Lost in Brazil

If you ever get lost in Brazil, don’t ask a Brazilian for directions. This is a serious warning: DO NOT ASK A BRAZILIAN FOR DIRECTIONS! I thought after so many years of traveling and living in South America nobody could fool me any more. Boy, was I wrong…

This is what usually happens if you ask for directions in Latin America:

1. The person knows where you want to go and gives you the right instructions. (1% chance)

2. The person doesn’t have a clue, sooo
    a) He tells you so (happens in about 2% of the cases)
    b) He gives you a very vague, general answer so you know you should ask somebody else (5%)
    c) They send you off into some random direction (93%)

So you already know the drill: whatever one person tells you, you need to confirm with at least two more. (Latinos don’t like to say that they don’t know the answer … or they just like to mess with gringos). HOWEVER, this is NOT how it works in Brazil!!!!

This is what happened to me in Brazil:

1. The person knows where you want to go and gives you the right instructions. (1% chance)

2. The person doesn’t have a clue, sooo
    a) He tells you so (happens in about 0% of the cases)
    b) He gives you a very vague, general answer so you know you should ask somebody else (0%)
    c) They say: “Oh, of course, such and such street, that’s easy: it’s ‘a frente’ (30%)

– Now, I have learned that “a frente” (in front) has several meanings:
       – in front (20% of the times)
       – next to (20%)
       – behind (15%)
       – go to the end of the street, take a left, then another right and in front of the bus station ask again (45%)

   d) They say “to the right” while showing towards the left. So you ask again, just to be sure, “to the right???” while indicating the RIGHT side. “Ohhh, nooo, I am sorry, you’re right, I meant to the left!” Now they are showing you to go to the left! (30%)

   e) They give you very clear instructions: “First left, you pass a church, then take the second right, you’ll pass a pharmacy, after the bakery another left until you get to a traffic light; at the big junction take a left and there it is”. (40%)
    – These instructions, however precise, are never (NEVER) correct. DO NOT follow them. Ask again. You will get a similar answer: “First left, you pass a church, then take the THIRD right, you’ll pass a big store, after that you follow the road for about 3 blocks and you’ll get there!”
   – Again: DO NOT FOLLOW these instructions. Ask again. Your answer this time:  “First left, you pass a church, then take the second right, you’ll pass a pharmacy, after the bakery another left until you get to a traffic light; at the big junction don’t walk left, keep walking straight ahead for one more block and then take a right!”

You have no idea where to go? EXACTLY!
You can ask as many times as you want, you will never get the same answer twice and you’ll end up just as confused as you were before. I haven’t quite figured out WHY Brazilians have absolutely no sense of direction but I know this: If you want to get anywhere in Brazil, GET A GOOD MAP!

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