April 27, 2015, by Rachel Bainbridge

I’ve made friends for life

I am more British than I ever realised. My upper lip is stiff, I am as sarcastic as they come and I am missing a decent cup of tea. Brazilians are the opposite of the British. They are loud, they are emotional, they love physical contact and my attempts at sarcasm are completely lost on them. This has been the biggest cultural challenge, trying to fit in with a group of people who are completely different to me. Pretty early on, I nearly really offended someone I´d met only once before by just saying hello and not going to hug him, he took that to mean that I either didn’t like him or didn’t remember him. Luckily my boss spent 15 years living in England and explained that I’m just a Brit and we are not an affectionate nation, at least with new people.

I am fairly quiet and everyone here has insisted that they’ll eventually beat it out of me, they haven’t quite managed it yet! Being quiet here can make things fairly tricky. At first, all conversations sounded like arguments to me because the level and tone of speech is much louder and more animated than I’m used to. I’m now a bit more tuned in to this and the level at which conversation takes place but it is often still a bit tricky to participate in a group discussion as these tend to descend in to a competition of who can shout the loudest, regardless of topic, but I’m sort of learning. I don’t think I’ll miss shouting ´LISTEN LISTEN LISTEN´ everytime I want to say something but it’s definitely been an experience!

The other side of this coin is that Brazilians are some of the most welcoming people I’ve ever met in my life. I live in a favela and there’s such a feeling of community here and I’ve been able to become a part of it and feel at home here so quickly. I know I fit in here because they tell me and I know if I didn’t then they’d tell me too, I like the directness. I only have a week left here now and my goodbyes have already started. They’ve been a lot harder than I ever imagined and there is no way that I’d have been able to make firm friends so fast if the Brazilian culture was more like the British one. Cultural challenge was always an inevitable part of coming here and at times, I do still feel slightly out of my depth or unsure of what to do in social situations but it’s been well worth getting stuck in and learning to navigate the waters. I’ve made friends for life and I feel very lucky to have been able to share in the warm social culture that exists here.

Posted in Cultural challenges