Sunday, January 2, 2011

Brazil in New York City

The Hubs and I decided to take a little break from small town America and go up to BIG town New York to visit his Aunt, Uncle, and Cousins.

I have to say, the moment we entered into their New York apartment, we departed the US of A and entered Brazil, if not by geography, then in heart.

For starters, it was like 90 degrees in there.  I felt like I was in one of those habitats at the zoo. It may be 25 degrees outside, but the people of this habitat only flourish at 85 or above.  Somehow, I do not find that surprising when it comes to Brazilians living in cold climates.

Not only was the place hot, it was full of people.  I don't think Brazilians are allowed to have personal space.  They will freak out and run into the first crowded plaza.  But it was no problem.  Everyone was anywhere and everywhere and was happy to be there. So NOT American, at least the country I know.

Then there was the food. There was no grazing, to my spare tire's dismay.  There were meals, 3 and a half to be exact. The half being a Brazilian snack session called a 'lanche,' which has enough snack food to be considered a meal in some cultures.  Seriously, Brazilians can eat.

And they can cook.  I forgot, in my two minutes in the US, how much I love Brazilian food. My husband's Uncle is like a Tasmanian devil in the kitchen, swirling and twirling at speeds invisible to the naked eye.  He made amazing creations in the kitchen.  A shrimp would offer himself up to be cooked by this man.

But don't be fooled.  You can't live in my country and not have a little something sneak in. You may not learn the language.  You could only shop at shops of your native lands.  You could even refuse to buy our footwear.  But you can't avoid everything.

The American in that home was the simplest form of American,  yet one of the most highly debated.  The television. Oh yes, 3 tvs in the house. One in each bedroom and one in the kitchen.  And 2 were on almost all the time. The one in the kitchen blared each and every time someone was in that room. It may have been Brazilian soap operas, but it was still being shown in an oh so American way.

So what did I learn? I saw a lot of me in this. I had a mini, baby, very adorable, expat chip on my shoulder. You know because I am so well adapted.  Bullshit!  I'm such an American living in Brazil that it's ridiculous.  No adaptation required because I have created my mini-America right there in my house.

"Sorry, The national language in the house of Rachel is American. You are going to have to speak your Brazilian outside in the hallway."

On a serious note, I must say that as much as we Americans miss the conveniences of our country, I think expats to our country may have it harder.  We complain about Brazilian bureaucracy, but at least they are open to immigrants.  Americans seem to have their panties all bunched up their nether regions when the subject comes up.  Have we really forgotten where we came from and what we have fought for?  Are we becoming exactly what our ancestors ran away from?

Food for thought American friends and readers.  Where are we going with all this and what are we really accomplishing?


  1. I live in a part of Mass with a very big Brazilian population. The kids go to school and learn English, but if you go to their houses, its all Brazil all the time, but I love the food so much I do not care.

  2. Rachel... lets talk about tv sometime. I find your post really interesting because compared to my upbringing in the midwest US Cariocas use/have/ are obsessed with many more televisions and spend a lot more time devoted to them regardless of whether the content is age appropriate for those home.

    While in the US I watched a very rude person giving directions to a non-native speaker in the states recently and recall how many times I have been taken by the hand in a grocery store until the item I can't describe was in my cart. Although I do believe language skills are important, our country has NO empathy as to how hard it is. Expats generally lead (in my opinion) pampered lives while abroad and I have yet to meet a person who is truly fluent in 2 years. I have loved brazil for much longer and I am decades from where I want to be. Now, try working a minimum wage job, balancing kids, grandparents, US public transportation and the harshness of the field of dreams... adaptation is exhausting, it is powerful, it is liberating, it is sometimes a choice, but it is no fairy tale.

    Thank you for offering us all a chance to reflect on our experiences and hopefully ease them with a touch of wisdom and humor along the way.

  3. Rachel,

    This is usual, you have described your encouters with great humor...
    I will tell you, these two Brazilians up here in New England have AMERICANIZED big way, we desperately need our space and I almost run out of breath at my mother's house with all the people, food and all the, ai, ai...I need a valium to be able to visit my parents nowadays...!
    Have fun in New York!
    I am actually coming to New York city this week. Thank God the weather is improving! well a little... :)