Monday, May 2, 2011

American vs Brazilian: The Cross-Cultural Argument

Mr. Rant and I got into a battle yesterday. We both walked our 12 paces and positioned our opinionated guns.

His Position:

Not dangerous: Stopping by the side of a two lane road (that enters into a busy tunnel), even with kids in the back seat. The traffic at that point is slow, we were visible, and were far enough from the turn on.

Dangerous: Leaving his Father and Brother alone to talk to police officers that pulled them over.

My Position:

Not dangerous: Leaving your adult brother and Father to talk to two officers who pulled them over. It was broad daylight and on a busy street.

Dangerous: Stopping in a lane (no shoulder available) on a street with kids in the car. Unnecessary.

Back Story: My Father-in-law got pulled over while driving to the Feira São Cristovão. We were following him and my brother-in-law in our car. Mr. Rant stopped behind the police officer's car after he was pulled. I was not comfortable with this.  

There was no need to stop in a lane of traffic with both our kids in the car. Mr. Rant said that it was not a big deal as it was the on-ramp of sorts and that traffic was slow. More importantly, he needed to be there as a witness.

Here is where culture and where you were raised comes into play. I was raised with the idea that stopping on the shoulder, much less a lane, was never an ideal situation. Mr. Rant was raised in a city where bicyclists, people, cars, and whatnot are all over the roads. People are, in theory, more aware of random street movement or lack there of.

Mr. Rant was raised in a culture where police cannot be trusted. The more people involved in a minor or major traffic meeting with police the better. It's our words against theirs and more family there to back up the FIL shows that he was not actually stealing a car. For me, if you get pulled over by a cop on the road, you must have done something wrong. Talk to the officer, figure it out, and get your ticket.

I cannot mentally process how I was wrong in this situation but Mr. Rant insists that I was overreacting and that he should have stayed with his Father. He was nice enough to pull out and drive away when I insisted that it was not safe.

I disagree, it only would have taken one crazy-ass driving bastard to rare-end us. It's not like we lack them here. Yes, the speed is normally slow at that point in the road and people are aware of their surroundings, but again, one driver.

So the argument ended in a ceasefire. My Father-in-law was fine and so were we. No harm no foul. But really, this was a hard end for me to take. I am not comfortable with disagreeing on general safety rules. Then again, I pretty much disagree with the entire country on general safety rules so why is this one bothering me?!

Let's get 3rd parties involved. Who was right?


  1. Rachel,

    I am sure he has a point and assumed a "calculated risk" type of situation.
    However! I would have to side with you due to all the distracted drivers texting on the road nowadays.


  2. I agree with you. If he would have been alone then the situation would be different but he had you and the kids with him. Maybe ask him which is worse a little trouble with the police or potential hospital visit with the kids?


  3. So far so good. Ray, I thought all Brazilians would side with him! ;)

  4. Perhaps it is valid to argue that, in a web of total confusion, reason gets blurry.
    If cyclists, pedestrians and drivers are basically doing what they want, when they want, and a dubious Police Department ends up being a hindrance instead of a remedy, then it may be hard to focus when a situation described in the post arises. In the end though having any sort of problem is better than visiting your child in a hospital due to a reckless driver. I think that something very bad could have happened even if would at the time seem so very unlikely. I don't think it was, nor is.
    I am Brazilian by the way. A Brazilian that was struck by a car moving at around 120 km/hour while crossing a road, on a pedestrain lane, beneath a red light. This happened 20 years ago. I still atttend the ocassional psyotherapy class and take the occasional painkiller because of that animal. It is so unfair.

  5. OMG, 120km/hr!! OUCH!! That sucks! In the US you would be a very rich man ;) Well, if the person had money or insurance anyway. btw, I agree, that was totally unfair!

    You also have good logic. Here is it not quite that big of a deal although not ideal. Mr. Rant was comparing which not ideal was worse. Seeing that the police chose to stop my FIL there in the first place... Of course Mr. Rant also said he would never stop in a tunnel or on a highway. Lesser of evils I guess...

  6. Could Mr. Rant have pulled over in front of the father's car? The police car would have taken the brunt of any possible collision caused by someone who didn't notice that frickin' flashing red light bar that never turns off.

    Even though things have gotten better in Rio, it is still the general rule to never trust the PM...NEVER. Mr. Rant was correct for being concerned for his father and brother. You were correct in your concern for your kids/family.

  7. Greg, have you thought about going into politics?

    Pulling in front of the Father came to both of our minds after we had already entered the tunnel. We agreed that that option could have made the argument non-existent.

  8. This is a tough one.

    As a mom my concern is always for kids first, but having seen plenty of traffic studies (people in countries w/awful traffic do tend to be more observant drivers) I would say the risk of being hit was probably lower than in America.

    Also, growing up black in America, my experience with the police was different than yours. If someone we were traveling with/trailing got pulled over my dad would absolutely stop to be witnesses or lend help if needed.

  9. I'm with you on this one Rachel, I would have not stopped. Although, Greg's idea of pulling in front was probably the best one.

  10. You were right. Kids over in-laws.
    Though I must say I'm a bit comforted that it is not just my husband that believes these type of moves are perfectly OK. Means that he didn't hit his head somewhere along the line and is suffering from immense brain damage. It's just cultural.

  11. I thought what Greg said... Let the police car get rear-ended and keep your kids out of harms way -- and DEFINITELY stay and witness.

    Glad it worked out.

  12. Obviously the fault lies in the brother and father for getting pulled over in the first place ;-)

  13. It is a tough one huh! Greg really hit the nail on the head as for a possible compromise. Jim, you got how Daniel feels about the police! SSM, the sentiment here is with the police is the same. You can never tell if you can trust them or if they are going to try to screw you over.

    Lori- AMEN! Totally their fault for getting pulled over in the first place.