Getting a waiter’s attention in Brazil can be a challenge. I’ve never quite known the words to use to call them over, relying mostly on eyes and gesticulation. I’ve noticed men using the word “Amigo” to call a waiter across the room, and never felt quite comfortable saying that myself. “Amigo”? Really, isn’t friendship a little presumptuous, an imposition of a nonexistent bond?

Apparently not. Last night I was out in Laranjeiras at the weekly couchsurfing gathering for the Rio group, sitting with two Brazilian guys. “Amigo” is just the beginning of their creativity in the way they call over a waiter to the table. Subtle and psychological they are.

We made a list of all the words they use to get a waiter’s attention. To wit, they might call out:
– amigo (friend)
– chefe (boss)
– doctor (an address of respect, not just for “doctors”)
Рirm√£o (brother)
– comandante (commander)
– presidente

The more flattering the address, the more likely the waiter (garcon) will come over to take our order or bring us the check.

(Honestly, what do we say in the U.S.? It’s sadly uncreative if all we say is “waiter” or “check, please”?)

Next time I am desperate for a caipirinha or a caldo de feijao (black bean soup), I am going to try saying “irm‚àö¬£o” or “chefe.” I’ve never heard women using these forms of address. Is it just a male thing? My new friends think so.

But maybe Brazilian women have a waiter-attracting language all their own. I’ll be listening.