Smiling is Required in Cuba’s Private Businesses

Private businesses require facial expressions that exude happiness or that, at least, avoid grimaces of disgust. (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Marcelo Hernandez, Havana, 12 January 2018 — Seeing an angry-faced waitress or an employee who snorts with annoyance while serving customers has been a regular occurrence for decades in state cafes and restaurants. Comics have made these smile-free faces a frequent subject of jokes and customers commonly couldn’t get over their astonishment when they were served with a kind gesture.

With the arrival of the self-employment, the panorama of gestures has changed radically. For the past two decades private businesses have offered their customers facial expressions that exude happiness, or at least that avoid grimaces of disgust. Smiling to the public, being cheerful and solicitous, has become an indispensable requirement to work in these businesses.

The owner of a pizza and hamburger stand in Havana’s Vedado neighborhood has told his employees: “Anyone who does not appear happy will leave.”

Extremes, as always, are dangerous. Now we see cardboard smiles, faces of false joviality and calculated enthusiasm, a delight that often does not fit the context.

However, we must be grateful that the annoyed faces have gone out of style and that the waiters are again those kind servers who smile while they carry trays loaded with dishes. They always smile.


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