10 Things I Still Can’t Come to Terms With


For more lists of 10 and insights into Sao Paulo, see American Exbrat in São Paulo.

My daughter and I spent a rather long time in the States for the holidays, about six weeks. It’s funny how as the time goes by, resetting yourself across two countries and cultures becomes easier. While we are happy to be back, because despite the heat, our life here is pretty damn good. But the time away has highlighted some of the things I still haven’t been able to come to terms with in Brazil.

  1. That black olive on your pizza has a big, molar crushing pit in it. Why? Why not take it out before you put it on a pizza? If you are too lazy to pull it, why put it on the pizza at all? If you are an unsuspecting foreigner, you could easily be unaware of the perils of your pizza.
  2. Drivers are completely unfazed at the fact that they just almost ran over myself, my daughter and my dog. The signs that the state of SP have been posting around about not hitting pedestrians with your car might not be working.
  3. That napkin at the lanchonete or padaria is the least absorbent paper product ever made. Again, why?
  4. Brazilians wear t-shirts that they cannot possibly understand the meaning of. I think all of us foreigners have seen someone wearing a t-shirt with text that must have been misinterpreted by its wearer, or they simply don’t understand English at all. As far as I know, only my friend Katie has been brave enough to take a picture of one. (See above.)
  5. Novellas
  6. No unlimited calling/no roaming charges cell phone plans. I’m just a little jaded because I paid US$60 to turn my Brazilian cell into a communication dream with one month of unlimited calling, data and no roaming.
  7. The cost of maple syrup and marshmallows. Sure, I stocked up. But it won’t last forever.
  8. The absolute lack of real chocolate chips. If you see a local bag of chocolate chips here, don’t be fooled. It’s not the real thing.
  9. The cost of clothes and shoes. Oh, I cringe walking through a mall. My daughter had a growth spurt while we were in the US, so I bought appropriately. But I’m hoping she slows it down until the next trip. I’m taking just a few dollars for the cutest clothes on sale.
  10. Foreigners who live here and constantly complain about the country. The above are observations, not complaints (really…, ok maybe the cell phone packages was one… and the chocolate chips…). But for some reason, I get glimpses of some FB groups I avoid coming across my news feed every once in awhile displaying the despair some feel about being trapped here and left to suffer. Unless Brazil became a communist country while we were away, if you are miserable here, I believe you are free to go.
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29 Responses to 10 Things I Still Can’t Come to Terms With

  1. Simon says:

    Hiya – did you see my review praising Joia Rara? http://transitionconsciousness.wordpress.com/2013/11/26/in-praise-of-joia-rara-globo-tvs-buddhist-soap-opera/

    So many people had said I need to be watching them to improve my Portuguese, but yeah, for me they were utterly unwatchable. Until Joia Rara : )

    And as a Brit having been home for Christmas I am now well stocked up on Marmite 🙂

  2. I’m not sure you can assume that all people wearing tee-shirts with questionable English can’t understand what has been written. Perhaps they are fluent English speakers who also find the clothing amusing, maybe it’s a private joke or maybe they aren’t even Brazilian at all!

    When I lived in Japan I once saw a girl walking hand in hand with her boyfriend. On her tee-shirt were the words, ‘Don’t tell my boyfriend I’m not a virgin’, i’d like to think that she was well aware of what her tee-shirt meant!

    A lot of your list is quite specific to America, however as a Brit I’m totally with you on points three and nine!!!

  3. Jim says:

    My Brazilian friends use the stiff somewhat waxy “napkin” sheets as rolling paper. They do the trick, and since the bud here is so crappy, those extra-large improvised rolling papers roll a joint big enough to actually deliver its intended result to the three or four people sharing it.

    Maybe another post is in order: re-purposing the oddly off things we find here that are better fit for other uses — like: a cleaned and flattened out “quentinha” foil takeaway container makes for far superior aluminum foil when needing it for the BBQ grill.

  4. Ray says:

    Great post, spot on as usual my dear friend!!


