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Once you have an itinerary and perhaps a few reservations, all you need to do is stick a guidebook in your backpack and take off on your travels, right?  I would like to suggest adding one more book–a tiny one that won't add to your weight burden, but will take a lot of other burdens off your mind.

http://www.flickr.com/photos/neon_lobster/3572057117/

Dominican Republic, Punta Cana Beach
photo by Neon Lobster, used under Creative Commons License

 

Other guides prepare you by telling you things like when museums are open or how much a particular hotel might cost. But some travelers want to get beneath the tourist-life when they travel . The Culture Smart! series prepares travelers by providing real life cultural information that makes you a sensitive and discerning traveler.

Here's a look at Culture Smart! Dominican Republic to give you an example of how helpful these little books can be. After filling you in on the basics of geography (an island nation that shares that island with Haiti), climate, history, politics, the economy and highpoints of life in the D.R. today, the authors plunge into a chapter on "Values and Attitudes," and you begin to learn what life in the Dominican Republic is really like beyond the tourist hang-outs and beaches.

Among the ways Culture Smart! helps you understand D.R.:

  • Family relationships are of prime importance.
  • The division between (few) haves and (many) have-nots is stark.
  • Despite the poverty, the Dominican people have a positive and optimistic outlook.
  • Mañana Attitude: Anything up to 90 minutes late is not considered late.
  • In the coastal tourist regions you will meet with more hustlers, scams and sophistication. To see the real culture, leave the beach and go inland.

Dominican Republic - Culture Smart!: The Essential Guide to Customs & CultureOn the practical side, Culture Smart! Dominican Republic lists the many festivals with their dates and explains the activities related to each. All sorts of recreations are discussed. You can also learn about foods typical on the island, local crafts and top attractions. Language tips and social etiquette sections give helpful tips.

An enormous amount of helpful information is packed into this pocket-sized book. The authors, two women who have lived as expats in the Dominican Republic (one is married to a Dominican) share their personal experiences to illustrate the information, which makes the book entertaining rather than an academic exercise.

If you're thinking of visiting the Dominican Republic, or any of the other 78 countries covered by this series, I think your trip will be enhanced with Culture Smart!

P.S.  If you prefer to learn about a country through its literature, you'll want to look at The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Diaz. This is one of the most fascinating books I have ever read. Don't miss the footnotes, which make up a major part of the book. Although when I reviewed it, I doubted it would make anyone want to go to D.R., it certainly gives you an unvarnished view of the people and history of the island nation.

 

This review is written by of A Traveler's Library. The review includes a link to Amazon to make it easier for you to buy a copy of Culture Smart! Dominican Republic. You should know that although it costs you no more, as an affiliate of Amazon, A Traveler's Library will make a few cents on any purchase you make through that link. VMB Thanks you!

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3 Comments for this entry

  • Not sure what happened to my comment two days ago.  
    YES! Jeff, with more than 70 countries covered, they have all the  European countries as well as more obscure places in the world.
    They even have one for the U.S., which I have not loked at and I'm curious about how they cover all the many cultures within the states.

  • Fascinating…it's always nice to get inside the culture you're visiting and understand a little about the life in their footsteps!  I need to check these guides out.  Hopefully they cover Europe?  

    • TourAbsurd says:

      I'm not sure about that, Jeff.  If you click the Amazon link there are probably related guides shown on the page.  :)

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