This week I decided to browse the blogs of foreigners living in Brazil and realized that most of them feel pretty much the same way about Brazil: a combination of awe (for its beauty), nostalgia (of everything ranging from bran flakes to zebra crossings where cars actually stop), loneliness (the alien feeling, the difficulty in making friends), and frustration.
Most of the posts I read are filled with complaints about all types of things, from loud music, red tape, work, money…the usual. One thing that all foreigners share is the incredible frustration they feel when trying to get anything done in Brazil.
The simplest tasks, such as opening a bank account, can be mortifying. Although this may be common in some developing countries, the sensation you get in Brazil is that people are laughing in your face.
Why? How would you feel in the following real-life situation?
I go to the bank to open an account for my new company. The bank should be thrilled, showering me with all types of offers and benefits, but it is not. They ask for a thousand papers and tell me to wait 5 days.
I wait. Five days are up. I go back to the bank. “Is the account ready?” “Err, no. You need a bank card.” “Ok, so when will that be ready?” “Err, in 5 days.”
I wait another five days. I go back to the bank. “Is the card ready?” “Err, what card?” “The card for my account. I need to use the account.” After minutes of needless and aimless searching they answer, “The card was never requested. It´ll take 5 days.” I can barely contain my rage as I spit, “How did you expect me to use the account without the card. You told me I needed one.” “Err, yes, but you can´t use the account without a card. You´ll have to wait 5 days.”
Sure, this happens back home as well. But not like in Brazil, I promise.
Since I ventured out into the Brazilian business world of accounts, payments, bills, committments…I have had to endure this type of episode on a daily basis. The battles are constant: waiting for payments people somehow believe belong to them, waiting for answers to emails you have sent dozens of times, waiting for notice in case of cancellations (they just don´t show up), waiting for news or updates (only if it´s related to your deadline, once the work is delivered, you´re on your own)…. You find yourself struggling against the tide in almost every situation and wondering if maybe, just maybe, someone IS laughing at you.