May 9, 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.

One of the frustrations my wife and I encounter frequently here in Brazil is dealing with service people. We live in a 13 apartment condominium building. We are constantly calling plumbers, electricians, painters, etc to come and make repairs on our building and our apartment. Around 95 percent of the time the person contacted fails to keep the scheduled appointment. Worse, they do not call and say they’re not coming. When they finally do come and do some work, they inevitably say “I’ll be back after lunch’ or something to that effect and then don’t come back until the next day or even later. Most all our free time is spent waiting for these people to arrive, only to be disappointed. If it happened only occasionally, I wouldn’t mind; however, this occurs so often that I think this must be normal here in Brazil and it is we who are out of step with the rest of the world. Why do the people fail so often to keep appointments? Why do they say they’ll be back ‘after lunch’ and don’t show up again until a couple of days later, or worse?

– Riodog66, Paraiba

Hi Riodog66,

You must know already being late is our “thing”, right? I’m sorry about that… we all are (but only when it comes to over 15 min, of course ;).

For you not to go crazy about it (if you are English we understand you do) remember those 15 minutes are expected and be late too.

But let me say, apart from the jokes, not showing up or calling is not Brazilian. Is it? I’m sure it’s not.

Did you already try asking your neighbours? They must know how to help, where to call, who can come, what is cheap, etc. If you already did, try someone else, or try the happiest person you know there (let’s assume he is not going through what you are).

I hope this works for you.


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 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: English Books and Brazilian Boys
Ask a Brazilian: Cold Cahaca
Ask a Brazilian: Interruptions
Ask a Brazilian: Travel and Security Concerns
Ask a Brazilian: Gestures and Toys
Ask a Brazilian: Hispanics or Latinos, and Duvets
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

Can’t make this up