A Cultural Sidenote (2)

During language school we learn not only learn the language, but how to navigate in the culture as well. One of the issues we discussed this week was how to be polite when you bump into someone or need someone to move. There are three basic sayings: Desculpe! (excuse me), Perdão! (sorry), and Com licença (pardon me). The first two are used when you’ve already committed a fault; for instance, accidentally bumping into someone because you weren’t watching were you were going. The final one is used when you plan to commit a fault; like when two people are standing chatting in front of an item you need to reach in the grocery store but you’re going to reach for it anyways.  While explaining all of this to us, our professor gave us this story as a way of helping us realize the importance of using the correct expression. There was a lady who was learning Portuguese. She had decided to take a bus somewhere, and since the bus was full, she ended up standing in the aisle. All of a sudden, the bus lurched to the side to avoid hitting something and the lady lost her balance and fell onto the lap of the gentleman sitting next to her. “Oh,” she exclaimed,”Com liscença!”   Believing that she had said she was sorry for falling on the gentleman, she was surprised to hear him tell her that she was welcome to stay sitting on his lap! Needless to say, this story provided me with incentive to learn these sayings well.

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