Thursday, July 15, 2010

You know you are NOT a Brazilian when

Most days would be better if I were not spotted as a Gringo. I try, really I do.

Giving good conversation to the butcher about what meal I am cooking and how he can make it better if he just sold me the best cut of meat (which I have no idea how to say in Portuguese) is always interrupted by – “Where are you from?” It’s all down hill from there.

There is no escape. I buy a cold coconut opened for the water within from a beach vendor – “Where are you from?”

Sometimes I feel really confident in my Portuguese when asking for eight copies of an article I’m using with my students. The Xerox worker’s response is always: “Where are you from?”

I am a Gringo. There is no mistaking this reality. (The first clue is my use of swim trunks rather than a Speedo – slam dunk!)

People here are over-the-top ready to be helpful to foreigners. That is not the problem. The problem is within. When does it stop feeling like I am a stranger in a strange land? Maybe never.

While I lived in San Francisco, CA for more than 20 years, I could ALWAYS spot someone who was from somewhere else - listening to just three or four syllables. Now I am appreciating their personal struggle to just be a member of the local community.

Não e facil.


Rachel said...

Can't forget the taxi drivers. Every single taxi driver has asked me.

My butcher couldn't give a rats ass and he still doesn't give me the best cuts. I have to annoy the crap out of him.

Danielle said...

The difference in San Francisco is that, if you hear that someone has an accent but you're communicating with them just fine, you don't interrupt the conversation (especially not a service encounter) to ask "Where are you from?!" or "You're not FROM here, are you?" or, my personal favorite, "Você é que?" If you've been talking to someone for a while like at a party or something, then you might ask them where they're from to make conversation, but you won't like, make it the focus of the conversation if you guys have a bunch of other things in common.

I miss San Francisco now :(

Chris said...

I am US-born but have now lived in London, England for 16 years. I've taken UK citizenship in addition to US citizenship. I've mastered the vocabulary (I never say "pants" when I mean "trousers"; I can say that I'm "knackered" when I'm tired, and the like). I'm too old to change my accent, though.

Every time I speak to someone new, I get the "You're not from here." or "Where are you from?" line. Sometimes I answer, "I'm from the Elephant and Castle." and then I get "Are you Canadian?" That's because accusing Canadians of being USans elicits a lot of abuse from Canadians, so Brits are careful, and first accuse anyone having a North American accent of being Canadian, so as to avoid having their heads bitten off.

So the "You're not from here" syndrome is universal, except in San Francisco, apparently (thanks, @Danielle!).

The Reader said...

I hear you. The only time I've NOT been accused of being not from here, is when some young guy is flirting with me. Usually I am too dense to notice this and try and convince my husband that my accent is better than his. He always points out the obvious: No, dear, that guy was just flirting with you.

What? Really? You mean this Texan can't actually pass as Brazilian once I open my mouth???

He does have a theory: as we become slightly more comfortable with the language itself, we stop working hard on proper pronunciation/accent, so this is why the longer we are here, it still doesn't go away. Even as our language itself improves, our accent just gets worse. Small consolation, though.

How my husband deals with it: Lies and says "Brazil" OR gets really crazy and says "Japan" or "China" or "Italy" or some other random, way off place. Just because he is so sick of them automatically pinning him as Americano.

Jim said...

Rachel - UUURRRRGGGGGHHHHH the taxi drivers!

Danielle - I miss SF sometimes too!!

Chris - thanks for reminding me that our misery has A LOT of company!

Reader - I must admit that being flirted with is a rare experience for me - although Luiz insisits he sees it happening. ;-)