Ton Haas moved to Cuba from his native Netherlands to teach industrial design at a university in Havana more than 10 years ago. He says Cuba isn't the easiest place for an expat to settle into - and you should only consider relocating here once you've done some thorough reseach.
Q: Where are you originally from?
A: The Netherlands
Q: Where are you living now?
A: Havana, Cuba
Q: When did you move here?
Q: Did you move alone or with a spouse/family?
Q: Why did you move?
A: I teach industrial design at a university here.
Living in Cuba
Q: What do you enjoy most about Havana? How would you rate the quality of life in Cuba compared to your home country?
A: I enjoy the weather, the music, the people. If you organise well, the quality of life is good.
Q: What do you miss most about home?
A: Liberty of speech.
Q: What are the biggest adjustments you had to make when settling into expat life in Cuba? Did you experience any culture shock?
A: No. It’s actually a lot like Spain in many ways. But it’s more corrupt and shops are empty.
Q: What’s the cost of living compared to the Netherlands? What is cheap or expensive in particular?
A: Cars are expensive, the Internet is expensive, but the houses are cheap, and dining and drinking is also cheap.
Q: How would you rate the public transport?
A: You’d need your own car.
Q: How would you rate the healthcare in Havana? Are there any hospitals you would recommend?
A: Cira Garcia is okay.
Q: What are the biggest safety issues facing expats living in Cuba?
A: There are hardly any safety problems.
Q: How do you rate the standard of housing in Havana?
A: Finding a home is difficult and expensive - only if you become permanent resident is it attractive to buy.
Q: Any areas/suburbs you’d recommend for expats to live in?
A: Vedado, Miramar, Flores.
Meeting people and making friends
Q: Is there any obvious discrimination against particular religions or women etc.?
Q: Was it easy meeting people and making friends?
A: Simple and easy.
Q: Have you made friends with locals or do you mix mainly with other expats?
A: I hardly meet with expats, but a lot with the locals.
About working in Cuba
Q: Did you have a problem getting a visa or work permit?
A: Yes, it’s a complicated issue.
Q: What’s the economic climate like in Havana?
A: There aren’t many jobs around for expats.
Q: How does the work culture in Cuba differ from the Netherlands?
A: Speaking Spanish is a must. Patience is another requirement, and you’ll have to get used to corruption.
Q: Is there any other advice you would like to offer new expat arrivals?
A: Cuba doesn’t suit everyone – moving here is a waste of time and money for many. But if you really, really want to live here, you should be fully prepared.
- Interviewed in August 2015
►Interested in relocating to Cuba? Read our guide on Moving to Cuba