Dos and Don'ts

Displays of Affection: "We kiss each other hello and goodbye. Don't get nervous. It's a Latin thing."—Frances Robles, Cuba reporter for the Miami Herald.

Language: "Don't get upset if people speak to you directly in Spanish. Yes, we know we are part of the rest of the country (well sort of), but a lot of our local people have lived here for more than 30 years but still don't speak English. They don't really need to. There are enough people here and visitors from South and Central America that they can speak only in their native tongues. Just tell them 'No hablo Español' and they will do their best to help you. Treat Miami as if you were visiting a foreign country, especially if you head to downtown or Calle Ocho. It is part of our beauty, our style. Try not to lose your patience—someone will help you eventually."—Miami chef and native Michelle Bernstein, owner of Michy's restaurant.

Latin Culture: They don't call it the Gateway of the Americas for nothing. This isn't your typical American city: Latin style, culture, and language prevail. "The only thing I tell visitors is that living in Miami is almost like living in the United States."—Tony Nieves, president, Marca Hispanic, a Miami-based Hispanic marketing communications firm.

Punctuality: Don't give up on somebody if they aren't there on time. They're on Miami time. Everybody here arrives fashionably late. Very late. "Everybody is always late. Count on people showing up 30 minutes to an hour late."—Gisela Vazquez, Miami resident.

Cuban Politics: Although the atmosphere is slightly more tolerant than the 1980s and '90s, when musicians and other artists visiting from Cuba were threatened and picketed, communist sympathizers still won't feel welcome here. "If you have anything nice to say about Fidel, go to Havana, not Calle Ocho's Little Havana."—Maria Morales, senior writer based in Miami for People en Español.

Dinner: "Supper at five doesn't fly around here. Most Miami residents are eating dinner when the rest of America is going to bed. We eat late. Dinner at 8 p.m. is normal."—Lula Michna, Miami resident.

Melting Pot: In a nation founded by immigrants, Miami is the ultimate American city. Be prepared to meet people who have recently arrived and aren't tuned in to American customs. It's a refreshing change. "Be open-minded. Enjoy the city's great diversity."—Paul George, historian to the Historical Museum of Southern Florida and professor of history at Miami-Dade College.

Rushing: Everybody is in a hurry. It's a big city on a little slice of land. "Drivers can be aggressive and impatient. They'll start honking for you to go even before the light changes to green."—Teresita Machado, Miami resident.

Phrase Book

Cafecito or Café Cubano: Cuban-style espresso served in a thimble-sized cup; twice as strong as American coffee and super sweet; sip or throw it back like a shot.

Café Con Leche: A cup of hot, frothed milk with a separate shot of Cuban coffee (to mix when ready); the Latin version of a latte.

Colada: What you get when you want to share your Cuban coffee; it comes in a large Styrofoam cup, with little plastic cups; pour and pass them around—you'll make instant friends.

Cortadito: Cuban coffee topped with steamed milk; a short café con leche.

Latin Time: The local tendency to arrive late to all events and meetings. "Oh, she's on Latin time." If a party is set for 8 p.m., don't expect guests to start arriving until 9 p.m. and even as late as 11 p.m.

Miamah: "The way natives, until the '70s, pronounced, with their slight Southern accents, Miami."—Paul George, historian to the Historical Museum of Southern Florida.

Oye: Popular way to get someone's attention, meaning "Hey, listen to me" or, on the street, a verbal wolf whistle, "Oye, mami."

SoBe: Short for South Beach.

SoFi: South of Fifth Street in South Beach.

Spanglish: The unofficial language of Miami, a hybrid of Spanish and English that residents use, sometimes switching from English to Spanish and back again in the same sentence; also a humorous tendency to make English words sound Spanish—U.S. mail becomes usmail, the market is marqueta (instead of Mercado in Spanish), etc.


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