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Three Ways I’ve Changed In São Paulo

So a few years ago I experienced the haircut from hell (where my barber kindly sliced into my ear with his scissors), and since then, I have to admit, I’d become cautious about getting my hair trimmed. But now I’m happy to say that I’ve found a barber I like. He is good at what he does, he loves a good gossip and I he always gives me a beer mid-cut. So you’d think I wouldn’t have any more barber related stories for this blog, right? Well unfortunately this isn’t the case! You see a few weeks ago he interrupted a conversation we were having to deliver some unexpected news:

“I’m just going to give you a half cut today Andrew, but I’ll give you a full cut next time!” he said enthusiastically.

I was a little confused. You see, I don’t have a whole lot of hair to begin with, so to have someone suggest it might need to be split into two cuts took me by surprise.


“It’s because the hair on top hasn’t grown as much as it has on the sides” he continued. “So we’ll leave the hair on top as it is, and I’ll cut it when it is a bit longer. But don’t worry; I’ll give you a 50% discount!”

My cheeks immediately flushed a deep shade of red and I forced out a smile.

“A half price cut?” I asked myself.

I then considered my ‘50% discount hair’ in the mirror!

“I never had this problem when I first came to Brazil” I told myself. “My hair used to be David-Hasselhoff-in-Night-Rider-thick.”

And this got me thinking, as well as looking different, just what else has changed about me since I moved here almost 5 years ago? I first explored this idea when I guest posted over at The Tide That Left earlier this year, but after thinking about it some more since this incident at the barbers, here are three more things I know to be true.

#1: I Might Be Speaking A Weird English

A few months ago when my ebook Trying to Understand Brazilian Culture came back from the proofreader, I read in horror at some of the corrections that had been made to it. You see, I’d made a few mistakes that I hadn’t expected to have made AT ALL. What were they? Well, I’d used several American English spellings instead of the British English ones I should have been using. Seriously, I couldn’t believe it! I have no idea how long I’ve been spelling some words like an American!


Admittedly, I have an American version of Word, I’m constantly teaching American English and I have more American friends here than I do British…but still, I didn’t think it was possible to replace British spellings with American ones!

Thinking about it now though, alarm bells should have started ringing for me long before I moved to Brazil. I will never forget the day I called my friend Lisa in the UK when I was living in Japan. During our catch up, she asked me what I was going to be doing at the weekend.

“Probably just going to the movies”

“The what?” she asked, with her tone suggesting that she was relishing in me sounding like Joss Stone at the Brits, 1997.

Before I’d had the chance to correct myself (for those reading who don’t know the British equivalent, I should definitely have said that I was going to go to the cinema) she was already cackling down the phone. “The movies? The BLOODY movies? Where are you living, America or Japan? MUM!!”

She then screamed across the room, to share this Americanised slip-up with her mother, “Guess where Andrew’s going tonight, no guess….THE MOVIES….I know, that’s what I said, I said Andrew, you’re living in Japan, not America!”

I then sat and waited for the laughter to die down before continuing with our conversation. After years of teaching American English in Japan though, some of this American English had become very natural to me and accidentally slipped out when I was least expecting it to…and after getting my ebook back, it is clear that years later this hadn’t really changed!

I know that after years of ESL teaching I also speak slower than I used to and that my regional accent has taken a bit of a battering…so if I’m being honest, I’ve been making a big effort to reconnect with my British English recently. I’m worried that when I head back home I might sound like Madonna when she went through her British “I drink tea and ride horses’ phase!

#2 I Assume Things Are The Same In Both Brazil and The UK.

A few months ago I received some emails in my inbox from both of my two of my blog readers, who were in town and looking for suggestions for places to drink that weekend. Their timing was perfect because on the Sunday a free jazz event was taking place in Ibirapuera park. So my friends and I met up with them, and together we went down to check it out.

Then after a few beers, one of these guys asked me if I was dating anybody.


There was an awkward pause as I tried to work out how best to answer this.

You see, just days before, I was sort of with somebody. In fact, we’d been going steady for (wait for it)…almost A WHOLE three and a half weeks!

But just days before the jazz festival I received an email telling me it was over.

I know what you’re thinking, ‘but Andrew, surely you’re too fabulous and attractive to be dumped’, well, apparently not! (note to self: Reread that blog post on how to date Brazilians!)

They both looked quite sympathetic when I relayed this story to them (and perhaps even a touch awkward, maybe I shouldn’t have stood there and cried my eyes out! Only joking….I was sitting down!). “Oh no! I’m sorry to hear that” said one. “How did you meet?”

“On Tinder” I answered without so much as pausing for thought. But then instead of seeing two understanding faces looking back at me, they were both staring at me suspiciously.

“Tinder?” one repeated, “Really?”

“Yes” I affirmed.

When it was clear that I wasn’t joking, they laughed nervously.

“Oh right. And erm….is Tinder big over here then?”


“Well yes.” I answered.

I said this because pretty much all of my single friends here use Tinder. There really are a hell of a lot of Brazilians on it. “Isn’t it the same in the UK?” I asked. And that’s when I realised…I had no idea if it was socially acceptable to admit to using this app in front of Brits.

“No, where I’m from in the UK it is only really losers who go on it” advised one. “I would think twice about telling your friends you use Tinder, they might think you’re weird!”

“Oh right” I smiled, awkwardly. Then I wondered what the hell else I don’t know about Britain in 2014!

Now I’m questioning what I should really be keeping to myself when I get home, things that are completely acceptable here but maybe less so over there!

NOTE: A few days ago I posted on my Facebook wall to ask if there is a stigma behind using Tinder in the UK…and the consensus was that there isn’t. But I’m still suspicious!

#3 “You’re So Vain…”

Recently I was standing in the lobby of my student’s company offices waiting for the lift to take me to my 7.30am class. As soon as the doors opened, I caught myself doing something I would never DREAM of doing back home.


I walked straight in there and immediately began checking myself out in the mirror. That’s right, in full view of everyone in there I patted down my 50% discount hair and made sure that there was no cereal stuck between my teeth (Yes, I wonder why I was dumped too!!!) as if I were in there on my own. In my defence, the other two guys who’d entered the elevator at the same time as me were doing EXACTLY the same, and not one of us looked in the slightest bit self conscious about it.

When I first came to Brazil, I remember being taken aback when I saw Brazilians shamelessly pouting in the lift’s mirror.I KNOW back home it is never acceptable to do this in a crowded lift. Yet having said this, over here, there seems to be a different rule book!

A lot of Brazilians are like moths to a flame when it come to the mirror. There are many who must struggle on a daily basis NOT to be attracted to it (I’ve also noticed that many even have a hard time passing their own reflections in shop windows without stopping to stare). So it took me by surprise when I realised that I’d become so desensitised to seeing people doing this, that I’ve now become one of the mirror abusers I used to roll my eyes at!

How has living abroad changed you?  

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