Yesterday I bullied assembled some friends together to go out for feijoada, which I had been craving for some time.
It was after class around seven when we arrived, and we quickly realized something that would immediately reveal us as foreigners. We were the only ones in the restaurant at 7 because…
Brazilians don’t really eat dinner.
They indeed have a third meal, however it’s not nearly as substantial as an American dinner. American dinners include at least one large serving of meat, a few side dishes, maybe a starchy roll or some rice. It’s often served late in the evening, from 6 to 8, and some cases 9 or 10. Two of my friends explained that they had gotten used to the new system of eating heavy meals for lunch, and not anticipating much for dinner.
Me and another friend lamented that we instead, were still craving heavy dinners. When our breakfasts are light, our stomachs are confused and we never have an appetite really for lunch, which Brazilians find unusual. My host mother, for example, asked me, “You don’t eat much do you?” I now am making an effort to eat food for lunch, but my stomach still isn’t happy. Heavy meals at night is where it’s at.
Another habit I have to break myself out of is flushing toilet paper down the toilet.
Something simple that we do all the time without thought, can become a big problem here in Brazil. Essentially, the sewage systems here are not built or equipped to handle paper products. Thus, if people were to suddenly begin flushing toilet paper down the toilet, there would be some immediate problems! Instead, you’re supposed to throw your toilet paper away in a nearby waste basket. I haven’t exactly gotten used to this, and every once in a while, I find myself flushing toilet paper, then cursing myself for being forgetful. I’ve gotten better at it, I just hope it’s soon enough!
Lastly, one thing I’ve noticed going to school in the mornings and afternoons, is that there’s no real concept of Right-of-Way in Brazilian (or the state of Bahia) traffic. For example, if I’m trying to cross the street, right hand turns into the street I’m attempting to cross never cease. No matter if you’re at a crosswalk or not, Brazilians are not expecting to have to slow down for you, you’re supposed to evade them! You don’t have the right to cross, almost, it’s your duty to find a way around. There are crosswalks that give you the light to cross, but anticipate that someone on a bike, or a taxi, will still run the light.
Noise pollution is a big thing here, people use their car horns for everything, “Don’t move!” “Nice day!” “Ola!” “You can cross” “Idiot!” “How dare you!” “I remember you from yesterday, how’re the kids?” A weird side effect of this that every time I hear a car horn as I cross the street, I’m not sure how to react. Am in the wrong, did I offend?
The only way I have to know if the driver and I are on the same accord is if he pauses, honks, and waves for me to pass. From then, I am obligated to signal thanks, a thumbs up. This I learned on the first day of being in Brazil. Being that drivers here are so crazy and unpredictable, when they do something in my favor, be grateful, and give em a sign!
OH, BUT BEFORE I FORGET. FOR THE LOVE OF GOD, DON’T USE THE OK SIGN.
This sign is the equivalent of the middle finger in America, yeah it’s that bad, and yeah, I’ve used it a few times without thinking. Often, because Brazilians understand the word OK, I often say it with the hand gesture to match, then, I cautiously transform it into a thumbs up.
When in doubt, thumbs up in Brazil.