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Encounters In Rio….Of The British Kind!

At the end of December last year I took a trip over to Rio, where I spent Christmas day with some friends relaxing on Ipanema beach. With each visit to this beach I find myself in awe of its beauty, and on this day this was further enhanced by a spectacular sunset.  As the sun began to dip behind the sea it projected an array of enchanting colours into the sky, and I sat back to fully appreciate it. I couldn’t help but think that this was a perfect end to a very relaxing Christmas day…That was, until I heard The Voice behind me.
The sunset I’m talking about, Christmas Day 2013! Picture courtesy of Ursa Krenk
 “Steve, look at this view. It’s fuckin gorgeous!”
I immediately recognized this accent as being British, and it was moving ever closer to where I was sat. With one hell of a view in front of me, I instinctively tried to block The Voice from my mind (A little bit like when you hear a mosquito in your room and you’re almost asleep) but this was to prove almost impossible.
“I’m off to get a picture to send to our mates at home!” she announced. “They’ll be well fuckin jealous of this!”
I curiously turned around to see who this rather coarse voice belonged to, and soon found myself locking eyes with a woman sporting a Miley Cyrus-inspired, peroxide bob. If I were to extract personality from this first look, I’d say she was the type of woman you’d imagine up first on a Bucking Bronco whilst on a hen weekend in Blackpool. For a slender woman, there was something pretty loud about her demeanour.
“Look at that” she instructed to me, gesturing over at the sunset (pointing with the hand that was already clutching a can of lager and cigarette). “Just look at it” she repeated. “It’s fuckin gorgeous, innit!”
After having a conversation in which she discovered that I was also British, she seemed encouraged to further engage in conversation with me.

My serene moment was no more!

“I’m taking a picture for me mates back home. They can’t believe I’m down the beach on Christmas day. It’s fuckin freezing over there”.
I felt a little uneasy that I was sharing some sort of camaraderie with this woman, but at the same time, equally quite fascinated by her.
“But I’ll tell you this right; I had the worst Christmas dinner of my life here today.
“Oh” I said, genuinely intrigued. “And what did you have?”
“Well” she sighed quite dramatically before sucking on her cigarette. After expelling the smoke over her left shoulder she continued.“I went to a place called Gringo’s Café, cos Gringo means foreign in Brazilian. And cos it’s a place for foreigners I imagined they’d do a proper Christmas dinner. You know, turkey, veg, the works”.”Well, we got there and I asked about the Christmas dinner. Get this, they said the only turkey they had was in the turkey burgers. SERVING TURKEY BURGERS, ON CHRISTMAS DAY! Can you fuckin believe it?”

I was about to respond but realised she wasn’t really asking me a question.
“So after ordering the burgers I said to our Steve, I said ‘Steve can you believe we’re gonna have turkey burgers on Christmas day?”
By now the sun was close to setting, people were up on their feet and the intense glow radiating from the evening sky looked absolutely stunning. And there I was talking about turkey burgers.
“And you’ll never guess what the burger came with?” she asked. “ CHIPS! Imagine having chips with your fuckin Christmas dinner!”
“Chips…for your Christmas dinner?”I surprised myself here because I wasn’t expecting myself to sound quite as sympathetic as I did.
“And that weren’t the worst part neither, they put these little sachets out on our table, I opened one thinking it was salt and then sprinkled it on me chips. Only it weren’t salt, were it? It were fuckin sugar. So I had turkey burger and sweet fuckin chips for me dinner. Well, I still can’t believe it!
She then took another drag of her cigarette and contemplated my face as she did so. “What did you have?”
“I just had the chicken salad my friend brought here” I said, gesturing over to a cool box that used to be full of food. The woman looked at me in surprise, perhaps because I hadn’t had so much as a turkey burger on this sacred day.
“Oh right” she responded quite suspiciously, before dropping the end of her cigarette on the beach, taking a swig of beer from her can and wishing me a merry Christmas. Then she swiftly left, leaving me feeling almost baffled by our encounter.
Why did I feel like this? Well, what I was going to eat for Christmas dinner hadn’t actually crossed my mind until this woman asked me about it on the beach. Having spent the majority of my adult life living abroad, over the years what I eat on Christmas day has become less of a big deal to me.

Since this conversation then, I’ve been wondering what other culturally significant things have gradually began to escape me. I’ve been told that my regional accent is weakening, I rarely drink tea and I can’t remember the last time I celebrated November 5th….and now the following questions have begun to corkscrew their way into my mind…

  • What else have I forgotten about? 
  • Was I being a bad Brit for eating a chicken salad for my Christmas dinner? 
  • Am I slowly starting to lose my British identity? 
  • Is it normal to question things like this after living away for so long?

So after thinking about it for some time I’ve decided that this year will be different. This year I’ll be damned if I’m not eating AT LEAST a bit of turkey come Christmas day 2014; even if it this turkey has to come in the form of a ‘fuckin’ turkey burger!

If you like the sunset picture above, be sure to check out my friend Ursa Krenk’s blog right here:   

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Comments (8)

  1. Ha ha ha! Hilarious! There are times when I resolutely refuse to open my mouth for fear of being detected by the kind of fellow Brit I’d rather not be associated with!

    I’ve never been a huge fan of turkey so don’t miss it at all, but I do get the odd twinge when I think of mince pies. Surely you’re not immune to a little mince pie saudade?

    Regarding accents – I’ve picked up so many weird sentence structures from speaking with non-native English speakers that I sound like a foreigner myself half the time! Occupational hazard I guess! :)

    Parabéns to Ursa – that’s a lovely shot.

    - Reply
    • I’m almost cocooned in a Portuguese speaking world over in Sao Paulo, so it was quite a shock to the system to hear other Brits when I was in Rio! Especially ones as lovely as this lady!!! And you’re right, I also LOVE a mince pie or two, but my biggest food saudade from back home is definitely Galaxy chocolate! it’s not very festive, but definitely hits the spot every time!

      And I hear you on picking up odd ways of talking, I’m almost guaranteed to be mocked by my friends on my next trip home!!!

      - Reply
  2. Love this! I can hear her voice in my head.

    We’ve only been away for 4 years (together, him for longer) but we’ve already stopped with all the must-haves at certain times of year. We don;t even give Christmas presents any more which completely baffles my friends (What’s Mr Tide getting you for Christmas?! – always a question that amuses me!) This year we were in the UK so we ate about 50 Christmas dinners, but it’s not the dinner that’s important. If Christmas is a special day, why can’t we eat whatever we want (we want steak and chips!)

    - Reply
  3. Hey Amy, I’m glad to hear that you guys had plenty of Christmas dinners when you were back. And I’m also happy to hear that I’m not alone when it comes to ditching certain Christmas-y things!

    Hmmmmmmmmmmm! Steak and chips with a bit of brown sauce. Now that I miss!

    - Reply
  4. I don’t know why this girl expected to eat a Christmas dinner at a café just because it is called Gringo’s. Probably this place has this name because the owner is too white or anything that makes he looks like a gringo, not because it is for foreigns … And restaurants in Brazil don’t usually serves tipical Christmas dinners because people use to have it at home with their family. Actually, I think it is weird that someone expect to have a Christmas dinner like you have at home when you are traveling to a totally different place.

    - Reply
    • You’re right Tati, it is a little strange that she expected to have the dinner she was used to back in the UK. There, some people prefer to have Christmas dinner in a restaurant, so that they don’t feel stressed on Christmas day!

      But I think she learnt that lesson quite quickly!!!

      - Reply

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