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Cuban Cultural Communication in Relation to Healthcare

My Cultural Ancestry

Cultural affiliation forms a person’s way of thinking. My cultural background is Cuban; it was developed over the years of revolutions and gathered from Latin American, European, African, and American cultures. Social diversity has allowed this culture to be incredibly vibrant and combine many principles, customs, and worldviews. Cubans are hospitable and open-minded people; like many others, they have their own hymns, dances, arts, and more. People do not build fences around houses, and the door remains open since the population is always happy with guests. The local custom is to shake hands when meeting men or kiss on the cheek women. Such gestures are «not taboo and do not carry a sexual connotation» (Culture of Cuba, 2021). The traditions of each nation come from ancestors, so it is essential to know their history to form a multicultural orientation. My ancestors are Europeans and slaves brought from West Africa, who established old concepts since the political and social situation in the past was radically different. The slave system abandonment and the many movements for equality between people have led to the need to consider many principles in everyday social needs, such as medical care. Equality is a rewarding and challenging movement since it unlocks the potential of people and allows everyone to contribute to history, but it can hinder the work of hospital staff.

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The willingness of individuals to share thoughts, feelings, and ideas

Cuba is an island of freedom filled with friendly and open people. They have a fiery temperament and are always happy to communicate with each other or tourists. This position is a cultural feature of the local population. Most people living in industrialized cities are afraid of the possibility that strangers or even friends can do something unacceptable, for instance, use personal information for personal gain. At the same time, Cubans openly discuss all topics within the framework of the permissibility of modern society. For example, discussion of personal problems occurs only in a circle of familiar people. However, the population is very hospitable; they may find it indecent to refuse to visit or not want to talk or spend time together. People can argue for a long time while maintaining a friendly tone. In Cuba, there is freedom of thought and feeling provided for by law. For example, it is taboo to discuss the topics of race and racism in public debate for political reasons. Currently, the only legal government force is the Cuban Communist Party, which is why a society that does not agree with their policy has immigrated to the United States.

Meaning of Touch in Cuba

Cuba belongs to the countries with a contact culture. Residents are used to keeping a close distance when talking, as well as using touch. Previously, society was strictly patriarchal, but family roles, responsibilities, and desires were redistributed after the revolution. Cubans continue to use hugs and handshakes with family, friends, and acquaintances. However, for now, a demeanor of respect prevails between family members and friends. It means that others will take his opinion seriously if a person does not want to be touched. Since the country strives for the values of European America, communication with strangers and between a man and a woman occurs at the level of medium distance. In other words, society observes unspoken rules of decency. For example, there is a rule not to kiss strangers without permission, which Cubans follow. Sometimes they try to express gratitude by contact. “In the health-care setting, patients and family members may hug or kiss the health-care provider to express gratitude and appreciation themselves and their culture” (Purnell & Fenkl, 2020, p. 324). Because of their customs, Cubans express emotions vividly and relate well to touching friends and closer people.

Spatial and distancing strategies

In terms of distancing strategies, locals are following the example of European America with strangers. They are sensitive to newcomers and show them their culture with care. However, visitors should be prepared for uninvited and unexpected hugs because this is the local culture. Cubans allow themselves more in touch with their families than with friends. The COVID-19 pandemic has changed the relatively close-range situation around the world, including in Cuba. It is the country with the highest proportion of physicians per population, 8.4 physicians per 1000 population, and has taken strong security measures (Salas, 2020). The country’s authorities have put forward restrictions on the possibility of touching and talking at close range between people who do not live in the same house. These measures forced people to reconsider their attitude towards the habit of physical contact with friends and strangers.

Culture’s Use of Eye Contact

The local population is open-minded, so they have a positive attitude towards extended eye contact. In research from DiSilvestro (2017), “direct eye contact is much more preferred over indirect or fleeting eye contact.” In this way, residents express interest and respect for the interlocutor. If we talk about the differences in this parameter in the context of family, friends, and strangers, it can be noted that they practically do not exist. Due to their friendliness, Cubans try to show respect for a person, regardless of his status in life. A feature maintains contact on the speaker’s part; simultaneously, the listener can look away, which will not be considered disrespectful. It differs from the dominant culture of European America in that the speaker usually looks away, and the listener looks straight in the eye. To summarize, eye contact culture is similar to the dominant culture, but the roles are slightly redistributed.

