Each country and each nation has their own peculiarities. Either we’re talking about the way people dress or greet each other or the perception of personal space, they always come with a deciphering key that says something about that nation’s warmth and openness. And when it comes to Cuba, thank God, foreigners feel instantly the warmth and openness that make everybody feel at home. But how do they feel about the loud voices? Or about the “hug or kiss” dilemma? Which cheek?
We put together a list of some customs that may amaze people interacting with Cubans, but feel free to add what you may feel it’s relevant.
Big heart, loud voice, direct eye contact
Cubans tend to be louder, more expressive when communicating than other nationalities may be accustomed to. So the loud conversions usually come with large hand gestures, which is completely normal in Cuba, because yes, CUbans simply enjoy being very expressive.
When speaking with someone, direct eye contact is much more preferred over indirect or fleeting eye contact. It is common to look someone directly in the eyes for the majority of the time you speak with them, as it’s viewed as a show of respect and demonstration of interest.
If a Cuban puckers his or her lips, they’re probably pointing in the direction of the person, place, or thing they’re referring to. Wrinkling or scrunching up one’s nose is also common – usually implying a “Huh?” or “What?” question.
Physical distance? Not so much…
In Cuban culture, it’s customary to be close, as privacy and private space are not valued as highly here as they are in other countries, such as the U.S. or the northern European states. In fact, physical contact even among strangers is the norm. Foreigners might experience a handshake upon meeting a complete stranger for the very first time. However, it’s more common to greet everyone when entering a room, shaking all hands of present men (as well as hugging them oftentimes), and kissing women on the cheek.
Cuban kindness all the way…
Cubans are friendly people – to each other, as well as visitors. In fact, they view generosity, kindness, and willingness to be hospitable as very highly valued qualities. Sometimes this takes the form of… human touch. Touching people is normal in Cuba, being more of a demonstration of affection or used for emphasis when speaking. The Coronavirus pandemic may have changed that, but people are looking forward to getting back to normal.
Another thing to keep in mind: Cubans are much more laid back about schedules and time, favoring experiences with people over adherence to schedules or timelines. So foreigners should be prepared to be on time, but also understand if others aren’t!