February 14, 2008

This is our regular column called Ask a Brazilian”, the idea being that you can quite literally ask a question of a Brazilian – for those issues you aren’t sure about but perhaps dare not ask someone else. It is meant as a bit of fun and answers should not be construed as expert opinion or the definitive reply on the matter. For that reason we ask you to please send comments and experiences in order to add to our replies.

I have noticed that cashiers, be it at the supermarket or a parking attendant or a bakery cashier often studiously avoid eye contact. Without a word they will stuff the change into my hand never speaking to me or looking directly at me.

However, if I say something like “good afternoon” in Portuguese of course, they often reply with a smile and a pleasantry. But, they almost never relinquish the words “thank you,” obrigada.

I’ve also noticed that many very young children, under three years old, do not seem to know or have ever spoken the word “obrigado.”

So what’s going on?



What is going on? Good question!
Have people lost their manners, at least?
Have they lost their mind?
Who knows.
But, hey, don’t hate! We are all growing up, just getting better and better. Be patient, keep nice, believe.

For now, if you wanna a good smile, fresh fruits and the best there is to buy for with the best service avaiable (you will find it in Brazil), try shopping at:

Pão de Acar
(the best are at Av. Gabriel Monteiro da Silva or R. Oscar Freire).

Emporio Santa Luzia
(Alameda Lorena, 1471)

Emporio Santa Maria
(Av. Cidade Jardim, 790)

Emporio São Paulo

They all deliver. ;)

Vanessa T. Bauer

Readers comments:

A good question, especially since Brasileiros love to observe.

Maybe it is boredom, or just giving back what they receive, but his observation on probably poorly paid cashiers is true. I find a bright smile and a ‘Bom dia’ usually jars them from their reverie but customer relations at the checkout is often poor. Service in ‘Pao de Acucar’ here in Rio is non existent, you are made to feel you are interrupting their chat or their more important daydreams.

Incidentally, is anyone else shocked at the excessive use of plastic carrier bags here?

The first word Brazilian children learn is ‘quero’ and they are invariably given. Over-indulged offspring are not taught ‘obrigado/a’, again I find a smile and ‘obrigado’ works wonders…

— Anonymous

As Brazilian who has spent almost two decades living abroad, specially in New York City I must say I don’t seem to be able to get used to the Paulistanos total lack of manners, not to say even “good manners”. People are very affable here no doubt, but that’s the end of it. In New York for instance people say Good Morning, Good Afternoon and Good Evening. Especially they do answer when you say so. Quite often with a smile. In Rio as elsewhere people do wait for you to take the elevator once they see you are coming and they don’t take a particular joy in slamming the elevator door at you. All this not to mention the lack of eye to eye contact.

Another pecularity of São Paulo city’s very bad manners is to ask for your name first and then say that the person called “is not available at the moment” and not the other way around, when you call someone in an office. Really hard to get used to all this.
— Luiz

Are there any burning questions you have about Brazil, or other issues that you’re curious about, such as Brazilian culture? If so, send your questions to gringoes@www.gringoes.com with “Ask a Brazilian” in the subject. We will forward to our Brazilian experts, and publish the best questions (and replies) on the site.

Previous questions in this article series:

Ask a Brazilian: Overbearing Sogros
Ask a Brazilian: Hotels and Bank Transfers
Ask a Brazilian: Swimming, Showers and New Year’s
Ask a Brazilian: Making Friends
Ask a Brazilian: Female Etiquette
Ask a Brazilian: Washing Machines
Ask a Brazilian: Picking Teeth
Ask a Brazilian: Lozenge or Candy?
Ask a Brazilian: Liberal or Jealous?
Ask a Brazilian: Truck Wheels
Ask a Brazilian: Tolerance
Ask a Brazilian: Screens
Ask a Brazilian: Brazilian Wax
Ask a Brazilian: Flashing Lights
Ask a Brazilian: Lemon and Limes
Ask a Brazilian: Shocking Showers

February 27, 2008

Come and join the International Newcomers Society (INC) for a morning of live Brazilian music and the chance to see the work of 70 local artisans. The first large vendor’s day of the year will feature a wide array of artisans from the São Paulo area.

The March INC Coffee, held at the brand new location – the Business Hall, will feature a program of Brazilian music, styles and cultural influences by Carlinhos Amaral. Carlinhos graduated from UNESP with a graduate degree specializing on Brazilian music and cultural influences. As a solo artist, group leader, composer and teacher he will take us on a journey that should have something for everyone. Demonstrating the range of musical instruments, rhythms and classics most Brazilians know by heart. Carlinhos will perform from 10am onwards.

As always, at the coffee you’ll be able to find out about activities going on in São Paulo opportunities in the INC, about community services and how you can get involved, and be able to make new friends. Be sure not to miss the English Book table.

