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While I was at home today, someone called on the building intercom system and tried to explain something about “banheiro social” (“social bathroom”). I couldn’t quite understand what they were saying, but I was left a bit puzzled of what could have been meant by the “social bathroom.” I knew our building had a “social elevator” (for residents and guests) and a “service elevator” (for servants). But I wasn’t sure what a “social bathroom” would be. When my wife came back she explained to me that the “social bathroom” is the bathroom in our apartment we use ourselves – contrasted with the other bathroom in the far end of the apartment that is meant for the servants (but is never used since we don’t have any). The terminology sort of makes sense, but I still find the notion of a “social bathroom” a bit strange.

Speaking of “social elevators,” when my parents were in Brazil last year, one time, as we were coming from the beach, we were instructed by the porter to enter the building through the side door. We then similarly not allowed to use the “social elevator” and were sent to the service one. My Portuguese was sufficient to understand that we weren’t welcome in the lobby and the “social elevator” but not why this was the case. So, we joked that they simply didn’t want any Russians there. We later discovered that we were sent to the service elevator because we were coming from the beach and were wearing wet clothes, but my wife’s family still refers to the service elevator as “o elevador dos Russos.”