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22 Things Korea & Cuba Have in Common

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Cuba and Korea are unbelievably similar. I was only in Cuba for a little over five weeks last summer, but I’ve now been in Korea for a little over five months, and these are the numerous similarities I’ve noticed between the two countries since my arrival in the land of morning calm. This is in spite of the fact that I saw a little of everything in Cuba and a lot of just a few places so far in Korea.

Even the names reflect a superficial likeness with the initial sound. But just like that “K” sound, once you dig a bit further into the two countries, they are obviously hugely different. However several commonalities remain, and I wanted to share them with you all. Since you know how much I love lists, I will leave you with 20 things I’ve noticed that Cuba and Korea have in common.

Commonalities Between Cuba and Korea

1. Nation-changing events and wars happened throughout their countries in the 1950’s (the Cuban Revolution & the Korean War).

2. An immensely pervasive sense of nationalism— kids are indoctrinated from a young age that their country is the best, and that their way is better than anyone else’s no matter what others say. With globalism this is changing, but communism maintains it in Cuba and a lingering isolationist bent keeps it going in Korea.

3. A strong focus on one’s appearance, so citizens always leave the house looking nice, and on a night out, everyone looks striking.

4. The nations’ flags are everywhere, even down to lining the streets in small towns and featuring in popular fashion, like on t-shirts, snapbacks, and socks.

5. Love for and support of their respective pop musics (cubatón and k-pop).

6. The national brands of beer all taste the same and are bad, but are immensely popular (there are dirt-cheap local brews in Cuba & most people could easily afford imported beers, so it does not seem to be price affecting this).

7. They speak really loudly in public places at night; in Cuba it is also during the day, but in the land of morning calm, only the night fills with Korean voices.

8. The majority of adults smoke cigarettes as a form of stress relief.

9. No guns of any kind are allowed in the country, unless you’re part of the military.

10. Not very accepting of outsiders— if you’re not both from the country and raised in it, then it is not fathomable to them that you could ever fully become a part of it. You can be Cuban or Korean in other countries, but in that country itself you will probably always feel a bit out of place.

11. It’s pretty hard for non-Korean kids or half-Korean kids in school, from what I’ve been told and noticed.

12. Drugs are very strictly prohibited, with huge consequences for violation.

13. Very strong and accepted drinking cultures, from a young age.

14. Something is always under construction, the road outside of my Korean apartment, for instance.

15. People from one side of the country (Seoul, Havana) think that the people from the other side of the country have weird accents and strikingly different customs.

17. A strong affinity for pork. Lots and lots of pork as the main meat, with chicken as a decided second.

18. Striking countryside landscapes once you escape the lure of the two biggest cities on either end of the country.

19. An eerie obsession with the US.

20. Very little crime. Both are impressively safe countries, albeit for different reasons.

21. Love of salsa music & dancing; the Seoul salsa scene is one of the biggest in Asia, and there are salsa dance academies scattered throughout both countries.

22. Both Korea and Cuba are surrounded on (most all) sides by water, making seafood a staple in the cuisine, and giving both countries several small islands to which they sometimes vacation.

Have you ever been to two seemingly opposite countries, and ended up finding dozens of similarities?

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