The longer we stay in Brazil, the more things we realize we are doing VERY culturally wrong! The problem is culture cannot just be taught, especially since we don't know the language. It has to be learned by experiences and observations. Normally, we can guess when we are doing things that are not similar to Brazilian culture because we get very odd looks from Brazilians. The first set of odd looks we got was when we were in the mall eating pizza with our hands like every other American does. However, in Brazil it is rude to eat pizza with your hands, and instead they use a fork and a knife.
There is one pizza restaurant Stuart told us about in Fortaleza where they "attempt" to be American. Everyone in this restaurant can eat the pizza with their hands, but there is one catch... you have to wear a plastic glove. Stuart told us that the gloves are in a box in the middle of a table and everyone grabs one and puts it on without thinking anything of it! Even the little girl that was with them put one on, and the fingers of the glove on her tiny hand just hung loosely as she happily enjoyed her pizza!
Luckily for Mary Alice and I, we found a group of people that can help us out and let us know when we are doing something that might seem very weird to Brazilians!!! We met this group while we were downstairs laying out on the patio because the building had set an overcast right over the pool area. While we were laying there in silence, we all of a sudden heard giggling. I looked up from my chair and saw a group of kids pointing at us while whispering to one another. I didn't know if they were playing a game or what, and it wasn't until one outgoing 17 year old boy name Ramori came up to us and said, "Where are you from? There is no beach here?" when I finally realized what they were laughing at. The fact that we were laying out on the patio was VERY odd to them! First of all because most Brazilians don't lay out, they get naturally tanned by just walking around everyday. And second, since we were not by the pool... it would be the equivalent to seeing foreigners back home laying out in a parking lot.
After he came up to us, a dozen other kids appeared and started talking to us! It was great to talk to them because they wanted to learn English as much as we want to learn Portuguese; so, we all got to practice! The kids ranged in ages from 8-20 years old, and they all live in our apartment complex. It's really different how the kids at this apartment complex all hang out together everyday, even with the big age gap. David is the oldest; he is 20 years old, and he speaks the most English. So, we have been asking him a lot of questions about Brazil! He is the one that told us we had been using the wrong elevator ever since we got to Fortaleza. The elevator we were using is only for maids and other services, and he told us that people would laugh every time we got in that elevator. Learning these things makes me wonder what else we have done that is funny to Brazilians since we have been here. But I have already misread a sign, gone into the men's bathroom, and screamed and startled a man coming out who looked more scared than I was... so, not much can beat that I guess.