Bem-vindo a Brasil. After months of waiting and excitement, I finally arrived in Brazil. Yet, almost immediately upon landing in São Paulo, I wondered, “who told me this was a good idea?” I have never really been out of a sheltered environment where I did not share the same language as everyone and I was scared now that it’s real. I have a newfound respect for people that come to the United States speaking very little to no English. It is extremely difficult, especially when people are not patient and they speak a million miles an hour. However, everyone has been extremely nice here, which is very comforting.
After getting lost on the way to the bathroom and not understanding the directions, I learned the most interesting thing about São Paulo and the majority of Brazil. You are not supposed to drop toilet paper into the toilet after you use it. So you use a little wastebasket to put your toilet paper waste. They do this to make sure the pipes do not clog because the sewage system cannot handle toilet paper.
Who would have known that little things like toilet paper would be such a cultural difference?
Before moving into our homestays, everyone in my program is staying in a hostel in the Vila Madelena neighborhood to get to know each other better. This neighborhood is known for its “hipsters” and for the live music clubs, which I plan to visit before the end of the semester. Our hostel has street style artwork on the walls that resemble something you would see on a mural in Philadelphia. They also have a large signature wall where all of the guests sign to show where they are from. I have never stayed in a hostel, slightly because of the horror movies about them. However, this was basically like one big sleepover with people from all over the world.
While almost everything has been a positive experience so far, there was one unfortunate event. Before I came, I was given the advice to not speak in English really loudly to call attention to myself as a loud American. This is not that simple when there are ten excited college-aged Americans in a restaurant at 11:30pm. So you can image that we did not exactly blend in with the rest of the restaurant-goers. As a result, the waiter saw that this as an opportunity to take advantage of a young lady. He gave her a drink that she did not ask for, and when she said she did not ask for it, he told her it’s fine, she could have it. Everyone, including myself, assumed that he was being nice and he bought her a drink. That is when we got our first lesson in studying abroad in São Paulo, nothing is free. When we received the bill, the “free” drink was included in the tab and the waiter was not budging in changing it. Thankfully, everyone looked at it as a positive experience because we know to reject anything we didn’t ask for now.
I am looking forward to all the opportunities Sao Paulo has for me. I hope that I can give something back to the city during my stay.