Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Yep, I'm DEFINITELY Still a Foreigner in Brazil!

I've lived and worked in Brazil for almost two years, and I feel like I am now quite used to the Sao Paulo way of life. 

For example, I take it as a given that I will need to wait in queues for a really long time, I really appreciate the fantastic nightlife, and also I expect to have a ‘bj’ at the end of most of my texts and emails (Over here bj is short for beijo, which means kiss in Portuguese….for those Brazilians reading this, I’m pointing this out because in English, a BJ refers to....a blow job. If you don't know what a blow job is, Google it! Go on...I dare you, especially if you're reading this at work!).

Yep, I’ve slowly become used to life over here, but every once in a while something happens that serves as a reminder that I’m definitely still a foreigner over here, like this first example:

What's My Name!?!

Let me set the scene, I’d just ordered a cappuccino from Starbucks (Living the dream on a rainy Tuesday afternoon), and the woman behind the counter was holding her pen, ready to write my name down on my paper cup.

“Qual é o seu nome?”, she asked me, chewing the shit out of her gum. She looked bored. Really bored. She was built like a cigarette box, and she was giving off A LOT of attitude.

I smiled at her and politely said “Andrew!” BOOM! I thought, ‘those Portuguese classes are really starting to pay off’.

There was a pause, then she grunted at me, 


"You're called f*@king WHAT!?!?!"
I repeated my name, this time a little louder and a little slower. “And-rew”. She looked visibly bothered; in fact, she looked like she wanted to smash my face in.

I sensed she didn’t know how to write Andrew.

“Ehhhh?” she repeated, only this time her face was REALLY screwed up, she was clearly irritated and she’d even stopped chewing. She obviously wasn't someone you messed with.

“Meu nome é A-N-DE-RE-W” I said, almost sounding like I was giving some attitude back.

She glared at me.

If looks could kill, I’d be a dead man right now. She made no attempt to hide her distain. She sighed like I’d just really inconvenienced her life, shrugged her shoulders, chewed her gum again and then wrote my name down on the cup.

After she’d put the receipt into my hand, I found myself a seat. A good few minutes later the scrawny woman making drinks began to shout out a name. 

"Come get your coffee!!!"

Nobody claimed the drink.

She repeated herself, “Alluhandraou"


Still nothing.

“Alluhandraou, Alluhandraou"

I appreciated the Lady Gaga impersonation, but at the same time I started wondering how long it would be until my cappuccino was ready.

Those people who’d gone to Starbucks to chill out and read their books were getting visibly irritated as she kept on shouting out the same name, with this weird diction that made her sound like she was fighting back a hairball.

A minute or so later it dawned on me. “Alluhandraou” could actually be ME. I went up to check, and when I got to the counter the scrawny woman shot me a filthy look, put the cappuccino down, turned around and then walked off (presumably to bitch about me to the brick-shit-house on the till!). 

I was Alluhanhraou! 

I retreated back to my seat, avoiding eye contact with the three pissed off book readers, then with my cappuccino in hand, I looked at my cup. That woman had made up a name.

To be fair to them, I am foreign. Foreign people sometimes have unusual sounding names, I just hadn't realised mine was one of them. I thought this was odd, because I don't usually have problems with Brazilian's understanding my name.

However to prevent this from happening again, after discussing this with my Brazilian friends, from now on my Starbucks name is a Brazilian one, Andre.


So this next example is pretty morbid, but quite interesting at the same time; a bit like an episode of the Tricia Goddard show! One evening my Facebook poking was interrupted by a text message I received from a student. It read like this:

Andrew, I’m sorry, but I need to cancel our class tomorrow. My neighbour died today, so I need to go to the funeral. Bjs.

My first reaction was to reply by letting my student know how sorry I was to hear her sad news…but midway through doing this, I stopped. HANG ON A MINUTE, why was she going to a funeral 24 hours after someone had died? I thought either this person’s family is really keen to get this guy six feet under, or my student had simply come up with an elaborate story to get out of class!
Tricia Goddard, the only appropriate picture I could
use for this part of my blog. But,

Well, as I later learnt, Brazilians tend to bury their dead within 24 hours, with family members keeping vigil until the burial/cremation. I guess with the weather being so hot, and with morgues not being very common, it makes sense to bury a body as soon as possible.

I am aware that that for some customs and religions, burying a dead body in this short time frame is common practice. Yet I’d assumed that because Brazil is a Christian country like my own, they too would have the funeral a week or so later. Well, I was wrong.

A few days later I quizzed another of my students on this subject. “So what happens if a family member dies and you’re, I don't know, you're abroad on holiday?” (Yes, I know what you’re thinking…and you’d be correct, my classes are such a good laugh!)

My student looked a little confused. Perhaps she was wondering what this question had to do with the class I was giving on finance. But with little hesitation, she replied. 

“Then you would miss the funeral”

Wow, I thought to myself.

