American Expat Living in Dominican Republic - Interview with Jen

Published: 16 May at 9 AM
Want to get involved? Become a Featured Expat and take our interview.
Become a Local Expert and contribute articles.
Get in touch today!
Filed: Interviews,Dominican Republic
Jen, a former English teacher, left the Jersey Shore for the Caribbean Sea and is currently writing a book and the author of Drinking the Whole Bottle, a blog about living abroad as a new wife, unsure mother, aspiring writer, enthusiastic wine drinker, life learner, opinionated thinker, and rabble rouser of non-violent sorts. She has been living her dream and living abroad in Dominican Republic for the last three years wither her husband, two children under three, and two rescue poodles. Her stories are real. The shamrock tattoo is magic marker. Connect with her on her journey at Drinking the Whole Bottle or on Twitter @Jen_at_DTWB. Jen's expat blog is called Drinking the Whole Bottle (see listing here)

My stories are real. The shamrock tattoo is magic marker.
My stories are real. The shamrock tattoo is magic marker.

Here's the interview with Jen...

Where are you originally from?
Originally from the East Coast, I was born and raised in New Jersey. No association to the Jersey Shore cast, please.

In which country and city are you living now?
We moved to Santo Domingo, Dominican republic in 2011

How long have you lived in Dominican Republic and how long are you planning to stay?
We are currently finishing our 3rd full year here and have plans to stay at least two more.

Drinking the Whole... Margarita
Drinking the Whole... Margarita
Why did you move to Dominican Republic and what do you do?
My husband and I decided to move here to give me the ability to focus only on my writing. I have always wanted to be a writer but an English teacher by day leaves you, let's just say English-ed out by night. The last thing I wanted to do when I got home from a day in the classroom was deal with more words.

Did you bring family with you?
WHen we first mad the decision to look for places abroad it was just my husband (then boyfriend) and I. Soon after the decision was made (like a week), we discovered that there was a little little on the way. We moved here in August of 2011 and had our first child, a girl, in October 2011. A son soon followed the next year and he was born March 2013. We live here with our two kids and two poodles. I spend my morning with them and the my afternoons writing. It's the best of both worlds.

How did you find the transition to living in a foreign country?
At first, a little difficult. New place, new language (even one I know), new people, new roads, new directions, new culture, new EVERYTHING. THat could be overwhelming. But sort of like a new pair of shoes, once you've broken them in over time, they just wear more comfortably. Every September, after being home in NJ for summer break, it is hard to come back here and slip back into the routine but I always eventually do. An expat veteran friend said to me when we first got here, "It usually takes about 6 months to start to feel normal when you first arrive to a new country to feel 'normal.'" I've remembered that advice. It takes time.

Was it easy making friends and meeting people; do you mainly socialise with other expats?
My husband jokes whenever I meet someone and says, "Is that your new BFF?" I am a social person so I have an easy time making friends and meeting people. That's not always the same though as making true friends, you know? Most of our friends here are expats but thanks to my knowledge of the language and the school's very welcoming atmosphere, I have made friends that are local to the island.

Sunflowers in NJ
Sunflowers in NJ
What are the best things to do in the area; anything to recommend to future expats?
Santo Domingo is an interesting place right now. It is still a country that is considered a developing country but it is in major development everywhere I turn. There are tons of new high rises and apartments, new restaurants opening up and new malls with fun things to do with kids. I'd say the biggest (and best) attraction to Santo Domingo is the Colonial Zone. If you are coming to visit Santo Domingo it is the only place I'd say is a must. I've also heard that "Los Tres Ojos" is a cool place to check out, a cave carved out of limestone near Parque Mirador Este.

What do you enjoy most about living in Dominican Republic?
The time. Living on an island pushes you to take it easy and slow. We have so much time to spend with our family which is a gift I rarely ever felt I was given in New Jersey.

How does the cost of living in Dominican Republic compare to home?
Well, my husband makes less than he did as a NJ teacher but we are living on one salary. I am able to stay home with our two children and have a nanny that comes M-F 7-4 and a maid that comes twice a week. Hour massages cost an average of $35. What's not to love?

Dinner in the Colonial Zone
Dinner in the Colonial Zone
What negatives, if any, are there to living in Dominican Republic?
The weather. I know, everyone THINKS they want to live on an island but it gets bloody hot sometimes. And sometimes I just wish it would rain. On the more serious side, you do have to be watchful and careful of petty crimes like theft.

If you could pick one piece of advice to anyone moving to Dominican Republic, what would it be?
Get over it. This is a great place to live if you understand that you are going to leave some conveniences at home (but you will get other ones in their place). If you understand that this culture is unlike your culture you'll be fine. People come here and say, "People here are so loud. The music is so loud." And I think, "Why are you here if you expect it to be just like home." You've got to move past the expectations of people living like you do. Get over it. Or go home.

What has been the hardest aspect to your expat experience so far?
Leaving family back home.

When you finally return home, how do you think you'll cope with repatriation?
I'm not sure we will be moving back. At least not anytime soon.

Merry-go-Rounds... a lot like life
Merry-go-Rounds... a lot like life
What are your top 5 expat tips for anyone following in your footsteps?
  1. Pack light
    You don't need nearly as much as you think you need.
  2. Don't expect too much. Or too little. Actually, don't expect anything.
    It's the easiest way to be disappointed.
  3. Give yourself 6 months.
    It's easy to feel lost and homesick in the beginning. But everything looks calmer after 6 months, after you could find the peanut butter in the supermarket.
  4. Visit the beach (or whatever makes your destination awesome!)
    THen you'll remember why you live there.
  5. Don't want things to be like home. Otherwise, why did you leave?
Tell us a bit about your own expat blog.
I've never been good at categorizing my blog. Maybe it's a lifestyle blog. Or an expat blog. Or a mommy blog. Because I started my blog when I moved to this country as a new wife and expectant parent and aspiring writer, my blog became a tasty medley blend of all things. I write a lot at this moment about being a parent because, well, that's what consumes most of my days right now, but I also write about living abroad, political issues, current events, music, my life truths, random ramblings, etc. The title comes from my favorite author, Paulo Coelho who said, "Accept all life has to offer you and try to drink from every cup. All wines should be tasted, some should only be sipped, but with others DRINK THE WHOLE BOTTLE.

How can you be contacted for further advice to future expats coming to your area?
jennifer.legra @ SKYPE

About the author

Expat Blog ListingJen is an American expat living in Dominican Republic. Blog description: Former English teacher gone abroad turned new wife, unsure mother, struggling writer, enthusiastic wine drinker, and rabble rouser of nonviolent sorts. This is my journey into tasting every drop of the good, good life in Dominican Republic.
Please share:

Grab a featured expat badge that links to this interview!

Copy and paste code to display the Featured Expat Badge:

Comments » No published comments just yet for this article...

Feel free to have your say on this item. Go on... be the first!

Tell us Your Thoughts On This Piece:

Your Name *
Email * (not published, needs verification one time only)
  • Facebook
  • Follow us on Twitter
  • RSS feed
  • Facebook

Articles by Category

Now featuring 633 expat interviews


Latest Headlines