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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