  5. Ray says:

    Ok, let me elaborate my answer a little better:

    1- The black olive thing, don’t even get me started, I felt for this trap last year, worse than on a Pizza, it was from a salad bar, with all olives pitted but one, and I was the lucky winner, actually, looser that ended up at the dentist chair, and a lot of pain medication in my medicine cabinet.
    I don’t understand it either, cultural? Old world traditions carried over the Atlantic? We will get to the bottom of this, and I will share when I find any answers!

    2- Driving situation, horrible, unaceptable, totally agree with you, I have to re-adapt myself, Massachusetts and Rhode Island have spoiled me in a way that could cost my life. ( As a side note, Florida was just as bad if not worse, and I am reluctant to think it’s a Latin cultural treat!)

    3- The ridiculous non absorbent napkin that just moves the maionese from one side of your lips to the other, in my opinion is a 70’s hippie conspiracy after hearing what Jim just said, HA, I bet this is why these useless napkins are kept around, they are a plentiful source of joint rolling paper. 😉

    4- Brazilians wearing t-shirts they don’t know the meaning of, let’s remind ourselves that in the first half of the last century everything French was cool and trendy, and the second half of the last century, remarkably after WWII, everything American became trendy and cool, up to this day. So I am bettting guys working in a t-shirt factory are using Google Translate and creating all this controversy, while just trying to sell cool sounding t-shirts! 🙂

    5- Novelas, it is a Brazilian phenomenon you just have to dive in head first, Gil and I had a hard time when we arrived and after suffering through some episodes “Amor a Vida”, the novela that just ended yesterday started to grow on us. It will be helpful not only to improve your Portuguese skills but also to learn and understand the meaning of all the new slangs being thrown around in social gatherings and will most definitely help you when trying to make new friends here as novelas are a given when it comes to favorite conversation starters. In case you are not aware yet, yesterday, at the last episode of “Amor a Vida” Globo TV decided in the very last minute to air the first Gay kiss in the history of Brazilian TV… 😉

    6- I need to hear more about your cell phone deal, I feel robbed here and deprived of a decent and proper amount of cell phone interaction… were we spoiled in the US or what? Jeez!!

    7- Sorry but I don’t see a solution for the cost of Marshmallow or Mapple Syrup the last one a staple at our household for the past 15 years, the only hope for us on this matter is the generosity of traveling friends! 🙂

    8- Ok, I know it’s not the same thing, but trying to be creative and resorcefull here, in the absence of real chocolate chips, we could use first the same solution as for number 7, second, we could buy some real chocolate down here and chop it up in bits and pieces, when it melts, the perfect round shape of a chocolate chip is mostly irrelevant… 😉

    9- Ok, no easy solution for this one either, asking friends is not practical or feasible. I plan accordingly and shop when I go back home to the US.

    10- Ha, foreigners who live here and complain all the time about Brazil, exactly my friend, exactly!!! By the way, you well know Alex, and I were kicked out of a website when we expressed this very same opinion about the matter!!




  6. tropicalsmog says:

    The napkins KILL me. Also agree about the novelas, even though I concede they’re better quality than the Mexican ones I grew up with.

  7. Fred Wilds says:

    ROFL LOL, RSRSRSRS. For number 2 I have two examples for you. 1. Why in the world are the cabs in Rio so small that anyone with any size has to sit up front? One time when I caught a cab in Rio and was trying to unfold from the back the cab literally took off almost taking my leg with him. 2. One night in Rio we were hanging out and the cab and another car were racing for control of the lane. Well the cab just bumped him up onto the sidewalk and continued on.

  8. Tell Katie to stop following and taking pictures of me. She will have to deal with the fact that I´ve decided to rekindle my relationship with a Japanese woman I dated years ago, and there is no going back (she kept her virginity all these years just for me).

  9. sccirihal says:

    #11 – How the same waxy, non-absorbent paper used for napkins in #3 is ALSO used for toilet paper! A greater travesty, IMHO….. took me a month of buying different kinds of toilet paper here to discover that Neve Supremo is the best! 🙂

    • HAHAHA! When I was at my parents house in the U.S., I actually became disturbed by their toilet paper because it was so thick and cushy. It made me nervous. Even though it was the same paper I grew up with… How a new culture changes us!

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