Expressions that will make you rule Havana!
Havana, Vinales, Trinidad, Maria la Gorda and the rest of Cuba is beautiful, and that is why many tourists are flying to Cuba every year. They want to get to know the island, the culture the people, the beaches, the drinks or whatever may fascinate one about the country.
Many of them have great experiences and enjoy themselves, but most of them never get under the touristic surface. It is hard if you do not know ow to talk Cuban Spanish and use some helpful expressions.
It is a bit tricky to discover Cuba like a local and sync with culture.
The first step to getting closer is the language. Yes in Cuba they speak Spanish, and you will survive with your knowledge and even English. But some expressions will get your language game up and make you rule Havana, or at least they will help you to make the locals smile.
They will also teach you something about the culture and the way Cubans role.
So let´s learn some Cuban:
Asere, Qué Bolá?
That’s Cuban for “Dude, what’s up?” It cannot get more casual and Cuban. But it is also slang so you should not (never ever) say Asere o asere to old ladies and people you do not know and what to address politely.
But when you are close to people and just want to greet them and know what’s up with them, you can use que bola and also
“que bolero”, “que vuelta” (more slang).
Oh and by the way Asere is very useful when you want some to get off your back. Just say: “Asere, Ya! Gracias.” It might be one of the best indicators for people to know that you really know how to talk Cuban.
A qué hora sale la Guagua?
In Cuba we do not take busses, we take guaguas. So a “que hora sale la guagua?” means “when does the bus leave?” I tricked you there, you will not really need this sentences. But in Havana you should know how to queue for the guagua and wait or run after it because the bus never comes when expected. Just if you take the Viazúl buses from one Cuban city to another, you will need to remember when your bus leaves and be on time.
For the rest of the buses: show up on the bus stop, shout the number of the bus you want to take and get in line after the last person.
Also be prepared to get physically very close to strangers, because the guaguas fill so much, that the driver sometimes shouts out: “Dale, quierense!” Get closer: love each other.
Ahí, en la lucha!
I am here in the fight, is what this frequently used sentence means. “La lucha” is the everyday struggle in Cuba. It often is also used as la “luchita”, like a cute form of the fight. It is very common since everyday life can be a big fight in Cuba. However, the humor on the island is just exceptional and Cubans know how to make fun of every problematic situation. So it is important to know what “la lucha” is, but you might better not use it yourself because your struggle might not be comparable to your conversation partner, unless you live and work here.
Como está la cosa?
La Cosa is similar, it is translated as “the thing”, but in Cuba it is everything. The general situation of your life, the country and the universe. “la cosa está mala”, means that the situation is terrible. It can be that the tourism has a low season, that somebody is a bad economic situation, that somebody has a health issue, that there is no toilet paper in stores or that the global warming is affecting the planet. You choose, it depends on the context. So if you want to hear about somebody´s life, do not hesitate to ask how the “cosa” is.
Also you can use “cosa” for an unknown word.
Do not order that Jugo de Papaya unless…
Vaya! be careful with that papaya juice. Believe me; no one will tell you this; it is just too funny hearing how people order papayas and papaya juice. The word ‘Papaya’ does, of course, exist in Cuba and is the correct word for the fruit. But in the actual spoken language the fruit is called ‘Fruta Bomba’. Papaya is something else… It means vagina in Cuban.
Get why the papaya juice is funny now? But in order to make the locals laugh, keep ordering papaya juice!
No te hagas el Yuma
Yuma is a foreigner. But it also implements someone who is unfamiliar with Cuba and behaves weird or just different. Or weird as it seems to the locals. But Yuma is also a nickname for the USA. It is based on an old black and white film, where are train went to the US city Yuma. Some people want to look Yuma, which means to have a unique style that seems from outside of the island… well, foreign. The word can be positively and negatively connotated. But it is good to know what it means so you feel a little less Yuma.
Literally translated it means like bye-bye fish. It is a cute way to say goodbye in Cuba, and the BnB owners will love if you say that
Please do not try to make those expressions your own and pretend you know everything about the Cuban Language now. Because there is a lot more… There are many things I did not tell you, but I might someday. So start with those expressions and stay alert for new ones to follow.
Ya sabes, no sabes nada… (you know… you do not know a thing)