What My Kids Learned from Living in the Dominican Republic

Written By: Jen Drinking the Whole Bottle

We are in our 5th year of living in the Dominican Republic with our two babies that were born here, on this beautiful island. I know, immediately you think we live the life of tropical dreams: kids with messy, salt-water hair that knew how to surf before they knew how to crawl, coconuts for snacks, and piña colada happy hours.

While some days absolutely look like this, it hasn’t all been easy. Parenting never is. Parenting abroad is even trickier.

Living in the Dominican Republic

With that being said, there has been a lot we’ve learned from living abroad and, specifically, a lot that our kids have learned as a result from living in DR, all by the tender age of 4.

Learn more about the Dominican – Buy Dominican Republic – History, Culture and Politics on Amazon.

The world is their playground

When you’re living in the Dominican Republic where there is no need to check the weather because the forecast is sunny and sunnier, there isn’t much inside time.

We spend our days at the playground or the pool or the beach or our courtyard or the basketball court or… well, you get it – and because of that, our kids live their lives outside, endlessly playing in a continual summer.

They live most of their waking hours exploring the outside world and it’s fabulous.

They Learn How to talk to everyone

living in the dominican republic beach
Relaxing at the beach

Dominicans are a social culture.

People hang outside and talk with their neighbours. Strangers chat in line at the supermarket. A gas attendant once stood next to my car window the entire fill-up time to ask me about one of my dogs in the passenger seat.

I wasn’t even sure one could talk that much about a dog to a stranger.

This isn’t a culture that shies away from interaction so when my daughter strikes up a conversation with a guard at the U.S. embassy I’m not all that surprised.

My kids have learned that communication is an essential skill for connecting with others and they are outgoingly fabulous because of it.

  • * tiguere is Dominican slang for a hustler or street smart guy.
  • * colmado is a corner store, like a bodega, that is found everywhere in DR.

What Living in the Dominican has taught my Children

Living in the Dominican Republic has also taught them to see everyone as the same.

They say hi to the Haitians working construction or the nanny with the umbrella walking in the opposite direction of us on the sidewalk or the businessman they pass in the mall- to them, there is no difference.

Manners, simple hellos and thank yous, are not reserved for the affluent families that they see every day at my husband’s school; they are for everyone they come in contact with. L

iving in Santo Domingo has shown them to accept people of all places and levels and statuses.

You can buy COCONUTS in the supermarket but why when they grow on trees?

living in the dominican republic coconuts
Coconuts in the Dominican Republic

I can’t think of a time when I was a kid that I just found a random apple tree whose apple I could eat unless it was autumn and we went apple picking at an orchard. Not the case here.

We have our complex, several coconut trees, a Guayaba tree, a banana tree, and a mango tree. All with pick-able, eat-able fruit.

Check out: Why I travel for food and show should you!

Living in the Dominican Republic, kids (and pregnant women) are mini-gods, like cows in India but in human form.

People stop their cars and let you cross the street when you’re pregnant. They let you cut lines in the bank and grocery store. And kids have the same right of way.

Our kids get gushed over by older Dominican grandmas, 20-something-year-old skater boys, middle-aged Domino players, young mothers, or Catholic nuns alike.

Learn how to be kids

living in the dominican republic swing
The kids having fun on the swing

If they’re running or making noise, no one looks at them and rolls their eyes.

They don’t look at us either and wonder why our kids are acting like kids. This is a culture that loves kids, that embraces children and it shows in mine.

They are fearless in public, assuming that people will love them… and people do.

You say Hola, and I say goodbye

It was never a doubt that I wanted my kids to be bilingual.

As the first-generation Cuban -American of my family, I wasn’t always confident in my second language of Spanish but I knew how important being bilingual was… and is.

I made the decision to only speak to them in Spanish before they were born; living in the Dominican Republic has made it easier, and since my husband works at an English school, learning both languages has been natural.

Getting to watch them navigate between the two languages is – to put it lightly – freaking awesome.

They know who to thank in English and who to give gracias to in Spanish and they don’t bat an eye-switching between the two. P-r-etty cool. Now, they’re working on mastering Spanglish.

Enjoy: 11 Fun and Not so Obvious Things to do in Cuba

You don’t need a reason to celebrate

living in the dominican republic dancing
Dancing on the porch

It’s Friday afternoon so we have friends over with their kids. People bring snacks, we order beers from the colmado*, we play some YouTube playlist and it’s a party.

We do the same thing Saturday mornings for brunch or on Sundays afternoons… or on Monday because it’s the beginning of the week.

It doesn’t have to be someone’s birthday or a special occasion to have a good time with friends here.

