Posts Tagged With: blurting it out

A Latina’s voice in an Anglo-Saxon world

Oh, how much I have learned in these 14 years living here in England. Driving on the other (wrong?) side of the road, saying ‘thank you’ and ‘sorry’ all the time (us Brazilians can be quite forgetful when it comes to that), remembering NOT to hug people all the time (I’ve learned this the hard way, believe me!), being on time for everything (and I thought I was punctual in Brazil!), amongst so many other things.

By far, though, the hardest thing I’ve learned (and am, in fact, still learning), is how to decipher what the English say, especially at work. I shall explain. Take this situation as an example: everyone is at work, working through an important project. Everyone can see that one person is not doing what they are supposed to be doing, at least not in the correct way. This person doesn’t realise exactly what is wrong, but carries on doing whatever their task is in the way they know how to. Facing this situation, the English just stay quiet. They simply let the person realise for themselves what it is that they are doing wrong, with no fuss. I, on the other hand, just want to go straight to that person and say: “Hey, this is wrong, the best to way to do it is like this”. This would make the person a) appreciate my help. b) do the job correctly and c) feel like they are working as part of a team that cares about the overall result. However, in the same situation above, I have witnessed… well, nothing most of the time. Or the English saying a bunch of words that don’t really mean much. They just seem to choose not to take charge of things. They prefer not to say anything substantial, they prefer not to get heavily involved and leave far too much to our interpretation.

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My theory is that, over here, people must have some kind of switch that us Latinos just didn’t have installed. This switch is the one they use when they are in a situation where saying something, reacting, imposing themselves would make them stand out and, God forbid, standing out is a no-no, so the switch is on. Since their switch is always on ‘not to react’ mode, and mine is always off (which means I’m often the one that will say stuff), I’m the one that risks being seen as ‘the trouble maker’ – all the time. Now, no one wants to be seen as the trouble maker, especially when you have really good intentions and all you actually want to do is help. You want to be seen as the person that isn’t afraid of saying something, taking risks and being passionate. For the English, though, giving your honest opinion is just not something they do very often. Their usual reaction when asked is usually… yes, silence. Or words that are so mild and neutral that they can speak for 15 minutes in their calm way and you still won’t know what they actually think. But don’t be fooled. They are thinking something, behind those eyes that say: “I’d rather not tell you the truth”, they just choose not to tell you what it is or tell you through some sort of ‘word-code’.

This table here shows what I mean and shows how much misunderstanding the English can cause…

What the English say What the English mean What foreigners understand
I hear what you say I disagree and do not want to discuss it further He accepts my point of view
With the greatest respect You are an idiot He is listening to me
That’s not bad That’s good That’s poor
That is a very brave proposal You are insane He thinks I have courage
Quite good A bit disappointing Quite good
I would suggest Do it or be prepared to justify yourself Think about the idea, but do what you like
Oh, incidentally/by the way The primary purpose of our discussion is That is not very important
I was a bit disappointed that I am annoyed that It doesn’t really matter
Very interesting That is clearly nonsense They are impressed
I’ll bear it in mind I’ve forgotten it already They will probably do it
I’m sure it’s my fault It’s your fault Why do they think it was their fault?
You must come for dinner It’s not an invitation, I’m just being polite I will get an invitation soon
I almost agree I don’t agree at all He’s not far from agreement
I only have a few minor comments Please rewrite completely He has found a few typos
Could we consider some other options I don’t like your idea They have not yet decided

The English like to live on the fence. I’m no acrobat, me. I like to be either on one side or the other, being the mid-fielder is definitely not my speciality. I like to say what I think. And so many times, being in this country, this has meant that people saw me in the wrong light. This is, by far, the most difficult cultural lesson to learn over here. For me, at least. I like to be able to take sides, to voice my opinion, to transform things, to make things better by standing up for myself, for a group of people, for the benefit of a project.

I think it’s so much easier to just say what you think clearly rather than hide it in a ‘polite’ way of speaking. Where is the good in hiding it? I’m sure the English have their own reasons, but most of the time I just can’t understand why they do it. I’m more and more convinced that this must be a game they play with us foreigners. I’m sure they are all aware, amongst themselves, of what they really mean. They just hide it from us to see our blood boil. It must be funny for them to see us losing our minds, trying to stop ourselves from telling things as they are. I like the English a lot, I even picked one to be my partner in life but, truthfully, I have no patience for games like this, with the greatest respect.

Categories: The English | Tags: , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Dutch

Since my first visit to Amsterdam, in 2000, I have developed some kind of fascination with the Dutch people. They seem to speak right to me and I seem to understand what they are all about – and deeply admire it.

