You can’t “dash in” and buy anything in Brazil. I’ve tried. It can’t be done.

For the most part, that’s okay. I have learned to take my time, and not gallop through my shopping. This lack of “dashing” has also severely limited my urge to shop in Brazil, which isn’t a bad thing.

The thing is, when you buy something, at least two pairs of hands have to touch the item, besides yours. You go into a store, and you find the item you want to buy. Someone is typically “helping” you to shop, which means they stand by your side while you do so. When you have your item, they helpfully take it from you and carry it to the cashier. You then pay the cashier, who gives you a receipt, which you then take to another counter where the same helpful clerk (or, in many cases, a third clerk) has bagged the item for you. You then get your purchase, two or three hands removed. I am convinced that this is one of the practices that keeps unemployment numbers in Brazil so low.


At the butcher market, you order your meat (I’m still learning the different cuts and styles of preparation), and the butcher gets the meat, weighs it, and puts a sticker on a piece of paper for each item you order. Once you have finished ordering, he gives you the paper, which you then take to the cashier (who might be sitting behind the very counter with him) to pay. Having paid, you receive a receipt, which you take back to the butcher, who then hands you your meat.


At the grocery story, even the fast lines are molasses streams, as the checkout clerks move with agonizing lack of speed, their Tyrannosaurus Rex hands hardly reaching your items, to scan them ever so carefully and accurately and slowly. And the people ahead of you in line WAIT until everything has been rung up before they BEGIN to bag the items! I want to scream sometimes. It takes me ten minutes to find what I need, and thirty minutes to check out.


If you go into a clothing store, a guaranteed three people will handle your purchase before it is delivered into your hands. Same goes in the bakery, where you order what you want, it is bagged by one person and weighed by another, and then you take the items to pay for them. If you pay with money, you have to wait while the change is counted out, often with elementary school deliberation. If you pay by credit card, you are asked “Credito” or “Debito”? No matter which you answer, they always seems to misunderstand and must ask you again. It all takes time.

For the most part, I am content to shop this way. I’ve gotten used to it, and have begun to appreciate the slower pace of life that this forces on me. But what’s going to happen when the tourists arrive for the soccer games? All I can suggest is, I hope they take their time, embracing the experience. Fussing will get them nowhere, so I hope they simply enjoy the ride.