My friend and I had just sat down into the all-you-can eat Japanese restaurant when his work-phone started ringing. “I won’t be a second, it’s my boss” he said apologetically. As he began to discuss work related issues, the waiter came over to ask us if we’d like a menu.
We didn’t, we had totally gone there to eat the hell out of the all-you-can-eat option.
So I said: “Não, nos queremos duas rodoviários!” (No, we’d like two bus terminals).
Of course, I’d not meant to ask for this at all. But for whatever reason, I was convinced that the word for all-you-can-eat was not rodizio but rodoviário.
“Erm…rodoviário Tietê?” (The Tietê bus terminal?) asked the waiter, politely.
I assumed this guy simply hadn’t heard me correctly. I’ve lived in Japan and I know that Tietê is not a type of food, but an area well-known for its bus terminal in São Paulo.
So I repeated: “Nao, nos queremos duas rodoviários.” (No, we would like two bus terminals).
The waiter looked down at the blank paper on his notepad and thoughtfully tapped his pen against it a few times, perhaps hoping that this might help him to solve the problem. He didn’t seem to know how to respond to a foreigner asking to eat a bus terminal in his Japanese restaurant.
Sensing that something wasn’t quite right when he’d finished his conversation, my friend asked the waiter what was going on.
“I think your friend wants to know where the bus terminal is.” Replied the waiter in Portuguese. Of course, because he was still using the word rodoviário, as I listened in, I still had no idea what the problem was.
“Why do you want to know that Andrew?” My friend asked in English.
“Because I’m hungry!”
“I don’t understand. Don’t you want to eat here?”
“I wouldn’t be asking for the rodoviário if I didn’t!” I said firmly.
Now my friend was as confused as I was.
“I don’t understand. Where are you going?”
“What? Nowhere! I’m trying to order the all-you-can eat option!”
That word was like a slap in the face for me and I instantly recognised that I’d totally messed up.
“Erm…yes,” I answered softly, “I meant the rodizio!”
The waiter continued to smile politely at us the whole time, yet beneath this polite smile, I sensed that he just wanted to get the hell away from us.
As you can imagine, my friend hasn’t let me live this one down. Now he is often asking me if I’d like to eat bus terminals whenever we go to Japanese restaurants!
For your amusement, here are some other links to me messing up big time in Portuguese! Here is a link to the time I had some serious shade thrown my way when I couldn’t remember a word, and here is another when I mistakenly thought that the waiter had assumed I was an alcoholic!