Blog Post #3

A charming brunch spot in the up-and-coming neighborhood of Santos, Mila has been my home for the last six weeks. I don my black Mila shirt and a pair of Birkenstocks every morning at 9 and leave around 5 each night. The other employees: baristas, servers, and kitchen-staff, have become a sort of family to me. When I need to rant or want a hug, I go to them. This budding closeness has also spawned a plethora of short conversations about Americans in our downtime at the cafe. Though the 17 employees at Mila all speak varying degrees of English, I am notably the only American. 

What my coworkers at Mila see of me while I’m working fits their stereotypes of the typical teenage American girl. I talk a million miles a minute, love Taylor Swift, can’t wait to get out at 5 every night to hang out with my friends, live— in their view— a quintessential Midwestern life, and attend a university that looks like it’s out of a storybook. Whenever I say “oh my God” or “are you serious?”, they laugh, saying I sound exactly like the girls in the American movies they watch. At the same time, they’ve told me that I’m not nearly as “stuck-up” or “annoying” or “spoiled” as they imagine Americans. 

All their perspectives are valid, because they can only judge based on what they see. The only Lilian they see is the one who comes into Mila every day at 9am, works hard for 8 hours, cracks jokes, speaks pretty good Portuguese, and leaves at 5pm. Stereotypes are a view through a single lens. For the most part, stereotypes do have some truth, but they’re a view through a single lens. They don’t allow for the nuances and complexities that make each person, place, or culture special. My co-workers at Mila don’t see how many hours I dedicate to studying, that I biked across the country, that my last internship was one with a federal judge, or that I’m a huge foodie who bakes when I’m stressed. They don’t see my relationships with my parents, brother, or friends. 

In American movies or TV shows, where most stereotypes come from, teenage girls are often portrayed as bubbly and shallow. They have no depth. This is what the people I’ve talked to expect me to be. And in the environment I’m in at Mila, I haven’t dispelled those many of stereotypes, because it’s hard to show off my intellect or my abilities when I’m just trying to focus on taking orders in a language that isn’t my first. At the same time, I do think I’ve dispelled one stereotype. My co-workers at Mila said that they expect American teenage girls to be lazy and entitled, but I’m a hard worker and proud of it. I do my share of the work, just like them. If orange juice needs to be made, I’m on it. If someone needs to take over the floor, I’m there. Dishes need to be done? I’ll get it done. That is one stereotype that I can disprove working in a service job, and I’ve tried to make sure I have.