Wednesday, January 9, 2013
One of the things I loved about this country when I first came here was the lack of rules and the sense of freedom. For example you could smoke in all the bars and restaurants – to be fair, most were outside but not all. People smoked in the colmados – corner shops. There was dancing on the bus, in the supermarkets. You could park your car outside any shop you wanted to go in and they were no yellow lines on the streets to stop you parking. No one wore a helmet on a motorbike, or very few, nor seat belts when driving.
People drove with a bottle of beer in their hands, and the backs of trucks were full of people standing up. You would see 5 or 6 people on one motorbike.
I am not saying that all of these things are good or right, but when you come from a country with rules, it is incredibly liberating to be in one without for a while.
Over the years things have changed a little. If you are caught not wearing a seat belt, the traffic police known as AMET might fine you – if you are in an area where they are working. There again they might not.
They tried to introduce breathalysers a while ago but I don’t think it actually worked, and the number of traffic accident deaths due to drunk drivers continues to be awful. So does the number of motorcyclists who die, often due to not wearing a helmet. Having said that they are also trying to make helmet wearing compulsory, with campaigns every so often, although just having something on your head is usually sufficient, even a saucepan.
There are now more and more restaurants, especially air conditioned ones which do not allow smoking or which have smoking and non smoking sections.
I can understand that a country has to have certain rules, but everyone I know who returns here from a visit to the USA or Europe or the UK relishes the personal freedom they feel once they touch down on Dominican soil.
The lack of rules does mean, however, that in some cases you have to adjust your behaviour for your own safety. I don’t drive at night for example (cars and bikes without lights on, more drunken people, cars with headlights on full and roads full of potholes). Nor do I venture onto the roads on public holidays when there will be more people driving drunk.
Overall I think I prefer the lack of rules, although I know it does drive several expats crazy - especially those who first arrive here, and want to know why things aren't done in the way they are 'back home'.