10 things nobody tells you about Cuba

10 things nobody tells you about Cuba

There is a Cuba underneath the vibrant colonial houses and the American 50’s cars. It is a Cuba that we don’t see with the bare eye. A Cuba that most visitors don’t see and don’t know about.

So, to help you get a deeper insight into Cuba, and everyday life here. I have put to Therefore, I put together this list of things I believe nobody tells you about Cuba:  

After saying more than four months in Cuba, I believe I have seen a thing or two. However, there are so many more things unknown in Cuba. So, if you have anything to add, an experience or anything, please share it in comments!

There is a Cuba underneath the vibrant colonial houses and the American 50’s cars. Get insight with these 10 things that nobody tells you about Cuba!
1) I have never done so many illegal things in my whole life

Everything is so controlled and regulated that I have never done so many illegal things in my whole life as my 4 months on Cuba. As foreigner, you can only legally rent the certain state-authorized casas particulares. So, when I rented a private apartment through the father of one of my Cuban friend, it had to be completely low key. I shouldn't open the door for anybody, I didn't know. I couldn't tell anybody... Oh no! I just told  you! Okay… It's only between you and me! DO NOT tell the Cuban state, okay? Oh no, they are properly already reading this post… Now I can't ever go back... No serious, what the Cuban state knows about you (foreigner or Cuban citizen) is crazy.

When I lived in a casa particular, the woman in the house told me that she had got a phone call from some state officer. The officer knew who she was dating, whom was staying with her in her casa particular (one white European looking girl (me) and two younger African looking girls). And he knew what we were going to the university for classes! How creepy is that? 

And, when I went in a private non-authorized taxi from Havana to Cienfuegos, the driver told me just to shut off if the police stopped us... As if me not speaking would cancel out the fact that my whole present screamed yuma (the Cuban slang word for foreigner)

There is a Cuba underneath the vibrant colonial houses and the American 50’s cars. Get insight with these 10 things that nobody tells you about Cuba!
2) Familiarize yourself with phrases such as no hay, no hay más or se abacó

If you are not so strong in Spanish and are planning to travel alone (or with others not speaking Spanish), do yourself the favor of familiarizing yourself with phrases such as: no hay, no hay más or se abacó meaning "there isn't more" and "it ended".

Material shortage is a reality in Cuba in all aspects; food, medicine, toiletries... You get it; EVERYTHING

There is a Cuba underneath the vibrant colonial houses and the American 50’s cars. Get insight with these 10 things that nobody tells you about Cuba!
3) Cuba and its relationship with the U.S.

Cuba was the last country to gain independence in Latin America from the Spanish empire. That was in 1898. However, so much for that independence; the Spanish colonial power handed over power to the U.S.

And, it was not until 1901 that Cuba adopted its first constitution as an independent state.

Nevertheless, that only lasted until 1906 when U.S. troops reoccupy Cuba after request from the Cuban president himself. At lasted until 1909 when the U.S. occupation ends… If you were doubting the historical relationship with the U.S.; yes, they high influnece each other. Read more about my view on the current changes in their relationship here.

There is a Cuba underneath the vibrant colonial houses and the American 50’s cars. Get insight with these 10 things that nobody tells you about Cuba!
4) Education system is free but the state decides where the newly-graduated should work 

Even though, the education system in Cuba is said to be free all the way up through university. Did you know that the first 2-3 years after graduating university, the Cuban state decides where the young Cuban professional should work?

The state can send them to anywhere on the island; close or far from family and friend. It doesn't matter, the state decides.

There is a Cuba underneath the vibrant colonial houses and the American 50’s cars. Get insight with these 10 things that nobody tells you about Cuba!
5) The younger generations choose jobs in low-qualified jobs over education

It is a common perception among Cubans that the younger generations choose jobs in low-qualified jobs such as taxi- or bicitaxi drivers over education. Simply, because they can earn a better income there than by becoming professionals.

One could say that this produces the reverse of the revolutions ambitions for free education to everyone. What does it matter to have free education if the economic situation only encourage people to stay in low-income jobs?

