My name is Kevin and you may have heard of me from within the foreign community in Brazil.
I’m known in some circles as the “go-to guy for everything Brazil” as my advice has helped thousands of foreigners like you to live a happy life in Brazil.
My path to learning Portuguese fluently hasn’t been as rosy as one might think; it’s been plagued with challenges and problems along the way.
You know, those type of things that are maybe a bit too embarrassing for people to really talk about though that really do happen?
I can’t believe that I’m about to do this, but, I’m willingly going to share an EXTREMELY humiliating situation, so that you can benefit from it in your personal Portuguese journey. It has to do with something that no one really talks about when learning Portuguese – the cultural side of things.
Before telling you about my super embarrassing story, let’s look at the difference between speaking Portuguese and living it.
It’s One Thing to Speak Portuguese Fluently, It’s Another to Live It
You don’t have to be a brain surgeon to know that Brazil has a very different culture than in the USA, UK, Australia… or wherever you are from.
And when being first introduced to this new culture, our usual reaction is to be a bit confused as things happen around us that are a direct or indirect consequence of the culture we communicate in or understand.
That’s right, our built-in way of communicating our “programmed” culture is understood in a completely different way than we intend. And the other way around, what Brazilians communicate to us culturally, can be interpreted in a totally different way than it was intended.
And this is EXACTLY what happened.
A Cold Night Full of Warm Hearts
Rewind back to 2004, when I had gotten fed up with learning Portuguese in a lonely way (just me and grammar books) and decided that if I was to get fluent, that I would actually need to speak to Brazilians – duh!
I met one particular kind-hearted Brazilian lady, who was happy to introduce me to the rest of the immediate Brazilian community in Seattle, Washington.
Here was an awesome group of Brazilians that barely spoke English and loved to have a good time – Brazilian style.
So the opportunity opened up for me to go spend the weekend with them in a house around the foothills of a mountain, pretty freaking awesome if you ask me!
After arriving there, the fun was on: we immediately began to hang out, dance and have a good time as the ladies and the male cook began making food in the kitchen.
Yes, authentic and homemade Brazilian food, I was one stoked dude!
The cook was kind enough to continually call me over to get free samples. It was some tasty stuff and what a nice guy!
Kiss the Cook?
And so as the night progressed, the cook kept calling me over to give me the first taste of everything…
Mmmm… Pão de queijo, frango grelhado, guaraná e mandioca (pun intended: for you more advanced learners ).
After a lot of hanging out, filling my belly and having a really great time – Brazilians know how to have fun!) – it was time to turn in.
The night was dark and it was cold, especially upstairs. So I was pretty excited about hopping under a nice, warm blanket.
The hostess who happened to be my friend, decided to put me in a little room together with the cook – just him and I privately in two separate, single beds…
Would You Like to Stay (What?)
I can see that the cook is already in his bed all cosied up and ready to sleep – at least it appeared so…
As I unknowingly crawl underneath my covers and get ready to turn in after a pleasant evening, the cook comes over and offers me another blanket.
Ok, nice of him and happy to accept his generosity – wouldn’t want to do the wrong cultural thing and say “no” right?
He then came with another blanket, but this time he whiffed my existing blankets up in the air to take a look at what was hidden underneath my blankets.
Yes, I was pretty sure that he had just checked me out and “no” there wasn’t any “pup-tents” being pitched here – the feeling of un-comfort begins…
As he has no more blankets to give me and is down to just a thin sheet in this freezing weather, the next logical thing is to keep each other warm with body heat – right?
So he comes and says “Quer ficar”?
Now, I’m still a bit of a beginner at this point and could only translate it to “do you wan’t to stay?.
Hmmm…not sure what that means but I can kind of assume it, so I politely say “não, obrigado”.
BTW: Quer ficar = want a one-night stand?
One Cold Hardwood Floor Later
Insanely embarrassed about the situation, I take my covers, go downstairs and sleep on the cold hardwood floors.
The next morning – with a stiff neck – I storm towards my friend and frustratingly ask her why she put me together with the cook, if she knew he was gay and wanted me! (all the while the other Brazilians are laughing their A*** off!)
She then proceeds to say that we were hitting it off really well and that she didn’t want to stand in the way of the chemistry happening…
She then says “couldn’t you see that he was buttering you up all evening?”
Now let me set something straight: I respect that he is gay as it’s his choice, I just happen to prefer being a heterosexual.
My frustration was due to the unintentional deception that went on.
Anyways, I was quite the confused heterosexual and it was time to learn one of my most important indirect Portuguese lessons ever.
The Biggest (Forced) Cultural Lesson
You see, Brazilians are genuinely loving, giving and hospitable people. They really care about you feeling at home and getting the most out of your time with them.
It’s a wonderful thing.
Though, there is a whole side to learning Portuguese fluently that we foreigners generally learn the hard way: Brazilian cultural.
In my opinion, this is one of the most important and the reason I focus so much on it.
Look forward to my next guest post as I talk about a strong cultural element of learning fluent Portuguese and something that communicates much louder than words: body language.
I really hope that this little story puts things into a bit more of a cultural perspective for you and look forward to interacting with you below in the comments!
Kevin Porter is the community’s most sought after guy for all things Brazil and especially learning Portuguese. He is known for creating untraditional methods that function to learn Portuguese. You can check him out at www.pab8.com.