Part Two Of A Dominican Republic Experience

Tropical Retirement … Dream Or Nightmare … Heaven Or Hell?
By Dennis Tkach. You live in the lower mainland of supernatural British Columbia, are retired or soon to be so. And, like every denizen of lotus land each autumn causes a part of you to shudder at facing yet another long cool, gray, rainy winter that descends upon your soul like a wet blanket. Health and finances permitting, you can now make the life changing decision to transform the sunset of your life into sunrise days of bliss.

If you have already enlisted in the geriatric migratory of snowbirds that seasonally flock down to take up temporary residency in the southern digs of Uncle Sam or Pancho Villa, the choice has already been made. But if there is a part of you that dreams of the exciting toe curling possibility of retiring to a tropical paradise, read on.

On my recent stay in The Dominican Republic I met several Canadian, American and British ex-patriots who decided to make this Caribbean nation their home away from home. Before deciding on the D.R. all of these wise individuals completed extensive evaluations on many alternatives before making their final choice. I would urge all to follow this path of wisdom, starting with the following narrative.

Visiting anywhere on a holiday is not the same as making a long- term commitment on where to reside for the rest of your life. When people go on a traditional holiday, it is for fun and respite, knowing that all too soon, they will be returning to that place and pace of comfort and familiarity called home. Retiring to a ‘holiday’ destination, for six months or longer is far different.

When considering the Caribbean, or for that matter, ANY tropical clime, always remember you are coming from an affluent 1st or 2nd world country to a 3rd world country.
The biggest obstacle you will have to overcome and learn to live with is CULTURAL SHOCK. Many of the things we take for granted will be either absent, expensive or difficult to locate. The pace of life will be much slower and you will quickly notice that in the land of ‘manana’ most residents see little perceived urgency in following the dictates of a schedule. Back in the 80’s as I was setting up a business in Central America this fact of life drove me crazy… until I learned the golden rule of being a stranger in a strange land. Always remember it is ‘you’, the interloper, who must conform and change the way you think, they way you live, and the way you do business. Not ‘them’.

Retire DR 2On a holiday, it is a temporary only slightly bothersome handicap we experience when unable to speak Spanish or French. We are, after all, tourists who will make ‘cute’ rudimentary attempts at communicating with the ‘natives’ knowing full well that actually learning a foreign language will not be necessary. If you are going to be residing in a foreign speaking land, be prepared to learn enough of a second tongue to understand and be understood… or suffer the consequences. Frustration over communication and miscommunication can be a bitter reality pill to swallow. IF YOU LET IT. You are never too old to learn a new language. However changing an attitude is much more difficult. If you view such learning as an unpleasant struggle or effort rather than an exciting opportunity to grow in comfort with your new home, you will fail and you will be very unhappy.

As for fun and recreation, palm tree shaded beaches of sugar sand, and warm turquoise waters should easily replace what we in Canada refer to as leisurely good times. But if going to the movies, live theatre, hockey and football games, etcetera… are a part of your life, be prepared to surrender such pleasures. The D.R. is a land where satellite television or wireless inter-net connectivity is as costly and spotty a form of entertainment as retaining membership in the world of social media. If reading good books in English is your form of relaxing pleasure, you will have to work out an efficient plan to keep yourself so supplied. Finding a bookstore, (or any bookstore for that matter) that sells English speaking novels is a quest comparable to climbing Kilamanjaro.

If you have children and more important, grand children, unless you can afford to fly home on a regular basis, be prepared for the sad reality of not being around to watch them grow up.

Before making the final plunge of investing in your new home visit and talk with fellow retirees who have taken the plunge. I cannot stress this enough. Take the time to ponder ‘living’ as a gringo in banana land rather than holidaying as a tourista.

Slowing down the clock and adjusting to a wonderful slow pace of life is but one welcome change that will occur in your life. Another most pleasing reality about the Dominican Republic is its LACK of tourist development. That is not to say, even as my fingers are pounding out these words, the winds of change are not beginning to blow. The D.R. has yet to be polluted with foreign investment aimed at capturing tourist dollars, although there are signs of such infestations popping up throughout the island. (While my put down of hedonistic capitalist greed may make me sound like a communist… I am anything but. I am a hedonistic soft pillow-loving socialist. Big difference.)

Joni Mitchell’s prophetic lyrics, “they paved paradise and put up a parking lot” is still years away from happening in the D.R.. In that respect NOW is the time to enjoy the untouched natural wonders of towns like Samana and Las Terrenas. NOW is the time for investment in such a choice and rare destination.

I must once more, on the plus side of the ledger, extol the wonderful carefree lifestyle of the people of the D.R. If you are gregarious by nature, in other words, a ‘people’ person, you will find Dominicans to be much warmer and more hospitable than your typical Canadians or Americans. It is an inherent part of their nature. Most Dominicans lead a humble, simple, stress free life and it is reflected in their ‘joie de vivre’, the way they salsa through life and the manner in which these ‘caribbeanari’ treat strangers. And here is a big plus! If you show an interest in the culture and the language, reflecting a sincere attempt to understand and enjoy what the Dominican Republic has to offer, you will be greeted with dazzling smiles and outstretched welcoming arms.

