A Brief Reflection on Cuban Culture and Life

By Lauren Sadowsky, Public Health in Cuba, Summer 2012

• Habana Vieja is beautiful and the skyline along the Malecon is gorgeous
• Food served in casas particulares (family stay homes) is far superior to the food served by paladares (family-run restaurants)
• There are two main currencies – CUC: Cuban Convertible Pesos which is the money used by foreigners and MN: Monedas Nacionales which are pesos and used by Cubanos… and people that don’t want to pay as much for food and can speak decent Spanish
• The only fruits available at any time are mango, pineapple, guava, watermelon, and papaya
• The lemonade is always a good idea, specifically the limonada frappes
• Lemons don’t exist, only limes
• Rum is usually cheaper than water
• If something is listed on the menu, that doesn’t mean it is available
• Everyone has a room consisting of rocking chairs for seating
• There is no such thing as a lunch or dinner without meat, carbs, and/or beans
• Entrée salads do not exist
• Eating at restaurants, meals can last up to 3 hours
• Walking down the street, men hiss, make kissing noises, yell “beautiful!”, “very very pretty!”, and “linda!” at any female foreigner that passes by
• However, as a whole, Cubans are very nice and friendly
• Going for a run is unheard of- expect people to stare
• There is no such thing as time
• When there are actual times established, the actual start will be an hour or two after said time
• The weather is hot – all the time, regardless of whether it is raining or not
• Smoking is allowed anywhere and everywhere
• Public displays of affection are commonplace
• There is no real age limit to buy and consume alcohol and cigarettes
• Toilets do not have toilet seats
• Bathrooms do not have toilet paper – bring your own
• Toilet paper does not get flushed; there is a wastebasket for it next to every toilet
• Prostitution is prevalent and accepted
• The Cuban salary is $20 CUC a month
• I spent $20.10 in one trip to the grocery store to buy cereal and snacks
• Do not expect to eat cereal with milk – cold milk is nonexistent
• Taxi drivers make more money than doctors
• The internet is very slow- and YouTube is blocked, among other websites
• There is no such thing as a typical meal time
• Red Bull is considered a status drink
• If you appear like a tourist, people will constantly honk and yell “Taxi” at you, regardless of whether or not the car is actually a taxi
• Old 1950’s cars are the cheapest taxis, bicitaxis are second cheapest, followed by random cars, then Cubataxi, followed by Coco Taxis
• The drivers of Coco Taxis wear helmets, the passengers don’t
• Do not take a Coco Taxi
• Electricity blackouts are a normal part of life
• The water will sometimes turn off without warning
• Only bring shoes that are comfortable to walk in
• The only types of cuisine that exist are Cuban and Italian- and the Bollywood Restaurant in Nuevo Vedado has ridiculously delicious Indian food
• The national bank can simply shut down for a day and refuse to exchange money
• Going to the movies costs 2 Cuban pesos, which is the equivalent of $0.10 American
• You will never want to pay $10 for a movie in the states ever again
• Getting ice cream at Coppelia is a must – the extranjero side has more flavors but costs 3 CUC vs. the Cuban side which costs 5 pesos (~$3.50 vs. ~$0.20 American)
• You shouldn’t drink the water from the tap – only bottled water – in case cholera breaks out on the island for the first time in more than 50 years
• It is always time to drink
• Cuba is an anomaly of a country, in its government, its health care system, its eccentricities and its fun
• You will enjoy your time in Cuba – but do not have any expectations because nothing ever goes according to plan