When: Wednesday Marcy 5th 9:00am – 1:00pm
Musical Performance: 10:00am
Where: The Business Hall, R. Engenheiro Francisco Pitta Brito, 125 Edificio Birmann, Santo Amaro, São Paulo/SP. 04753-080
Entrance: Entrance fees go to the Charity of the month; Members: suggested donation of R$10, Non members: R$20
More info: For more information please contact vpwelcoming@newcomers-sp.com.br or vpcommunications@newcomers-sp.bom.br

Relax, tap your toes and join us on a musical journey around Brazil! See you at the March 5th Coffee!


By Ricky Skelton
February 25, 2008

What a time, what a place, what an experience. With no ayahuasca hangover at all, we stopped for supplies and headed for the dock. The twice weekly big boat to Manaus took an age to load. Uncle Mad had to follow us with his own little rib boat to fool the river police, big boats towing little boats being illegal in Crazy Town. He roared out of the darkness, circled Big Boat like a sheepdog with its flock, threw his rope to the crew, ran up Little Boat and climbed up Big Boat like a monkey to join us at the back. What an entrance.

Not finished with climbing, he decided we should go up to the roof. What a move. A crate of beer, the roof of the boat, a clear night, the jungle going darkly past, what more do you need? How about a full moon? One was rising over the trees, huge and round and yellow. We drank, we talked, we laughed, with journeys down to the toilet becoming more and more precarious. One slip, one stumble meant disappearing with a splash to alert the caimans and piranhas. Wed wanted to bring one of the 5 litre jugs of ayahuasca from the ceremony. Probably a good job we didnt. Well…

As the moon died, we stopped at the Village of Mud and unloaded, loaded up Little Boat, climbed in, and headed down Wood River spotting caimans on the muddy banks with the spotlight. Turning up a tributary, we headed through the half-submerged trees into areas where the river widened into a lake or narrowed so we had to thread our way between the trunks.

All this as the sky brightened softly in front. The dawn chorus was starting, with huge groups of macaws screeching, flocks of parakeets panicking, and toucans gliding effortlessly into the tree-tops, wings closed. A million more birds, unidentified or unseen, added to the racket, and they do this every dawn of every day in the Amazon. Huge fishing birds fly down the tunnel of trees ahead of the boat, swallows dart, dive and skim the surface as they catch the morning insects. Neon-blue butterflies bigger than your hand dazzle in the first rays of dawn, others crackle like electricity as they dance together, spiralling like smoke towards the sky, and still more covered the floor and our skin, licking salt off the morning sweat. We could enjoy all this in silence

The silence had started when the engine of Little Boat was turned off as we turned on to the sand of a tiny river beach four hours from Wood River and the Village of Mud, six hours further to Crazy Town but possibly four days, we were a long way from civilisation as we strung our hammocks up between the trees.

This was it. Wed made it. We were deep in the Amazon Jungle.

You can visit Ricky’s blog at http://redmist-redmist.blogspot.com/

Previous articles by Ricky:

Around Brazil: Crazy Town Ceremonies
Around Brazil: Crazy Town
Around Brazil: Manaus
Around Brazil: Santarem & Alter do Chao
Around Brazil: Amazon Swarms and Amazon Storms
Understanding Brazil: Playing Pool
Around Brazil: Gurup
Around South America: Peninsula Valdes
Around South America: Patagonia
Around South America: Montevideo, Uruguay
Around Brazil: The Amazon
Around South America: Bariloche, Argentina
Understanding Gringoes: Drinking
The Great Brazilian Fruit-Off Part 2
The Great Brazilian Fruit-Off Part 1
Understanding Brazil: The Kids
Brazil v Argentina: Buying Beer
Understanding Brazil: Mosquitoes
Around Brazil: São Luis
Teaching English in Brazil
Around Brazil: Lenois Maranhenses
Understanding Brazil: The National Anthem
Around Brazil: Barreirinhas
Around Brazil: Jericoacoara to Barreirinhas
Understanding Brazil: Shopping Centres
Around Brazil: Jericoacoara
Around Brazil: Chapada da Diamantina/Lenois
Brazil vs. Argentina: Statues of Christ
Around Brazil: Salvador
Brazil vs. Argentina: The Buses
Around Brazil: Morro de São Paulo (& Itabuna)
Understanding Brazil: The Workmen
Around Brazil: Praa Pateo do Colegio
Around Brazil: Porto Seguro
Around Brazil: Rio de Janeiro to Porto Seguro
Around Brazil: Cristo Redentor
Understanding Brazil: The Sellers
Around Brazil: Ilha de Gigoia
Brazil Journeys: São Paulo to Rio de Janeiro
Understanding Brazil: Dogs Part 2
Brazil: A Lie-In in Downtown São Paulo?
The Best Job in Brazil: Ankle Specialist?
Understanding Brazil: Dogs
Brazilian Places: Ilha do Santa Catarina (Floripa)
Classic Brazilian Journeys: South to Florianopolis
Understanding Brazil – The Shower
Brazil: Boats on the Amazon
Brazil: Understanding Novelas
Brazil: Bus fires in São Paulo – always a bad thing?

Can’t make this up