Thursday, November 17, 2011

Feel like an ass in Brazil? Read this post.

I felt inspired by Rachel's post today about life in paradise not always being easy.  Many of the commenters were relatively new foreigners living in Brazil and their stories of their struggles brought me right back to my first months (ok, year and a half) here as well (even though I still feel like I'm new and I've been here almost 2 years, crazy).

Some of my old posts were a liiiiiiiiitle depressed and frankly, depressing.

Looking back on all my whining, bitching and cries for help whining, bitching and cries for help (not a typo), I'm impressed at how much things have changed for me.  Rachel said that she was being a big baby in the beginning - I was a giant baby too, but at the same time I don't know if I would have been able to do it any differently...

Anyone out there who is new to Brazil or thinking about coming - the biggest challenge in moving to another country (and it could be any country) is that usually you are dealing with a million new things at the same time.  Language, culture, social norms (like how to eat/not eat in public), lack of friends, lack of knowing the city, and in many cases a completely new marriage or baby as well.

Word to the wise, your inevitable psychological breakdown in your new country is not the country's fault (although, it definitely feels like it is).  It's not even necessarily the fault of your specific situation in Brazil.  It all comes down to you and how you deal with these firey demon-balls you are faced with.  
How many times can you face defeat, frustration, or conflict and still get back up and do it again?  Don't be fooled into thinking that crap is constantly falling on your head just because you live in a foreign country.  Even at home in your own country you feel the stress of your job, your friends, your housing situation, your new marriage/relationship/baby or whatever.  The common denomonator in all of this is you and your attitude will ultimately determine your success or lack thereof.

The other peice of advice I have is RELAX.  Seriously, sometimes you need to just go with it and accept that you're going to feel like a 3 year old in an adult's body learning how to speak for the first time.  News flash.  You are a 3 year old in an adult's body learning how to speak for the first time!

If you're totally frustrated because your umbrella poked an old lady in the eye and you couldn't apologize because your Portuguese wasn't at that level yet, that's ok.  Feel shitty about it, and then learn from that situation.  Practice saying "ahh desculpa!  Peço mil desculpas!" 1000 times until you've got it down.  Feeling like an ass is the best way to learn how NOT to speak Portuguese.

And finally, speaking Portuguese is the best way to learn how NOT to feel like an ass! is a great free site to get you started.  

You can dooooo it!


  1. THANK YOU!!!!! I JUST TOOOK A VERY DEEP BREATH! In my first month here, a woman spoke to me as I was leaving her small grocery store, after having bought nothing. It wasn't until I was 3 steps down the street that I realized she had asked me if I needed help finding something. I went back, said that I didn't speak much Portuguese, and thank you I did not need anything. SHe was, of course, saying no problem, don't worry about it. Thank God I had my sunglasses on my head, b/c as I left the store I started crying. That I could not even recognize when someone was talking to me was very frustrating that day! Now, I know when someone is talking to me (generally) and I've found that smiles and apologetic looks go far with my limited Portuguese.

  2. Jen, I should have actually added that last peice of advice.

    A good friend of mine who is extremely well-travelled said, "You will not know what the F*** people are saying for a while. So just smile. Smile, and smile all the time."

    Probably some of the best advice I've heard.

  3. Hey Lindsey, just thought I'd drop by to throw my 2 centavos into the mix! That last point (in your comment there) is really important I think. When I'm stressed with the language (or with a situation where the language is creating a problem), my instant reaction is to frown and show my frustration. BAD idea. The old cliché (or is it a song?) should be adapted here: smile and the world smiles with you; frown and everyone frowns back which makes you feel even worse about being terrible at Portuguese... ;)

  4. You know those peics of advices you gave actually may work pretty well for me.
    Oh! I'm braziliam!
    Ok, you have no idea of how different the culture here is from the place where I came from...
    And that scene, of people comming over, talking to you you really can't see waht it is. Well, I've been through it a couple times!

  5. I'm on month 3 of living here and I've definitely had my highs and lows! Great post!

  6. "You will not know what the F*** people are saying for a while. So just smile. Smile, and smile all the time."

    Oh wow, that is so true! I'm glad that smiling and laughing are my go-to responses when I have no clue. To others I just look silly and happy, unless I --horrors!--happen to visit a country where smiling and laughing are very, very offensive. :P


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