Daily Frustrations in Brazil

People that do not live in Brazil often wonder why so many ex-pats get so frustrated with the Brazilian way of life (for more details, see the numerous books written by foreigners living in Brazil).  Two emotions are always present in almost every single day I work and live in Brazil: frustration and indignation.

Frustration because any issue you try to solve is always met with the wrong or unexpected response. You will rarely meet a willing, effective, efficient worker or individual to solve a problem, whatever the size.

Indignation because the response you get is usually an insult to your intelligence. You get the lingering feeling people just say anything to get you off their backs, hoping you will eventually give up and go away. You can either walk away, or insist on being respected, which can be exhausting.

This may seem like a direct attack on Brazilians, which it is, but it is also explanations to the reason I feel so helpless in Brazil sometimes, and why so many foreigners I meet sometimes seem so bitter, despite loving the country for it´s climate, landscapes and peace-loving, tolerant people.

The employers or agencies I have worked with or for in the almost 18 years I´ve lived in Brazil have one thing in common: They firmly believe that their problems are your problems. Although this belief can work both ways, listening or reading long explanations as to why you won´t get paid due to health, stress, financial problems or bad management issues is sometimes too unbelievable to endure. The instant response to these excuses in any “developed” country would be, “that´s your problem”, a response that is considered extremely insulting to most Brazilians.

For explicit illustrations of some of the absurd things I have to endure, I have provided some actual conversations:

(Phone call to my accountant after waiting 3 days for a simple document)

“Hello, Adriana, is my document ready yet?”

“Could you call again in 10 minutes? I´m making coffee.”

(Conversation with a government employee after getting all the documents ready to get my car papers. It´s Friday morning)

“Sorry, the system is down. Come back on Monday”

“I need these papers today. Could you talk to your boss and check, please?

“Ok, come back at 3. The system should be up by then.”

(Moral of the story: If you don´t insist they send you packing the first chance they get).

(Email response from a complaint I made due to lack of payment and the violation of an agreement the company refused to acknowledge)

“Do you think I like receiving your e-mails? I am having health issues due to the amount of stress I am under.”

(Second response, after I ask for e-mail confirmation of non-payment)

“I will not pay until you call me. I am not used to working with such lack of trust.” (because I want a written confirmation)

And it goes on, and on, and on. After a while, you find you are literally alone to fight these battles that would be solved in a second in any normal country.

Another hysterical fact is that Brazilians do not accept any form of criticism, so you just go round in endless circles that involve a refusal to acknowledge errors, insistence that they were in fact made, and the resulting threats and quests for decent legal aid.


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