As I sit in my office this morning mulling over which of my websites I want to work first I am hit with one of the inescapable facts of living in the Dominican Republic. It’s loud here! One of the things that can often be difficult for a foreigner that has either moved to the DR or is taking an extended vacation here is the noise. For some this can even affect their health. While I’m sure that there are some areas this doesn’t apply, outside of the resorts there doesn’t seem to be many. Lets discuss some examples.

The People

I’m going to be speaking in generalities here because not everyone in the DR follows this description, from the noise here it just seems like it! For the most part people don’t like quite here. It’s entertaining to sit on your front porch and watch people walk by. If it is too quite, people in particular men and kids’ will just start yelling as they walk down the street. They just want to be heard. The latest political elections gave them even more reason. It was not unusual to see someone walking down the street by himself and start yelling “LLego PaPa” without any one in particular around to listen.

People in their houses will have their religious programs blaring on the radio and be “singing” at the top of their lungs. Neighbors will yell out full conversations from a block away (no I am not exaggerating). And people take their dominos seriously here, it often sounds like there is a gang fight happening outside your window. No, it’s just four men around a table having a good time with a group of onlookers yelling in their support.

Sound Car Advertisements

Trucks with huge walls of speakers ran by a separate gas generator and amplifiers roam the streets advertising anything from religious speeches, advertisements for the churches service the upcoming week end, new business openings and sales, to government health suggestions. During the elections it really starts to get noisy as political parties dump large amounts of money into musical advertisements to whip up a frenzy into the populous.

Added to the sound cars are the vendors driving up and down the streets advertising food items like platano, pineapple, eggs, and other food items they have in the back of their trucks.

Vehicles and Motorcycles

Most of the younger guys with their 70cc and 90cc scooters and motorcycles like to open up the muffler and remove the baffling and then weld it back together. The result is worse than if there was no muffler because the sound is now amplified in the pipe. These small bikes can be heard a half mile away and you have to interrupt your conversation to let them pass before you can continue.

The Chickens and other animals

This one can be a little rough at night. If you are used to having it pretty quite when you sleep, you will need to make some adjustments. Even in the cities you will find large numbers of chickens and in particular roosters. Get used to crowing because you are going to hear it a lot and by large groups of them.

The Bars

While there are laws about how late you can play music this is often unheeded. It is not unoften that you are treated to music being played several blocks away and you can hear it loud and clear. Often there are several bars going at once so the music is mixed, still loud, just not to clear now.

House design
One of the things that makes the noise worse is the design of the houses. Most are designed without glass windows. Typically you want the windows open for air to pass through the house so metal shutters are used and there is nothing to block the street and neighbor noise. That includes the neighbors family arguments that can be heard by all the surrounding houses.

The Solution
First, plan on using earplugs at first. Over the last three years I have reached a point where I can sleep through almost anything, my wife however frequently needs earplugs at night. If you are needing to get away from the noise during the day an mp3 player is very helpful.

If you are planning to rent a house for a while, check out the neighborhood and make sure there are no bars close by. Hanging out near the house you are considering during the evening, in particular on the weekends might give you a bit of an idea about the local noise. Also, make sure the house you are considering at least has glass windows facing the street, that will block out a lot of the noise, or at least dull it some. You might want to ask around to find the quieter areas.

Likely your house will be of a cinder block and concrete design. Sound bounces around in this style of house. Find ways to dampen the sound with things like curtains, wall hangings, paintings etc. The more padded items you have in the room the quieter it will be.

You can get used to it
At first it will drive you crazy, but you do eventually start to get use to the noise here. Maybe not entirely, but with some of the sound dampening items in the room you can get it to a point of being comfortable.