Let’s hop right into it. A lot of time, people we’re most critical of aren’t the outsiders or the new guys. More often than not, it’s ourselves. Once we see something in someone else that we admire, or at the very least, makes us go “huh, so what would it be like if I tried that?” we begin to imagine a world in which we too posses that golden quality. Same thing goes for cultures. Have you ever traveled to somewhere outside your comfort zone or familiar environment and thought “wow, the people in (said location), do this or that in a much more interesting or effective way?” It’s ok, we all have. That’s part of the reason why travel is so effective and wonderful: it allows us, on a deeper level, to reach into ourselves and find out how we can better connect with humanity writ large.
The folks over at Matador Network understand this as well, and have hammered out seven useful things American’s can learn from Cuba. Take a look at some of them, and let’s try to emulate some practices of our Caribbean neighbors!
Hospitality: When we learn about hospitality, in the classics, the ways of the Ancient Greeks seems very old and foreign to us. But it persists to this day in Cuba, where hospitality is an enormous component of the host-guest relationship. It goes beyond opening up the couch or guest room– it encourages the host to go that extra mile, to make the guest feel like a member of the home, and not just a passing guest. While the host extending his welcome, it is the responsibility of the guest to accept it graciously with open arms.
Ditch Attachment to Things: Often, we’re so reliant on our possessions that, as soon as they break or are outdated, we toss them and buy a replacement. In Cuba, this isn’t always the case. Granted, a lot of items are repurposed out of sheer necessity, but this kind of thinking emphasizes creativity and parts of our brains that I’m sure we haven’t touched in a very long time.
Be Grateful: This kind of goes hand in hand with the topic above. In Cuba, you learn to take everything with lots of gratitude, because that kind of materialism isn’t present. Again, it’s not because of some mysterious national spirit, but because of the socio-political circumstances they find themselves in. Not only will they value their new material gains, but they treasure time as well. An afternoon with family is more valuable than gold.
Stay Together: In America, culture dictates that everyone has their own personal space that we should be respectful of. When we reach a certain age it becomes acceptable to move out; after a long day, we can go to our room and close the door; you knock before entering a closed off room. In Cuba though, you find yourself constantly surrounded by community and family. Many resources and spaces are shared, and life is all the better for it. In a way, you could say it really teaches one to be grateful for those around them. Loneliness is never an issue.
Slow Down: This is an easy one to understand in our rush-heavy society. While it may be difficult to implement this in all aspects of your life, it’s worth making a change in the personal parts of your day to day. For instance, stop looking at the clock, and really savor the time give you. Enjoy what you have without the looming anxiety of what will happen when time is up. And yes, you may have a long day of work ahead of you– but really, don’t be too surprised about it.
Excited? Check out this documentary of an American in Cuba!