On the way home in the bus today, the usual hawker got on and started handing out his wares. Jorge started laughing and reminded me of an incident when I was a newbie foreigner in Brazil. Its a silly story, but enough to bring me out in blushes and cause a few chuckles among friends and family.
As a freshly landed, newbie foreigner, I was on my way to my second meeting with the English school I was going to teach through. I was on was approaching my destination bus stop when a woman got on the bus and proceeded to hand a packet of sweets to each passenger. I can't remember what sweets they were. I simply remember being unfamiliar with them and tucking them into my bag, thinking, "Wow! What effective advertising... giving out samples on the buses."
I arrived at my meeting and related my very positive experience of this new country. I just couldn't understand their incredulous looks and subsequent laughing. The one lady said to me, "Nothing is for nothing here. If its free, there's a catch". I was so embarassed and felt so guilty when they explained what had happened. I really felt bad for the woman who relied on the income from those sweets. Gosh, was I naïve! And I didn't learn my lesson...
A couple of months later, I was wandering down Avenida Paulista, which, I would say, is the main business road in São Paulo. I was stopped by a nurse, rigged out in white robes as nurses usually appear, with stethoscope around the neck, and holding a blood pressure cuff. "Oh!", says naïve me to myself, "a health care program!" I submitted to the test, as I have a bit of a blood pressure issue and was sincerely interested in the results. After giving me my results, she held out her hand waiting for her pay. My face must have been a picture (I bet she was wishing she had a camera on her!). Needless to say, my Portuguese back then was absolutely hopeless and it took her a little while to communicate her demand of the R$5 payment. My colleague's words came back to me, "nothing is for nothing here" and I payed. I confess, I was a little huffy with her. She really could have told me before-hand. But lets be honest here... she probably did tell me and using my excellent interpretive skills, I understood her to be giving a speech on health care.