Thursday, May 26, 2011


I am really enjoying living in Brazil, and am quite surprised at how quickly my time here has gone...over a year already! Although the language is still a challenge for me, I feel like I have adapted quite well to the Brazilian culture. However, there is just one thing I have difficulties getting used to.....the supermarkets! For me going to the supermarket can often be stressful. Let me explain why.

When I finish my shopping in the supermarket I head to to the check out, and usually wait a few minutes before being served. Of course is pretty standard; but then comes the part that really gets to me, I come face to face with the check out woman! The woman sitting on a checkout in any given supermarket in Sao Paulo usually hates her life . It doesn’t seem to matter which supermarket you go to, the woman looks like she hates it with a passion, so it is guaranteed that she will never smile at you. And you can see, just by looking at her face, she hates you too!
My friend Renata pretending to work in a supermarket,
obviously she is pretending and not really working there....
because she is smiling!

Before the last customer has had chance to pack all of their food, this woman is scanning and flinging your food down to the other side of the check out...and because the last person to buy their food is still packing their things (and so is in your way), you have to wait a while before you are able to start packing (Hoping the other person does not accidentally pack your food too!)
I’ve been packing my things before, when the check out woman has seen her friend shopping, and without so much as a sorry afterwards, she has stopped what she is doing to have a minute long conversation with this shopper.

Sometimes if her friend on the next check out wants to have a chat, this woman will definitely stop what she is doing for a while to turn around have a gossip with her check out you stand there waiting!
Then it comes to paying. If you have the correct change, then you are ok. If the check out woman has a lot of money in her till, then usually, there won’t be any problems either. However, if you pull a note out of your pocket...this is what usually happens.
The woman will glare at you, like you have just gone into her house on Christmas morning....and pissed all over her kids Christmas presents. She will then look at the note, and then again look at you, then ask you if you have change. When you say no, it’s pretty common for this woman to sigh at you, like you have REALLY inconvenienced her life, and then call someone over to get some change!

If you are shopping in a large supermarket, when that assistant arives at the checkout they are usually wearing roller skates! Despite being here a while now, it still makes me smile when I see one of these roller-skating-till-supervisors. These roller skaters need to get around the supermarket quickly, doing emergency price checks; so to be on the safe side, as well as roller skates they wear crash helmests and knee and elbow pads. In the minute or so it takes for the change to arrive, the checkout woman will be glaring up at the ceiling, checking out the dirt under her finger nails...anything really, to avoid speaking to, or looking at you. And in doing this, she is making sure that everyone waiting knows you are the reason there is a hold up, because you are paying with a note (I’d love it if my notes are massive too, but they never are!)! When the check out woman eventually gets the change, she will drop it into your hand without looking at you, and then immediately start scanning the next customers food; again, throwing their food down to the other side of the check you have to make sure you don’t get their food mixed in with your own food (unless of course, they have bought something delicious!).

Me and a roller-skating till supervisor!

I am not exaggerating when I say that this happens often when you go to the supermarket.  I think these women seem so much ruder compared to the rest of the Brazilian’s living in Sao Paulo, because the majority of people here are so friendly.  When I asked my students why these women are so rude, they simply say “well, these people don’t get paid so much. But if you go to (they then name an expensive supermarket), they are a little friendlier in there!” It is quite interesting how people with low paid jobs are almost excused for having a bad attitude! But to be honest, I couldn’t care less how much money these check out women are on....I want a smile with my loaf of bread, milk and Frosties!
And you get the other extreme from the ‘I hate life’ supermarket women too....the clothing shop assistants. Just yesterday I had a bit of time to kill, and so I went into the shopping centre and had a look in one of the clothes shops. The assistant saw me walk in, and straight away came over to start making conversation. After telling him I wasn’t looking for anything specific, I then started looking through the racks. I wasn’t sure how rude I needed to be to this guy, before he took the hint that I didn’t want his help or to talk to him....but he stood about a foot behind me, still trying to talk to me, watching over me as I looked at the clothes on the racks. I couldn’t relax with him stood there, especially when he saw a tee-shirt he thought I might like (one I had already looked at on the rack), and started asking me if I would like to try it on!
I resisted the urge to push him into the rack of clothes behind me, said no, and left not long after! And this happens quite often in clothes shops in Sao Paulo (this guys wasn't lonely, he was just doing his job!), where the staff must be on commission.

I am not good at handling people who are too pushy or too friendly in shops...or too miserable and rude! There doesn't seem to be much of a balance when shopping in Sao Paulo. Having said that the roller-skating till supervisors almost make up for the bad customer service. They definitely need a few of these down at Tesco!  

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