Skip to main content
Updated 7 Aug 2015

Ton Haas is a Dutch expat living in Cuba. Photo supplied by expatTon 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.

About Ton

Q: Where are you originally from? 

A: The Netherlands

Q: Where are you living now? 

A: Havana, Cuba

Q: When did you move here? 

A: 2002

Q: Did you move alone or with a spouse/family? 

A: Alone

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.?

A: No.

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. 

And finally…

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


Further Reading

►Interested in relocating to Cuba? Read our guide on Moving to Cuba

Expat Health Insurance Partners

Aetna International

Aetna is an award-winning insurance business that provides health benefits to more than 650,000 members worldwide. Their high quality health insurance plans are tailored to meet the individual needs of expats living and working abroad.

Get a quote from Aetna International

Cigna_logo_300.png

Cigna Global

With 86 million customer relationships in over 200 countries, Cigna Global has unrivalled experience in dealing with varied and unique medical situations and delivering high standards of service wherever you live in the world.

Get a quote from Cigna Global