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29 Surprising Things About Life In Cuba

As eye-opening as it was to travel to Cuba, it was even more interesting to learn about life there.  Did you know that lobster smuggling is a “thing” there?  Or that they have better maternity benefits than we do in the U.S.?  Read on for the 28 surprising things I learned about life in Cuba:

On marriage:
  1. While most people avoid marriage due to the expenses associated with having a wedding, the government treats you as if you’re married as long as you’ve lived with your significant other for 10 years.
  2. Married women don’t take their husband’s last name.
  3. No one knows what the official divorce rate is, however, the unofficial divorce rate is 60%-80%.

On babies:

  1. The government provides milk for the baby for the first seven years of their life.
  2. Cubans receive 1.5 years of maternity leave (hmm…maybe Raul Castro had a point when he lectured Obama on human rights).
  3. Daycare is heavily subsidized.
  4. Kids take both their parent’s last name and have two last names.  The first last name is their dad’s and the second is their mom’s.
  5. Because diapers are so expensive, people reuse diapers.  It’s not uncommon to see disposable diapers hanging from clothing lines out in the open.
  6. Cubans looooovvvve babies (seriously, both men and women wanted to play with Traveler #3).
  7. A Cuban with a baby gets to head straight to the front of any line.

On food:

  1. The standard food ration consists of oil, sugar, chicken leg, beans, and rice and the quantity is not enough to sustain a family so most people have to do something on the side to bring in more money.
  2. Cuban’s don’t eat breakfast nor dine at restaurants because it’s cost prohibitive.  The restaurants mostly serve tourists.
  3. The government wants to “save” the lobster on the island for the tourists… so while getting a lobster dish at a restaurant is inexpensive for the tourist, a local buying lobster legally would have to pay $50/lb in the market.
  4. Most lobster that is served to tourists is smuggled into the restaurant or purchased on the black market. This is why you can get lobster entrees for less than $20 there!
  5. Beef is a coveted meat. Most of the beef in Cuba is imported from Canada since it’s illegal to kill cows in Cuba.

On work:

  1. The top paying professions are the medical field or any job working for a foreign employer.
  2. Tourism is the #1 industry in Cuba. Everyone wants to work in this industry since you’re paid in CUCs.
  3. The retirement age for women is 65 and for men is 70.
  4. Social security is only provided to those who have held government jobs.

On travel:

  1. While Cubans can now travel outside of Cuba, no one does so because it’s too expensive to travel.
  2. Prior to their being allowed to travel, they could only travel around the country and overnight at camps; they weren’t allowed to stay at the hotels in Cuba because those are for the tourists.
  3. A Cuban’s dream is to travel and stay at an all-inclusive hotel (because of the all-you-can-eat food).

On everything else:

  1. While cell phones became legalized in 2008, people had them prior to that via the black market.
  2. There’s a black market for everything: cars, selling houses, getting tv shows and movies, etc.
  3. The government doesn’t allow the removal of old American cars off the island.
  4. While the rest of the world covets the Cuban cigar, most Cubans actually don’t smoke cigars because they are too expensive!
  5. You can’t take out a loan to purchase a house.
  6. There is no internet access in Cuba unless you buy a wifi card. Wifi is $2CUC/hour. You just have to know where the hotspots are because there’s no official listing of them.
  7. Most Cubans are Catholic but the government doesn’t allow them to celebrate Christmas or Easter (they do get Christmas off and kids get both days off).

Did any of these surprise you? 

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Agness of eTramping - February 16, 2017 - 9:36 pm

A lot of them surprised me, especially the part about how married women don’t take their husband’s surname. This is an informative post, justwanderlustblog.

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