I receive several emails from people about to make the leap and become an expat in the Dominican Republic, and I wish I had taken the time to speak to expats before I made the move which might have prevented me making quite so many mistakes over the years.
Having said that, when I first moved here over 12 years ago I was only going to stay for 6 months so I didn't make a conscious decision to become an expat, I just sort of drifted into it unlike most of the people who write to me who are doing all of the right things such as looking at different countries, sorting out their finances and doing all of their research properly.
I did some things right such as learning Spanish as there is no way you can truly understand and immerse yourself into a country if you cannot communicate with the people. Another thing I did right was to marry my Dominican husband.
I did a few things wrong too! I should have listened more to the people here about the fact that many things work differently here compared to the UK. For example we opened a gym and had a couple of hundred members. I didn't realize though that there is no direct debit system in the DR, so although people joined one month, if they didn't have money for the next month that was that. No money coming in. Not like the UK where the money is taken from your bank whether you go or not. That was a big lesson. Never assume that things work the same way in your new country compared to your home country.
Apart from learning about to best way to do all of the practical things such as open bank accounts, get residency, set up cell phones, internet and cable TV, it is the cultural differences which present the greatest challenge. For example, many expats become frustrated here with the lack of electricity but the way I see it is you either let it get to you or you accept that it is what it is and behave like the Dominicans who just chill and work around it. The wise expat will do everything they can to mitigate the situation by having an inverter and/or generator and checking online to see what times of the day they will be without electricity. The even wiser expat will have done their research and make sure they live in an area with 24 hour electricity – although those who have not done the research will probably not even know that electricity is an issue, nor how to find out about any particular area. Imagine going to rent a house in the UK and asking what the electricity was like!
So congratulations to those budding expats who research the move – it will certainly be much smoother for you than it was for me. For those who want more really useful tips and hints check out the HiFX expat page here which will also have some of my tips on it in a couple of weeks.