When my friend turned thirty last year, his parents celebrated by throwing a party at their place in São Paulo. After accepting the invitation, I wanted to double check two things before the big day; the first, what was I was supposed to bring? The second, what did “the party starts at eight” really mean? I didn’t know if the rules for when to arrive at house parties changed when they were thrown by friends parents (Here is more on my struggle with Brazilian timing).
“We will have a lot of beer here so you don’t need to bring anything,” I was told. “And ‘the party starts at eight’ really means arrive some time after eight.” So on the day of the party I arrived at eight thirty.
I was thirty minutes late, so by Brazilian standards I was pretty early!
I was introduced to my friend’s family and after exchanging pleasantries, I sat down next to another friend who told me he’d only just arrived.
“Andrew, let me get you a beer” said my friend’s father. These words fell very kindly on my ears because it was summer, I was very hot and I needed to cool down. Like seriously, I looked like I’d taken a shower fully clothed before walking into my friends place!
So I was handed a beer and I started to catch up with my friend. Fifteen minutes later, this friend let me know he was going to use the bathroom. By this point I’d already necked everything in this can…and was after beer number two.
So I put my empty can down on the table beside me and waited to find the right moment to ask my friend’s parents if I could have another. If I remember correctly, the mother was telling a story at the time. She smiled at me as I caught her eye and then included me in the conversation she was having about the meat that was being barbecued. Not a woman of few words, I smiled at her for the duration of this conversation, hoping that she’d realise I was done with my beer and then, after her story, offer me a can.
However, this story didn’t seem to have an end and I didn’t really want to interrupt to ask, she was very animated when telling this story!
When my friend returned, he had a new can.
“Where did you get your beer from?” I asked with false innocence and surprise. Obviously I knew he hadn’t found it down the back of the sofa or just lying around in the bathroom. But my friend’s family were all in the living room and his mum was right in the middle of her story. Or maybe she was in the beginning, I’m not sure! But anyway, she was definitely still nowhere near the end! So he’d not been offered the beer by any of the family.
“Why did you ask this?” my friend smiled, as if amused by my ignorance. “I got it from the fridge, of course”
“Well,” I began quietly, so not to be overheard. “I was waiting for someone to ask me if I would like another beer!”
“Really?” he laughed, “Andrew, you are not Mariah Carey! If you want a beer, maybe you need to move your lazy, gringo body to the fridge and get one!”
I was stunned into silence. The reason I was waiting wasn’t because I’m lazy, but because I wouldn’t dream of going into someone else’s fridge to get myself a beer, not without permission. After all, if you did this in England, you probably wouldn’t be invited back to another party.
I hurriedly tried to explain this to my friend, but he wasn’t up for believing a word of it.
Clearly amused by his own version of events, he interrupted the barbecued meat story to tell everyone I had been waiting to be served a beer.
I was mortified!
“Oh Andrew, no! Just help yourself!” the mum told me. Conscious that I was reddening and that I had a massive urge to bitch-slap my friend for embarrassing me, I quickly left the room in the direction of the fridge.
I learnt a valuable lesson this day. When at a family party in your friend’s family’s place, you don’t necessarily need to wait for the family to offer you another beer, you can jut get it yourself.
Unless, it would seem, you really are Mariah Carey!