Day six in Brazil, Minha Namorada (My girlfriend) and I had to go to Recife for Meu Cunhado (My brother in law) to attend a Concurso.
Now, as a first thing, Minha Namorada and I are not yet married (although we are engaged, so sometimes you will see me refer to her as Minha Noiva – my fiancee). So, it may seem a bit odd for me to refer to her brother as Meu Cunhado. However, it is common in Brazilian Culture to refer to the significant other of a family member, even if not married, as if they were married. Accordingly, Minha Namorada’s parents refer to me as Genro, and I refer to them as Sogro (father in law), Sogra (mother in law), and Cunhado (brother in law). Some Canadians may be a bit scared by this, especially those who are afraid of commitment, but I found it very wonderful – from first meeting them, I had a place in their family. I guess that’s more of a reflection of how I already felt about Minha Namorada than anything else, but it also felt so welcoming.
Now, a Concurso is a public competition for a job. Think of it like any Canadian Federal Government job – usually there is a test involved, and a few interviews, and you are ranked against a number of other candidates with the top candidates getting the job. These also tend to be the best jobs in Brazil, so it was important that Minha Namorada and I support Meu Cunhado in attending his Concurso. This threw a wrench in our plans for the week, but as I told Minha Namorada, this was clearly important, and all I really cared about was spending time together, so I didn’t mind at all.
We drove out early, dropped off Meu Cunhado, and then we decided to spend the day at the mall while we waited to him, not knowing how long it was take. The mall was very pretty, with very similar stores to what you’d find in Yorkdale or any other Canadian Mall). Being tired though, I thought it would be a great time to explore Brazilian Coffee.
The first thing I noticed was that almost no store in the mall served brewed coffee or Americanos. Even dedicated coffee shops almost exclusively served espresso. I found this frustrating, but I realized it does make sense. In a hot climate, you don’t want something warm to sip on for awhile – you want something that will get you the same effect but smaller so it won’t warm you up, hence the reason for the espresso.
The other thing I realized is that coffee was surprisingly expensive in the mall. After seeing how inexpensive I could find beer in places, I was surprised at how expensive coffee was relatively speaking.
Eventually I decided that the Canadian in me wouldn’t be satisfied with an espresso, so I elected to go to McDonald’s for a brewed coffee – banking on that McDonald’s is basically the same all around the world. However, this turned into an adventure in itself, as Minha Namorada and I experienced a very hostile employee.
- First we were told they didn’t serve coffee, despite it being on the menu. Luckily, the manager was walking behind the employee, overheard, and corrected the employee.
- Then we ordered, and the employee wouldn’t take credit card, because he said the internet was down. We didn’t have enough cash, so had to leave and come back (the bank being a 10-15 minute walk to the other side of the mall).
- Then when we came back, we tried to order the coffee (along with other breakfast items), and we were told they didn’t have change to give us from the bill. We were paying with a $100 note (about $40 Canadian), for a meal of about $28 (about $10 Canadian), nothing unreasonable.
- Afterwards, we decided to directly approach the manager, who was clearly upset at his employee, who then said he had lots of change. We finally got our order (which had two wrong items the manager fixed for us), and left.
Now, I could have very easily been turned off by this experience. The employee gave me many dirty looks, and it was clear he gave us trouble because I wasn’t Brazilian. In fact, he even explained his actions to his manager that Minha Namorada just hadn’t understood him – presumably, not realizing that Minha Namorada is Brazilian. However, this was a complete one-off situation. I met countless other Brazilians on my trip who were excited to practice their English with me, or had large amounts of patience as I attempted to speak to them in Portuguese. I just felt bad that this guy must have had a bad experience some other time by a foreigner to make him dislike me, and it just increased my resolve to show good manners as a guest in Brazil.
Surprisingly, Meu Cunhado finished his concurso shortly after we had our delayed breakfast/lunch, and we headed off to pick him up. We went out to celebrate him finishing the Concurso (it is important to celebrate finishing BEFORE you know the results – so everyone can celebrate, that’s what Chartered Financial Analyst’s do in Canada). I won’t tell you the results of the Concurso, because that is Meu Cunhado’s story to tell, but I will tell you that the restaurant we went made a giant Risotto for us, and between the four of us (Meu Sogro, Meu Cunhado, Minha Namorada and myself), we ate enough “servings” for six, of which I probably ate half. The food is just so good in Brazil.