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Sao Paulo, Brazil - Take 1

By Maria A Petit
October 30, 2012

There is nothing more exhilarating than experiencing a city for the first time and if you throw in a new language even better.

I studied Portuguese many years ago with a Carioca (person from Rio Janeiro) and consider myself relatively fluent. However years without practicing and acquisitions of other languages have left me amusingly confused to say the least.

Upon landing in Sao Paulo it became very obvious, Paulistas (person from Sao Paulo) speak a lot faster than Cariocas. It's literally Portuguese on speed. The 'J' in JAM made sure I hit the ground running though even before I landed in Sao Paulo, Brazil from Dubai, UAE with a full on social itinerary packed with lunches, dinners and networking events. She even entrusted me with her car keys on the 2nd day so that I could meet with a friend across town. Throwing me in the deep end of the chaotic jam-packed streets of Sao Paulo. With navigation system in tow I dashed off.

Unfortunately en-route I encountered a roadwork detour, which found me asking random strangers on the street for directions. The amusing part though was when I spoke Portuguese to them and they replied, "sorry I don't speak English". Finally I shouted "That's great because I'm speaking Portuguese!!!"

I somehow managed to make it to my lunch meeting Brazilian style 40 minutes late. My Emirates pilot friend speaks no Portuguese so I happily took over with the waiter. And so when the waiter asked, "what would you like to drink?" I answered very self-assured "mai obrigada" aka water thank you. The trouble is which I only realized much later is that "mai" is water in Arabic not Portuguese and "mai/mãe" in Portuguese means mother. So I literally said, "mother please". The waiter did serve me water though because after I spoke he said "agua?" to which I replied "si". Trouble is "agua" means water in Spanish too so I thought he was speaking to me in Spanish since I had told him I was from Venezuela. You got that?

For my first Friday night in Sao Paulo, the "J" in JAM organized a girl's night out with her closest friends. At dinner I sat next to Juliane a Brazilian from Minas Gerais who gave me the inside scoop on the Brazilian nightlife-dating scene. Her exact words "I never left a night club in Brazil without kissing someone. However when I was in university in the USA it was totally different. You text for like 3 months before you even kiss." Additionally, she pointed out that Brazilian women have zero scruples when it comes to "taken" men. Which is why Brazilian women in a relationship cling to their men like birds perched on them, never leaving their sight.

After a fabulous dinner we were off to a private 'club' party hosted by a friend of a friend in what appeared to be the ground floor of an office building in Itaim. Where the scene that Juliane had described clearly unfolded. The "couples" stood out radically as the women literally held on to their men for dear life, their heels almost never touching the floor perched on the look out for predators. We joked they probably held their pee for hours for fear of leaving their men on their own for a minute. It goes without saying that the men themselves perpetuate this behavior due to their reputation as cheaters. The good news is that the single men are easy to spot, or so we thought, not that we were hunting.

We were at the bar for our round of Sake Caipirinhas when we asked a guy standing next to us if he would be so kind to take a picture of us girls. A harmless request really except the battery went off on our iPhone, so we asked if he could take a picture on his iPhone and then email it to us. Well you can imagine the scene when his girlfriend rocked up and there he was taking a picture of a group of girls on his iPhone. A feisty 5֬ Brazilian babe on the verge of a nervous breakdown shouting "Oi! O que você está fazendo?!! Este é o meu homem!!" aka "Hey! What are you doing?!! This is my man!!" Explanations lost on deaf ears as we just walked away and continued with our evening.

In the midst of an incredible DJ set we took a break outside in the smoking area. Where we encountered 4 bodyguards surrounding "Ronaldo... THE Ronaldo". The name sounded familiar, football came to mind but I was oblivious to the magnitude of his notoriety. Shamelessly I just walked over to get the scoop from the bodyguard, "so who is that?" He looked at me like I was from Mars. He said "Ronaldo" in a matter a fact way. I followed it up with "which one?" He didn't think it was amusing but pointed to the fat guy anyways. This Ronaldo (Ronaldo Luís Nazário de Lima) as suppose to the six-pack one is considered one of the best players of all time. He is one of only three men to have won the FIFA Player of the Year award three times along with Zinedine Zidane and Lionel Messi. During the 2006 FIFA World Cup, Ronaldo became the highest goal scorer in the entire history of the World Cup with his fifteenth goal.

All in all a very eventful 1st Friday night in Sao Paulo.

Maria is a Venezuelan-born American living in Sao Paulo, Brazil. She has a BA in Finance, Multinational Business and Spanish from Florida State University. She initiated her career at Motorola Inc. as their Europe, Middle East and Africa MDb Commercial Director, leaving in 2009. This was followed by an 18 month sabbatical during which she Co-Founded JAM Language Ltd., studied Arabic and taught English in Sana'a, Yemen, played polo in Argentina and Mexico, in addition to travel stints in Jordan, Spain, USA, Norway, Kenya and Morocco. She returned to Dubai, UAE in 2010 joining Al Habtoor Trading Enterprises as Commercial Director until Spring 2012. Her languages of choice are English, Spanish, Arabic and Portuguese. Most recently she co-founded SP Night Market. Maria oversees Sales and Marketing for JAM Language Ltd. Contact Maria at maria.petit@jamlanguage.com


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