Culture Clash Brazil Vs. United States: Thermometer Usage

December 7, 2010

This goes different places in different countries (photo: andres rueda)

LOCATION: Belo Horizonte, Brazil

I learned the old Brazilian thermometer [termômetro] trick during a mild case of food poisoning. This discomfort, I accepted, was a small price to pay for the incredible sushi buffet the night before.

My friend Monica was infinitely more concerned. A mother of two and Brazilian to the bone, she took care of me with nurse-like efficiency.

Soothing words, check.
Hot soup, check.
Medicine, check.

Temperature…wait, wait, wait, wait…where are you putting that?

It was on this day I learned that Brazilians don’t place thermometers in their mouths.

They place them in their armpits.

Monica didn’t understand my reluctance to chicken-wing the little mercury poker. After all, this is the way temperature was, is, and always will be taken in Brazil.

I explained that in the United States temperature is taken differently.

Putting that thermometer in my mouth was beyond her imagination, it was an inexplicably disgusting notion.

You can imagine how I laughed months later when she told me about a doctor visit while on vacation in San Francisco, California:

Primeiro entra uma mulher que te faz um monte de perguntas e sai, depois outra e finalmente a médica.

English translation:First a woman who asks a ton of questions enters and leaves, then another woman, and finally the doctor.

De repente ela pega um termômetro e sem que eu pudesse falar nada socou o tal na minha boca. Que nojo! Esse povo não tem a menor noção de higiene fica enfiando termômetros na boca de todo mundo. Tentei não encostar no termômetro mas não teve jeito porque tinha fazer uma certa pressão com a língua, eka! eka! eka!

English translation: Suddenly she grabs a thermometer and before I could object she stuffed it in my mouth. Gross! Those people know nothing about hygiene sticking thermometers in the everyone’s mouth. I tried not to move the thermometer around, but to no avail because I had to keep pressure on it with my tongue, yuck, yuck, yuck!

Se fosse no Brasil nem receita eu ia precisar porque você pode comprar quase todos os remédios sem prescrição medica.

English translation: If I were in Brazil I wouldn’t even need a prescription because you can buy almost all medicines with a prescription.

QUESTION: Do you have any stories about cultural differences between the Brazilian or American health care system? Please share them in the comment section.

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