Over the years, I visited Amsterdam four times and I plan to go there again and again and again. The place is magic – and, believe me, magic is a word I definitely use sparingly when describing a place that I like.

To start with, I like the place because it’s beautiful. And my apologies that I can’t speak for the whole of the Netherlands as I have only been to Amsterdam, but I’m sure I’d be just as fascinated had I travelled further within the country.

Amsterdam has a charm that is even hard to explain. The best thing about it is to get lost (and by that I don’t necessarily mean getting lost by a drug high you can achieve legally over there). I’m talking about walking and walking and walking so much that all of a sudden you start recognising that you have been going round in circles a little bit and took a long time to notice. It doesn’t matter one bit, though. The place is so beautiful and so majestic that you simply won’t mind seeing the same sights over and over again.

Lee and I went to spend Easter in Amsterdam a week ago and, once again, the place amazed me. So, with everything fresh in my mind, I compiled a bit of a list of my favourite things about Amsterdam and the Dutch people.

Please note: I’m not an expert and my travels consisted of 4 visits, so please forgive me for not being extremely thorough, I’m only mentioning the things that strike a chord with me.

So here goes…

1. The way of life

The Dutch seem to live a very balanced life style. They cycle everywhere, they all look healthy and fit and, most importantly, they seem to really enjoy life. A recent study said that 75% of  the Dutch women work part-time and are perfectly happy with their decision. In fact, the Dutch don’t work very much at all, when compared to their European fellow countries. They work an average of 30.6 hours a week, which is nearly one day less than in any other European country. Even so, they still manage to be at the top of the list for productivity, so we could say that working less hours seem to make people more productive. It makes sense: if you have a good work-life balance, you will be happier and, in turn, you will have more enthusiasm to do your work. Clever people .

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Life is good, eh?

2. The Food

The supermarkets contribute, in my opinion, to the Dutch being so healthy. Lee and I were amazed, in our last visit, at how beautifully the fruit and veg are displayed on the shelves. They get placed on shelves with these glass doors, making the whole fruit and veg section look like a shop window. It makes everything look so fresh and yummy. Having said that, nothing beats a good stroopwafel with a steamy cup of coffee. Or the marvellous cheese and brown bread they make. Or the most amazing apple pie I’ve ever had (to be found on Winkel 43 – Noordemarkt). Not so healthy, perhaps, but all true Dutch national treasures.

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Stroopwafel and apple pie. Yum!

3. The bikes

The thing you have to get used to quickly in Amsterdam is the bikes. They are everywhere. With over 880,000 bikes in a city where 790,000 people live, no wonder they are seen on every space available on the streets, on top of one another sometimes, and all around the city, with all the Ducth people riding them. And the reason you have to get used to it quick is because the cyclists may run over you if you’re not careful. They do tell you if you are in their way by ringing their bell a bit in advance, but sometimes just before they are about to hit you. Eeek!

The bikes add to the charm of the city and are certainly a major photo opportunity on every corner. And the most curious thing about this bike-obsessed life is that the Dutch really don’t seem to care for really fancy bikes. They prefer theirs to be gearless and rusted, with the odd exception when they paint them in cool colours (see photo). The Dutch don’t thrive on spending money where not necessary – and the bikes, although a main mean of transport, don’t make top of the list for them to spend their (not so hard-earned) money on.

The most amazing thing, though, is what you get to see the Dutch doing on their bikes. They carry their children on it, they carry heavy objects (such as the massive mirror Lee and I saw this guy carrying on our last visit), they eat, they talk on the phone, they have a full conversation with the fellow biker next to them. It looks extremely easy, but I bet it takes years and years of practice.

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Family day out on the left, a very cool bike in the middle and a busy mum on the right

4. The bluntness

I like blunt people. I like when you know where you stand with others. I tend to be like this – which sometimes doesn’t go that well with my polite British fellow colleagues and friends. But hey. I admire it. And the Ducth are just the same.

If you ask them a stupid question, they will look at you like you are, ermm… stupid. And when they stop looking at you that way and decide to help you out by answering your question, expect the answer to be short and sweet. They are straight-forward people and hanging around doesn’t seem like a productive use of their time. However, I may be speaking from a ‘tourist’ point of view here, and they might show a lot more tact with people they actually know. Still, I admire this ‘black and white’ approach (it’s even on the street signs!).

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Lots of the famous Dutch orange on everything, of course – even when they’re being blunt!

5. The houses

Oh my God, they all look so amazing. Outside and inside. And I can say that about the inside because one of my favourite things to do in Amsterdam is to let my inner voyeur out and look inside every single house I have the opportunity to. I think they are amazing. The Dutch have this ability to group things together, but nothing ever looks too matchy-matchy. Everything they seem to own has a purpose to be where it is and the colours they put together sometimes don’t go (in theory), but in practice they just work. They certainly have a gift for making a place look effortlessly welcoming, cosy and modern at the same time. Hats off.

