Monday, October 21, 2013

Jeitinho Brasileiro, negotiation and "the flick" - Johannesburg, South Africa

Reception of Gold Reef City Theme Park and Hotel
On our last two nights in South Africa, we had originally been scheduled to stay in Sun City outside of Johannesburg. Then a conference booked up everything and we were moved by our tour agency to the Gold Reef City Theme Park and Hotel. Picture Disney on a MUCH smaller scale, and with the theme of the gold mining heyday in South Africa (they once produced as much as 30% of the world's gold). Yes, I am sure you have seen some photos of gold mining operations--it is not pretty. Gold Reef is. Though very fake.

Gold Reef has a downtown which is pretty amazing. It all looks old-timey, peacocks roam next to old-fashioned cars, and all of the buildings follow an old-timey theme. Our hotel room was in the saloon. It only looked like a saloon from the outside; I kept looking for the bar in the building inside but no such luck. The park closed at 5 pm, and after this time, only the hotel guests could wander about. And you could wander about anywhere you wanted, and there were no guards. Kind of spooky and ghost town. Fun for kids. Would never happen in the US, because of fear of lawsuits; would never happen in Brazil because of lack of trust. 

The kids spent a few hours on kiddie rides. I felt a bit bad for them because they are not 1.3 meter tall to ride on the big coasters, and the kiddie rides were of the bumper car, mini coaster and merry-go-round type. However, after 6 days of safari, they were pretty happy to just run about and ride even goofy rides. 

At the park, we were some of the very few foreigners. Most of the foreigners were white, all of the locals (almost) were black. The ride operators talked with the parents and kids in one of South Africa's languages, and quickly switched to English when they saw us. Fortunately no one tried Afrikaans on me because I would have been completely lost. 

It was here at this park that I thought about another cultural difference, this time including the US, South Africa and Brazil. And of course, my sample size is small so feel free to tell me I'm off base. While waiting in some lines with my kids (I would wait with them, then they would ride without me), some of the little kids there slightly older than mine (seven or eight years old) would try to jump the queue. My kids, who are shy, would look up at me as they got passed to ask me for help. 

But before I could even do something, a woman behind me would reach out and flick (literally I mean flick) the kids back into place, saying something in a language I could not understand. This happened several times. In one instance, a woman nearby sitting on a bench waited her time, then when the line-jumpers got to the very front of the line, she got up, went over to the ride operator, said something, and the kids got put to the back of the line. A strong sense of fairness.

In the US, I have never seen "the flick". I have seen parents negotiating with their kids. "Please, Johnny, understand that this kid was here a half hour before you. How do you think he feels?" Agh, Deus me livre. (God save me). There are times when you don't negotiate. You skip line, you go to back of line. I do think the US has a strong feeling for fairness but not a strong feeling that you sometimes just need to execute (as in act, not kill) not negotiate.

In Brazil, there is "jeitinho brasileiro." I hate jeitinho--defined as a way of circumventing rules. It is the way you jump ahead in line. You charm, you worm, you negotiate with the ride operator. It is a way of thinking only of yourself. There are rules and then there are rules that you work around. Using jeitinho. I have seen Brazilians encourage their kids to sneak into line, grab the best treats at a party before the happy birthday song is sung, and I see kids watching how their parents work around certain rules. I have only been to the theme park here once so I can't really say, but I imagine that Brazil falls somewhere between the US and South Africa. No negotiation, but an attempt to get ahead at the expense of others. 

Sometimes I think you just need to do the "flick". Also to the parents. I am working on it.

No comments:

Post a Comment