Brasilmagic\’s Weblog

Venting to the World

Different Manners

When you first arrive in Brazil, you almost immediately notice, whether you arrive at the Cumbica airport in São Paulo or the Galeão in Rio, that Brazilians do not like to say “excuse-me” or “thank you” very much. They might bump into you and carry on walking without even looking at you. You might open a door for them and they might walk right by you without saying “thank you”. Gradually you start getting used to it, but you might feel offended for the first few days in the country and take it personally. 

Brazilians are not strong when it comes to manners. For us expats, it is the same feeling every time we arrive to visit. The last time I was in Brazil, I was in line to pay in a supermarket. For a few seconds I moved my body to pick up a magazine off the rack and the woman behind me slipped ahead of me and took my position in line. I was shocked, but then realized, “hey, this is Brazil”.

There is one cultural difference though that actually surprised me in America. I have seen parents eating out with their kids in restaurants, and upon leaving the place, a child or teenager says “Thank you Dad”. This still amazes me: why on earth does a 10 year child or even a 20 year old young adult have to thank their mother or father for paying the restaurant bill? Aren’t parents supposed to feed their kids? Isn’t that a case of excess politeness?

Finally it happened to me.  When my parents come visit, they like to spoil me and won’t let me pay for anything, even though I am in my 40’s! In their last visit, I thanked my parents for a nice lunch.  My father stared at me and said: “you don’t have to thank me!”. And I realized that yes, there is a cultural difference right there and then between Brazil and the US.

Do I need my children (I like to spoil them too) to thank me every time I buy them a hamburger? Absolutely not. No matter how old they are, I still think it’s my responsability to feed them.  If I take my co-worker for lunch and pay the bill, then I expect a thank you. Not my spouse or my kids or my parents.

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May 7, 2010 - Posted by | Difference between cultures

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