Dominicans love getting together; they love music (the louder, the better) and rum drinks and laughter.

There is no “right” reason to celebrate when everything is a reason to celebrate. Life is one big party if you keep dancing.

kids living in the dominican republic
Living in the Dominican Republic

Read More:

How Travel Helped Us Live a Full Life

How I Started Living Life for Myself

In Search of Living an Enriched Life

Travel Planning Resources

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Book Your Activities: Looking for walking tours, skip-the-line tickets, private guides, and more? Then we recommend Get Your Guide.

Need more help planning your trip? Make sure to check out our Resources Page where we highlight all the great companies that we trust when we are traveling.

About Jen Drinking the Whole Bottle

Jen writes at Drinking the Whole Bottle (a metaphor for life about savoring every moment, every last drop, of life. She has been featured on the Huffington Post, Matador Network, Elephant Journal and is a contributor for Women Who Live on Rocks. Follow Jen at: DrinkingTheWholeBottle / Facebook / Instagram / Twitter

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28 thoughts on “What My Kids Learned from Living in the Dominican Republic”

  1. Dominican Republic was my most recent trip a few months back, and it was overall wonderful. I met a grumpy expat from Europe who had lived there for over 20 years , and on Day 1 he told me everything that was wrong with the country. Glad I kept an open mind and he was proven wrong! Beautiful country, lovely people. Not perfect, as nowhere is, but I wouldn’t hesitate to go back. Also extra glad that I can reminisce now as we are stuck inside…. 🙂

  2. I love these lessons learnt from living abroad! What an amazing experience to give your kids! Thank you for sharing! We hope to sail to the Dominican Republic this year 🙂

  3. I’m glad you’ve found DR to be such a great place for your family, but I have to agree with Ralph above.

    You look at the local news and its a complete contrast with what you are saying, which leads me to believe that you are living in the so called bubble.

    I can’t think its even possible that 30% of the population in DR agrees with this article, which is trying to picture the country as a paradise.

    I liven in DR for 28 years and decided to migrate with my family to US 5 years ago.

    I wish you would comment on the income level required to raise a family with decency, and then compare to what percentage of the population earns that income level. Probably not even 20% of the families can do that.

    Lastly, I’d also like to see if haitian pregnant women and kids get the same welcoming treatment as your family does. I’m pretty sure they won’t have the same nice experience, but hopefully I’m wrong and things have changed drastically in the last 5 years.

  4. Hi, thanks so much for your article !!
    I am dominican and have being living in Germany for more than 30 years, is true we have poverty, corruption, traffic is awful , but still people don’t lose their smile so easily.
    When I explain here that pregnant women are treated like royalty nobody believed me. Now i have proof , that is not because i love my little island ,
    Others also enjoy that experience. Thanks , enjoy your stay and may you and your family always be blessed.

  5. I’m glad you like it so much. I left in 1962 at 15. My father had been a political prisoner and when he was released, we left the country. My memories of the DR are painful and horrible, although we had had a nice upper middle class life, private school and lived in the the nicest neighborhoods.

  6. Reading all those comments, makes me to be so proud of being from Dominican Republic. I have been living in USA for the last 32 years. Three of my four daughters were born and race in the states, and still proud about their roots. They love D.R. and we travel to the island frecuently. Still a great place to race a family. Socially speakind, D.R. still better than USA. People still having more sense of being a person…

  7. Thanks for the article, you made me remember the many reasons that helps us to go thru problems always smiling and celebrating.
    Neighbors are family, kids are always welcome and loved, talkative people, specially in baseball season, hehehe, so true, our country.
    Thanks for such a good and beautiful words.

  8. Very nice article!!
    I am from Puerto plata now I live in Arizona and reading this showed me how much I miss my country and how bad I feel not having my kids grow up freely as I grew up there going to tye beach often or playing out side with other kids, I will make sure to go more often so they can enjoy more of freedom that they don’t have here as a stressful life with jobs and etc… The description of your kids and laying freely took me back to my childhood and tears came out, very nice article and thank you for sharing your experience.

  9. What an amazing article. Thank you for being able to write what is in my heart. We are six years in the DR and live on the Nth Coast which I believe to be a magic place. A great gift from the universe for our children to be blessed with a childhood here in the DR.

  10. Your article is just amazing! My husband and I were born and raised in Santo Domingo. We retired last year from de USA Department of Education as teachers, and came back to our beautiful Island. Keep doing the good job with your kids. Reading your article(s) is pretty enjoyable. God bless you an your family ?

