How to Greet the Portuguese? Insult Them.

File this one under “how to interact with my future in-laws,” or maybe “other lessons learned on Ana’s birthday.” On Sunday, we were preparing Ana’s brother’s new deck for Father’s Day barbeque when Ana’s Portuguese aunt and uncle arrived a few minutes early (on time, actually, but we can chalk that faux paux up as a cultural disconnect). I greeted Aldina, Ana’s aunt, with a nice big hug, but she refused to release me until I acquiesed to the ol’ two-cheek kiss (chalk that up to cultural differences, too, I guess).

“It’s so nice to see you again,” I said, in my most charming, butter-up-the-fam kind of way.
Response: “Oh, you are really fat.”
“Excuse me?”
“You fat. Big belly.”
“Wha?”
“Really big belly.”

Shocked and embarrased, I reached for the nearest blunt instrument. But then I saw Ana in the distance and thought better of thumping my future aunt-in-law. I put down the badmitten racquet. The only thing to do, I concluded, was play her game.

“Well, at least I’m not as fat as you. And I dress well, too. That’s worth something.”
“Oh,” she said. “Yes. Sim.”

Ana later told me that her aunt’s comment really wasn’t intended as an insult. “It’s just her way of saying you look healthy,” she explained. “That’s how Portuguese people greet one another.” Indeed, Ana too had been complemented on her fatness. Still, all this can’t exactly be discounted as cultural obliviousness, right? I mean, the woman’s lived in the United States for twenty years. So, be warned, wedding guests: Should you meet any Portuguese natives at the wedding, be armed with an insult or two, just in case.


–Aldina (left) with Ana’s mother. My, what a couple of healthy fat ladies!

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