Some things are just not the same at all. For example, I rarely wear lace-up shoes. I’m ALWAYS in sandals or flip flops. The same goes for long pants. I’ve probably worn long pants only 20 times since I got here.
Given my challenges with Portuguese, the fact that we have a message machine (not that anyone ever leaves a message), and that all calls are either for my mother-in-law or Luiz, I have probably answered our home phone 4 times in two years.
Interacting with municipal or commercial agents – it’s not about customer service (with some exceptions). The example that most gets me going are the grocery store checkout clerks who are first: seated; second: want you to feed your items to them so they do not have to lean over to reach them; third: may never actually make eye contact during the entire time you are supposedly relating to each other; fourth: do not bag your groceries; and fifth: rarely say thank you. Mostly they are having a sidebar conversation with their coworker nearby. (End of rant.)
Public transportation is incredibly frequent, fast-moving, goes everywhere you want, is clean, affordable (including inter-municipal and inter-state busses), and used by everyone – the gazillion busses on the road are always full.
Everybody, it seems, is friendly, says good morning or good afternoon, is willing to lend assistance, will strike up a conversation to help pass the time while waiting in a line, is curious about you and your life, and will share a beer with you if they have the time. This is SOOO different than in the United States.
Finally, because this list could go on forever, the focus of what I’ve found to be the majority of people is to work to live – not live to work. Now I realize I live in Rio-ish. Things may be different in other cities. But here it is a beach culture, a social culture, a party culture. Sure everyone has a job and wished things were easier financially – but they ALWAYS have time to enjoy friends and family. I am so glad to be out of the rat race I used to call home.