My son Dillon and I find ourselves unexpectedly in Brazil. Here is our list, created jointly, of 10 things to adapt more easily to another country:
- Ask questions. Dillon asks in English, he gets responses in Portuguese-not sure how it works, but accompanied by pointing and context, it does seem to work!
- Meet a guy you don’t know (aka don’t be afraid to meet and talk to new people)
- Be sure to try new foods.
- Allow a little latitude when ordering food in restaurants, as in, you may understand the word for lasagna, but it may not be served as you expected…enjoy-seeing how similar concepts are enacted in different countries is part of the fun.
- If you have allergies or things that don’t allow latitude, like a peanut allergy, bring a dictionary to know key words.
- Don’t be afraid to simply open the dictionary to the right page and just show it to the person with whom you are speaking.
- Learn where the street signs are-sometimes they are on the corner, sometimes on the side of the building, sometimes on the sidewalk…
- If you go out alone, bring a piece of paper with the phone number and address where you are staying.
- Pick up magazines from the region-any hotel, whether you are staying there or not, generally has magazines (with maps) in your language, about the City you are visiting.
- Do a little research if you can in advance, if you have a specific occasion that will arise. We are here visiting a sick grandma, but will be going to a Seder (for the Jewish Holiday of Passover) on 4/8, or in Portuguese 8/4. A little history of the Jews in Brazil, as well as words specific to these occasions will help.
Extra credit: Smile or provide compassion as the situation merits. Unless a smile means more than friendliness in the culture where you find yourself, a smile can ameliorate many a situation, or in our case, a hug for a family member can do so much without relying on words. Dylan doesn’t speak Portuguese, but a hug and “Eu ti amo” (I love you), easy to learn and repeat in Portuguese, can go a long way.
How do you prepare to go into a different environment? Are there phrases that you know you will use, that you can prepare ahead of time? Do you have an experience where you forced yourself to go out of your comfort zone, even if it felt a little uncomfortable?