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Negotiation Practices and Etiquette in Cuba

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The island of Cuba is the largest in the Caribbean and in recent years has become a popular holiday destination for tourists, particularly for Europeans and Canadians. Most of the etiquette and customs will come as no surprise to westerners and holidays o

The island of Cuba is the largest in the Caribbean and in recent years has become a popular holiday destination for tourists, particularly for Europeans and Canadians. Most of the etiquette and customs will come as no surprise to westerners and holidays or business trips should go smoothly, however there are one or two minor points it could be an advantage to be aware of.

Visitors to the island should be aware of the political climate within Cuba, it is a one party state and its citizens have little or no freedom of speech. Should you come across any areas of political unrest or activity you should distance yourself from these events as the military or police can be ruthless in the way they handle or disperse meetings or activity they consider to be against the wishes of the state.

It is also considered to be bad etiquette whether in public or private to criticize the Cuban government. The Cubans may do this but if an outsider does the same they will defend their country verbally even if it is against their personal beliefs.

The official language of Cuba is Spanish and if you are in an international business meeting this may well be conducted in either English or Spanish, occasionally in other European languages. It is considered polite to try and speak a little Spanish to your hosts and just by saying please and thank you in the local language will gain you some respect.

When you first meet a new acquaintance you should be quite formal and use the correct titles until advised that it is ok to use first names. The required dress codes of business meetings can be very informal and this is largely due to the climate. Although smart dress is expected usually this will not extend to the wearing of jacket and tie. Long sleeved shirts are the normal expected style over short sleeved or t-shirts. The wearing of shorts is considered disrespectful at meetings and should be restricted to the beaches.

Modest clothing is advised for travelling inland or to any religious sites. Avoid wearing clothing that is too revealing and it should be noted that signs of affection between couples of the same sex is not always tolerated in Cuba.

The practice of tipping is for many in the hospitality industry a major source of their income. The correct etiquette for good service is to tip as you see fit. Some restaurants will automatically include a 10% service charge, it is also considered good etiquette to tip your waiter or waitress in addition to this. Within holiday resorts all the staff expect to receive a tip during your stay for the service they provide, even down to the gardener. Taxi drivers will expect a tip for the journey, they will also want to be rewarded for their advice should you ask for their opinion on a good restaurant and will want a suitable commission for this additional information.

Within the hospitality industry it is common practice to leave your shampoos and other personal care products for the maids, these items are usually beyond the affordability of these workers in Cuba due to a low wage and high prices of such items and will be appreciated as an alternative to receiving a tip.

You will be expected to arrive on time or a little early for any scheduled business meetings, it is also a long standing tradition for the host to arrive late, you should not feel insulted at this practice, the meeting will usually begin with some small talk, Cubans love to talk about their families, meetings can be long and do not expect decisions to be made quickly, you will be expected to remain calm throughout this procedure and not show impatience over how long a decision takes.

Interrupting a person while they are talking is not considered to be rude, however not looking at them while you are speaking is. The use of slang of profanities is highly offensive within the business world of Cuba, it is considered a sign of a poor education.

A business meeting may be conducted over lunch and this meal could last around 2 hours, it is not normal custom to discuss business over dinner and this is conducted more formally. Men will usually stand when a woman arrives at or leaves the table. Drinking is an important part of Cuban culture and is conducted during business lunches.

Always ask permission before taking photos and never attempt to photograph the military, the police or any areas that have a heavy presence of guards. The act of blowing your nose in public should be avoided whenever possible as this considered to show poor etiquette.

You should not show aggression or anger during meetings or conversations. Upon entering a room you should greet every man with a handshake and each woman with a kiss on the cheek. Touching during conversation is a sign of friendship although Cubans love to argue and complain but in a friendly manner. There is a saying in Cuba that an argument is not over until every one is exhausted.


Guimo Pantuhan
Posted on Oct 21, 2011
Francina Marie Parks
Posted on Oct 21, 2011
Roberta Baxter
Posted on Oct 21, 2011

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