If someone invites me to a restaurant in Havana, I don’t hesitate to accept. It’s tempting especially if this involves a restaurant that sells in convertible pesos (CUCs), where supposedly the service is first class. Knowing only that I’ll eat something other than what I usually eat at home, I’m the first one there.
“Do you know a good restaurant where we can go for dinner tonight?” asked my neighbor who just arrived from Switzerland a few days ago with her husband and two children. “And if you want to come, we’re inviting you?” she added.
“I think I know some, but they’re expensive,” I replied.
She —when hearing the word “expensive”— looked over at her husband and continued, “So…how expensive are they?”
“Well, for me it’s expensive, because I can’t pay for a 15 CUC meal and leave a tip as well, if we’re talking about the kind of restaurant you want,” I explained to them as they listened attentively.
“So is the tip required?” she asked astonished.
“No, but the server always expects one, and there’s sometimes a Cuban group playing traditional music to liven the place up in exchange for people buying their CDs, otherwise you have to leave a gratuity.”
“And that tip, what does it run?” she continued inquisitively.
“It depends on the restaurant and the quality of the service. There are those who feel such pleasure with the atmosphere and service that they leave large tips, others leave less or nothing.”
“That was what we wanted to know,” she then told me confidently.
“Can you go or not?” she asked. “We want to go with someone who knows Havana.”
“Yes, of course,” I answered delighted.
“At what time should we come by to pick you up?”
Their decision was so firm and explicit that I was surprised; I couldn’t imagine that tonight was mine. She gave me a kiss on the cheek and told me, “Prepare yourself, tonight we’re going to party.”