Friday, May 4, 2012

How I've become Brazilian

Moving to another country requires adapting.  I was thinking the other day about how I've changed since moving here, and I thought I'd share about some of the ways that I've become "Brazilian" in the past 2 years.

1.  I don't feel like lunch (the main meal of the day) is complete without beans and rice.  I really like almoço.  I like to eat a big meal in the middle of the day.  It feels healthier to me, and I've grown to really, really like my beans and rice.

2.  I don't have a problem any more with motorcycles whizzing past me while driving.  And I have no problem crowding the other cars out as I "merge" at the stoplight.  Or create my own lane at the stop light.  I have no problem with that.

3.  I buy pão de sal every day at the bakery.  We eat these little crusty rolls for breakfast, as a snack, or with hotdogs or sandwiches for "dinner."  They are a staple in our household.
4.  I've learned to be more relaxed with time.  We left our house 15 minutes after the birthday party started (the one I mentioned last post).  We arrived 45 minutes after it started, and WE WERE NOT THE FIRST ONES THERE!   I think that was a first for me!

5.  I scrubbed my daughter's flip-flops before she went to her (Brazilian) friend's house the other day.  Why?  a) Clean shoes/feet/socks/flip flops are just assumed here.  b) It's "wrong" to let a child go barefoot inside, because walking barefoot on the tile will give them a cold.

6.  I socialized with the personal banker today.  I've learned that it's way too American to just jump right to the point of your meeting.  So often I'm internally freaking out prior to an interaction, trying to think about how to say basic things in Portuguese, and I get nervous and just try to say what I want right away.  But I'm' gradually learning that you have to ease into these things.  First, I need to ask about the family.  How is your child?  It's a girl right?  How is she?  How is school?  And how was your vacation?  And the weather?  And of course, the other person is going to ask you about your husband's work, your work, your Portuguese, what you think about Brazil, how long you've lived here, and so on and so on. 

7.  I've learned how to celebrate.  Most American birthday parties are about 2 or 3 hours.  Heck, 3 hours might be long.  An American wedding?  The ceremony and reception might be 4 hours, if it's at night and you know the couple well.  NOT SO IN BRAZIL!  I've been to lunches that have lasted 6 hours.  And we were the first to leave.  I've finally come to the point where I know that when we go to a churrasco (BBQ), birthday party, lunch, etcetera, we are going to be there for a while.  You have to get relaxed, linger, talk and talk and then talk some more.  I told a co-worker last week that American's unfortunately don't know how to have parties.  Brazilians know how to party.  Just take a look at the sheer number of party supply stores, salão de festas (places to rent to hold your big party), catering companies, cake vendors, party entertainers, salons to get your nails/hair/makeup done for parties, party dress stores, etcetera, etcetera.  And that's just for the kids (i.e. weddings is a whole other business...)

8. The Female Brazilian (Mineira?) Lilt.  I sometimes catch myself speaking English like I hear Brazilian women speak.  It's almost like singing, a bit whiny, in the higher range.  And I hear my 5 year old speaking like this all the time.  Sorry, I don't have a visual nor a video for this.  Anyone else out there know what I'm talking about?

9. I open the window every time I get into the car/bus.  It doesn't matter if it's raining, if it's cold, or if I'm right next to a big truck blowing fumes right in my face.  When we were in the states, my youngest kept asking to open the window in my parent's car.  In Washington state.  In the dead of winter.  She just couldn't understand why we wouldn't open the windows.

10.  I spontaneously say "nossa" (pronounced NO--sah) when I'm surprised.  Short for "Nossa Senhora," which I would translate as "jeeze," or "oh my god."  When I see a woman wearing 4 inch heels walking up a steep hill.  When I find out how much the bill will be at the restaurant.  When a child at school does something cute.  When the bus sits at a bus stop for 5 minutes because so many people are trying to crowd on and the bus driver won't go because there are too many people hanging out the door. 

I realize that most of these things are life changing, but they are certainly things I was NOT doing 2 years ago.  And if you want to read about a fellow-blogger who is trying to "become Brazilian" every day this year, check out Born Again Brazilian


  1. This was an awesome post!

    I laughed aloud a few times, especially with the Brazilian Lilt. I do think it's a Mineira thing cause my Paulista freinds/teachers don't do it, but I've met a few Cariocas that do it. I've noticed a lot of men do it too, but just in an octave lower. I absolutely positively freaking love it.

    Parabéns for trying to adapt! I bet it makes things much easier and enjoyable.

  2. I am in agreement with all your adaptations except the length of the parties. I guess we are a little (lot!) older and often don't make it more than 3 hours. all our friends seem to have the same mentality. last year when we had Camillo's 86th birthday we had dinner at 8 because by 10 all his friends were ready to leave.... the caterer didn't serve when I told her to - she didn't believe me I guess - and most of the guests were gone before the birthday cake was cut at 11:00

    great post

    see also -

  3. Shelly this is a great post!

    I Completely agree with you on the Brazilian Lilt (although never heard it called that before). I've tried to explain it to people here in BH, but nobody understands, what I mean (guess its normal to them). Also listen to when a woman tries to speak English, this "lilt" is even more pronounced!

  4. I totally understand the "Brazilian Lilt". It sort of happened to me when I speak Spanish to my parents. I'm so used to speaking Portuguese to Luiz that when I speak to my parents (in Spanish), that carries over and I'll "hold vowels longer" or "sing" as they call it and they point it out.
    I did notice your husband do that when we visited you guys in March. When he said "no" in English, it came out "naaaooo" in a way and sounded more Brazilian than English, hehe.
    But you have to admit that the "Brazilian Lilt" is cute :-D

  5. I absolutely loved this post. Great stuff. I really identified with it. Thanks!