I worked in service as a bartender for over 10 years. I hated it and loved it at the same time. I loved being part of a person’s experience. I loved being able to create a surprise in a dinner. I loved turning a grumpy customer into a happy one or even a regular. An owner of a bar I once worked at said; “A customer is our guest. Of all the places in New York City they’ve walked into our restaurant on a Friday night, choosing to spend their hard-earned pay check here, it is our job to make them feel good. “
Some nights were easier than others to do this. One of my greatest frustrations was always a foreign guest on a busy night. The ones that seemed lost, that didn’t speak great English, who would stumble through an order, ask way too many questions, and always order a specialty cocktail. (which, for you non-bartenders, we hate making on a busy night because we can make 5 vodka sodas in the same time it takes to muddle one of those damn strawberries! (It’s all about money).
Looking back, I treated those guests rudely, as though they were an inconvenience to me. I share this story because last week when I was a foreign guest in Brazil, the Brazilian people did quite the opposite to me, and it made me do some self-reflection.
My husband and I walked into a trendy restaurant in Sao Paulo on a Thursday evening. It was completely packed. We looked lost as there wasn’t a clear hostess stand. A man approached us speaking Portuguese. We timidly asked if he spoke English. He lit up in the kindest way and said no, but he ushered us to the bar and found us two empty seats. He gave us this look as if to say; “do you trust me?” We reluctantly nodded, “yes.” He shouted something at the bartender and two delicious cocktails landed in front of us. Then he mimed a table would be ready soon, and it was. The hospitality continued through the evening. Every member of staff we encountered walked us through that dining experience, ordering for us the most delicious dishes. It was true hospitality through action not words. I was blown away.
I found this sort of kindness throughout our five days in Brazil. A bouncer from a samba club even walked us to cab making sure the driver took credit card because we feared we didn’t have enough cash to get home.
Never once did the Brazilian people make me feel bad for not speaking their language or like I was an annoyance. If anything, they wrapped their arms around us and showed us their country. I might forget the restaurants we went too, the hotels we stayed in, but the way the people made me feel I will never forget. That’s it, I guess. We are all the ambassadors of the place we come from. In a world that feels more divided now than ever before in my life time. I know there is power not only in travel, but in how we treat tourists at home. A country is its people. It’s on us to not only be humble guests, but also gracious hosts. It’s the experience they have with you that will either confirm or shift the pre-conceived idea they may have on a place. I believe human connection is what changes minds, not the media.
So when a tourist bumps me in Time Square as he tries to get that awesome selfie, I won’t roll my eyes, (well I might – I mean I’m a New Yorker at heart!!), but if he asks me for directions, I might just walk him there.
MY BRAZIL TIPS
George V Pinheiros: Affordable, clean basic amenities, great staff, AWESOME LOCATION.
Favorite Bars and Restaurants:
Piraja– Amazing staff. Great cocktails. Wonderful food. (This blogs inspiration)
Spritz– Chill after dinner drinks with a mellow DJ.
Manesh– AMAZING FOOD. We came here two nights in a row. Could not be more obsessed with this place.
Ruella Bistro– Really romantic. Only had a drink here, but looked really nice for dinner.
Braz Pizza– Great lunch pre-fix. The pizza is awesome.
Astor Bar– Amazing Tonics. Chill upstairs and swanky downstairs.
Arena Ipanema– Simple. Cool roof deck. Great area. Nice rooms.
Favorite Bars and Restaurants:
Aprazivel – (It’s worth the Journey up.)Cool vibe, unique view, good food. (
After take a cab to..
Bar Carioca da Gema: Samba! SO MUCH FUN!!! A lot of locals out and about.