Before traveling to either country, having a basic understanding of common phrases, quick hits, and old stand-by sayings will make communication much easier on the ground.
Even though it is more common to see slang in spoken language it does appear in the written language in both countries on occasion, among younger generations. English speakers visiting Cuba for the first time will have an easier time if they know a few slang words, whether in the pub or hanging out in town.
When traveling to Havana or elsewhere in Cuba, understand these common slang terms before you go to add a dose of humor to your conversations on the ground.
Friend. Also spelled acere. This term is used casually and commonly, and if you spend time with locals you’re likely to make a few while you’re on the island.
Bueno asere, mejor nos vamos. –– Well friend, we should better leave now.
What’s up? used in casual and social settings, as well as in greeting. Also spelled volá.
Asere, ¿qué bola contigo? — What’s up, buddy?
A type of bus commonly used. You will likely need a “guagua” while moving about the city.
Agarra la guagua para ir al mercado. — Take the bus to go to the market.
To eat, used mostly among people who know each other or are fluent in Cuban Spanish.
Quiero jamar. — I want to eat.
Used to describe a foreigner (generally a North American) and also the United States of America.
José está en la Yuma. — José is in the USA.
See you later, used in casual settings among people who know each other well or see each other on a regular basis.
¡Chao pescao! ¡Y a la vuelta picadillo! -> See you later alligator! For a while crocodile!
Papaya fruit. Because of its commonality, this term is something you’ll likely hear quite a bit.
¿Quieres frutabomba? -> Do you want papaya?
Come on, let’s go. This one is used among friends, or people who work together or see each other frequently.
Dale pa’lante. — Keep going forward.
Money. In particular, cash.
Los yumas traen mucha plata. — The North Americans have a lot of money with them.
Popular Cuban dance, also used to refer to a big party. Can be used as a verb like guarachar.
Esta noche hay guaracha. — There is a party tonight!
Expand your Spanish vocabulary beyond slang terms before your trip to Cuba, and have a better trip for the effort. Learn more about how to talk like a true local by starting with our Spanish Survival Crash Course.
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