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6. The flowers

They are in almost every house, in restaurants, cafes, stations – pretty much everywhere. And boy do they make the place look colourful, inviting and fresh! I just love how they use flowers for decoration. You see all kinds and they are quite cheap. I wish they were that cheap here in the UK, so my home could have more of it. Flower power.

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7. The 3 kisses

This is something we do in Brazil and, during my few visits to Amsterdam, I noticed a lot of people doing the same. The tradition works in the same way as it does in Brazil: 3 kisses on the cheek (more like ‘blown in the air’ kisses) that start on the right, then left, then right cheek again. The kisses are for family and friends only, though – like in Brazil. It’s just so refreshing to see that, when here in the UK people have this barrier and this personal space that the other person shouldn’t even dare trespass. Refreshing and closer to home.

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Ok, maybe not on the mouth!

 8. The airport

I just love Schiphol Airport – it’s definitely my favourite. Arriving there gives a pretty good picture of what is to come. It’s straight-forward to find where you have to go (very Dutch-like), modern and, to me, the most important thing: it’s colourful. It’s an airport I usually choose for flight connections to Brazil, if I can, and it’s definitely a bonus to be able to buy some stroopwafel on your stopover.

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Vibrant and colourful features make Schiphol special.

9. The passion for life

The Dutch seem to have a special passion for life. They seem to have this eagerness to enjoy every single second, even if it’s by doing nothing. I remember seeing many people just sat at their door step soaking in the sunshine and doing nothing else. They have this ability to enjoy the moment, to relax, to just ‘be’. They don’t seem to be a worried nation, they take life as it comes and cross bridges when they come to them. They don’t get stressed. These are characteristics I really admire, as I can be a stress-head sometimes. We have a lot to learn with the Dutch and their quirky approach to life, me thinks.

SAMSUNG DIGITAL CAMERA… and relax!

Overall, the Dutch seem to be very happy people and I think this is what fascinates me. Nothing seems to phase them too much. They eat well, they exercise, they are friendly, they don’t mess about, they are proud of who they are. They just seem to go through life in a very well-established manner, like they have all read this secret amazing book of ‘how to live life in the best way’ (but shhh, please don’t tell anyone).

When Lee and I were at the airport, coming back to the UK after our last visit, we were having a chat about how great it would be to live in Amsterdam. We would work less, we would be more relaxed, we would be fitter. We then started talking about how and if this would even be an option for us. I was voting yes, and so was Lee, but then we thought again and found a major obstacle: we’re just not cool enough.

Categories: Amsterdam, Coolness, Dutch People, Living away from home, The Good Life | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Right turn, left turn

Today I got thinking about the choices we make in life. I was thinking about how my life turned out to be in England and not in Brazil. I have said it here before that when people ask me why I live here I don’t even have a plausible answer. I just kind of nod (‘Yep, I’m from Brazil!) and say a few sentences hoping that they will suffice. They never seem to do, though, and the reason for that is because I don’t think my answers are convincing enough. It’s hard to even convince myself sometimes. This got me thinking abot what my life would be like, right now, if I was living in Brazil.

I have discussed this with some fellow migrants before, and the majority of us agree that when we move away from home, we tend to do everything a bit later than everybody else. The process of finding our feet in a completely different country with its own rules and no family around to help takes a little time. So, basically, the time we’d be getting on with the ‘normal process’ of life in our native countries, we are finding out how to register with a doctor, apply for citizenship or how to drive on the ‘wrong’ side of the road. Now, I’m not assuming here that life has an order, all I’m saying is that people seem to follow patterns and the majority does things according to some kind of unspoken rule: the rule of ‘society’.

The word society, according to the Oxford English Dictonary, means “the aggregate of people living together in a more or less ordered community.” Ah, I see… society means that we have to live with a group of people and follow the same rules. I like that. Rules are necessary when we live in a group. And I like it because in no way, shape or form the statement says that we have to be the same. But how is it that, somehow, we seem to think that being the same is the best?

I seemed to have taken longer to find a job that I love, for example. I tried different things (like accountancy) and after hating one particular thing (accountancy), I decided to go back to what I learnt at uni: good and old marketing. And guess what? It was the right thing to do. Had I stayed in Brazil and lived there my whole life, would I have had many jobs? Would I be in my dream job now? Mmmm… I don’t really know the answer. But I can surely ask the question and spend some afternoons wondering what the answer would be.

