Tuesday, February 19, 2008

A Little Too Friendly?

Eric came home last night with a story that cracked me up. Maybe it is funnier when he is telling the story in person (complete with impressions of all the characters), but I thought I'd try to share it anyway.

He worked a little later than usual and wound up not leaving the office until almost 8:00 last night. The car's fuel gauge was on empty, so he decided to stop at the gas station near his office that has much cheaper alcohol (most all the cars down here are flex fuel: they can run on gasoline or alcohol.) He pulled up to the pump, got out of the car, and asked the attendant to please fill it up with alcohol.

[I should insert a couple side notes now.

1. You never pump your own gas here. There are always a half dozen or more young guys employed by the station to pump your gas, clean your windshield, check your oil, put air in your tires, and anything else you could possibly need done. A little strange to get used to at first, but it is nice to be able to fill up with gas and not smell like it!

2. Eric and I always give ourselves away as foreigners when dealing with Brasilians. Whether we speak perfect Portuguese with a perfect accent or not, they know we are not Brasilians. Mostly, it is because we don't talk nearly as much for no reason. A typical Brasilian walks into a restaurant and has a five minute conversation with the host/hostess before ever getting to the part where you tell them you need a table for 4, non-smoking (and I am not exaggerating here!) Before we understood Portuguese well, we could never figure out what the heck took so long to get seated! Now we know they must first discuss the weather, how the food is, whether or not it is busy tonight, if there is anything special the host suggests, etc.]

So, when Eric hopped out of the car and didn't preface his fuel request with an unrelated conversation, the attendant immediately knew he was a gringo. As he began pumping the gas, he asked Eric where he lived. Eric responded, "Belo Horizonte." The guy acknowledged that maybe Eric lived here, but he wanted to know where he was originally from. Eric told him he was an American. The attendant then proceeded to call over another guy who appeared to be a manager and told him that Eric was an American. The manager, whose breath reeked of cachaça, went on to have a half English/half Portuguese conversation with Eric about how he has a friend living in Boston. After the manager walked away, the attendant called over a couple other guys working there and proudly showed off the real live American. (Belo Horizonte doesn't get many American visitors.)

By this point the car was filled up, Eric was ready to pay, but the attendant was still busy talking to him. So Eric handed the guy his credit card and the attendant proceeded to read Eric's entire name aloud, trying to pronounce it all in perfect English. Finally, Eric was able to talk the guy into just running the card and moving on with the process. (Since it was now well after 8:00 at night!) After the guy ran the card, Eric was ready to leave. Then, with one last chance, the friendly attendant had to practice all of his english, and say "goodbye" and "please return" in any broken english he could put together. <--here's where you really need Eric's impression!

Then as Eric was just about to shut the door and finally get away, the manager came over to him and said, "Oi! Você sabe ele é gay?" (I don't think I have to translate this one for you!) Turning his head, so he didn't have to smell the liquor breath, Eric laughed, figuring the drunk guy was messing with him, and told him 'whatever'. Then the manager, not wanting to sound like a liar, turned to two other attendants standing nearby and pointed to the original attendant, made a hand gesture indicating gay, and the other two guys nodded their heads and laughed. Holding up his left hand, Eric pointed to his ring, and blurted out, "Desculpe, eu sou casado!" (Okay, I'll translate "Sorry, I am married!") At this point the manager was also enjoying talking and joking with this "unique" american, and invited Eric to stay, hang out, and have a drink. Eric then kindly thanked him, but said no thank you, and made a speedy getaway!

Moral of the story: Yes, Brasilians are very friendly. Sometimes though, maybe a little too friendly! ;)


Cornholio said...

Joe Foster put those guys up to asking you out, Eric. That damn Foster is EVERYWHERE.

Amanda said...

Hilarious!!! I can't wait to tell Jon this! I do wish I had Eric's impressions of all those guys and I wish I could have seen the expression on Eric's face! Does he have a little bit of complex now?!

Leonardo said...

Hey guys, that's a funny story but being a Brazilian myself (and from Belo), I'm forced to say I totally disagree with this overrated statement that "Brazilians are friendly". No they're not! Please, pardon my French, but Brazilians are a bunch of brown nosers!! And since their, I mean, our :( elected idols are the Americans, you guys end up thinking (by experience) that we are friendly, approachable and all around nice hosts. Again, we are not!

Let me give you something to relate to. I live in Montreal and I have also lived in the US for 3 years, but I'm currently spending a few months in Recife, in the Northeast Region (as I'm pretty sure you know). Anyways, it's my first time here, I don't know anything or anybody and even the culture in this part of the country is totally different from the one you're experiencing in Belo. At first I thought it would be a nice and exotic experience to spend my time in Brazil living by the ocean, among the "beautiful" people. Boy, was I wrong...

I'm a hundred feet from the nicest beach in town and I cannot count how many times I walked by and tried to start a conversation with the locals (guys and gals), most of the time asking if they would play ball (pun intended!) or another random approach, but **every time** they'd look at me, cocky as hell, and basically tell me to bug out.

These sad but frequent occurrences led me to start talking to other tourists. I ended up meeting a few Argentineans, Slovenians and Italians and guess what kind of experience they have had with the "friendly" Brazilians??? All of them had a bad story to tell about their short stay in Brazil...

To clear this up once and for all, one day I put my "CANADA" red and white cap on and went to the beach as a Canadian who supposedly could not understand a single word of Portuguese and guess what??? I made friends with lots of people instantly, without any efforts on my part whatsoever!!! And let me tell you this, I'm not even caucasian... I got invites to party at night with the gang and a cute girl even gave me a quick kiss before I left... That's them! That's us, Brazilians! A bunch of ass kissers... :( You wouldn't believe the kind of talk I heard among them about me because they were pretty relaxed thinking I couldn't understand what they were saying, while keeping my best poker face... That was sad... And I didn't even play American!!! I could have had my RedSox cap on but I figured nobody would sort that one out, so my "CANADA" cap was more straight to the point.

After all is said and done, I'm pretty sure you guys are having a ball there in Belo, just don't take all this friendliness as a broad trait of Brazilians because that would be a wrong assumption but at the same time, don't let that prevent you two from ripping the benefits of your temporary semi-godliness!! hehehe... :)


Anonymous said...

The people from Belo Horizonte are friendly. Period. It's not my fault if the other guy met the wrong people in _the other side of the continent_!