Choque Cultural, Bonito-Style

I’ve been extremely lucky in my short life to have been to quite a number of countries and nearly ticked off all the continents, but actually living and working in Brazil has made me realise I’ve never really done more than scrape the surface of another culture.

It’s obvious now I think about it but it honestly hadn’t occurred to me how much of a culture shock (and often a headache) working for a Brazilian company would be. I’d just like to say before I start my rant that this is not directed at anyone in particular and should not be taken seriously, but I want to attempt to communicate the difficulties I’ve had so far in the hope that both people about to go on their year abroad and people starting to ponder what they’ll do might find something that will help them! Only thinking of you guys of course, not venting.

Working here has made me realise how wonderfully efficient we actually are in England. Here the simplest job can take days because no one can decide on the best way to go about something and when this decision has finally been made no one actually gets on and does it!

My English education has taught me that when your manager tells you to do something, you do it, and ASAP. Here they give an order and everyone sits around debating exactly what was meant by said order for 2 hours whilst other people protest vehemently that they were never told to do anything in the first place. Then the manager shows up and rather than telling anyone off changes the original instructions, as everyone but me knew they would, without seeming in the least bit surprised that nothing has yet been achieved! In fact nothing ever really seems to get done, but no one seems particularly concerned.

Basically, they are extremely laid back! The epitomy of this today was my boss having the back of his car smashed in and just casually strolling into reception to report said crash, with barely a hair out of place and commenting ‘well, I didn’t die’. Must think like a Brazilian. Must think like a Brazilian. I am trying to Brazilianise as quickly as possible. If you can’t beat ’em, join ’em. And there have been plenty of things to distract me from the daily moments of ‘what the **** is going on?’ and ‘where the **** am I?’.

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At the end of July, Bonito was taken over by the Festival de Inverno (Winter Festival). For 5 days the biggest bands in Brazil (granted I hadn’t heard of any of them but everyone else knew the words) graced the sleepy town and it was absolutely chockablock, suddenly just like a city with every single bar and restaurant open till 5am with legions of people flooding the streets. I particularly loved ‘Seu Jorge’, on the big stage, but my heart was stolen by Mustache e Os Apaches who stole the show with an impromptu set in the town square, surrounded by a delighted crowd who couldn’t keep their feet still, me being one of them! It’s love. Have a listen, particularly the Portuguese students among you!

It was a crazy few days, as we had to make the most of it, going out at 9pm every night and getting home at 2am at the earliest, and often more like 4am, getting up for work at 7, like fresher’s week but without the lie-ins and miraculously with no resulting illness! Another cultural difference here was that while people in Southampton will accept you leaving Jesters at 1am if you’ve got a 9am lecture, my wanting to leave at 2am was incomprehensible even though I had to get up and do 3 sessions of ‘boia cross’ the following day!

Nothing like boia cross to sort out a hangover!

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After we all recovered from that there was another party last weekend, which started off with ‘sertenejo’ (more or less country) and progressed to funk, if you don’t know what funk is have a look at this and imagine how many drinks it took to even attempt dancing like that, and therefore how I felt at work the next day! Still drunk with extremely painful thigh muscles. The party came to an unceremonious close about 4.30 when a security guard let off copious amounts of pepper spray (in a confined area-smart) and people rushed for the doors with girls fainting left, right and centre. Quite a night!

Me and the gorgeous Sofia with the fatal bottle of vodka.

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In other news, I finally got out of Bonito! The lovely Tie used his travel agent status to get us an absolutely free day out to ‘Ceita Core’, food, drinks and transport included! The pictures speak for themselves, but my god it was stunning. In the morning we were guided along a beautiful trail that took us from waterfall to waterfall where we could swim in the gorgeous water. In the afternoon we were led to a spring hidden away in a copse of trees. The water that was almost silver it was so clear emerged from a round opening, the entrance to a cave that plunges down through the rock for hundreds of metres. It looked like something from another planet, with the tiny fish swimming in and out of the mouth of the cave. We were presented with masks and attempted to get as far as possible into the cave before turning for the most incredible photo opportunity (to follow!).

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I’m desperate to see more so hopefully many more free trips will come my way soon, and I will of course torment you all with accounts of them.

Sorry, I know this was a long one, but every time I write there is so much I want so say! To sum up, I’m definitely struggling with the culture shock and work isn’t perfect, but I’m managing to console myself with caipirinhas, dancing and waterfalls. Until next time!

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