As I am sitting here writing this, it is six months to the day that I arrived here in Joinville. I had been here twice before on two-week holidays, which were great, but that wasn’t enough time to get to know the culture and differences properly. I’m having such an amazing time learning what it’s like to live in a different culture, different climate! I wouldn’t say it’s completely different to Ireland, though. I think Irish and Brazilian personalities are very similar in many ways, especially in their sense of humour, so this helps a lot to make me feel more comfortable when meeting new people. I have of course noticed a few differences. I’m not even saying that they are good or bad, just different! Actually, some of them are just funny!
(The words/phrases in bold are translated at the bottom of the page!)
#5 – Brazilians clean their houses like crazy!
The first thing that struck me when I arrived here is how clean and tidy Brazilians keep their houses. Now, don’t get me wrong, we keep our houses nice and clean in Ireland too, but here it’s on a different level altogether! Everything is always so organised, nothing is out of place, and you would never see a speck of dust anywhere! I soon realised that this is down to the weekly clean where everyone spends a couple of hours scrubbing their house from top to bottom. You dust, hoover, change bedsheets, etc., at least once a week. You guys are so crazy about it that you even have a specific name for it in Portuguese: “faxina” (in English, it’s just “clean”)!
A few weeks ago, we had a Monday off for a holiday. I was all set to stay in bed late and relax for the day… until I realised that everyone (all the neighbours) were scrubbing their houses from top to bottom! They all had their furniture out on the street, just to make sure they could clean everything inside. Once they were done with that, they would then come outside and start washing the furniture. This was all repeated a week later. And every single week after that. To me this is very amusing because this never happens in Ireland! Of course we clean our houses, but it might be a quick hoover once a week or a little dusting once or twice a month. Once a year we do a big clean and we call this the “Spring Clean” – it takes place on a nice fresh spring day when the skies are blue and the sun is shining.
#4 – They’re also crazy drivers!
Another difference here that I can’t help but notice is how fast cars and buses drive. To me it’s crazy to drive so fast in the city centre. I don’t have a car, so I usually cycle or walk. When I arrived, I was shocked at how fast the traffic moves. “But at least there are plenty of pedestrian crossings!”, I thought to myself. Well, until I tried to get across the road Max Colin one day. I came to the zebra crossing expecting the cars to stop, but they just kept flying by at full speed. I then realised that the only way to get them to stop is to step onto the crossing and hope for the best. When one eventually stops I have to run across, hoping that they all stop in the other lanes. I’m getting braver and more used to this but it still panics me a little bit every day!
And then we have the buses! I actually think the buses here are just so funny! How fast they drive, through potholes, around sharp corners, etc.! There have been plenty of times where I’ve been on a bus and everyone’s face is squished up against the window as the driver takes a fast U-turn! One day I had a guy fall over and land right on top of me, sitting on my lap! I feel like a monkey swinging from the trees, trying to hold on to as many poles as possible, just trying to keep myself from falling. What I find really funny, though, is that I think Brazilians are so used to this that they seem to be able to stand perfectly still and it doesn’t seem to throw them around as much.
#3 – Brazilians are great dancers and love to party! (The stereotype is true!)
Something that I think is really nice here is how much Brazilians love music and dancing. I’ve been to a few samba parties and bailes and it just fascinates me how everyone is so amazing at dancing and will dance all night long. Irish people in general are not good movers. I mean, we dance, but only after plenty of beers, and it’s more like jumping around the place than dancing. Brazilians know how to move their hips! They make it look so easy, but if you are an Irish person and try to participate, everyone notices! I have a few friends who have tried to teach me samba and, oh my God, it’s so hard! Even the simple move, swinging hips from side to side, gives me the worst pain in my hips ever! But I love watching how good everyone is and how much they enjoy dancing. And also how much Brazilians love Brazilian music and samba. They love to sing along and dance and just enjoy the music. I love going to these nights and being a part of it.
#2 – Brazilian girls have perfect nails!
One of the first things I noticed when I came here is how perfect girls always have their nails. I thought everyone had a manicure every week, but soon realised that many people do them themselves at home. In Ireland, we paint our nails, but usually it’s a really quick process, just a quick splash of paint on the nails and you’re ready to go (often with plenty of paint on the skin around the nails that we need to pick off). And it’s totally normal to see someone with their nails half-covered in polish, due to the paint peeling off. In my six months here, I think I’ve only ever seen someone with chipped nail polish once!
I’ve started trying to do it the Brazilian way. File and clip – I skip cutting off the cuticles as I’m too afraid of cutting my finger off, – then a base coat, two coats of normal colour, then a top coat, then peeling it off with that stick thing, then using cotton wool on a stick to remove any from the skin, then waiting for half an hour, without touching anything in case I rub it off. Phew! And then every single time I think I’m ready, I whack my hand off something, ruining one or two nails, panic, try to fix them while at the same time messing up one or two nails on the other hand. So it probably takes me about an hour and a half to get my “Brazilian” nails, even though they are a far way away from the Brazilian standard. It’s such a stressful process that I sometimes just do it the Irish way! I’m learning, though. Hopefully soon I will be an expert! :)
#1 – Walking, cycling or driving is always an adventure!
One more thing that I think is really funny here (even though it’s so dangerous) is the holes you come across as you are walking or driving around. I am often walking and come across a hole in the footpath. And it’s not a little hole that you might just trip over, it’s a hole that if you fall into you will have to wait for someone to come and pull you out! And there are never any signs or warnings! Or also the cobbles that are piled up on the roads beside these holes that one could easily trip over or crash into. Like, if I’m cycling in Ireland, I can always have a little look-around to see what I’m passing by. In Brazil, however, I literally can’t take my eyes off the road in front of me because I have no idea what surprises I might bump into!
These are probably the main differences that have stood out in my time here. I am not saying things like the fast traffic, holes in the roads, etc., are necessarily a bad thing, or that I think they should be changed. I enjoy seeing and noticing these differences and seeing the funny side to them. For me, Brazil is a great place! The food, the music, the dancing, the sunny weather (forgetting about all the rain) and laid-back people are making my time here really enjoyable, and I’m already thinking about staying here longer than I originally planned!
– Teacher Roisin
altogether – completamente
a speck of dust – uma poeirinha sequer
hoover – aspirar
scrub – esfregar
amusing – divertido
pedestrian crossing/zebra crossing – faixa de pedestre
pothole – buraco de rua
squished up – esmagado
on my lap – no meu colo
hips – quadris
chipped nail polish – unhas mal-feitas
file – lixar
clip – cortar
coat – demão (tinta)
that stick thing – aquele palitinho
I whack my hand off something – bato a mão em algum lugar
footpath – calçada
trip – tropeçar
cobbles – pedras
laid-back – descontraído