I also seemed to have taken a little longer in finding the right person to spend my life with (did I, really?). And, again, I’m not even sure if this IS the right person whith whom I’ll be spending the rest of my life with (who knows, anyway?) but hey, for now it definitely is, so let’s go with that. I wonder if I was in Brazil I’d be married with (and here comes the third of my divagations)… KIDS! Now this is something I’ve talked about many a time before and if you read my blogs you may have already read about it (sorry, but here I go again!). The decision of having kids still doesn’t make much sense in my head. For some bizarre reason, I’m not really maternal and, believe it or not, I still feel like a teenager. I did play with dolls when I was a kid, but it was never to be cuddling them, it was to have some kind of control (now that’s a hard one to admit, give me some credit). I used to play that I was this busy mummy that worked a lot and had this busy life and had to juggle everything. I used to play that I was on my phone trying to organise people, places, ballet classes and christenings. Poor me, little weirdo.

Well, I grew up to be very far from what I maybe imagined I’d be by now. I am quite a placid person who hates confrontation. Yes, I say what I thinkmost of the time, but I’d rather never see you again than to have a full-blown argument. I just hate it. I am still the goofy person of always, though. I especially love making fun of myself. This really is my favourite. I still hate peas, but I no longer think I can live off my written word, as I once dreamt. I quickly realised how impossibly hard that would be.

As for organising everything and everyone, I think this may have been one route, but I see myself slowly moving the other way. I can kind of feel the weight of making all the decisions all the time, it’s exhausting. Let it be, for Christ’s sake! Let go of trying to have control of the controllable and the incontrollable.

I feel quite under pressure sometimes, to be doing what other people expect me to be doing. At my (tender) age of 33, maybe I was supposed to be doing this or that, but hey, I’m not (or maybe I am, who knows?). Still, though, I feel this pressure hanging around, but what annoys me the most is that I actually fall pray of this little machine called society and these unspoken ideas about what I should be doing with my own life. I guess what I’m trying to say is that I wish it didn’t affect me but hey, it does, somehow. And this is what drives me crazy. I wish I didn’t care one bit about what other people think and I wish I didn’t worry about turning right or left and the effects such turns can have in my life.I should go for it a bit more, perhaps, and just see what happens… I shouldn’t worry about pleasing everybody, this is never going to happen anyway.

Ok, rant over! And to end it well, here’s to a life with NO RULES!

PS: right, just for the record, nothing bad happened to me, I just got really carried away with thinking about rules, expectations, ageing and reality. And then I had to share my thoughts here with you, poor reader. 😉

 

Categories: Babies, Brazil, Dreams, Living away from home | Tags: , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Blurting it

I’ve always been known for being honest, sometimes brutally, even. I like to tell the truth, as I find it hard to hide things. This approach has brought me problems in life, especially in my relationships with people. I tend to just blurt out whatever is going on in my mind, without giving it a second thought. Indeed, a second after the sentence is out there, I regret saying it. And then it’s too late. As they say, there are 5 things that you can never get back: the stone, after it’s thrown, the occasion, after it’s missed, the time, after it’s gone, a person, after they die and a word, after it’s said. And for me, the word is the one I have always struggled to control.

It’s funny that I have become more and more aware of this with the years. I now watch myself and I can actually feel myself thinking something over before getting it out of my mouth. It’s almost like my thoughts now go through a process and the way they make from the brain to my mouth is full of filters. I have realised, thank God, that I am getting better at it. And I have also learnt a valuable lesson with the English people: sometimes, the silence is the best way to say something without making any sound.

My job has also contributed to my learning of this new skill. I am an Account Executive in an advertising agency and I spend my days dealing with clients, who are extremely valuable to the business and deserve the best treatment, even when they aim to drive us nuts. As an Account Exec, you need to be diplomatic and also be able to tell the truth, but in a way that the words you use make whatever it is not sound so bad. The agency I work at is called Happy Creative and I now have an expression for when I have to say something on an email but need to make it sound better. I type whatever I really have to say and then go over it again and “happify” it! Job done! When talking to people, I use the same approach, which makes my thought process very complicated… I need to first figure out what I have to say and then before saying it, I need to quickly choose the best words to say it. It can be a bit tiring, but once you get used to it, you start doing it unconsciously.

I think that the fact that I’m learning how to be more careful with my words is an achievement. I still feel I have a long way to go, but long gone is the Marilia that just said however bad my thoughts were to the people in front of me. I now consider things and actually select what I’m going to say, or if I should say anything at all. This has made me a more controlled person and, overall, a fairer person too, as many times what we think in one second changes on the next. I’m still very honest and I think I always will be. I’m just now more able to make honesty sound pretty.

 

Categories: Personality traits | Tags: , , , , , | Leave a comment

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