Monday, January 28, 2008

Gettin' Neighborly

One of the challenges of living in a new country is trying to learn their customs and figuring out what is polite, what may be considered rude, and what the locals are just complacent about. For example, while I wouldn't dare dream of whistling to get a waiter's attention in the US, here that's how it's done. In fact, I had to remind myself not to be offended (I'm NOT a dog don't whistle for me to come to you!!!) when the guy delivering our entertainment center today whistled to call me back into the living room to ask me a question. "Excuse me ma'am/sir," or rather it's Portuguese equivalent, doesn't get you anywhere here-you must whistle. (Which, by the way, is a super big problem because I can't for the life of me whistle! I've tried since I was about 4 but it just isn't happening for me. Hmmm, can all Brasilians whistle? I need to look into this...)

When we moved into our apartment, we were really curious about the dynamics in our building. Do the neighbors hang out together or does everyone just mind their own business? Should we introduce ourselves when we run into someone on the elevator or do we just say hello and then stare at the door? Our building is 11 stories tall. The upper 10 floors each have 2 apartments, so we share the floor with 1 other family. The lady who cleans all the common areas told us right away we would be the youngest people here-in fact I think the way she put it was that "it is a real quiet building; everyone who lives here is old." (Of course, she said it in Portuguese.) Anyway, Eric and I ran into our 'across the hall' neighbors last week one day. They seem to be a real nice couple with 2 grown sons at least one of which I know is not living at home anymore, but I'm not sure about the younger one. Both of their sons are very fluent in English, but the parents don't speak a word of the language. They asked us if everything was to our satisfaction and if there was anything that we needed to please don't hesitate to ask them. We were excited to finally meet them and even more excited that they were such a nice couple! We've been talking about inviting them over for drinks one night once we get the rest of our furniture delivered and we are a little more set up for entertaining.

Now, to switch gears a little bit. There is another neighbor from the floor below us who is always parked in one of our parking spots. We have a garage under the building and each apartment has 3 parking spots. One is a single car spot and the other is a double long spot so you have to park one car right behind the other. (Which is a little inconvenient if the car in the front needs to get out because then you have a car parked behind it that must be moved.) Our double spot is in a tricky location. It is a narrow spot with a concrete pole on one side, a big Mercedes parked in the spot beside us, and a very tight turning radius. The single spot though is much easier to get in and out of, BUT the owner of the Mercedes parks one of his 3 cars in that spot all the time so he doesn't have to double park. At the risk of sounding like a 2 year old (i.e."That's MINE!") it sort of bothers us that he is parking in one of our spots without asking. (Even slightly more annoying when we found out that it is not uncommon to rent one of your parking spots out for a fairly hefty price tag!) Mostly, we just want to be able to use the more convenient of our 3 spots though. Yesterday afternoon, when we returned home from a little Sunday drive, we found all 3 of our parking spots open - the neighbor was out with the car that is usually in our spot. Eric looks at me and asked, "Should we do it?" I feel like we are entitled to park in any of the spots with our apartment number posted above it, so we parked our rental car in that most coveted spot. Victory!!!

Last night we settled in to watch a movie and try out the new DVD player we got as a wedding gift, but hadn't yet used. About 30 minuted into our movie, the doorbell rings. Eric and I looked at each other and I said "Hey, that's for you. If an angry neighbor is here to yell Portuguese at us for parking in 'his' spot, you're gonna have to handle this one!" Eric reluctantly went to the door and opened it. It was our neighbor alright.

It was our neighbor from across the hall with this for us:

She brought us some pão de queijo and bolo (cheese rolls and cake slices-very, very typical food for our state here.) She also said that she wants us to come over to their home some night when her sons were there. So this IS done here! Yea! Now, I just have to figure out what "American" dish to take to them when I return the jar. I'm thinking either cookies or going All-American with an apple pie.

And for the parking update: no angry neighbor knocking on our door last night. But he didn't park in his own parking spot either. Nope, this morning we found his VW in our double spot. I guess this goes down in the 'things the locals are complacent about' column. But at least we have our better spot!


Justin Tyson said...

Mmmm, pao de queijo...One of the many things I miss about Brasil!

Anonymous said...

Your neighbor with the car is a folgado! This is wrong here in BH too! It's private property!