Thursday, December 11, 2008

O outro lado da moeda

Outro dia encontrei um blog de uma menina americana que mora no Rio. É sempre interessante ver as coisas que ela fala do Brasil. Hoje li esse post e morri de rir. A gente fala tanto dos hábitos dos americanos que nos parecem estranhos. Aí vai a lista das coisas que, na opinião dela, são estranhas. Morri de rir.

Top Ten Things You Better Get Used to in Brazil
Living in Brazil is no picnic, though at first glance it may seem to be. The follow list encompasses things that I still have a very hard time dealing with and will probably never completely get used to. Nevertheless, adapting to these things and accepting these realities is absolutely essential in order not to go insane.

10. Driving. Driving in Brazil is an experience, even if you're just in the passenger seat. If you don't almost get into an accident every time you're on the road, consider yourself lucky. (Not to mention the less common and terrifying carjackings). Also, traffic in major cities is absolutely horrendous, partially because of too many cars and ineffective public transportation, but also because vehicles tend to block intersections during rush hour, making traffic even slower.

9. Privacy. Be prepared to relinquish a sense of your own space and privacy if you plan on really integrating into Brazilian society (or if you decide to date a Brazilian). Expect guests to show up unannounced, expect them to stay all day, expect them to make plans when you already have them, expect them to try to make conversation when you're trying to work, and expect them to use your stuff, not necessarily by asking first. Also, along the same lines, expect people to invite themselves over for the night and repeat the list above.

8. Lines. Brazilians have a great affinity for lines, and will flock to them even if they don't actually need to be on them. Waiting in line is a fundamental part of living in Brazil, and increasing your patience for them is pretty key. Despite this, not many people respect lines, and you'll find people cutting them constantly, stepping right in front of you as if it were the most natural thing in the world. Also, unlike in the US, there are sometimes lines specifically designated for the elderly, pregnant women, and the handicapped, and people will sometimes abuse these lines as well.

7. Meaning what you say. An important part of Brazilian culture is pleasing others, and it's considered polite to tell people, "Come over to my house!" even if you don't mean it; ditto for making plans, going out, or extending an invitation. Out of every 10 social invitations you receive, expect 5 or less to be legitimate. Make sure to exchange information, (not just to give your number), and to follow up. A tell-tale sign that an invitation is out of politeness is if one or more major details is missing, like the place or time, since there's a strong possibility that person will never call to fill you in. Another facet of this concept is that when you ask for directions, people will give them to you regardless of whether they actually know where to send you, so it's always a good idea to ask three different people for directions.

7b. Spontaneity. Though it is the norm to invite people ahead of time for major events, like parties or holidays, other events are often spur-of-the-moment. In fact, legitimate invitations are more likely to be last minute than ahead of time. Hold on to your hat and go with it.

6. Change. It seems that during nearly every cash transaction, the cashier will ask you if you have exact change, or at least the coin amount (i.e., if it's R$10.70, if you have seventy cents). If you don't, they will frequently get annoyed with you. Breaking a fifty is like pulling teeth sometimes. Also, if you pay in cash, you won't always get exact change back since most of the time, the cashier will round to the nearest ten. So though you sometimes wind up paying a few cents less, you also sometimes paying a few cents more.

5. Personal space. The concept of personal space doesn't really exist in Brazil, and Brazilians seem to be far less aware of their bodies in space than Americans are, since many of them are used to and comfortable with being in large crowds. Don't be surprised to find someone's elbow in your face or someone breathing on your neck when there's room to spare; a person sitting herself down next to you when there are plenty of empty seats, or a stranger using your arm to stabilize himself on the subway even though there's a perfectly good pole within arm's reach. Expect people to block the subway door and not to move when you try to get by, or to take their sweet time getting off the escalator, even though several people are crashing behind them.

4. Duration of social events. Though social events will always have a start time, they'll rarely have an end time. Unlike American events, which have very specific time restrictions, Brazilian events will go on seemingly forever. It's common for formal weekday parties to go until 2am, and weekend ones to go all night. Expect daytime events, like barbecues or birthday parties to last anywhere between 5 and 10 hours.

3. Speed of life. Brazil moves at a different pace than the US. Lateness is common, though it is often blamed on real impediments, like traffic or rainstorms. Also, things just tend to move slower. People walk slower, fast food isn't exactly fast, and people take the word "relax" literally. This concept applies to all parts of life, including business. Also, at least in Rio, stress is looked down upon, and people will tell you to chill out, insisting that everything will work out. "Tudo se resolve," they say, making you want to scream, "WHEN, exactly?!"

2. Efficiency. Things just don't work that efficiently here, sometimes due to bureaucracy, and sometimes due to economic reasons. For example, in order to be able to expand job opportunities, clubs will hire a person to give you a ticket and a different person to take the ticket, or restaurants will hire both a cashier and a separate person to take your receipt. Other times though, inefficiency exists just because. It makes you want to tear your hair out, but if you can take it in stride, you'll be much better off.

1. Ambiguity. One of the the things that I find most perplexing, and sometimes frustrating, about Brazilian society is how so much of it is completely ambiguous. Since Brazil is a great big mixture of people from different countries and cultures, where the mulatta and feijoada are revered, and where rice can never be eaten alone, a great deal of Brazilian culture is a grey area, unlike the black and white American society. One of Brazil's most popular blogs illustrates this idea perfectly: Sedentario e Hiperativo (Sedentary and Hyperactive). Sometimes this may seem completely contradictory and mind-boggling. How can something be two completely different things at once? How could such a wealthy country have so much poverty? How could so much misery exist side by side with so much happiness? How could so much corruption happen in a place with so many honest people? How could so much violence plague a country know for diplomacy and conflict resolution? How could so much crime exist in a place where so many people respect their fellow countrymen? All of these are tricky questions, ones that leave you cross-eyed and a little insane. It takes a lot of getting used to.

3 comments:

Rachel said...

hey juliana! i'm glad you got a kick out of the list, some people seem to think i'm an evil monster because of it. ps- se tudo der certo i will be back in ny later this year! i'm excited to look through your blog to see your vision of my hometown! beijos

Anonymous said...

Ju, adorei!! As vezes algumas coisas passam despercebidas, mas quando alguem de fora comenta a gente vê que é verdade mesmo.

O principal pra mim foi a invasão de espaço, aqui vc vai num show lotado e ninguém se encosta, no BR é um tal de passar por cima que ninguém segura, hehehe.

Muito legal, vou entrar no blog dela quando tiver um tempinho.

beijos queridona
milenamb

Duas said...

muito legal isso. concordo com ela, principalmente, na parte de chegar sem avisar. acho feio demais.

beijos, namogada:)