Everything You Need to Know About Doing Business with Cuba

For a global company, Cuba represents an enticing business opportunity. With a population of 11.2 million and a relaxed embargo with the United States, businesses in construction, telecommunications, and agriculture have the chance to export their goods from the U.S. to Cuba; in the coming years, the shipping of U.S. exports to Cuba from Port Everglades, Florida, is expected to rise by at least 10%.

Thinking of taking advantage of the opportunity to do business in Cuba? Here’s a complete guide to what you need to know.

Everything You Need to Know About Doing Business with Cuba

The official language of Cuba is Spanish; more specifically for your translation for business purposes, it’s a Caribbean dialect similar to Dominican and Puerto Rico Spanish. Other spoken languages are Haitian Creole and English, which is spoken by Cuban business people and used at hospitality centers, health facilities, and recreation facilities.

Cuba’s currency is the Cuban peso, and one Cuban peso is worth 0.038 U.S. dollars. Their gross domestic national product is $78.394 billion, comprised of 74% services, 21.6% industry, and 4.3% agriculture. While the United States has long held an embargo against Cuba, the two nations have recently showed signs of thawing their traditionally icy relations; the embargo will remain in place, but the U.S. will relax the embargo to allow imports, exports, and increased commerce of certain types.

An important aspect of doing business within a foreign country is understanding their business culture. In Cuba, work hours are generally 8am-5pm during the week, although some factories may include Saturdays and start earlier in the day. While lateness and absenteeism do occur, it’s more due to fuel shortages in public transit issues than cultural factors. Cubans dress casually for work, thanks to the hot climate, and “business” attire is a dress shirt without a jacket or tie.

Personal relationships are incredibly important to Cubans in business since little gets accomplished without the influence of political officials; in fact, many managers and supervisors in important businesses are often political appointees without the necessary qualifications. If you want to call a meeting during a meal, have it during lunch; dinners are a more formal occasion and it’s considered inappropriate to discuss work during dinner. Also, know that during business meetings, it’s not unusual for a foreigner to be left waiting for as much as an hour; this is normal, and it shouldn’t be a cause of personal offense.

When speaking Spanish with Cubans or working on business translations, know that Cubans will typically address foreigners using the formal “usted” until they are familiar. The formal usted is the most appropriate way to address among business people in Cuba; The informal form “tú” is commonly used in Cuba when conversing with friends or family.

Today, the U.S. is Cuba’s fourth-largest trade partner, following China, Spain, and Brazil. The United States’ top exports to Cuba are mostly unprocessed foods, including frozen chicken, soybean oil cake, soybeans, corn, and mixed animal feeds.

While the United States has remained steadfast in refusing to lift the embargo, they will make it easier for certain U.S. companies to export goods from the U.S. to Cuba; without a relaxed embargo, it’s difficult to carry out major building projects in Cuba due to a shortage of necessary materials such as diesel fuel, batteries, tires, and more. It’s likely that restrictions will remain in place that will prevent U.S. companies from doing business directly from Cuban officials or business people involved directly in anti-democratic policy.

As Cuba and the United States continue to work on their political relationship, companies can begin to explore opportunities to do business in Cuba. How will you make more 'dinero' with Cuba?