Popular Phrases

Uses and meanings

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From the everyday, a phrase

Characterized by their joviality and charisma, the Cubans are recognized in the word by their constant joy and their nice character. Despite the adversities imposed by  daily life,  if something has always been a flag for the inhabitants of the Island, it is that from problems, not only do you learn, but you also get a good joke.

Over the years, numerous popular and anonymous proverbs have emerged from dissimilar daily situations and have spread through the streets forming an immense repertoire of typical phrases called “sayings”. These are characterized by using simple language and by conveying a teaching or instructive message to reflect in a concise way. They are generally short phrases and are widely used by older people, who are responsible for extending their use from one generation to the other.

Here we present and decipher the sayings most popularly used by Cubans.

¨In bad weather, good face¨: this saying expresses the overwhelming need to maintain a positive attitude in the face of adversity that may arise.

¨Not by getting up early wakes up earlier¨: this reflection leads us to think that everything has its time in life, and that not by rushing, the results will be seen before the precise moment.

¨Dog that barks, does not bite¨: it is one of the most used phrases to refer to one another. It is known that Cubans are by inheritance people of great character. This saying is used to criticize those people who boast of certain qualities when they really lack those attributes.

¨He who does not have a Congo has a Carabali¨: Cubans are a mixture of native Indian, Spanish colonizer and African slave. Whether physically or through behavior patterns, Cubans express the heritage of their ancestors. That is precisely the message of this saying, everyone on the Island has a little bit that identifies them with their ancestors regardless of race, sex or creed.

¨When the river sounds, it is because it brings stones¨: it refers to those information that are wandering by word of mouth throughout society, which despite not being issued by official or truthful means, are taken into account by the population to make decisions or establish a state of opinion.

¨Shrimp that falls asleep, the flow takes it¨: it is a saying with a very encouraging message. It encourages you to take advantage of opportunities in life to achieve goals and greater well-being. It is about being in constant motion.

¨Where two people eat, three people can eat¨: this phrase reflects the humility, solidarity and humanism that characterize Cubans. There is no house on the Island where an unexpected visitor is not welcome at dinner time. At that time you share what you have and everyone eats the same.

“God gives a beard to those who do not have chin”: it is used to criticize those people who have certain advantages or benefits in life that they do not know how to take advantage of, while others go out of their way and work hard to achieve them.

¨Where the captain commands, the soldier does not command¨: it deals with the existing hierarchy at certain levels of behavior. Although it is mostly used to refer to those managers who exercise power arbitrarily, the idea is to incite respect for superiors, always defending one’s own criteria with humility and consideration.

¨The one who has a store that attends it (and if not that sells it) ¨: it is valid to refer to couple relationships, businesses, projects or in general to those things that we have in life by our own decision and that require of care, effort, time and dedication so that they generate the desired fruits.

The culture of a country also expresses its language. These numerous phrases devised by Cubans to define certain circumstances are a reflection of the daily life of people from all latitudes of the world. Knowing them will allow you to get closer to the most popular of this society and will help you to assume life in a different way, reflecting without losing the hue of joy as they do in Cuba.


Elisa Avalle
Marketing Manager

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