One of the things I found most different about the work life in Brazil, was the nature of the relationship between co-workers. At least in my office, it’s somewhat expected that one has to share his/her life with co-workers. When you move to a new apartment, get married, have a baby, etc., it’s expected that you invite at least your immediate team to celebrate the event with you. I think this is very nice but sometimes can be somewhat awkward because despite the implied close-relationship, they are still your co-workers and these acts bring the office conversation into your private life.
Close relationships also come at conflict with manager-subordinate relationships, and I don’t mean in the romantic way. Rather, sometimes it’s very difficult to have serious conversations with your employee since you’re friends and you feel like you don’t want to hurt their feelings by criticizing their work or demanding more of them. On the upside, a close relationship with one’s boss can help a person a lot in moving ahead in the company. So this is something additional that I have to manage around here.
So back to my original point. This week, my boss, a.k.a papabear, was having a house party for his 40th birthday. I was among the privileged few from work to be invited to share this happy moment with him and his close friends. The party was quite swanky with nice wine and french catering, and the guests were dressed elegantly which is very un-Rio-like. Thankfully, my wonderful former co-worker from NYC was in town, so I escaped the horrible fate of being the only single person in a party full of married couples. This is what I call “bring a gringo to an office party”.
Bringing a gringo is great because of three main reasons:
1) you have someone else to speak English to while the others are blubbering away in Portuguese,
2) you can do a show-and-tell with the gringo, because people want to know everything about him and his impressions of Brazil
3)(related to 2) people ask the gringo questions about his impression of Brazil instead of bothering YOU with those questions (i.e. distraction)
Anyways, this operation was great success and the party went very well. UNTIL(!!!!!!) we were cornered by a VERY drunk couple from Niteroi (a suburb of Rio). They were in their 40’s. The husband: pudgy, potato nose, big round head. Generous beer belly. The wife: blond with also equally round face, framed by red-rimmed glasses. She was round all about with a big big carioca butt. Lets call them “pudgy” and “donut”. They decided to be best friends with me and my buddy and acquaint us with Brazilian culture.
They would just not let us go. I kept exchanging looks with my friend, trying to figure out how to get out of this situation. It was then when pudgy pulled his donut away from my friend and pointed to me: “look, she is jealous”. We should have seized the moment, put on a jealousy scene and escaped.But noooo. He just switched places with donut and sent her to speak just to me. There’s nothing I hate more than when a person speaks with their face close to mine. Donut was doing just that, and also swinging from side to side as she was too drunk to balance herself. I was starting to think that she is either going to fall on me or try to make out with me. Very creepy. Donut’s English wasn’t very good which didn’t stop her from emitting a verbal diarrhea, which forced me to try to understand every word she said and seem interested in the nonsense she was talking about. Pudgy, in the meantime, kept petting my friend on the shoulder and bragging about his BBQ skills and telling us how Brazil and Rio are much better than NYC. They had no intentions of letting us go.
This went on for about an hour until I couldn’t take it anymore and said we had to go talk to someone at the other end of the large living room. This somehow worked and we were back to freedom.
This brings me to another point about Brazilians. They love explaining super-basic points to foreigners about their country and treating them like cultural retards (e.g. in Brazil, we speak Portuguese and we have very beautiful beaches — <followed by a long list of every beach they’ve been to>…) This is tiring.
Anyways, I look forward to the office gossip next week, discussing the above event.