Sunday, October 30, 2011

The Secret Language of Brazil

The national language of Brazil is Portuguese. This though is not the only mode of communication between individuals in the country. Like many other cultures, there are specific non-verbal cues that connote a whole secret language in Brazil. The following are some of them to learn when in country.

1. Saying OK. A thumbs up sign would mean that all is okay, yes or even thanks to another person non-verbally. Do not use the American sign for ok (thumb and forefinger in a circle with other fingers straight), as this is an obscene gesture in the country.

2. Saying No. This is said non-verbally by wagging your extended index finger back and forth and/or clicking your tongue behind your teeth two or three times. Shaking your head from side to side would not do as some Indian tribes in Brazil would do this and mean yes.

3. Saying Watch Out. This is said with your index finger to pull down one of the lower eyelids of either eye. When this is done to you, it means beware and be on the look out as something is afoot and you might get victimized in the end.

4. Saying Too Expensive. This is done through stroking of the thumb with the index and middle finger. Similar to Jerry Maguire's "Show Me The Money" sign, when this is done in Brazil, often it is in the heat of haggling and indirectly telling the seller to lower their price.

5. Saying Go Faster. This is said through snapping the fingers to indicate that ora faster to the driver or the person with you. It means put the pedal to the metal.

6. Saying Good Luck. This is done through making a fist with the thumb between the middle and index fingers. This is known as figa in the region and means good luck.

7. Saying I am being robbed. This is done through touching the palm on one hand with the thumb of the other in a circular motion. This would mean I am being robbed or ripped off or hoodwinked in areas.

8. Saying Look Here. This done using a hissing sound with one's lips pursed. This is an informal way to call one's attention and becomes annoying when repeated often.

Despite declaring the official language of Brazil as Portuguese, much of the communication is done through hand gestures and non-verbal cues. These are a few things that one needs to learn when going to Brazil in the near future.

Bobby Castro is the online editor at Gringos, where he has published a number of articles about moving to Brazil and many other topics.

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