How to Treat Cubans in a Business Situation

If your business has Cuban contacts — either Cuban customers or Cuban business associates, you should familiarize yourself and your business's employees with Cuban cultural practices when it comes to business interactions.

  • Common greeting: Shaking hands is common for both men and women. Men and women who are friends may kiss on the cheek. Be formal at first and don’t use first names unless invited to do so.

  • Personal space: A bit closer than in the U.S. at 1 to 1 1/2 feet, and touching is common among friends. However, Cubans aren’t used to being touched by strangers, including seemingly friendly pats on the back.

  • Eye contact: Direct.

  • Approach to time: It’s not unusual for Cubans to keep people waiting for an hour or more for a meeting.

  • Language: Spanish is the official language, although English is widely spoken.

  • Communication: Fairly direct; not much different from your U.S. interactions, but they may be a bit louder than Americans are used to.

  • Topics for building rapport: Travel and family.

  • Negotiations: Cubans tend to try to tire you out with slow and protracted bargaining.

  • Actions to avoid: Discussions about politics, which can be a minefield.

  • Tips for businesswomen: Cuba is a very macho country where women aren’t commonly seen in positions of power and authority. Proceed slowly and present yourself as representing your company rather than yourself.

    If necessary, be prepared to graciously allow a male employee to step in if you sense a great deal of uneasiness.

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