Behind the counter of the laundry a woman of maybe 50 years looked at the things I had put on the counter in front of her, among them a plush doll. She sighed and explained that this laundry was not able to wash everything – like the doll, but they would send them away to be washed and that for the doll this would take about 15 days. I hesitated and asked her, if it was worth it. She rubbed her thumb and index finger together, smiled and asked: “For the money? It costs 45 Reais.” Then she looked at me and asked: “do you have a washing machine at home?” I said: “Yes.” And she replied: “Then I suggest you save the money and wash this doll at home. These things don’t get bad. Really, you can save that money.”
I thanked her for the honesty and packed my stuff again. We talked a little bit more and of course she noticed my accent. “Where are you from”, she asked. “Germany”, I answered and then she asked that question, which I hear a lot: “Since when are you in Brazil?” “About one and a half years.” “Your Portuguese is very good”, she said and I smiled and thanked her again and told her, that I still have problems with the language and want to improve. Then she said: “You are the first nice German I have met.” I thanked her for the compliment and asked if she had made a bad experience with Germans. “Only one”, she said. “It was on a vacation in Indonesia, there were many people from all over the world, many Brazilians and also many Germans. One day I wanted to have a photo taken of us, and I asked this German man. He took the picture, but he made a face as if it was outrageous that I even asked him. He was so unfriendly. You are so much nicer.”
For a brief moment I had this feeling again of being a cultural ambassador of Germany. Brazilians usually enjoy these situations, when they have the chance to get to know someone or something from another country. I realized again, how the perception of a country, a nation or a people can depend on one single encounter.
We talked a little bit more about Germany and Germans, why they sometimes can seem rude, even though most of them are not. And when I left the small laundry, she said goodbye with these words that are so nice and which still make me smile, even after having lived in Brazil for 1.5 years. “Welcome to Brazil”, she said. I wonder how many foreigners in Germany ever heard these words from a German.