Posted on | July 9, 2011 | 10 Comments
Here in São Paulo, I am often treated as a local, and I don’t even need to pretend to be one. I am not sure whether I am ‘mistaken’ or this is just the way they treat foreigners.
Other than the people who know me, when I come into contact with a local, I am assumed local by default. Even after talking to me and recognize my very foreign Portuguese, they would still speak to me in Portuguese. There is simply no option to speak English. I don’t have this common problem of locals not wanting to practice their language with me. The only place I speak English is in the office and at the hotel reception (the only people in the hotels who can speak English are the receptionists).
I arrived in the city 4 weeks ago and have been staying here for 3 weeks (I went back home for a week). During this time, I was twice asked for directions and twice pulled into instant conversations on the street.
The latest incidence just happened today. I was walking down the street and a homeless dude suddenly jumped right in front of me and started scolding at me. I have seen homeless people here trying to ‘join’ conversations with the pedestrians, so it seemed something quite common. He was yelling so fast that the only word I heard him repeating was ‘Japonês’. So I told him I didn’t understand what he was saying and I am not a Japanese, but he continued. I waiting for my turn to cross the street and left him behind.
Another funny thing is that sometimes even my colleagues would speak Portuguese to me by accident. At one time, my boss dropped by with a serious look after meeting with the customer. Then he started to explain the situation to me, but in Portuguese. I gave him a blank look. Then he repeated what he said. So I gave him another longer blank look. Then he suddenly realized what he was doing.