The other day, a colleague of mine asked me: “Grobby, why are you so serious all the time? You don’t always have to speak about serious topics. Sometimes we can just talk “bobeira”…
“Bobeira” means something like silliness or nonesense/bullshit. Bobeira is something very cultural. It can be quite fun when people exchange jokes throughout the work day but sometimes it can turn into a long marathon of cheesy comments – repeating things from soap operas, making gay jokes, imitating people they don’t like, etc., that makes it very hard for everyone to concentrate and be productive.
“Hmm..” I said. “I guess I say bobeira with my friends OUTSIDE of work and the serious stuff I keep for the professional environment”. I was trying to hint in not so subtle way what I think about their bobeira.
This was ,of course, not the right response. We, gringos, often are deemed as “cold” as we refuse to engage in some behaviors that may seem vulgar or unprofessional in our home country. The dilemma is often: do I stick to my old values or do I change them to fit in?
In addition to the internal dilemma, form is very important. Being direct about things you don’t like is viewed as aggressive. I therefore had to follow up with some humor to lighten up the atmosphere.
“Joao, you’ve asked for bobeira? Well, I see you have a drawing on your table (he had drawn something that looked like a snowman with a narrow cylinder on his head).. This thing on his head looks like a penis.. If I were Freud, I would say you are expressing some internal desires through it..”
“What?!! I’ve got no such desires!! I am happily married and would never have such desires”. Joao tears up the paper into little pieces and throws it into the garbage. The rest of team is almost in tears from laughing. Joao joins them shortly after.
Mission accomplished. Bobeira has been delivered.
This is one of those examples of why I love and hate working in Brazil.