A couple of months ago, myself and forty friends went to the countryside of São Paulo to a place called Igarata. We’d hired out an incredibly beautiful mansion for the weekend (I know, right? Beijo no ombro!), were we spent two days drinking, eating and doing plenty of catching up. Because there was a DJ amongst us who kindly brought a car full of sound equipment, we danced A LOT to his DJ set too! The weekend was great, and the icing on the cake came in the form of the sunset on the Saturday evening. This was absolutely phenomenal, maybe the most beautiful sunset I’ve seen during my time in Brazil (I’m a real sucker for a good sunset).
Then there was the ‘lunch’ incident, an incident that I didn’t think too much about at the time but one that truly baffled me when I stopped to think about it a few days later. Let me tell you, this hasn’t done much to help me understand Brazilians and their timing AT ALL!
So here’s what happened:
Early on Sunday afternoon my friends and I were lying out on the grass sunbathing, drinking beer and listening to music. After an hour or so of sunning ourselves I walked over to the cooler and dipped my hand inside, hoping to pull out another can of beer. Instead I experienced that nasty feeling you get when you’ve rammed your hand into a big pile of ice.
The lazy side of me was absolutely gutted because I knew this meant having to volunteer to go inside and get more cans. As you can probably imagine, as soon as I suggested getting more beer, the idea was met with a great deal of enthusiasm from everyone around me!
So, I made the long journey around the pool with the cooler, up the spiral stair case, into the house and then into the kitchen. Once inside I was met by chaos! About twenty of the party were standing around the stove waiting for their turn to pile pasta and sauce onto their plates. After chatting for a bit I walked over to the fridge, pulled open the door and that’s when I heard a voice behind me.
It was one of my friends preparing lunch. “Tell everyone outside that the food will be ready soon. I’ve just finished the first round.”
“Sure!” I replied, only really fully considering what she’d said after finding the shelf full of beers.
“And erm…how many minutes should I tell them?”
“How many minutes?” She repeated with a huge grin on her face. “You don’t need to tell them minutes Andrew, just tell them the food will be ready soon!”
Picking up on my friend’s amusement, another one of the girls who was cooking asked what I’d just said.
“He wants to know how many minutes the food will be!”
Now, I appreciate that cooking for forty people is no easy task, so I decided not to make a big deal out of being given such vague information. But really? ‘Soon?’
“OK!” I responded calmly, resisting the urge to drop a ‘bitch…please!’ I thought that ‘soon’ would definitely not be all the information twenty hungry people would be content to hear.
After filling up the cooler I made the journey back outside, practicing the conversation I imagined I’d be having just moments later in my head. “Sorry, they didn’t give me minutes. They just said it would be ready ‘soon.’ How long do I think? Well actually, your guess is as good as mine! I also have no idea!”
So I got back to where everyone was sunbathing, put the cooler down, handed a few cans out and said; “The food will be ready soon guys!”
“Great” someone said enthusiastically.
But do you know what? To my surprise not one person asked “in how many minutes?”
‘This is strange’ I thought to myself, ‘well maybe they’re distracted by the beer, music or whatever it is they’re talking about. I’ll tell them again in a moment.
So I waited.
A few minutes later I announced “Hey guys, the food will be ready soon!”
“Cool” I heard someone say, “I’m really hungry!”
Again, nobody asked me for minutes which I found pretty odd. ‘He’s obviously not that hungry if he isn’t asking me when it will be ready!’ I thought. But with an ice cold beer in my hand and the sun on my face, I didn’t think much more about it.
‘How can he know this?’ I asked myself! Then we all stood up, walked past the pool, up the spiral staircase, into the house and through the double doors:
“What great timing” beamed my friend, (the one who’d told me the food would be ready ‘soon’) “I’ve just finished making the food!”
As I joined the queue to wait for my turn to fill my plate, I was left contemplating what the hell had just happened. Nobody had any phone signal, so that form or communication wasn’t an option. All I have to help me explain this incident is that something else was happening here, some Sixth Sense shit! Like, seriously!?! Who hears ‘soon’ and instinctively knows that it means ’15 minutes!?!’
Let me tell you, when it comes to understanding Brazilians and their timing…after five years here I still feel like I’ml none the wiser! Interestingly, after posting my first blog post on the subject of Brazilian timing about a month ago, even some of my Brazilian readers wrote to tell me they didn’t ‘get’ it either!
Do you know what? I’m finally recognising the painful truth about this (admittedly I’m slow, or maybe I’ve just been in denial this whole time!), but Brazil seems to be a country in which a need for minutes just isn’t all that important.
Let me be honest with you right now….this continues to blow my little British mind!