10 January 2019 – Working abroad with a language barrier ~ part of the fun or part of my frustration?

For the past week, I’ve been volunteering in Rio Das Ostras (in Brazil) at possibly the most unique hostel I’ve ever been in. The hostel feels more like a holiday house or mini-mansion. They have more luxurious private rooms than dorm rooms and it attracts families rather than solo travelers. I guess the most different thing I’ve experienced in this hostel is that there are absolutely ZERO foreign travelers here (only about 0.5% of the guests can speak a little bit of English).

My work – such a hard life isn’t it?

Being here definitely feels like I’m in paradise…I get to laze in the sun and the pool all day, go to the beach when I have a spare minute, spend time on my blog and just plain relax…and since I’ve arrived in Brazil, I’ve noticed that the people are warm, friendly and beautiful people inside and out (seriously the men and women are STUNNING!)

but I’m not going to lie…something is missing.

Maybe it’s the lack of connection I have with anyone here…

Maybe it’s because I haven’t properly made any friends…

Or maybe it’s just simply because I can’t communicate…

You know what? I’m sure it’s because of this.

Because I can’t speak any Portuguese, I’ve noticed it’s started to take a toll on me. It’s so strange because when I travel, I normally enjoy the language barrier despite it causing some miscommunication and being frustrating at times. But the language barrier in a place like this is making me feel lonely and isolated. I’m surprised because I don’t normally feel this way ~ this is the first time I’ve truly felt like this on my travels.

I will sum up exactly how I feel to you in four points:

Being unable to communicate with people here has led me to feel a little bit useless ~ I can’t communicate with the guests without Google Translate, which makes me feel like I am making the hostel look bad when guests have a question or are checking in. I feel like I can’t really do basic things and feel like I look like I’m stupid. I’m sure some guests have subtly complained about it to each other.

It also makes things more difficult to do ~ I’m mainly working with a lovely lady who can’t speak a single word of English so it gets quite difficult to communicate sometimes and we’ve probably misunderstood each other a number of times. Luckily, it hasn’t led to any major problems so far. But when the owner goes away for days at a time (he can speak English) it gets tough to sort things out when problems arise or I encounter a question I don’t know the answer to (especially when I can’t reach the boss).

It has led me to being unmotivated to do anything…I can’t be bothered exploring the city, hiking the mountains, seeing the beautiful beaches or even going out to drink. I just feel like being a home-body, eating healthy and writing my blog. It kinda makes me feel bad because I still expect myself to explore new places as much as possible and the Argentinian girls I’m working with are doing so much more than me. I feel so lazy in comparison to them. But it just doesn’t seem half as fun to go out and explore a place when you’re truly by yourself (maybe I’m not a true solo traveler).

I’ve already said it, but the language barrier makes me feel lonely and out of place ~ being unable to properly interact with the guests is extremely difficult for someone like me who loves talking to people. I almost feel like I’m being silenced or ‘gagged’ in some way.

I guess that’s the biggest one for me. It’s been one week and now I’m questioning if I will be able to last another two weeks like this. I mean it is only two weeks right? And it gives me PLENTY of time to actually be able to finally catch up on my blog.

I should maximise this opportunity…but deep down I don’t want to, I want to move on to a place where I feel like I belong a little bit more or at least don’t feel so isolated and lonely. Sadly it’s completely my fault for feeling this way ~ I should have at least learnt some basic Portuguese before coming.

Despite how I feel, I’m going to stick it out ~ I’m not the type of person to quit something if I’ve committed to it especially when it’s not even that bad and such short term (first world problems right? Many people would die to be in my shoes right now). All I can do is see what there’s to come, enjoy every bit I can, utilise the spare time I have, learn as much Portuguese as possible and learn from this.

I guess the beauty of having not-so-pleasant experiences is that you figure out what you need and how to get it.

What have I learnt?

For any of my future Workaways, I’ll make sure I choose a place where I am able to communicate and perhaps a place where I am the only person who is working or working with individuals rather than couples (couples tend to make me feel like a third wheel or excluded). If it’s a hostel, I’ll make sure it’s a place where I am mainly dealing with foreigners rather than locals (but it will be different in the other Latin-American countries because I want to go to Spanish school and practise my Spanish).

Thanks for reading ~ I hope you enjoyed 😊

If you’ve had any similar experiences, I’d love to hear about them!

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