Retire DR3Still interested in exploring investment and retirement possibilities in the Dominican Republic? I now come to the most important and crucial element in this happiness recipe. I speak of the absolute requirement to find reputable and trust worthy professionals to help you with your investment… whether such an acquisition be rental, long term lease or purchase.

Having spent most of my professional life in sales and marketing I consider myself an expert in seeing through the smiling faces of duplicitous hucksters, schemers, and shysters who lurk in every corner of our existence looking for the unwise and vulnerable. I have, over the years, encountered these predators under many a shaded palm. These are vultures who understand the vulnerability and the gullibility of people in search of happiness. P.T. Barnum said there is one born every minute.

Follow these ‘DON’T be-attitudes’:
DON’T believe you will find treasure with a mass produced map. DON’T be likened to the hordes of lottery zombies who dream the impossible dream, blindly embracing false images offered like grape kool-aid in champagne bottles.
DON’T swallow the silver-tongued half-truths of dream bandits with the thirst of a ‘born again’.

During my recent stay in the D.R. I met, talked with Canadians and Americans who followed such sound advice. They verified by their own experiences, that honesty, fair cost of services, and subsequent quality of results were definitely attainable through securing the services of proper ‘in the know’ folk.

Dealing with foreign government procedures, rules and regulations can be a nightmarish minefield. For this reason be advised to find three types of Dominican business professionals who, by their track records, are like farmers, outstanding in their fields.

1: A ‘facilitator’. This is a local English speaking ‘jack of all trades’ who understands your position of ‘not knowing’ Throughout your fact finding stay he will steer you in the ‘right’ direction. This ‘facilitator’ can be with you every step of the way in order to see your objectives realized. If necessary he can be a constant companion, ensuring you are comfortable in all aspects of exploring and eventually residing in your new environment.

2: A realty broker. I had the pleasure of spending some time with a Brit and his family, who, after extensively scoping out the Caribbean basin with it’s myriad of possible livable destinations, decided fourteen years ago, on taking up business and residence in the vibrant fishing town of Las Terrenas. He deemed it to possess some of the finest beaches in the Caribbean with some of the best investment opportunities to be found anywhere. After a two hour ‘free consultation’ I came away enriched with the confidence and knowledge that should I seek a retirement haven in the D.R. I would call upon the services of this man.

3: A lawyer. I was invited to a dinner of Mahi-mahi (a local seafood delicacy) at a simple yet elegant hacienda situated atop a mountain with a breathtaking view of jungle below and sea beyond. This polite, unassuming man made me feel like royalty. His name is Mateo and he spoke passable English, but also and more importantly, fluent Spanish and French. With multi-linguistic capabilities his legal services, particularly for French speaking Canadians and Europeans were in great demand. He also worked with a Canadian friend of mine who, over the past four years has established himself as a property owner in the D.R. A quick check told me this ‘abogado’ was also well known and respected by the local government and law officials.

As a valuable resource and contact I also include my new friend Brent, (an Albertan who works in the oilfields of Alberta during spring and summer but winters at his villa complex in Las Terrenas.) My son rented a two-bedroom unit for what I considered a very reasonable rate. As well as enjoying the pleasure of his company, he was invaluable as a local guide, introducing us to phenomenal restaurants as well as local marketplace secrets. His Villa Beverly Hills de Las Terrenas is but ten minutes away from our favorite beach.

There are hotels ‘on the beach’ that are less expensive, but I heard a myriad of complaints from touristas who chose such accommodations. Faulty air-conditioning, lack of insect screening, poor views, etc. These accommodations can start as low as $65.00 (US) a night. The villa where we stayed was only five minutes up a mountain from town, had local police security, an amazing balcony overlooking both jungle and sea, a large private swimming pool, and above all, an absence of traffic and street noise common in town and on the beach fronts. The cost? $100.00 a night.

I have one more final word of caution for those who would like to explore the possibility of retirement in The Dominican Republic.

HEALTH. There are decent hospitals in both the town of Las Terrenas and Samana (a larger, more modern coastal city) but if you have serious health issues, I would look further into what can and cannot be supplied in emergency situations. And, when traveling to ANY third world country, always remember to take out additional health insurance coverage. There are also special long-term policies available through Canadian medical plans that are affordable and very comprehensive.

For me and my wife, we look forward to returning to this quiet, rustic corner of paradise. With all its third world imperfections it is still, for us, a bit of heaven on earth.

For more information on holidaying and retirement in the Dominican Republic feel free to contact Brent Southwell (Edmonton, Alberta) owner of Villa Beverly Hills De Las Terrenas.

Mateo Courdil – Abogado (Legal Counselling)

Or me: Email:

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