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Melancholic Birthday Party

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A Brazilian is surprised by American’s lack of enthusiasm when singing Happy Birthday

famille souriante et chantante autour d'un gateau d'anniveraire
Birthday party in a Brazilian family, Bello Horizonte, Brazil, 2009

The Experience

“Nowadays Brazilian habits and American habits aren’t so different. Maybe because of that when I came to the US I haven’t had many cultural chocks. I easily integrated The basic recommendations to the Brazilians such as “don’t touch too much” or “ be punctual”.

After a year of living here in Montana, I realize it’s maybe the small things that are more challenging. Let me introduce the “birthday party” case.

The reason? Americans don’t clap during the “Happy Birthday to you” song. They just chant in dismal tone, slowly, with their hands behind their back as if they were in a flag ceremony, whereas in Brazil we sing while overtly clapping, repeating the song again and again, yelling out the name of the birthday child, releasing balloons in the air…

However much I try to plug this social norm in my mind, many times I can’t do it and, when I realize it, there I am, the random Brazilian cheerfully clapping! This always surprises the Americans that are there but they usually smile kindly and probably think ‘Ahhh, these Latinos!’”

Who's Telling the Story?

Daniela is a Brazilian Portuguese teacher for foreign people and she’s always traveling around the world. Nowadays she lives in Montana, USA.

Place : Bozeman, Montana, United-States
Date : 2018

What do You Think?

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