Brasilmagic\’s Weblog

Venting to the World

Don’t sit on their table!

There is a funny cultural difference between Americans and Brazilians: if you are in a busy food court in a shopping mall, a fast food restaurant or a coffee shop in Brazil and you see a vacant seat at someone’s table, do not ask permission to sit with them. They will look at you surprised, and even if they tell you it’s ok, they won’t be too happy. They feel it is an invasion of their privacy. In their minds that table belongs to them!

Interesting, since Americans are all for privacy and Brazilians like to be gregarious. A similar situation has to do with office space. In America, someone’s desk or office is considered the company’s property, not personal property. Anyone in the company can come and sit at your desk or use your computer (unless there is a security issues involved). In Brazil, your office or desk are off limits to anyone else.

Maybe things are changing. Mall food courts are sometimes very busy and you need to sit anywhere just so you can eat. I am sure Brazilians now won’t object. Obviously, if you are going to a nice restaurant, that would be very innapropriate, not only in Brazil but in any other country in the world.

Another difference: when you arrive in a restaurant in Brazil, you can pretty much choose any table you want. You just go and sit and wait for your server. In America you usually check in with the hostess who then takes you to a vacant table. Many times that table is not of your liking.  These little differences are interesting, but things are changing in both countries-nothing is set in stone anymore.


May 19, 2010 - Posted by | Difference between cultures

1 Comment »

  1. My experience in Brazil has been different, quite often I’ll go get lunch at a shopingzinho where the por quilos are very popular. There’s never enough seating and I’ll either be asked to share my table or ask to share a table with someone and the reception has always been warm both was. My thought is that Brazilians are much more open about sharing public space because they spend so much more time in the public space than americans do. The tightest spaces where a lot of sharing happens is on the onibus there you practically join somebodies family in the space of a few minutes. Now, I’m having second thoughts, you say that Americans are more generous with space? Maybe I’ve offended people here, if so they sure smile nice when they are offended? 🙂

    Comment by Tim Case | May 19, 2010 | Reply

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