Wednesday, March 23, 2011


I was in Brazil on holiday about two years ago, and for the 3 weeks I was here, I managed to cram in most of the things tourists do; The Amazon, Rio, and the Iguazu falls. I had an amazing time, and this played a massive part in my decision to get myself back over here after Japan. This time around though, has been very different...because I moved over here with the intention of living here for at least a year. And the second time around I have noticed a lot more than I did during the time I spent in the ‘tourist bubble’!
Perhaps the most surprising thing for me, is that there is so much kissing and hugging going on in the streets. Yes, I know I sound like I’m about 70....but after just a few weeks of living here, one of the things that really surprised me was the amount of kissing I saw! And when I say ‘kissing’, I am talking full on tongue down the back of the throat...and some!

I would definitely not consider myself a prude, but imagine’re stood waiting at the station for the subway, to get to work at 7.30am on a Monday morning (still wiping sleep out of your eyes, and picking bits of cereal out of your teeth.)....then you look over to see a couple, passionately kissing each other, looking like at any minute they will be ripping clothes off, oblivious to anyone else being around them...well.... it’s just very different to what I’m used to, especially coming from living in Japan for so long!
It was only a month before I arrived in Brazil that I was stood in a Japanese school hall, giving a goodbye speech to my students during assembly. I’d been practicing my speech in Japanese for a couple of days, so after reading it to 400 kids, I’m not gonna lie, I was happy it went well; but at the same time, relieved to have got it out of the way. As the assembly finished, one of the kids came over to see me. This girl had progressed quite far in the regional English speaking speech contest a month or so before. She used to come and see me every lunch time, and we must have practiced this speech every day, for at least 6 weeks.
This girl said to me that she would miss me, and I was quite surprised to see the girl looking visibly upset...and then she broke down in tears. I think it would be fair to say that for most people, it is instinctive to want to comfort someone when you see that they are upset; and in that moment, I’d completely forgotten how inappropriate this was in Japan.  Wanting to comfort her, I stepped towards her to give her a hug. But the thing was, she didn’t hug me back...she simply stood there, with her arms by her side, crying on my shoulder. It was really awkward. She didn’t really know what to do, and I was also in the same boat. I got the sense that, after 4 years in Japan, I would have needed a lot longer to fully grasp the difference between the norms of their culture, and the norms of my own (Perhaps wanting to fully understand was a major reason why the Japanese culture captivated me to the extent it did, for the 4 years I was there). With this being one of the lasting memories I took from the end of my time in Japan, I moved to Brazil....arguably a parallel universe! Ha ha!
I have discussed this kissing/snogging/making out issue with my students, who think it’s hilarious I wouldn’t want to kiss someone, sober, in public, during the day! Despite the fact I have explained that everyone would be able to see me, and I am not 16 anymore. Here though, you get people kissing everywhere, no matter how old they are, or what time it is! And I am not suggesting there is some sort of passionate orgy happening in the streets of Brazil 24/7 (well, unless you are talking about carnival...but I will cover in my next blog!), it is something you will see around you. 

Even so, ramming tongues down throats during the day, sober, in the queue for the butchers...well, perhaps I am much more British than I first thought!  

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