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A Scotsman in Brazil

A Scotsman in Brazil
What difference one might ask could possibly define the Scottishness of being in Brazil, compared say with being English, American or German?
Well I have been mistaken for all three, so from a Brazilian perspective there can`t be a lot to tell us apart, but for me, I can always say that I am from the land of whisky, and that creates an instant link to the land of my fathers.
`You like whiskey?` I often ask. The reply is usually a loud affirmative from Brasileiros and a sour face from Brasileiras. I proudly explain the difference between malt and `cooking` whiskies and the exorbitant prices charged for the more mediocre brands sold in Brazilian supermarkets.
Then the inevitable questions arise about the `saia xadrez`. It`s not a skirt, but a kilt I remonstrate with all of the national pride that I can muster, but to no avail.
They are more interested in knowing if anything is worn underneath, but Brazilian etiquette denies a straight question on such a sensitive subject, so the conversation moves on to the subject of weather.
`Isn`t it very cold there?` They often ask. Yes, but you get used to it I reply. No one believes this in Brazil. How could you possibly get used to sub zero temperatures and snow, especially when wearing a skirt!
Then the more enlightened enquire as to what language is spoken in Scotland. This is a complicated one to answer correctly, since it requires a perception about the Scots idiom and some grasp of Scottish geography. I have evolved an explanation that describes Gaelic as being a more ancient language that is now mainly confined to the west of Scotland and the islands. This is usually met with a blank look, since History and Geography are subjects that are little understood in Brazil. My example of `Slange ava`! is more easily absorbed. When I then explain that English is spoken by the majority, albeit in a way similar to the Portuguese spoken in Bahia, this again manages to bridge the gap between our cultures and a common bond is quickly forged . A rendition of `Lang may yer lum reek` usually has them in fits of laughter!
Then, emboldened by camaderie, the more inquisitive sportsmen will ask about Scottish football and the relationship with the game played south of the border… Yes, we do have some rivalry, I acknowledge…similar to Brazil and Argentina! This meets with instant approval and a sympathetic look that betrays more understanding than is polite to mention.
Occasionally the subject of nationality crops up. Now this is one that I have not managed to get across after six years of trying. This topic usually begins with a statement.
`You are Scottish` …Yes!
`But what is your country? …Scotland of course….
`But you say that on your identity card, it is written British?` …Yes, but…
`What does it say on your passport?` ….United Kingdom I reply.
I sense a complete and utter inability to explain the subtleties of 500 years of British history and the complex geography of the British Isles!
It`s a very long story I tell them, and swiftly move on to haggis!

Alastair Kinghorn
© 2013 Alastair Kinghorn

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