Friday, September 23, 2011

Making new friends in Brazil

Brazilians are rightfully known for being wonderfully open and endearing people who smile and chat with you after just a moments introduction.

The checkout lady at the grocery store knows your name and always has nice things to say. People in line at the bank will talk to you about just about anything. The person sitting next to you on the bus or ferry is always open for a brief conversation.

This was certainly NOT my experience in San Francisco back in the USA. Luiz once squatted low and said hello to a small child at a bus stop while waiting for the bus and the child's mother yanked the child away and said sternly to Luiz, “Don’t talk to my child!”

Worlds apart.

The flip side seems to be the rather insular social groups here. It’s pretty hard to break into new social circles, unless you have found a friend in common. A good friend in common.

Lucky for us we have returned to Luiz’s home town where he had a gazillion childhood friends, all of whom welcome him back and have embraced me as one of their own. But branching out from there has proven pretty challenging.

Luiz’s time in his tourism classes in Rio has provided a great opportunity for him to meet new people. He’s so charming that it seems everyone loves him and we now get invitations to parties and events with his fellow students. I think we are breaking out of the old group a bit.

My success has come largely through blogger friends and teachers and students I have met in the English world.

But it has not been easy. I am grateful for the base of friends we have from Luiz’s past. But I also aspire to broader horizons.

20 comments:

Jennifer Souza said...

Everyone is very friendly, but I often wonder if they are 'friends.' It's nice to have Carlos' family here (well some of them) but I've always found it hard to make friends everywhere I've lived, unless it was a really transient area (SF Bay Area, for example, and Austin, TX a little bit)

Danielle said...

Yeah, it's hard. I can't really say I've made any friends in our new town. :(

But luckily I have you guys! And you're welcome to come visit us anytime. :) :)

Jana said...

I agree, everyone is incredibly friendly and I really enjoy feeling like I truly live in a neighborhood...knowing the taxi guys by name, the bakers at the padaria, the bus drivers.. and its amazing how girls are so friendly at bars and clubs too (definately not the case in big us cities). But, its been hard to get past that point... we become friends on facebook and I attempt further contact but at the end of the day my good friends here end up being american. I do hope eventually I can say I have a few good brazilian friends...

Alex said...

This is one of the reasons I plan on moving to Brasil. THE PEOPLE.

I'm super outgoing, especially around Brazilians. Unfortunately "Outgoing" around here is most of the time perceived as threatening or weird. I have no ill intentions either!

When I arrive I know that I will already have all of these wonderful Brasil bloggers as friends!

Abracos,
Alex

Jennifer Souza said...

FWIW, all the brazilians say the same thing- that they can't make/don't have any friends.

Anonymous said...

yes Jim and they are VERY child-friendly!!!

Jen I think u are generalizing when u say ALL your brazilian friends say they can't make/don't have any friends, no???

Jennifer Souza said...

Anonymous: No, I'm not generalizing! My husband, brother-in-law, sister-in-law, niece, nephew, local English teacher, girl from the post office, neighbor across the street- all the Brazilians I know right now. They tend to be friendly with everyone, but not really have friends the way Americans do.

My niece does have one friend, someone she has known her whole life and wen tot school with every year.

Colleen Chen said...

I agree with Jen about Brazilians not having friends but being friendly with everyone! When I ask my husband who his friends are, he mentions people he hasn't seen in 15 years. The people he's in regular contact with are family (which admittedly is a lot of people, since he has 9 siblings). We recently met a guy in town who's been living here 10 years and claims he has no friends, even though his social agenda is packed. I haven't really figured out what the concept of "friendship" is here.

And about the kid thing--the first time other Brazilians with kids offered my kids food I had my typical American paranoid reaction. But that is pretty normal I guess and it's kind of nice.

Jennifer Souza said...

I like what Colleen wrote- what is the concept of friendship? And why is complaining so difficult for Brazilians to stomach?

Luasol (Jane) said...

Some people I have met are friendly, but I admit, I don't have any friends here. I would say I have a few acquaintances, but that is the extent. My husband knows people from childhood, but he does not see or talk to them often. I would like to know what the Brazilian concept of friendship is. I know someone who told me she is friendly with people here in hicktown, but she does not have intimate friends. I guess it takes time?

Ray and Gil said...

