Living in the Dominican Republic: The First Six Months – Part 4

If you are a developer, really understand and know construction, are fluent in Spanish (or have a trusted colleague who is), and have working capital, there is a fortune to be made in constructing middle-class, middle income apartments or houses here. We are in great need of them. If you have enough to offer your own financing, you will quickly sell the project, once it is finished. There are some mortgages available here but only to the highly qualified, and now offered at 16%, half of last year’s rate. Do not fall into the trap of trying to sell (or buy) a project before construction, with only subdivision plans and permits. The walls of the fourteen real estate offices in this town are papered with such projects. Lawsuits abound. Most of the unwary buyers will never recover their downpayments.

As for how much life here will cost, I would recommend that you assume at least $2000 a month to maintain a shadow of your current lifestyle, with a visit home every year. Even with twice that amount, you will not find the amenities to which you are accustomed. There is no air-conditioned movie theater for an afternoon’s retreat. (We would love one, but how would one even decide what language to run on the subtitles? English would be the last choice here.) If you do not have a secure source of income, via an Internet run business, retirement or other investments, or a job with an international corporation, you are taking a great risk, one that could go either way. The bank CDs, which pay in pesos, are now paying 17% interest, down from 24% last year. But with a 100k investment in those, you would at least have a secure income for a trial period. I would certainly hesitate to make this investment if that was all the capital I had. There is a reason that they pay such high interest rates.

Please do not come down here with plans to open another bar or discotheque. We are really trying to head in the opposite direction. Perhaps there is another part of the world that would welcome another bar.

The Dominican Republic is striving to eliminate its reputation for sex tourism. We already have more than enough bars and discos along with one of the highest Aids rates in the region and a horrible problem with child prostitution. Come and open a school. You may not make as much money but you will be infinitely more welcomed. Teachers ride for free on the local motoconchos.

Assume that your children will have to have at least three hours a day of home tutoring to keep them at their current educational level. We are now discussing establishing an English school, based on the distance learning courses offered by Canada and Great Britain, but at this stage, you would have to serve as tutors, as well as pay for the space. We have a schoolhouse for the free school but it was given by a foundation, for the education of the local poor. So we would charge you in order to subsidize our adult literacy classes. Fair enough, I think.

While some families thrive on this type of adventure, many disintegrate under the pressure. If your marriage is in difficulty now, the odds are that it will fail once exposed to the tropical sunshine and the free-wheeling lifestyle of a tourist town. Your husband (or wife) will be offered temptations of the flesh that are certainly not present in any little suburban community in the States.

Yet, if you long for a life outside of the consumer culture, one with the possibilities of really feeling needed, of being of use, by all means “come on down.” This entire country, as well as all of Latin America, has a huge need for English teachers. When you volunteer at the local hospital, you may well be the only one doing it. And if you are an engineer, especially one who understands water systems, you can stay in one of the extra beds at my place.

Excerpted and adapted from “Life In The Dominican Republic: Six Months Down” in Escape From America Magazine