Ah Brazil… The beaches, the sunshine… the household staff. The easy life. I fully plan on waking up in the mornings to see my coffee and breakfast already on the table. I dream of the day, in the not-so-distant future, when someone else will have the challenge of convincing my daughter Sophia that she needs to eat. The Brazilian people are warm, always willing to help, or willing to call their friend who can help. They are fun-loving and enjoy life.
When the opportunity arose for my husband, Ian, to take on a new role in Brazil, we were excited. The perfect ending to a New York Story. People may ask about us and our friends will say “and then they just moved to Brazil!” A new chapter. My husband and I are always up for an adventure, and we want the same for our daughter, Sophia, who is currently two. But I also have my reservations…
First, we are moving to Sao Paulo, not a beach in sight for miles. And while life is easier in many respects, there are a few things I’m going to need to get used to.
For instance, the Brazilians, while friendly, are a very straight-forward lot, and they will say whatever comes to mind.
This concept truly sank in on my wedding day. I sat in the passenger seat of my mother-in-laws’ friend’s car, outside a little chapel in Buzios, Brazil. A chapel in which my wedding was supposed to have begun thirty minutes prior. I peered out the glass, wondering why there were people running around in circles, waving their arms and yelling to each other in Portuguese (a story for another day). From the church steps, my husband mouthed to me in English “Stay in the car.” I turned toward the friend, hoping she might be able to make some sense out of the situation for me. The friend considered me for a moment, and then commented “American women wear a lot of make-up.”
(Oh no she did-ent.)
Oh… yes… she… did.
Now, I was wearing more makeup than I usually do, and definitely more than the Brazilian’s wear. But it was my wedding day. There were pictures to be taken. Memories in which I wanted to attempt the illusion of having flawless skin. Perhaps it was just a conversation starter.
However, this was only a few comments away from an earlier conversation in which the same friend told me my head looked less round than when she saw me last.
If you are fat, a Brazilian will tell you you’re fat. If your eyelids are drooping or your boobs are too low, a Brazilian will suggest that you get it fixed. If your son or daughter acts up, a Brazilian will hand you a business card for a child psychiatrist. This is not meant to offend. They are a very problem-solution oriented people, as reflected in my Brazilian husband’s favorite saying, “It is what it is.”
I’m not saying this is a bad thing. There are days that I DO want to know if my butt looks big, or if my hair makes me look like I live in a trailer, or if my two-year-old is on the path to prison because she’s twice slid unpaid-for items into the basket of her stroller, which I later had to sneak back into the stores.
It’s just that I am accustomed to receiving that kind of information in a question and answer format… and a little more sugar-coated (or just straight out lies that will make me feel better). My husband, and other Brazilians who’ve spent extended time in the US, learned quickly that the valuable information they were offering often resulted in a) a look of total horror, b) tears or c) complete loss of communication with the receiver of the advice. So, coming from a country in which politics and economics often resulted in chaos, they did what they were bred to do… they adapted. But walking amongst them on their own land, I’m going to need to grow a skin thicker than the one I grew working on Wall Street.
I’m also going to have to learn, what I like to call, the sub-rules. Like many countries, Brazil has rules to control chaos and promote order. Only, I suspect these rules in Brazil are a collective smoke-screen for the IMF and other such organizations that have an interest in Brazil being more “developed.”
In the US, you drive in your lane and the other cars drive in their lanes. Sure, you pass each other, but you are mostly contained in a lane. That rule exists in Brazil as well… unless you can fit your car between the two cars ahead of you. Then you create an additional lane (the sub-rule).
In the US, you park in designated parking spots on the street. You this rule exists in Brazil as well… unless, of course, you can’t find a space, then the sub-rule is you just park on the sidewalk.
In the US, you make every attempt to show up for a lunch, a party, or a meeting at the requested designated time. You do this in Brazil as well… unless you don’t.
In the US, pedestrians have the right of way. In Brazil, this is just a fat lie. I don’t even know if they attempt to make this a rule, real or not.
Now, I’m not so delusional to think the Brazilians in my life don’t have their own trepidation concerning my arrival. I’ve had more than one adult tantrum in front of them (all totally justified of course). And while I don’t know for sure, I’m guessing that whatever the Portuguese term is for “high-strung American” has passed across their Acai stained lips more than once.
Regardless, I rarely turn down a challenge. I’m sure I’ll find a way to adapt and… become a Brazilian. I’m excited and looking forward to a new adventure, and even if I wasn’t, it wouldn’t matter… the movers are coming on Thursday.