Insights and Experiences
By Rita Elena Daniel - 27/oct/2015 #Historia, Cultura y Artes
You’d think that if all the banks in a country went on strike, there might be some sort of civil unrest. Well, maybe that’s my American attitude shining through. I say this because the banks here, I mean all banks, have been on strike since Monday (10/5/15). Luckily, a colleagueat Natural English warned me that they might go on strike soon. So, while I’m not fully unprepared for this event, I can still sincerely say that I’m kind of appalled at the way that the Brazilians are coping with this. I even think that the term “coping” is too negatively charged to use in this case because the Brazilians that I’ve consulted about this really don’t seem to be too affected by it or surprised at all!
I’ve asked coworkers, friends, and students about this and they all have the same impassive response—“They do this every year. They demand more pay,” they tell me—as if they endure this nuisance so frequently that it no longer grinds their figurative gears. Well, this evening I had the opportunity to ask one of my students, who works at a bank, what the deal was. She said, with utmost honesty, that the bank employees do this so that they can get what they want. In response, I asked if she felt right about doing such a thing at the cost of everyone else’s inconvenience, to which she replied, “Yes, I feel bad, but how else can everyone get a raise?” Then she asked me when the last strike was in the U.S. “Hmmmmm,” I thought. I explained to her that I couldn’t even remember the last strike we had in the good ole USA. I don’t know if it was a transportation strike? A steelworkers’ strike? Wait, do we even have that anymore?
“Honestly,” I told her, “If we had a strike, there would be riots—people in the streets, demanding service.” Then we got into a discussion about the difference between Brazil’s collectivist culture ideals, and the more individualistic culture in America. I explained that in America, we believe that if one person excels at their job, they deserve a raise. We wouldn’t easily put ourselves at risk of losing a job so that everyone, even those of us who didn’t deserve a raise, could get one. Another reason for the Brazilian nonchalance to this strike, I think, is because the ATMs here are so efficient. I recently opened a bank account here and have just been acquainted to the wonder that is paying “boletos” or bills directly at the ATM. Once you receive a bill, by snail mail or e-mail, you simply print and scan it at the ATM. I will say that it is weird though that you have to scan your finger at some ATMs! It’s “Star Trek” at best and “Brave New World” at worst—I’m still in the process of working that out. Either way, I admire the positive attitude that the Brazilian people generally maintain, despite the daily obstacles that face them.
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