  11. You made me love my country more and more. Thanks you so much. It is true every things that you say. When i have to go to New Jersey to visit my children, i can see people looks very sad and very upset, sometimes i say good morning and they see me like i am somebody from another planet. God bless DR

  12. Hi! I read this article and wow, it transported me to 12 years ago my family living in Dominican Republic, also living abroad.. my parents and older brother and sister are all from Puerto Rico. I was born in DR since my parents were living there and lived there for over 25 years. When I was 13 they decided to move back to Puerto Rico. Although it is also a tropical island it is quite very different. I am like you mentioned about Dominicans, very social, I will talk to everyone about everything. I miss that. People here are more guarded and aren’t so social. I miss the happiness you’d feel everywhere, you would see very poor kids but happily playing, you would see families enjoying each others companies on their balconies just for the fun of it, no need for a holiday to have parties… My family is so family oriented and loves a good party because of it.. I love my Dominican background, their food, their forklore,their history. I wish my son could live moments like those I lived in DR. But surely I will take him there frequently so he knows where his mommy is from, and all I learned from living in DR. Thanks for this article! It is close to my heart, I felt you told a lot of our story too! Thanks!

  13. I moved from the states 2 years ago and I absolutley Love it here. I currently do not have children but I have allready made the decision that when I do I want to raise them here.

  14. I was born in DR , but left so many years ago..I still miss those wonderful things you mention.
    My wife and I want to do the same thing you did: take your family to DR and start living large..there are so many different things you can do in DR!
    Life is a celebration and people makes you feel good about it!

  15. Soy dominicana ahora residente en México y me siento feliz de leer tu artículo
    Felicidades por tus hijos y tu familia que Dios los bendiga
    Y gracias por ver lo positivo y hablar tan lindas palabras sobre nuestro país, que lo sigan disfrutando!!

  16. Excellent Post! As a 20 year Dominican I agree with you in everything you said. Dominican Republic is an awesome place to raise kids besides the rates of corruption and robberies. I hope you still think like that of our country in a few years and I wish you the best of luck with your family in your lives here.

  17. Jn, I am very happy that you and your beautiful family have found DR a wonderful place to live. My wife and i also came to the DR 5 years ago and our experience have not been so wonderful. Me live in a large penthouse on the beach in Juan Dolio and we spend 90% of the time there because driving to Sto. Dgo. is madness. The locals don’t follow regulations and are reckless and frankly don’t care if the hit your car. I’ve been hit a few times and the other drivers don’t stop. reporting accidents is worthless. We would like to tour the island but even the locals advise against it unless traveling in groups. We have been stopped at roadblocks and the police ask for money or they keep your license, I lost my once because I refused to give money. We go weekly to the capital to by food at the top supermarkets for fear of contamination and we don’t stop for street food. We agree that it’s a beautiful island but you need to be aware of your surrounding all the time for petty thieves. Corruption is everywhere. Dominican made products most often don’t meet international standards. We agree that there are wonderful people here and wonderful fruits and we are going to miss them. My wife and I decided to sell and go back to the states because she feels to be in prison in paradise. Best of luck to you

  18. I am so glad I came across this post. I’m moving to santo Domingo this month and I just found out I’m pregnant for the first time. His brings so much peace to my heart on the decision to raise my kids in DR!!!!

  19. I’ve lived here for 5 years and had my 2 daughters here too and completely agree with everything you wrote. Love this article and love this country. ?

  20. I am really happy that someone is really enjoying their stay in the Dominican Republic! I only read bad comments about it on my Facebook wall because I was born there and 90% of my Facebook friends are Dominicans in a not such a good financial situation. I really miss it and I wish life was less hard. Too bad I had to move away to help my family.

  21. Soy dominicana, y no te imaginas lo feliz que me ha hecho leer este post.

    Thanks for letting your kids grow in this beautiful island. And for sharing all these wonderful details about my country.

  22. Hey Jen, thank you so much for enjoying our country…it means the world to us dominicans!!! Many blessings for you all and when in Juan Dolio please stop by our nursery ( Vivero Las Trinitarias de Juan Dolio) on the bulevard to say hi!!!! 🙂

  23. Thanks everyone. I wanted to reply to each comment but was not able to for some technical issue. @Kristy the mango alone is worth it. @Tara you are totally right. People who visit the resorts have an idea of how beautiful it is here but there is so much more!

  24. Thanks for sharing! I’ve lived in the Dominican Republic for three months and loved it there. The country has sooooo much to offer – and I’m not talking about the holiday resorts 🙂


  25. Your kids are so cute! I hope I can travel on Dominican Republic next year and try their seasonal fruits.