There is a Cuba underneath the vibrant colonial houses and the American 50’s cars. Get insight with these 10 things that nobody tells you about Cuba!
6) You can be sentenced to prison for killing a cow

 

You can be prisoned up to 25 years for killing a cow for private use. Almost all selling and buying for the meat is illegal in Cuba. The meat is exclusively for tourism and exportation.

7) It is difficult for health care professional to get the necessary equipment

Even though Cuba has a health care system well above the average of other countries with the same economy level, it is hard for the professional to get the equipment necessary. I have heard plenty of stories from Cubans working in health care, telling that they have had to "built" their own equipment.  The hygienic conditions aren't the best seen - for the same reason: lack of materials.

There is a Cuba underneath the vibrant colonial houses and the American 50’s cars. Get insight with these 10 things that nobody tells you about Cuba!
8) Remember to ask ¿Quién es última persona? or ¿Quién es última? when entering a queue 

When arriving to a queue, you will always have to ask ¿Quién es última persona? or ¿Quién es última? (who is the last person), somebody will mark that they are the last arrived and you will have to remember who they are as well as who is the person coming after you.

When you sort of know that the waiting is done all over the place; forget about some straight lines from the supermarkets in other countries.

There is a Cuba underneath the vibrant colonial houses and the American 50’s cars. Get insight with these 10 things that nobody tells you about Cuba!
9) And then; get used to queuing!

And, you have to get used to queuing – as in queuing a lot!

I once (back in 2014) waited for two hours to get inside one of the state-owned ETCSA internet cafes. And, another other time 1.5 hour to get to withdraw money at the Casa de Cambio (CADECA). And then, just as I got inside the electricity of the whole block went off...

There is a Cuba underneath the vibrant colonial houses and the American 50’s cars. Get insight with these 10 things that nobody tells you about Cuba!
10)... Leading to the next point; get used to electricity shot downs.

Apart from if you are not staying in the all-inclusive resort (which the Cuban state has been so smart to supply good with electricity), anywhere around the island sudden and without reason electricity cuts are the norm.

It has become even more frequent now due to the political crisis in Venezuela and the "little" oil-issue Cuba has with Venezuela. Beforehand, Venezuela and Cuba were good amigos, and exchanged Cuban doctors for Venezuelan oil. That went quiet well…

Until… Venezuela entered a political and economic crisis, and cut the exchange with Cuba. No more free oil to Cuba! It has taken hard on Cuba, especially cutting down supply of oil and complicating the transportation possibilities of many Cubans.

There is a Cuba underneath the vibrant colonial houses and the American 50’s cars. Get insight with these 10 things that nobody tells you about Cuba!
Have you visited Cuba or are you planning to go? Were there anything in the list that you didn't know? Or maybe, that you did know? Please share your thoughts in the comments below! All inputs are more than welcome - I answer everybody 🙂 
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There is a Cuba underneath the vibrant colonial houses and the American 50’s cars. Get insight with these 10 things that nobody tells you about Cuba!

6 comments

  1. Karlijn

    Very interesting post Becci! We are going to Cuba in around 3 weeks, so this is useful as preparation.

    Reply

    1. Rebecca

      Hi Karlijn,
      So happy to hear that you found the post useful in your preparation! Hope you will have an amazing time in Cuba! I’m hoping to post some more stuff on Cuba the extra coming weeks, so hopefully you can find something else to inspire you 🙂

      Reply

  2. Caitlin

    Nice post — good points and touches on a lot of things I found surprising about Cuba! Even if you kinda expect some of this stuff (like the waiting) going in, it’s hard to be prepared for the reality on the ground.

    Reply

    1. Rebecca

      Thank you Caitlin! I’m happy to hear that you liked the post, and found that it covered what you also found surprising about reality in Cuba 🙂

      Reply

  3. Andre

    I’m really, really, reallyyy hoping to get to Cuba in the next year! It’s been on my list forever! Thank you for sharing!!
    Andre recently posted…LA Files: Pan Dulce in East LAMy Profile

    Reply

    1. Rebecca

      Thanks for dropping by Andre! Yes, yes! You should go to Cuba! It is a super experience – for sure, nothing like what you have seen before! 🙂

      Reply

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