Namorando uma estrangeira (post por um irlandês) 1/2


Mais uma participação do R. aqui no blog, aê!!!! Ele já fez alguns posts no Barbaridades, tanto da primeira vez que fomos ao Brasil como da segunda vez. Todos os posts estão concentrados numa única categoria no blog, que você pode ler aqui:

Opiniões de um irlandês

Confesso que me dá muita preguiça de traduzir, então me desculpem! Pra quem não lê em inglês, tenho certeza que o google tradutor vai ajudar. Caso alguém tenha alguma pergunta ou dúvida pode deixar nos comentários porque o R. sempre lê tudo! Dividi esse post em duas partes porque senão ficaria gigante!

irlandeses e brasileiras

Some time ago, I promised Bárbara that I would write a post in the blog on a topic of her choice. Recently she wrote on the subject of dating a foreigner, and we decided it would make a good topic for my post - to add a non-Brazilian perspective to the mix.

General cultural differences

The obvious question that most people think of when they hear of culturally mixed couples is: "What about all the cultural differences?  Doesn't that cause a lot of problems?"  I can only speak for my experience with Bárbara, but the truth is that cultural differences have almost never been an issue between us.  On the contrary, those differences have added a great deal to the experience of dating.

For starters, when we started seeing each other, learning about each other's cultures inspired a great deal of interesting conversation.  In addition to all the typical things people who start dating might talk about (interests, ideas and hopes), the fact that we come from different countries provided so much more stuff to talk about.  I must admit that Bárbara had the upper-hand in those early days (and probably still does) because she had done a lot of research about Ireland and was now living here.  In contrast, I knew rather little about Brazil, so there was a lot for Bárbara to tell me about.  Thankfully, it wasn't completely one-sided - there was (and still are) many things for me to share with her about Ireland, and 2 and a half years later, I'm still learning plenty about Brazilian culture.

As I mentioned, cultural differences have never been a problem for us, and I think that the reason why is because we're both culturally aware enough to know that our own cultures have both a good and a bad side.  We’re not completely "locked-in" to our respective cultures - we know what parts of them work well and what parts don't.  In sharing our cultures with each other, we each try to bring the best bits to the table.

For example, I love being able to share the Irish sense of humour with Bárbara - I introduced her to Father Ted early on and when she loved it straight away, I knew we had a chance!  Similarly for me, one of the best things about dating a Brazilian from my perspective is the food - the Irish aren't known for having a sweet tooth, but I do.  When I first tried Brigadeiro I knew it was a match made in heaven!

So that’s my stance on the topic of cultural differences in general.   However there are some specific situations which present some challenges, so the rest of this post will discuss some of them.

Language barrier

Another thing that people might wonder about is what role the language barrier plays.  In our case, the language barrier doesn't pose any communication problems - Bárbara's English is of such a high level that she understands everything I say (even when I myself don't fully understand what I’m trying to say) and she's able to discuss anything that's on her mind.

This is a real advantage for us compared with other couples in our position, because when we talk about sensitive and difficult subjects, language ability doesn't get in the way.  I imagine that if Bárbara's English wasn't as strong, there would be a language barrier during those conversations more difficult.  Furthermore, if her level was lower, I think that language would present a problem on day-to-day things - it might create more misunderstandings and require more patience to communicate properly.  That said, misunderstandings do happen from time to time, but in our case, I think they happen about as frequently as they would if we were both from the same country.

However, there is still a language barrier that affects us - my limited ability with Portuguese.  While Bárbara and I can communicate through English without issues, that doesn't apply to all of her friends and family.  When spending time with them, Bárbara takes on the role of translator which can be very tiring, and as good as she is in that role, it does impact social interactions.  Sometimes it's even the case that a third person may speak English but is shy about speaking in front of me, a "native speaker" so they choose to stick to Portuguese.

This is upsetting for me, especially when we're in Brazil, because if there's anyone who should feel shy about the situation it's me - not the third person.  I know that their English is far better than my Portuguese and I'd be very much honoured by them speaking my language for my benefit - there's nothing that they should feel insecure about – I’m not there to laugh or make fun of them.  Still, I get where they're coming from.  I've been in the same situation with Italian - I get nervous about speaking in front of native speakers too, so I'm not one to judge.  It does make me feel a little sad though when it happens with members of Bárbara's family.

When Bárbara is translating, most of the time it works well enough that everybody is able to participate in the conversation, but it does limit how much communication takes place between me and the other person involved.  It works better with some people than with others.  Sometimes people are shy of asking me questions directly, so instead they ask Bárbara about me, which can be a little strange (as if I’m not physically present).

At the same time, I sometimes have the disadvantage of not being able to fully understand the conversation Bárbara's having with this person, so I miss information I need to ask meaningful questions and get more involved in the conversation.  For example, it can be quite hard to follow the rhythm of a conversation and know the natural points where I would be able to chime in with my own input.  This is something we take for granted when we’re in a group of people who share the same language.

Thankfully the language barrier doesn't affect us very often, and as my Portuguese improves, it's getting smaller.  For example, at this stage I'm able to follow much of the conversation without translation, so I can stay more involved, even if I'm not able to contribute as much as I would like.

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