If a member of my family died tomorrow I guess I take for granted that I'd have a few days to organise my trip back for the funeral. If I was a Brazilian, it is unlikely that I would have this luxury. I find this incredibly interesting.

But before this blog sounds too serious, let's move on to....

Brazilian Tooth Fairies

 “Andrew, my nephew lost his first tooth yesterday!” my friend proudly announced after finishing a phone call to his family. “Aaaaaaaaawww!” I replied, “I bet he’s excited to put it under his pillow tonight then.”

“His pillow? Andrew, why would he want to put his tooth under his pillow?”

“Well, for the tooth fairies” I responded, looking at him in surprise. I mean, how could my friend have forgotten about the tooth fairies already? He’s only in his early twenties.

A silence followed.

“What is a tooth fairy?”

I was stunned; I’d assumed that the tooth fairies were universal. I then began to explain, “a tooth fairy is a small, erm, person, with wings. They come into your room when you’re sleeping, climb under your pillow and then swap your old tooth for money!”

My friend looked at me like I was cracking up.

I could see a mixture of surprise and concern etched into his face as he went on to ask, “so in England, small people with money fly into your bedroom, and swap money for your tits? Seriously?”

Don't even think about waking up....you're Brazilian,
you  probably don't know me....
and I will DEFINITELY freak the shit out of you!!!
Of course, he hadn’t meant tits at all, he’d meant teeth (Brazilians frequently have problems with pronouncing the word teeth, for more on this, see my previous blog my-top-5.html).

Before confirming that this was indeed true, it got me thinking about what tit fairies would be doing in your room at night if they were actually real.

Without the help of tooth fairies to ensure kids grow up into materialistic adults, Brazilian children either throw their baby teeth out of their window, throw them up onto the roofs of their homes, put them under their beds or simply give them to their parents for keeps sake (although quite recently parents over here have discovered Tooth Fairies through films or online, and this custom is slowly being introduced). With the help of Google I’ve been surprised to discover that loads of other countries don’t have the tooth fairies either. 

Who'd have thought!

So there you have it, the three random aspects of Brazilian culture that have been brought to my attention fairly recently. Tooth fairies, my name being weird and funerals.

Until next time, 
this is Aluhanduru, signing off!



  1. It's difficult for some Brazilians to pronounce my name, so I normally tell them that I'm 'Gregee' (as they love to add a vowel sound when a word ends with a consonant). The worst mispronuncation of my name was when a porteiro told my student that SHREK was here. Hopefully I don't look like him!

    Another instance of confusion because of our languages different pronunciation codes was when an ex-girlfriend asked for a Hedgee Buw. I had no idea what she wanted until she showed me a can of Red Bull ;-)

    1. I LOVE that Shrek comment, that has really made me smile! It must have been pretty awkward! Ha ha!

  2. The coffe lady must have thought you name was Alejandro.

  3. First of all, I just found out about your blog, and it is really good.

    Second, I'm brazilian, and I know a lot of people who know the tooth fairy story.

    1. Hey Thomas, thanks for checking out my blog and taking the time to leave a comment! I never thought I'd write a blog about tooth fairies, but thanks for letting me know they are not unknown to the Brazilian community!

  4. There must be something wrong with this student you had! He didn't know the tooth fairy??? I'm 31 and when I was 6 I did put one of my tooth under my pillow for money, off course I threw another one on the roof so I could wish for my RC car. Well, maybe it depends on the family!

  5. "Ryan" became "Breiyon" at the Starbucks in Rio.

    1. I am happy to hear I am not the only one with a name change in Starbucks! Are you still in Rio now?

  6. I am an André living in the US for a while now. I used to tell ppl my name was Andrew... :)

  7. Good story. I am American but as a child lived in Sao Paulo from 1958 - 1970 and went to Escola Graduada de Sao Paulo (American Graded School). I loved living there and was sad to move back to the USA. I've never found bread that good, nor beef! I miss the country club, too and having maids!!

    1. Hi Karoline, thanks for checking out my blog! I imagine when I eventually leave Brazil, I too will be sad to move away from my maid!

    2. Man dude i Envy yu i Soooo Wish i lived in Brazil...

    3. Hey Moses, thanks for stopping by! And if you're serious about it, I know you can come and live over here quite easily!

    4. Man i so would!! But Sucks to Say...that i sometimes find myself helpless without having my parents agreein in anything i Do, thia being one of them-_- but i will sure visit And who knows maybe live there!! hopefully i find a bigger motivation besidea "wanting to live in brazil!"

  8. Thanks for the laugh! Timely as I'm just settling in to Brazil and things aren't always going to plan.... Just found your blog so I'm going to look up if you've been to Sao Luis yet.

    1. Hey, thanks for dropping by...and I'm happy to hear that my blog could offer a little light relief! I've not been to Sao Luis yet, is that where you're based at the moment?