Jim,

I think Brazil and the US are not different in this aspect.
It depends what phase of your life you are in, if you are going to School you have a much bigger chance to make friends. If you go to a regular office job where you meet people every day you also have a bigger chance of making new friends.
We have also had somewhat of a hard time making friends in the US, in our case, because we moved around too much, never stayed long enough in the same place.
I have to agree with you that Americans are weird about people even approaching their children.
I had a very awkward experience when we lived in a gated community in Florida. The 3 year old girl, daughter of our Community's president approached me and raised her little arms towards me asking me to pick her up with a big smile, me, stupidly and innocently enough picked the little girl up to see her mother almost have an aneurysm, a heart attack and throw a fit all at the same time rushing towards me and violently yanked the girl away from me. Only then, I realized what I had done, and how awkward it was for me as a Brazilian to have done such a friendly innocent thing and her awful "mind in the gutter" interpretation.
I guess I learned my lesson the hard way.

Ray

Jim said...

Ray - you were the warm and generous one -- her mother was the freak. It is a problem when "a vilage cannot raise the child."

Sorry to hear this happened.

Anonymous said...

Jim, I don't think people being friendly is a Brazilian thing, I think it's a Rio thing, I lived in a city some hours from Rio, an "interior" city and the people were not overly friendly there, actually they were quite petty and judgmental, but people told me that was a characteristic of people from that city. But I've heard this about other places in Brazil too, that the people are "cold." For me as an American they were just normal.

I think in general Americans and Brazilians are the same, people have some casual friends and some close friends.

Certainly Brazilians are less paranoid about their kids, Americans are hyper-paranoid and Brazilians could maybe use a little more paranoia (to lower child sexual abuse cases), but in any event it's obvious that someone is not going to molest your child in plain view right in front of you, so that woman was nuts to run over that way and be so aggressive.

Meredith said...

I see that I have the same experience as a lot of people. I'm making friends, but it just takes a lot longer than it did in the States. Even for my Brazilian husband.

aprilyurecko said...

I've been enjoying your blog for a while now... I definitely agree with your post about friends in Brazil.

We have met some of the nicest, most helpful people since we've been here, but very few people we actually hang out with.

Let us know if you have any tips!

Gina said...

It takes time to make friends wherever you are, I think. Friendships in many ways is like a romance, you just have to click with the person, and that takes time.

Nina said...

I have Brazilian friends, then my international friends. But none of them have gotten as close as my friends from the United States. Just really casual. It's hard, I miss sharing my secrets or feelings I can't do with everyone else. There are not tiers in friendship here, everything is the same. My friend I felt the closest who I could tell something ugly or painful moved! International dangers of friendships.

Anonymous said...

Hi, i'm brazilian (Carioca) with a american wife trying to come back to Rj from NYC and Dc, after 7 years of Us.
I totally agree with Ray and Jill it depends what type of your life you are in and what type of job you had in life. I just have 3 friends that I can count on, the three ones from high school, but I'm different and not resigned like people that I know. I studied law, worked for 3 years gave up, became a federal police for 5 years, gave up and went to america became a pastry chef, so I changed so much of jobs, but I definitely agreed with a "shallow", "superficial", and sometimes "fake" Cariocas, I would say friends for that phase that you are in, do not expect much.
But I believe that americans has different and pure friendship, my wife has more real friends than me. But I was too serious and shy at high school and did college at night and did not enjoy drink so much, so I was boring, at the end you can not generalize, because also I grow up in the suburbs. But I still believe that Cariocas are in the end more difficult to make a real friend than other cities.
Sorry for my English and enjoy the time, drink beer at the beach with someone that you will never see again and do not take personal....

Nike Olabisi said...

Wow! This was great for me to read..this concept of friendship has been on my mind here. I'm grateful for the kind Brazilians who have reached out to me, I'll wait to weigh in after I've lived here a bit longer.Thanks for sharing everyone!!

Dirlene said...

People, you are forgetting something. I have lived in Switzerland for 5 years, lived in US for 1 and I am Brazilian...

When you are in a foreign country you tend to look for friend in order to not be alone. Thing that you wouldn't do living in your own country. In this case things just happen as it has to be. But once you are looking for friends you end trying to make a friendship with people you wouldn't normally make.
Friendship is natural, gradual and depends of things in common you have to share with the another person (affinity). Things like language can make things a bit difficult sometimes too...

So, just be relax and don't look so much, but also don't wait. Try to fell if the other person is a real potencial friend, but leave things happen.

Outside of our own country is always more difficult. Some countries more than other, but it is.