June 21, 2011
This week in our continuing Foreigners Through Brazilian Eyes series we have an interview with Ana da Silva. Read on as Ana tells us about her impressions of foreigners, and gives some helpful advice also.
1. Where are you from in Brazil and what do you do?
I’m from Campinas. I’m a freelance writer and copyeditor.
2. What are the main obstacles for foreigners in Brazil?
The language and the slowness of things, particularly if you’re from a country where things get done quickly. If a foreigner lives in a big city in Brazil he’s likely to find English speakers, though probably not many, but even in big cities there’s a lot of bureaucracy for every procedure and Brazilians generally have no sense of timeliness anywhere. I lived in the USA half my life and I’m struggling with this myself!
3. What are common mistakes that foreigners make in Brazil?
The biggest mistake foreigners make is assuming that in Brazil we speak Spanish and the second biggest mistake is believing Brazil has a Hispanic culture. We speak Portuguese here because we were colonized by the Portuguese and our culture is our own though it comes from a mix of European, African and native cultures.
4. What characteristic of other nationalities strikes you as the most different (eg. sense of humour, formality, dress)?
Sense of timing of Northern cultures. For Americans 9am means 9am, the Swedes consider 2 weeks to last 2 weeks and so forth. In Brazil 9am could be 9:45 and 2 weeks could take 6 months.
5. Which English accent do you prefer and why (eg. Scottish, American, Australian)?
I’m a sucker for the English accent (Hugh Grant-sy, not Ricky Gervais-y) because it’s got a sort of sweet rhythm and the dragged vowels make it sexy.
6. Favourite place travelled abroad and why?
Norway for its fjords. I’m a beach person but the fjords feel magical with its snow-covered mountains and waterfalls and mirror-like water. Going around a bend it felt like a Viking boat could come by any time.
7. Favourite foreign food?
8. Favourite foreign band, book and movie?
The National, Me Talk Pretty One Day” by David Sedaris and “There’s Something about Mary.”
9. What is the difference between dating a Brazilian and Foreigner (if this applies to you or perhaps a friend)?
Wow, this is a broad topic but I’ll limit it to the two countries where I’ve lived longest. I lived in the USA from the time I was 14 years old and I have rarely dated Brazilian men since but overall I find Brazilians to be macho, too possessive and pushy and they’re too serious about being in a couple; one guy was horrified that I’d made plans to go out without him and we were only dating for a couple of months. Americans are my favorite to date because they are courteous and generous and they can be such gentlemen though most are terrified at the thought of being in a relationship, even if the woman’s not even thinking that far. In my experience Americans are very appreciative of women, especially foreign ones and especially if the foreign ones aren’t chasing a husband.
10. Can you share an incident, misunderstanding or ‘culture shock’ that you have experienced with a foreigner?
I’m practically a foreigner in Brazil though technically I am Brazilian. A few years ago, after spending six years without coming to Brazil, I went to a supermarket to get fresh milk but all I saw was tons of that boxed milk so I asked a clerk, “Tem leite sem preservativo?” because I was thinking of the English “preservatives;” I’d forgotten that “preservativo” means “condom.” The clerk glared at me and I thought she was being rude by not answering until my aunt came over and told me I was asking for milk with condoms.
11. What are 2 things you would recommend for a visitor to do in Brazil to better understand Brazilian people and their culture?
1. Stay with a Brazilian family to experience how warm and hospitable Brazilians are.
2. Dress poorly and go into a fancy store to experience the existence of social class division.
You can follow Ana’s blog at Daniel Bertorelli
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