Meaning of gestures and facial expressions

The non-verbal language of the Cubans can be called more common than the verbal one. Their widely spoken languages are Cuba-Spanish and English. Spanish is slightly modified; hence, gestures and facial expressions help the locals speak their language and be understood by pure Spanish speakers. Because of their proximity to the United States, their non-verbal language is similar to each other; however, Cuban gestures have several differences. The first feature is being close to the interlocutor. If a Cuban comes close for a conversation and the other person backs off, it is considered poor practice. The second trait is lip puckering. It means that the resident wants to point in a particular direction. The third feature is the wrinkling of the nose. A person reports he did not understand or did not hear the interlocutor with such a gesture. Furthermore, Cubans use a handshake between men, a kiss on the cheek between women, or the same kiss between a woman and a man if they are friends. Compared to other countries, such a gesture may seem rude. However, in Cuba, this is the norm and expresses respect and friendliness. In conversation, they put accents, use a loud tone, a fast pace, and active gestures. Cubans are emotional and friendly people, which is reflected in the way they communicate.

Standing and Greeting People

For the local population, the greeting depends on whether they previously knew the people or not. The most common form of greeting is a handshake (User, 2021). It is usually used when men do not know each other or have gathered for business negotiations. This gesture expresses the formality of the situation and relationship. Women also shake hands when they first meet. At the next stage of intimacy, between friends or close acquaintances, the welcome gesture is a kiss on the cheek once. Men who are close friends greet each other with a lingering hug. Also, some interlocutors pat each other on the back approvingly and supportively. This manner of greeting was formed because of the optimism of the population. They even treat serious problems with humor and a positive attitude. In verbal communication, Cubans use the formal “Usted” instead of the informal “tu.” In the English dialect, both of these terms mean “you.” Cubans are always happy to talk and respect the rules of decency with strangers and unfamiliar people.

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Prevailing Temporal Relation

Cubans are a fun and friendly people who live for today. They are “present-oriented versus future-oriented European Americans” (Purnell & Fenkl, 2020, p. 325). It means that the population is more focused on entertainment, songs, dances, festivals, and cinemas. Cubans especially live in joy and do not think about tomorrow. Through this approach, they have contributed to the world’s art and culture. World-renowned author Ernest Hemingway spent several years of his life on the island. Some writers, such as José Martí, have introduced intellectualism and the concept of freedom into culture (Cuba – Cultural Life, 2021). Residents accept this idea, so they turn to doctors when they feel unwell, rarely for prevention. Consequently, the medical staff is raising awareness of the need to conduct a complete physical examination periodically. It will improve overall health, stop the development of asymptomatic diseases in the early stages, and reduce mortality.

Impact on Your Nursing and/or Health Care

Medicine in Cuba is free of charge and provided by the state. There are no private hospitals and clinics on the island, which form certain concepts in the inhabitants’ minds. They can carefully monitor their health and not spend money on it, in addition to mandatory taxes. According to Pineo (2019), Cuba is a small, developing country with a very high level of health care. Providing a high level of medical services allows it to be a shining example of possible progress for developing countries. Also, the area has a low infant mortality rate. Cuban medical colleges and institutes attract high-level professionals and use a rigorous test and student assessment system. Thanks to this fact, they produce real professionals who can carry out activities around the world. Cubans who immigrated to the United States can expect a similar level of service. But, as mentioned earlier, they turn to doctors only in critical situations. Because of the temperament of their nation, they can express emotions and gratitude in their own way. It is described in the extreme manifestation of emotions, for example, tears of happiness or a hug from a doctor who helped the patient or his relatives. The US standardized medical system is not designed for this kind of behavior; therefore, Cubans are making their “human” contribution to it. Practitioners need to consider the factors of possible behavior of this nation and treat them with understanding.


Cuba – cultural life. (2021). Encyclopedia Britannica. Web.

Culture of Cuba – history, people, clothing, women, beliefs, food, customs, family, social. (2021). Everyculture. Web.

DiSilvestro, A. (2017). From customs to tradition: 9 things you didn’t know about cuban culture. Volunteer Vacations | Discover Corps. Web.

Pineo, R. (2019). Cuban public healthcare: A model of success for developing nations. Journal of Developing Societies, 35(1), 16–61. Web.

Purnell, L. D., & Fenkl, E. A. (2020). Textbook for transcultural health care: A population approach: Cultural competence concepts in nursing care (5th ed.). Springer.

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Salas, D. (2020). COVID pandemic: Updates from Cuba. Dialectical Anthropology, 44(3), 233–237. Web.

User, S. (2021). Customs and life in Cuba. Real Cuban Adventure. Web.

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