LFB – Sharing

I’ve been in Brazil long enough to know that people here believe “sharing is caring.” One sees this mostly where food is involved. Call me very American if you will but I don’t like sharing (perhaps because I grew up with brothers who used and abused my things without asking).

Regardless, as a young adult, who is on the poorer side of the economic spectrum, I need to know how I’m spending the money I have. Time, in many cases, is also money (in other words, they are both investments). A few months back, I lived in a shared apartment with a few other guys, all adults. Going to the market, finding specific food, paying for it with money I earned, and returning home is all a process and an investment. Nonetheless, various times I would find certain items either missing or half empty, only to find out later that one roommate saw the other (or vice-versa) eating said item. To me, this boggles my mind, especially considering they weren’t friends of mine, just flatmates. If you didn’t buy something with your own money and invest an hour in acquiring that item, keep your hands off it (duh)! Seems so simple, yet it has happened in several places I’ve lived in Brazil where shared common spaces were the norm and 20-35 year olds were involved.

From 0 to 100, where 100 is me being totally understanding of this behavior, I’m pretty much at the 0 point (unless specifically and politely asked for or offered). If you grew up this way (sharing things) in your family home or act this way with really close friends, the more power to you! That’s great you feel that way but that doesn’t mean it applies to people you simply rent rooms to or share common spaces with.

By the way, I am saying this here and, in a polite manner, to the infringers in person. I’m not trying to be an ass, the main point really is that I have to watch what I spend and how I spend it (be it time or money). The secondary, yet equally important point is that I’m an adult and so I respect other people’s things.

I’m not saying this is a Brazilian thing that somehow applies to all Brazilians (I’ve lived with Brazilians who didn’t do this) but I’ve lived with many, many different kinds of people in the US and no one ever used my stuff (without asking permission first).

PS – Andria, in the comments, says it’s an education problem, not a nationality problem. I think she’s right ; ) Though that doesn’t mean the Americans I’ve lived with are educated, per se, rather they must have grown up with same ideas of individualism and respect of personal property that I grew up with.

PPS – Wow, what a way to characterize my post!…Quite the link bait there.

11 thoughts on “LFB – Sharing

  1. sorry, I’m a brazilian and I lived in London and New Zealand for 4 years and had the same annoying problem with my flatmates. that is an education problem, not a nationality problem.

  2. There might be some cultural concepts involved. I know that in China, where I lived for a while, the idea of communal property is quite strong, so that people will often expect to be able to use the items of their friends and acquaintances. I think the idea is that in the future the favor will be returned, creating a cycle that helps to sustain the relationship. However, it is very unfortunate when people interact with others from a different cultural or educational background without establishing what their own norm is.

  3. Yep, I was going to say the same thing. This happens all the time in shared houses in the UK. It’s almost a cliché – there is the stereotype of the free-loading house-mate who never buys his/her own food; then there’s the stereotype of the house-mate who is hyper sensitive to it and labels all their items with post-it notes!

    It is really annoying to have your stuff ‘borrowed’ like this – I think you should be able to speak directly to the people in question. If they have a problem with it then they’re clearly not good people to be living with.

    • For sure. Same stereotypes in the US, but I have luckily avoided both types in my umpteen moves. Problem is, when there’s several people in the house, it’s more usual than not that everyone denies it.

  4. This is a cultural thing. If you are perceived as better off by your roommates and their friends (by being American, you are better off by default), they will not see it as an imposition to help themselves to your “extra” supplies
    My Brasilian wife suggests you purchase only the food you will need immediately. Please note: no one will say anything to you whatever you do, but if YOU say anything about this to anyone, YOU will be called Mao de vaca=tight fisted.

  5. I disagree with this being a cultural thing, exnyer.

    As andria said, that’s about education, not so much culture.

    Sure, there might be a cultural precedent that makes it more or less accepted, but the difference is small.

    I have never seen anyone that thought it’s an okay thing to do to take stuff from people without asking them first. I have had my share of problems with that, and also my share of lucky experiences (I’ve been living with 3 housemates for about a year now, and there’s been no incidents whatsoever).

  6. Hi BB, My comment is based on 15 years of observation and direct experience. Further I have a Brasilian wife who can give me a clear understanding of the culture differences. I’ve noticed that sharing is considered good form in Brasil. Yes it can be annoying, but if one is careful, it can be charming. You know-even here in the USA we all have a story of the moocher. The roommate who drinks all the milk and never replaces it or returns your car with an empty gas tank.The point is, it is the guy who puts his name on the milk or refuses to lend the car who is considered the jerk in these cases. Patience and a sense of humor will serve you better in these situations.

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