I'm travelling a lot around Brazil now, spending many hours in buses and planes every weekend. Sometimes I like to spend this time reading a book, listening to music or just looking out of the window.

The problem I experience especially here is that a lot is Brazilians are very friendly people and they love to talk to me, especially when after they find out I'm a foreigner, which is quite clear looking at my face. I don't mind few minutes of small talk and I often really enjoy the conversations, but sometimes it's too much and I'd like to spend this time alone without being rude.

I tried so far, with varying degrees of success:

  • wearing headphones
  • pretending I don't speak Portuguese, but the reaction I was mostly getting was "oh that's cool, I can practice my English then"
  • trying to fall asleep but after I couldn't and got bored, I started reading a book, then the conversation started again, even though I was wearing headphones
  • trying to make the conversation die by not continuing topics

Is there a good, gentle way of saying straight that you'd rather be left alone without offending a person who is just friendly and wants to talk to you?

  • 1
    You could pretend not to speak English as well. I have tried speaking only Dutch to persistent foreigners (including an annoying Customs officer) a few times. Usually they give up after a few minutes. I see you are Polish? That should work equally good.
    – RHA
    Feb 24, 2017 at 18:34

4 Answers 4


There's really no substitute for the truth. Expecting people to guess it rarely works. So try:

It's been lovely chatting. I really must get back to (or finish) my book now.


I've enjoyed meeting you. I need to listen to this [wave headphones or phone] now.


Thanks for the chat. I just love the view out of this window, I can't take my eyes off it. [Stare intently out the window and if they keep talking, don't turn back from it.]

If you are worried this is rude, you could insert "I hope you don't mind," or "please excuse me," in front of the "I need/want/must xyz" sentences.

Note that I am not saying you should deliver an elaborate lie about how the book is homework and if you don't finish reading it you won't get a good mark, or the music on your phone is a podcast you are studying as preparation for job interviews or anything like that. To you, the reason you must get back to the book or listen to the headphones is that your trip will be more pleasant if you do. And that is a perfectly good reason for doing it. There's nothing to be gained by sharing that reason, though. Sort of how if you're invited somewhere you can say "oh, sorry, I already have plans" even though those plans are watching TV in your pajamas and eating pizza. You need/want/have to do something now that is not talking to this person. Tell them that, but save the "why".

  • 6
    How do you know my plans for tonight? I'm sure I didn't tell anyone that...
    – ArtOfCode
    Feb 24, 2017 at 12:14
  • Welcome to Brazil where locals can start talking to you for no reason like you both are old friends. Just be polite and sincere and you will be fine don't overthink it nor be ashmed you got better things to do than small talk. You can even try to explain how you fell about the situation. Since people here are that warm they are more concerned about your fellings than logical reasoning
    – jean
    Feb 24, 2017 at 19:58

I used to travel a lot and had the same problem - chatty neighbors. One time I was getting an ear infection so I got some "earplanes" - a brand of ear plugs designed to reduce air pressure discomfort but they also block out noise. The person next to me tried to be chatty and I just pointed to my ears and said "Sorry, can't hear you". It works for other kinds of earplugs and headphones too. A shrug and point to your ears works.

  • Sound advice ;-) but you may have to explain the headphones then... Feb 24, 2017 at 13:45

When I'm traveling (and I'm usually traveling because job requirement) and I have this problem I just politely nod a few times and then don't bother responding, it is not rude and people understand what I mean and it works. I have never had a problem with this method.

Just like on the internet people don't respond to everything, I know real life and internet is different but you have no obligation to talk to anyone anywhere, just be yourself, and it is fine and most people will be okay with that. If someone isn't then they aren't worth your time anyway.


If you'e already sitting and the other seatmate arrives after you, try not to make eye contact. Keep reading your book/looking at the window/staring at the front with your headphones on, while the other person is sitting. People in Brazil are indeed very friendly, but they'll understand that as a sign not to start a conversation.

Specially in planes, where you're expected to stay for longer side-by-side, odds are a conversation will happen sometimes, but if you get back yo your business (reading, hearing or staring) after a while, chances are people will understand like 'Oh, he's back to what he was doing when I interrupted him' and let you alone.

In buses, it's pretty common in here to switch places if you are sited next to someone, but you see an empty place (buses usually have double-seats) near you. Just excuse and go seat there. Being sited alone in a double seat is more comfortable, so this would be understood normally.

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