Everyday Cuba is very different from the country of endless beaches, vintage cars and carnivals familiar from the tourist avenues.

Some of the habits of the inhabitants of the island cause tourists smile, some don't understand, but almost all Cuban quirks have a rational explanation.

10 Cuban habits that surprise foreigners

El palestino  – an analogue of the Russian word “limit”. This is how the inhabitants of Havana ironically call the provincials – visitors “from distant Palestine” behind their backs.

■ The glazed windows we are used to are a rarity in Cuba, especially on the coast. Instead, plastic, wooden or aluminum blinds. It's practical —during winter hurricanes, glass breaks instantly.

■ Cubans address each other not as “you”, but as “you” —regardless of age and position. Respect for the interlocutor is expressed by adding the words “Senior” or “Senior”.

■ Prepare black soup. The specific color of the correct thick soup is due to black beans.

10 Cuban habits, which surprise foreigners

■ They consider bananas not so much as a dessert, but as a side dish for meat dishes.

■ They save themselves from the heat with crushed ice, filled with syrup. Street vendors sell it in paper bags – like seeds.

■ Do not wear suits and ties in offices and government offices. Such clothes are the uniform of waiters and porters in hotels. Officials follow a different dress code: light trousers and a plain guayabera -shirt with short sleeves worn loose. The shirt was officially recommended by Raul Castro in 2010.

■ Stand in line, keeping a distance of a meter and a half. Approaching a stranger is impolite.

10 Cuban habits that surprise foreigners

■ Opening a bottle of rum, as if by chance, they spill a little drink on the ground. It is believed that drops of rum will appease the spirits (deliberately spilling alcohol is not allowed – the spirits will suspect deceit).

■ To lure money, they stroke tree trunks with their hands. Some palms and cotton trees in Havana are called happy.

Material published in the magazine “Around the World” No. 6, June 2014

Philip Ardovsky

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