Havana, capital of Cuba and home to some fantastic architecture in the form of grand public edifices and colonial buildings dating back to the 16th century, is a city full of both character and characters. It’s a fascinating place to visit, with the added bonus of providing a great opportunity to practise and improve your Spanish.
The city’s melting pot of inhabitants are relaxed and friendly. Things get done according to what is affectionately and laughingly known as “Cuban time”, the local equivalent of the Spanish “mañana”, so you’ll invariably find someone to chat to, whether it be a driver of one of the city’s horse-drawn carriages or rickshaws, or just a friendly local happy to show you the sights of this amazing city. They’ll converse happily with you, especially if you’re prepared to part with some of your convertible pesos as a token of appreciation for their trouble!
As they speak the Caribbean Spanish dialect, you may notice that the inhabitants of Havana have a slightly different accent to your Spanish tutor in London. Notably the lisping ‘s’ sound which is prevalent in mainland Spain is absent so that ‘gracias’ sounds like ‘grasias’ rather than ‘grathias’. Final consonants of words are also frequently dropped.
Sit in one of the cafes or restaurants in a city square in the evening and you’ll probably be lucky enough to be treated to a performance by some of the local street musicians. Havana is home to the famous Buena Vista Social Club musical ensemble and boasts many talented musicians. Enjoy this chance to listen to the Spanish language in song – and remember to tip generously!