Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Important Points to Remember

There were a few things that I/we learned during our trip back to the US. I felt obliged to share them here. (And before you think I am completely out of my mind - which maybe I am, but still - remember that we did spend nearly a solid year in Brasil before we made our homeland visit.)

* Speaking Portuguese to the sales associate at Radio Shack in Burlington, Iowa doesn't get you much help. It does, however, get you some strange looks.

* While a thumbs up is the generic symbol for thanks, please, good, etc. in Brasil, you sort of just look like a hugeamongous dork when you flash a big smile and a thumbs up at the guy who just stopped to let you cross the parking lot in front of his vehicle. (Same applies to waiters who ask you how your food is.)

* We can speak English quietly between ourselves anywhere in Belo Horizonte and talk about pretty much anything; there is a gigantic chance that no one is going to be able to understand a single thing we are saying. The same doesn't apply while we are in the US. ("Yes Babe, I agree, that short skirt was revealing entirely too much of her cottage cheese thighs and I think even some butt dimples, but next time you want to talk about the person standing in front of us in line at Target, how about telling me in Portuguese, okay?")

* Fresh fruit is dang expensive in the US, and watermelon is not readily available in December.

* It is important to maintain your lane while driving in Iowa or Georgia; similarly, you should obey all stop signs, traffic signals, etc. And you probably can stop expecting motorcycles to go flying by between you and that tractor-trailer on the dashed white line.

* Americans cannot appreciate your politeness when you use words like com licença, desculpe, por favor, and muito obrigada.

* Taco Bell and Chic-fil-A have an aurora of heavenly light around them that I never noticed when I lived in the US. Nor do I previously remember hearing the Angels' Chorus while pulling through the drive thru.

(Dang it, now I really want a bean burrito and cookies n cream milkshake . . . not necessarily together, mind you . . . but then again . . . hmmm, maybe.)

* Greeting people with cheek kisses can make for an awkward moment. Especially people you are just meeting for the first time.

* One that I never could figure out the answer to: on a plane from Brasil to the US, or vice versa, do you speak English or Portuguese to the flight attendants who you know to be fluent in both languages?

* Orange juice from a carton isn't very good (at all) once you've become accustomed to fresh squeezed.

* American men don't hug each other very often. (After working in Burlington for a week, we were on our way to the airport to go to Georgia when Eric said, completely out of the blue, "Huh . . . nobody hugged me today." Replaying the earlier events of the day in my head, I conceded that probably I had just given him a kiss when I dropped him off at the office and again when I brought the car back to him, as a hug while sitting in the car bundled up in a heavy winter coat tends to be a bit difficult to pull off. Eric replied, "No, I mean, at the office today. Nobody hugged me when I left." A bit perplexed, I asked him, "Um, did you want somebody to hug you?" Giving me a grin and shaking his head, "No, it's not that I wanted a hug, but it just occurred to me how different it is here. When I left the office in Brasil - and I was only going to be gone for a month - everybody came around and gave me a hug on my way out and wished me a Merry Christmas and told me they sent kisses to you and our families . . . and today I just sort of said, "Hey, see ya" and walked out. It was really pretty uneventful!" I giggled that I thought he just wanted the guys to hug him, and I think he thumped my shoulder or something equally mature to my adult-like response. Poor guy, it is a wonder he puts up with me some days!)


Ray Adkins said...


Your observations are so familiar...
You know one of the weirdest feelings is when you are in the supermarket looking for a specific product and you can't find it and you finally realize you are in the "other" country and they don't carry "that" here...
I have caught myself looking for "Guarana" in a Grocery store in Dallas and remembering, oops, this is Dallas, not Sao Paulo, and I also remember looking for bagels or"Colgate Peroxyl" in Carrefour and realizing, oops, this is Sao Paulo, not Warwick, Rhode Island...

Mrs. S said...

Your post today made me laugh!! Sidnei very often forgets which language he is talking to me in. And now that he has thrown spanish into the mix along with portuguese and english, he gets it all mixed often.

The Chic fil A aura I am familiar with. When I moved to Utah (I know it is SO not the sam thing) they didnt have CFA. When I came back to VA, I was OH so happy. Cookies n Cream is the BEST milkshake!! :) haha

Anyway your post made me laugh! I hope you are having a good day!!

Marcio Pareto said...

"you sort of just look like a hugeamongous dork when you flash a big smile and a thumbs up at the guy who just stopped to let you cross the parking lot in front of his vehicle." Oh, man! It's so natural to us to do it that I needed some seconds to translate the situation e understand why the guy wouldn't get that! I just loved this post! It's this kind of observations that are rich and I love the most! (sorry, bad english...)

Comic Book Guy said...

Best Post Ever!

AcesHigh said...

Now I wanted to try the Cookies and Cream milkshake!

Btw Emily, have you tried BOB´s milkshakes in Brazil? The banana and "crocante" and the apple and cynamon ones are really good, as well as the ovaltine (ovomaltine in portuguese).

ps: speaking of cookies and cream, Garoto´s white chocolate bar with cookies is the best of them all.

Lori - Blondie in Brazil said...

Ha, ha! Great post. I hear ya on everything. Panera Bread, Taco Bell and Papa Johns are my aura places.
I usually go with English on the flights if it is a US carrier, but find myself switching it on and off. It's funny when they hand out the immigration forms b/c they'll go down the aisle asking "brazileiro?" to each person. Then they get to me and switch to "americano?" There is simply no hiding it. ;)

Abby said...

I love this! We've only been in Sao Paulo for 6 months, but already so much of it hits home! Especially the thumbs up-I do that ALL the time with my students!