joining the surge of debris which swept relentlessly on to the sea. And as more garbage joined the newly formed rivers the more dangerous they became. Garbage isn’t actually the correct word – these were people’s treasured possessions: the photograph of a grandchild, the gaudy painting of the Virgin Mary, the three plastic chairs, the battery operated radio, the Sunday best outfit.

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More Than Merengue
Keeping A Christmas Tradition Alive In The Dominican Republic by Ginnie Bedggood

Published in Escape from America Magazine December 2005

Dominican Republic MerengueThe current wave of English speaking expats from US and UK was not the first such group to move to the Dominican Republic. Ginnie Bedggood traces patterns of migration in the Caribbean in the nineteenth century and examines the cultural heritage such migrations have produced. She specifically focusses on those who moved from English speaking Caribbean islands colonised by the British, in order to pursue employment opportunties in the sugar cane cutting business in the Dominican Republic, noting the similarities experienced then by these immigrants, known as Cocolos, to some of the situations faced by Haitians today. Ginnie Bedggood is herself British, but not proud of her country of origin's colonial legacy!

The whole town of San Pedro de Macoris is jumping, awash with excitement. This past weekend it was pretty much awash with rum as well. And many of those celebrating had surnames like Henderson, Wilson, James and Simons.........and probably from his grave Theophilus Civerton raised his ghostly glass as well. So......is San Pedro de Macoris the latest fun spot in the Dominican Republic for escapees from US and UK?

Not exactly.

The reason for all the excitement was the proclamation of the UNESCO Cultural Heritage Award to the Gulayos Dance Tradition of San Pedro de Macoris, Domincan Republic, on 25th. November 2005. UNESCO honours 'Masterpieces of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity'. The international UNESCO jury meets every 2 years to designate forms of cultural expression which are to be proclaimed masterpieces and in 2005 a little known, outside of the Dominican Republic, dance troupe comprised mainly of elderly people was one of the masterpieces so honoured. The DR's version of the Buena Vista Social Club of Havana, if you will ...

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Last Chance for Pleasures of the Flesh! Carnaval in the Dominican Republic

by Ginnie Bedggood
Published in Expat Focus February 2006


Dominican Republic carnavalA description of how, costumes, masks and vejigas for Carnaval are made; the historical significance of these and an explanation of some of the Carnaval 'characters'. This, of course, relates to Carnaval in the DR. If you lived in some parts of Mexico, you could be celebrating The Day of the Oppressed Husband........................!

All over the Caribbean, Central and South America one final fling is made at this time of year to assuage the need for partying before the traditional Western Christian Lent period begins, with its history of penance and denial of 'the flesh'. The timing depends on when Easter falls, because dependent on that is when Ash Wednesday occurs (the Eastern Christian Church is different with Great Lent starting on Clean Monday (!) which is often later in the year). Ash Wednesday in 2006 occurs on March 1st, which is very convenient for the Dominican Republic as the culmination of Carnaval celebrations is always linked to Independence Day which is February 27th. Carnaval is thought to be a semantic derivative of 'carne vale' - a farewell to meat, heralding the traditional fasting of the Lenten period. Carnaval used to be celebrated in the Dominican Republic during the week before Independence Day and ended with the colourful Independence Day Carnaval Parade in cities and towns across the country. But why have a little of something when you can have a lot? Now it would appear that the whole of February is taken up with Carnaval and certainly all Sundays in February see mini celebrations throughout the country.

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Glitz, Bling and Merengue!
Local elections in the UK and the Dominican Republic: a tongue in cheek comparison

This article was published in British Expat Magazine on May 19th. 2006. Ginnie Bedggood takes a wry look at the build up to the 2006 Congressional and Municipal elections in the Dominican Republic.

Dominican Republic  electionsAs many English councils have just had their local elections and as the Dominican Republic's local and congressional elections take place on 16 May 2006, I thought it might be apposite to share a few thoughts about the similarities (few!) and the differences (many!) between the UK and the DR.

The first thing which will strike the visitor is the noise level associated with electioneering in the DR. One method of hyping the candidate is to use vans and lorries loaded up with ghetto-blasters which pump out catchy jingles at strength 95. Well, they would be catchy jingles if you could understand them. It isn't a question of language, but of distortion.....

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Can I Count Your Vote? Dunno, Can You...................?

This article was published in British Expat Magazine on July 15th. 2006 and is a follow up to Glitz, Bling and Merengue! It describes the long drawn out vote tallying process, albeit not quite as long drawn out as in a certain Presidential election in another land!

elections Dominican Republic"Eight more days and it will all be over," I said in my previous article about the Dominican Republic Congressional and Municipal Elections of May 2006. Ha! That represents hollow laughter. British Expat Magazine's Deputy Editor's prophetic label of "Can I count on your vote?" appended to the earlier article prompted me to write a follow up. Did he know that vote tallying was going to produce the circus which it has? Did he know we were going to have to wait an interminable five weeks to finally get the results?

The previous article examines the lead-up to these elections. Election Day, 16 May, came and went pretty peaceably as it so happened. The electorate were given a very large voting paper to decide on Senators, Deputies, Mayor, Aldermen and Councillors. Photos of the worthy aspirants were included because not everyone in the DR can read. Even then not all could see................

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Mad dogs and English couple by Ginnie BedggoodThose wishing to do some further reading should visit www.ginniebedggood.com to read update articles not yet covered here & also order the book Quisqueya – Mad Dogs & English Couple. It is available for immediate download as an e-book OR from the sites shown there if you prefer a hard copy!


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