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  • Writer's pictureSpeaking Brazilian

American customs that shock Brazilians

Updated: Dec 30, 2022

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In this lesson, I'm going to talk about some American habits and customs that are a little strange to Brazilians.

1 – Americans say NO to your face!

Compared to Brazilians, Americans are much more assertive in communication. According to an article posted on a website from Harvard University, most Americans don't think it's necessary to hide their feelings. Usually, Americans consider themselves to be very frank and direct.

To us Brazilians, this is a bit shocking because Brazilians are constantly concerned about not offending the other person. For example, if you invite a Brazilian friend to do something, and he doesn't want to, he will hardly say no. Most likely, he will give an uncertain answer:

  • Talvez… (Perhaps…)

  • Vamos nos falando… (Let's talk later…)

  • Eu confirmo mais tarde… (I'll let you know later…)

On the other hand, if you invite an American friend to do something he doesn't want to do, he'll probably just say he doesn't feel like it, and that's it.

2 – The servers bring the bill without you asking.

I don't think this happens much in small towns, but it's very common in big cities in the United States. You've barely finished eating, and the waiter is already beside you with the bill in hand. This is very shocking to Brazilians. We feel like we're being kicked out of the restaurant!

This custom exists in the United States for two reasons. First, so that customers don't stay too long, especially if the restaurant is full; and second, so that customers don't have to call the waiter.

In Brazil, on the other hand, we always have to call the waiter to ask for the check. In general, all the service offered in restaurants in Brazil is much slower than in the United States. I think that's part of our culture. Brazilians like to eat unhurried and stay in the restaurant talking for a long time.

3 – Americans tip 20%!

Tipping servers in the US is practically mandatory. When you go to a restaurant, servers expect to be tipped fifteen to twenty percent. Theoretically, it's optional, but if you don't tip, the servers may be offended.

In Brazil, the restaurant bill comes with an optional 10% service charge. But it's really optional. If you don't tip, no one will be offended.

4 – Everything costs more than expected.

Brazilians are very confused when shopping in the United States because when we pay for a product, the value is always more expensive than expected. Why?

In the United States, stores and establishments do not put the sales tax on the price tag. For that reason, when you buy something that costs $100 on the label or on the website, it will cost you around $109 when you pay. In Brazil, on the other hand, taxes are always included in the product’s price.

5 – In the USA, house cleaning is done with wipes.

In the United States, people usually clean the house with disinfectant wipes and other disposables. This is very shocking to Brazilians.

In Brazil, we clean with a bucket of water and rags. In Brazilian homes, we throw water and cleaning products all over the house, except for areas with carpet. This way of cleaning cannot be used in the United States because the construction system is different.

In Brazil, we almost always build with brick and mortar, including the internal finishes. In the United States, houses and apartments are built with wood frame and sheetrock. For this reason, we cannot throw water on the floor, as it would easily pass to other areas of the house and could flood the neighbor's apartment.

6 – The American barbecue is hamburger and sausage.

The most common type of barbecue in the United States is usually a hamburger or hot dog sausage cooked on a gas or electric grill.

In Brazil, it is very different. If you invite Brazilians to a barbecue, they will expect pieces of meat roasted over charcoal. To Brazilians, hamburgers are not barbecue.

7 – Americans don't clap when they sing happy birthday.

In the United States, people don't clap when they sing Happy Birthday. The clapping only comes at the end. Also, they sing in a not-too-loud voice. It's a very civilized celebration.

On the other hand, in Brazil, singing Happy Birthday is always a very exciting moment! We clap our hands, sing loudly, and speed up the clapping to add to the party feeling.

8 – Americans respond to “thank you” with “sure” or “uhuh.”

When we study English, we learn that the correct way to respond to the phrase “thank you” is “you’re welcome.” But in everyday life, Americans rarely use that phrase.

The most common way to respond to a “thank you” in the United States is “sure,” which would be equivalent to “claro” in Portuguese. In New York, a lot of people just say “uhuh.”

This is a bit weird to Brazilians because responding to a “obrigado” (thank you) with “claro” (sure) in Brazil would be considered rude.

That's it! I hope you enjoyed this lesson!

You'll find more Portuguese lessons at the bottom of this page.

Até a próxima!

Speaking Brazilian School Team


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