Brazilian Challenge Day 151: Pissed Off

I’ll admit, I’m a tough customer. My first career was in hospitality and I know what it takes to deliver a good customer experience, and I know what makes one fail.

On Wednesday, Day 151 of my challenge to be a bit more brave in my Brazilian world, I got pretty pissed off. I had organized a group lunch for the INC – International Newcomers Club – an organization that is, in my opinion, important to expat survival in Sao Paulo. The restaurant and I had exchanged a number of emails. I believe I had made it very clear that in exchange for bringing about 20 patrons into their establishment, we would need to have separate checks. However, after the meal, the restaurant began to tell the group that they in fact could not manage this.

Listen, I know that one of my competitive advantages is that I can win an argument. Especially with a vendor. During the most recent stage of my career, I had to debate and negotiate on a regular basis. When it came to being the client, I most often got what I thought was fair.

However, up until now, I was not confident enough in my Portuguese to win a fight in Sao Paulo. But day 151, I managed.

Everyone paid on their own. Which is what I thought was fair. Did I instill a sense of fear and resentment upon the restaurant manager and waiters? Sure. But I made my case and won it in Portuguese, even if it was on a small scale.

Who knows what battles my future holds?

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13 Responses to Brazilian Challenge Day 151: Pissed Off

  1. Well that is decidedly NOT Brazilian. Brazilians have no idea how to stand up for themselves, and it’s a cultural norm to ‘not rock the boat.’ I’ve actually made grown men shake- 2 differet store managers- with my persistence. Amazing.

  2. Ray says:


    I have to respecfully and strongly disagree with your opinion regarding Brazilians.
    I have always been very demanding and always asked and got what I thought it was fair from vendors and service providers, both in Brazil, and in the US.
    I have always been very well informed on Brazilian law, PROCON, consumers rights laws and always applied and made sure it was enforced in my daily life in Brazil.
    I think it is more of a class thing, many poor Brazilians have a passive attitude and think they can’t get or don’t deserve more or just lack reference all together to demand for more.
    But I learned to be demanding from an early age, with my grandmother and my parents, they have always demanded the best and have never accepted anything less.
    I am confident to say that this is not something we can generalize across the board and throw all Brazilians in the same line of behavior… case by case.
    Plus, Paulistas and principally Paulistanos have a reputation in Brazil to be demanding and don’t put up with BS… 😉




  3. Ray says:

    Dear B.A.B.,

    This is great, and also a good exercise in building your confidence with your Portuguese.
    Good job! 😉


    • I think you are right. I’ve actually seen many Brazilians make a scene when they know they have a bit of leverage. I have a feeling those with no obvious power might not be making a scene, but instead swirling the toothbrushes in the toilet bowels of those who have treated them unjustly – both literally and anecdotally.

      • Ray says:

        You know, now that you mentioned “tooth brushes in the toilets”, I just remembered the “maids” got together back in the 80’s and sued for the right to “ride” in the “social” elevators and they won! Hell, even people who were HIV positive were blocked from using elevators back in the 80’s.
        See, when I was growing up, maids and contractors were only allowed in the service elevators, so I guess there are exceptions to the rule… 😉
        You might notice nowadays there are signs in every elevator in Sao Paulo with the law that makes ilegal to block any one from using any elevator.
        This is just one example…but I am sure we will remember more, soon. 🙂


        • So far, I’ve only seen the maids riding in the service elevators, so that prejudice must still exist. I can’t even coax our part-time babá into the social elevator. I’ll have to look to see if we have that sign in our elevator. The only one I noticed was a warning to be sure that the carriage has actually arrived before you step in – scary!

  4. Good for you. Its so frustrating to be taken advantage of or discounted because you are not of a culture and / or don’t speak the language fluently. I’m so glad you were able to stand up for yourself. In my experience, many Brazilians will feel shamed or simply won’t know how to process things if you call attention to them or call them out in the way you did. That is definitely how you can directly get what you want (but be careful when you go back – ala the toothbrush in the toilet thing. I don’t think they will forget you!). Finally, congrats on the lunch thing – are you the new luncheon person?

    • Yes, it is a bit of a thankless job, as you can imagine. But often fun.
      I definitely won’t be going back to that place. Even in the US I would avoid it, I’m not fond of spit in my food!

  5. Danielle says:

    This thing with separate checks is so silly. Every restaurant has the ability to do it, but some waiters will pretend like they can’t because they’re worried they won’t get their 10% (I guess they’re not good at math) or they’re just too lazy to do it. When one waiter tells me I can’t, I just go to the front where the register is and tell them I need to pay my part or that our table needs separate checks, and suddenly they can do it!

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