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Cuban Ancestry in Nursing Cultural Communication


Cultural ancestry determines the behavior of its bearers in every sphere of life. People of different cultures demonstrate discrepancies in sharing thoughts and feelings, personal space, eye contact, gestures, and many other specific features. However, cultural ancestry becomes crucial in healthcare when the knowledge of the patient’s cultural background and consideration of peculiarities can predetermine more effective treatment. This paper presents diverse aspects typical of Cuban ancestry and their role in nursing and health care.

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Cuban Cultural Ancestry

My cultural ancestry is Cuban. Cuban people live in a multiracial society, which has a strong impact on their behaviors. Cuban society consists mainly of individuals of Spanish and African origins, while there are representatives of other ethnicities such as Chinese, Haitians, and Eastern Europeans (Purnell, 2014). Cuban cultural heritage was greatly influenced by the United States, Spain, and the Soviet Union at different times of the country’s development. Cuban people have a strong sense of national identity, which also has an impact on both family and interpersonal relationships. Although the desire for freedom stimulated many Cuban people to move to the United States, they preserved their ethnic identity and value Cuban traditions.

Sharing Thoughts, Feelings, and Ideas among Cuban People

Communication implies sharing thoughts, feelings, and ideas. Spanish is a major language for communication among Cuban people. Nevertheless, it was influenced by African culture and tribal languages, thus forming a specific Cuban Spanish, which is the official language of the country. At present, English is also important, and it is the second language taught at Cuban schools (Giger, 2013). Cuban people value “smooth interpersonal relationships” characterized by the absence of confrontation and criticism (Purnell, 2014, p. 134). Respect and courtesy are integral aspects of interpersonal relationships. Some taboos accepted by Cuban people are not unique to their culture. For example, a person should avoid spitting and blowing one’s nose in public (“Cuba,” 2017). Also, it is not acceptable to take pictures of people without their permission.

The Practice and Meaning of Touch

Touch, including handshakes and hugs, is common in Cuban culture. However, it is acceptable among family members, friends, and acquaintances (Purnell, 2014). Also, touch is not common between people of different genders who do not know each other well. Still, it is quite common to touch (shake hands, for example) a caregiver to express gratitude.

Personal Spacing and Distancing Strategies

As for spacing, standing close to a person during a conversation is typical of Cubans (Giger, 2013). It is normal to tap a person in the process of communication to make a point. On the whole, Cubans are not very sensitive to personal space and prefer being close to people, which can lead to problems in communication with the representatives of ethnicities who value distance. Still, distance during communication with family members or friends is shorter than with strangers. While people whom Cubans know well stand in about two feet, those they meet for the first time are expected to stand farther.

Cuban Use of Eye Contact

Eye contact is significant for Cuban people. It is particularly true about formal situations. Thus, maintaining eye contact is important, and failing to do so can be treated as a sign of insincerity and even spite (Giger, 2013). Thus, it is important to consider this peculiarity of the Cuban people during communication to keep them involved and make them believe they are interested, sincere, and respectful (“Cuba,” 2017). Eye contact is significant disregarding age or gender. Nevertheless, it is more accepted among acquaintances than with strangers.

Meaning of Gestures and Facial Expressions

In addition to language, either Spanish or English, non-verbal communication is important. Cuban people actively use gestures to support what they say and express emotions. People with other ethnical backgrounds can consider Cubans forceful and loud. There are some specific gestures used by Cuban people. For example, beckoning can be expressed through “waving fingers inward with the palm down” (Giger, 2013, p. 650). At the same time, a beckoning gesture with a palm up is considered to be hostile. Silence also has a particular meaning in Cuban communication because it usually means awkwardness or uncertainty. Facial expressions are usually animated, which shows the involvement of a person. On the whole, Cuban people are very emotional and open in the expression of their emotions through all the available channels, both verbal and non-verbal.

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Acceptable Ways of Standing and Greeting People among Cubans

There are no specific traditions or cultural demands about standing, while greetings have some peculiarities to consider. A firm handshake is a common greeting among Cuban men. At the same time, women prefer kissing and using verbal greetings. Greetings within the family and among friends usually include a firm hug (“Cuba,” 2017). Age is also determining the nature of touches. While young people of the opposite sex can greet each other by kissing on a cheek, older adults prefer gestures that symbolize respect (Giger, 2013).

Cuban Temporal Relation

Cuban temporal relations are mainly concentrated on current issues while the future ones are not in focus. Cubans tend to avoid schedules and are usually not punctual (Giger, 2013). The event itself and impressions are more important than arriving on time. There is a concept of ‘Cuban time,’ which is not a definite period and can last from one to two hours above the arranged time (Purnell, 2014). Thus, it is common for Cuban people to be late for an appointment, which is a peculiarity to be considered when dealing with Cubans.

The Impact of My Culture on Nursing and Healthcare

Cultural peculiarities are crucial for nursing practice and healthcare. It is important to address cultural differences to provide high-quality care and achieve the best possible patient outcomes. When it comes to Cuban people, it is necessary to consider food traditions, language peculiarities, social spaces, folk medicine, and other aspects (Tena, 2012). Some aspects of Cuban culture meaningful for nursing and healthcare should be discussed in more detail.

Thus, communication peculiarities should be taken into account. It is important to determine which language the patient speaks to deliver information effectively. Since touching is acceptable among close people and family members, a physician should explain the necessity of physical contact during the examination to the patient and obtain his or her permission (Purnell, 2014). The peculiarity of Cuban treatment of time should be considered as well. In case it is important to arrive on time to some diagnostic appointment, the patient should be warned in advance. Time relations have to be taken into account in inpatient education which follows medical and nursing care in a hospital. Thus, follow-up medications should be selected with the consideration of the patient’s time orientation. Moreover, dietary peculiarities are also important. Cuban cuisine has both Spanish and African roots and uses mainly locally grown products, and is often spicy. Thus, the diet of the patient should be discussed individually because some traditional foods maybe not be recommended for certain patient conditions. Finally, the most important consideration for nursing and healthcare is the patient’s family since it is crucial for Cuban people. The family is involved in making decisions and is a significant source of support for the patient.

The consideration of cultural peculiarities is expected to have a positive impact on the process of care. A disease is usually a condition of stress, and attention, as well as respect for cultural aspects, is likely to make the patient more relaxed. Moreover, family involvement and their support will be another factor contributing to the patient’s well-being.


Generally speaking, the cultural background is a crucial aspect of a person’s life. It has an impact on every sphere, including healthcare. People with different cultural ancestry demonstrate diverse attitudes and behaviors and should be treated individually. Thus, for Cuban people, it is important to pay attention to communication peculiarities such as speech, eye contact, facial expressions, and gestures. Also, it is advisable for a nurse or other caregivers to take into account personal spacing preferences and attitude to touch. Moreover, temporal relations typical of the culture should be regarded. On the whole, it can be concluded that cultural knowledge should be a part of nurse training to empower nurse professionals to provide high-quality care. Consideration of cultural ancestry is a significant part of patient care that has the potential to improve patient outcomes.


Cuba. (2017). Web.

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Giger, J. (2013). Transcultural nursing: Assessment and intervention (6th ed.). St. Louis, MO: Mosby.

Purnell, L. D. (2014). Guide to culturally competent health care (3rd ed.). Philadelphia, PA: F.A. Davis Company.

Tena, A. C. M. (2012). Cultural factors and primary health care in Cuba. A view from community praxis. Global Journal of Community Psychology Practice, 3(1), 124-132.

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