Lost in Brazilian Portuguese Translation: When the Security Guard Rings Your Bell

My Sister Lizzy Enjoying the View of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
My Sister Lizzy Enjoying the View of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

“Do you sleep here?” my sister Lizzy asked the tall, dark and handsome hotel security guard who joined us in elevator. We had seen him morning, noon and night during our week-long stay in Rio de Janeiro and had exchanged smiles and little waves. On our last in night in Rio, this was the first conversation we had with him.

“Yes,” he said while nodding.

And that was the extent of our conversation.

The elevator doors glided open and we innocently exited but were followed by the guard dressed in a black suit and crisp, white collard shirt. This really isn’t odd except he had pushed the 14th floor button and we were on the 13th. Instincts told me to jump back in the elevator but I figured since he’s employed by the hotel, Rio Othon Palace, he had to be safe and couldn’t have evil intentions, right?

Walking slowly to our room hoping to buy time and figure out where he was going, we watched him walk down the hall opposite us but then he returned and entered the stairwell door across from our room. We tried quickly to lock ourselves safely in our room without him seeing us but he emerged with a room service menu. Having worked in a 24-hour hotel, this wasn’t too odd because staff working the overnight shift sometimes have opportunities to eat off the restaurant menu.

Smiling, he spoke something in Portuguese and showed us the menu. It was about 11:30 p.m. and although we hadn’t had a full dinner that night, sleep was the only thing on our minds.

“Good night,” we said just before shutting and locking our door, which had the red “DND” sign hanging from the doorknob. (Do not disturb – for those unfamiliar with hotel lingo.) It’s the universal symbol for “leave me alone.”

We thought he understood.

Exterior of Rio Othon Palace, Rio de Janiero, Brazil
Exterior of Rio Othon Palace, Rio de Janiero, Brazil

A few minutes later I was in the bathroom preparing for bed. My Simple Cleansing Facial Wipes had just removed the remaining makeup that withstood the day’s Brazilian humidity and I had slipped on my un-sexy white T-shirt and over-sized, blue Champion shorts. Our doorbell buzzed (Yes, this hotel was swanky enough to have a doorbell.) and my sister and I looked at each other.

Looking out the hotel door’s peephole, I could see him standing there, looking around and holding the menu.

Should we answer?

Whether right or wrong, we answered.

I don’t recall the exact “conversation” but it was basically an exchange of something in Portuguese we didn’t understand and he didn’t understand our English.

“Oh, no thank you, we’re ok,” I said, “Good night.”

I closed the door looking at his puzzled face and thought that was it.

Yes, it was odd but as we looked out the peephole, he was still there. In fact, he went just barely out of sight and it looked as though he was trying to hide from us.

I contemplated calling the front desk but envisioned another lost in translation conversation so chose not to do so. In hindsight, I should have called the front desk.

As I finished preparing for bed, Lizzy kept a watch out for him and eventually we heard the elevator bell and he was gone.

Slightly freaked out and wondering what his intentions were, a blockade of extra blankets and a chair was built against the door.

“Maybe he thought we wanted room service,” one of us said as my sister and I tried to figure out what had just happened.

“Maybe he thought we were inviting him into the room and he was hungry,” Lizzy said.

“Maybe he wasn’t a security guard or hotel staff at all, just someone who hangs out in the hotel!”

Eventually we laughed ourselves to sleep sharing the possibilities of his unexpected visit.

Lessons Learned

Obviously nothing bad happened to us, other than a sleep-depraved evening, but it reminded me of the importance of staying alert when vacationing. Honestly, we were on our guard the entire time in Rio and being the last night, we had become comfortable with our surroundings and slightly let our guard down.

When comes to hotel safety, some of the things to keep in mind:

  • Call the front desk when you feel your safety is threatened, especially by a hotel employee.
  • Don’t let people see which room you’re entering.
  • Don’t let people overhear your name and room number, especially at the front desk.
  • Especially late at night, avoid riding the elevator with a stranger.
  • Although great exercise, avoid using the hotel stairs.

I’m curious, do you have any thoughts as to what his intentions were?

FTC Disclosure: This post contains affiliate link for the purpose of supporting my travel habit.



Jennifer A. Huber is an award-winning travel and outdoor blogger and writer in Southwest Florida. Originally from Buffalo, N.Y., a hiking trail led her to a career path in the tourism industry for more than 30 years. She spent a decade with a park management company in Yellowstone, Death Valley, and Everglades National Parks. She founded the travel blog, SoloTravelGirl.com with the goal of inspiring others to travel alone, not lonely. The unexpected death of her former husband in 2008 reminded her how short life is. His passing was a catalyst for sharing her experiences with the goal of inspiring and empowering others to travel solo. Jennifer holds a Travel Marketing Professional certification from the Southeast Tourism Society, is a certified food judge, member of the NASA Social community, and alum of the FBI Citizens Academy. When not traveling, she is either in the kitchen, practicing her photography skills, or road tripping with her dog, Radcliff.

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