I think that Cuban people are very special, either it is due to survived horror or simply because they are, Cubans have their ways in everything. And if I was to categorise my impression of an average Cuban person I would describe as someone…
…Who is extremely cooperative.
It feels like Cubans live in a massive ant nest and everybody depends on one another. They share practically everything they have, by a simple reason because not everybody has everything.
We were driving from Holguin to Santiago the Cuba. It was our first ride through the country, and we were fed by the stories of all the bad people who steal tourists and keep them hostage. So when the car stopped in the middle of nowhere, all 7 passengers got tensed. Our driver went out towards 3 guys standing on the sidewalk by a broken car. After 10 minutes of a heavy gesticulation he got back to the car, got his smartphone and walked away towards the guys. He came back eventually and explained that he saw a broken car and he assumed there was an accident. The guys on the sidewalk didn’t have a phone to call the ambulance, so he did that for them. About twenty minutes later we stop again. Our driver went to a house of a stranger to ask for petrol. The random stranger came out of his house with canister full of gas and let us finish our journey. That was brilliant.
They depend on each other in many little things and they care about the others too. You ask your friend something out loud on the street and you get half of the town solving your problem for you. There you feel that police is on the side of the people, because police are the people.
….The one Who doesn’t know what s/he wants
They really don’t have any idea what they want. 1 out of 10 Cubans live abroad so pretty much everybody has someone or knows someone who lives somewhere in the west, earns money, buys houses and cars and brings lots of presents once in a while. But they also all strangely super patriotic. So on one hand they extremely desire new shiny things but they proudly cherish the little they have.
Our Bolivian friend throughout his travel was asking the locals one simple question “if you could change anything in Cuba, what would it be?” once he got an amazing response that highlights my point
“If I could change anything, I would organise a massive party with loud music, drinks and lots of girls”… if he could change ONE thing.
…The one who doesn’t do much.
This might be a terrible over exaggeration, but it’s my personal impression that Cubans don’t do shit in life. If you walk through central Habana you see thousands of people just sitting on their doorsteps. Sitting, for the whole day. Only that. I haven’t seen a single person in rush (stressed bus drivers don’t count). I haven’t seen a single enthusiastic worker. If they are on duty, it feels like they are forced to work and that’s the worst that could happen to them.
You experience that especially when it comes to customer service. Generally it is very bad, to British standards but sometimes it is almost entertaining.
We were waiting to order dinner at the restaurant. Our waiter came up to us, and asked what we want. It was 4 of us and we said our orders. He said he needed a pen for that. He walked away. He disappeared for a minute, he came out, set next to the bartender and got involved in, hopefully, a fascinating conversation. About 15 minutes later, another waitress was passing us by, we asked her to take the order, when she did, our first waiter came up to her arguing that she took his table.
…The one who can go to prison for everything.
Someone told me that Cuba has one of the highest percentages of imprisoned population. We were staying with a Spanish family living in Cuba in Habana, the lady had two sons, one 17 another one 11. The oldest one told us that if the youngest one doesn’t go to school, or he is seeing on streets during school time, they can jail their mum. On the question why jail but not at least a fine he said:
They can’t fine people, because nobody has money.
…The one who likes to talk.
Oh damn they love to talk, talk about their lives, their worries, passions, hobbies, country. About how great it is, how great they are, how great life is. A lot of Cubans from older generation probably studied somewhere abroad in Germany or Eastern Europe or even Russia, so when they get a chance, they make sure they remember every single word they ever learned in that language. Cubans always have good laugh and a good story to tell. They easily speak to the person sitting next to them. They probably would try to sell something if that person is tourist, but it never ends the conversation if what they sell is not needed.
…The one who has a guy for everything.
This quality is probably linked mostly to the first point I made about their cooperation, but again, it feels like an average Cuban person has a guy for everything. A brother that owns a restaurant, a cousin that works in the tobacco factory, a friend with a car, an aunt in administration and an uncle in police. And the more guys you have the greater it is.
…The one who’s patient.
My mum told me that the only way she could avoid spending hours and hours in queues back in 90s Ukraine was to bring little me to the store, where I would start crying and people, out of irritation, would let us through. I guess communism and queues are two inseparable concepts, they are siblings that are never apart. The horror of those days got back to me when we visited Cuba. There, people queue everywhere.
Would you like to get into the grocery store that would probably have empty shelves? – You have to wait outside until the security lets you in.
Do you have a query regarding phone cards or internet? –You are welcome to join 30 minutes queue outside before getting in.
Would you like to exchange some money? –This one is my favourite. In Habana in order to exchange money, we would wake up at 7am in order to be by the nearest CaDeCa (exchange point) by 8AM, in order to take, if lucky, 5-7th place in the queue for exchange point which opens at 8.30am and if you’re lucky, you would eventually have your Cuban Pesos by 9.30-10am.
But Cubans don’t seem to bother too much anymore. They react on queues no more than Londoners react on Tube delays. Just breath, take it easy and wait, patiently.
Just writing about them makes me miss that amazing country. Of course this image is incomplete and very subjective, but I hope with arrival of McDonalds and Starbucks that nation wouldn’t lose their amazing specifics which makes them exceptionally open, sharing and friendly.