Thursday, May 17, 2012

Who knew? London reminds me of...Brasil?

I've been wanting to write a post about this for a while now :)

Because the fact is, London is far more like São Paulo than it is like the United States.  Or at least like Utah.  

Let's start with the general big-cityness of the two places.  People call London a crazy place, full of too many people and hard to understand streets. Well, London is absolutely gorgeous and the streets are a piece of cake in comparison to São Paulo.  However, a labyrinthine network of buses, subway, and trains that can be found in both cities, with the main differences being that Sao Paulo mass transit has a far greater emphasis on buses than the subway (London has so many underground lines the map looks almost like a Jackson Pollock painting).  

Beyond the makeup of the city itself, the cars are incredibly similar.  Car makers strange to any American, such as Peugeot, Citroen, Fiat, and Renault, are everywhere in Brasil and in London too.  Granted, the cars in London tend to be a bit nicer, and include a large variety of BMW's, Lexus, and Mercedes-Benz that I've never seen before, but the diverse small-car selection of Volkswagons, Chevrolets, and Fords are include many of the same cars I saw in Brasil. 

Then there is the food.  I remember being so taken aback by the strange food choices in supermarkets that I would find in Brasil.  Coming to London has helped me appreciate the impact of the European food market on the country.  Like in Brasil, in London there are those cream crackers that are like soda crackers except that they are far more refined and delicious.  And I used to laugh when people would say "bolo" in Brasil and think of these stout little cakes (usually about 10 inches long and 3 inches wide), when I would immediately think of a big, tall birthday cake, or at least a cake made in a pan.  Well, it turns out they sell those stout cakes in London too; in fact, I bought one yesterday just for the nostalgia of eating one again--it tasted exactly the same as the ones in Brasil!  

I don't even have time to address the massive amount of tea that is sold in Brasil, which of course is also sold in Great Britain, which is the world capital of tea, if there is one.  The only thing London is missing is the delicious french bread that is sold all over Brasil, but I guess I can understand them by not embracing that menu choice with open arms...national pride, I suppose.

The cell phone services are remarkably similar to the ones in Brasil as well.  I was surprised two times in the last few days because I heard someone's cell phone ring with a tone exactly like ones I had heard during my mission.  I don't know for sure, but I'm almost positive the same cell phone companies that exist in London own the companies Vivo, Oi, Tim, and Claro that dominate in Brasil, and the popularity of 'pay as you go' systems that are so common in Brasil (as big a ripoff as they's what I'm using and it hurts) are common here as well.  I'm probably ignorant, but I've never even heard of someone using such a system in the US.  

Lastly, and this one applies less to England particularly but to Europe generally, but the most common greeting between a man and a woman in Brasil is a light kiss on the cheek, or rather a light touching of the cheeks while kissing the air next to the cheek.  While I was visiting in Brasil (no longer a missionary, and therefore no longer restricted to just shaking everyone's hand), I tried to perfect this approach.  Although I'm sure I wasn't that good at it, after 12 days it felt quite normal to give a kiss and sometimes also a hug when saying hello or goodbye to someone I was friends with.  I can't be more grateful for this, because when I said goodbye to Eliza (the Polish girl I met the other day), she turned her head toward me in the exact same manner as I had become used to while I was visiting Brasil, and almost without thinking I gave her a light kiss on the cheek.  

But listen folks, can you imagine how awkward that would have been had I not gotten all that practicing out in Brasil??  I could have thought any number of things had I not known what Eliza meant in that moment, and if I hadn't made a complete fool of myself, I would have at least hesitated for several moments and risked offending someone who I had just met.  Thankfully, London reminds me a lot of Brasil.  Indeed, going to Brasil for a dozen days before going to London was certainly the most effective preparation for going to London that I could have had, for it not only got me used to constant change, moving around, and living out of a suitcase again, but it prepared me for the culture shock of being in a new place among new people.  

In my case, similarities meant strengths.

1 comment:

  1. So pretty much, the only places in the world that are similar to America are... Canada and Australia. Except even there they use meters and Celsius. Funny -- America is WEIRD!!