Reflections on Brazilian Culture Part I
Samba, Soccer (football), and Swimming Suits… is NOT what most Brazilians like to be known for. I mean football is still liked and supported, swimsuits worn, and Samba danced, but there is so much more to the culture, the people, and the environment!
Brazil is a HUGE country, the length spans approximately the width of the U.S. and from top to bottom it takes about 5-6 hours of flying time. I stayed recently in the Southern-most state, Rio Grande Do Sul, in the smaller town of Novo Hamburgo in what’s known as the shoe capital and very near Brazil’s Silicon Valley. The nearest big city is Porto Alegre which has 2 million people, a bustling financial center, and wonderful shops and restaurants.
The people from this area are mostly from European descent and extremely proud of it! They call themselves “Gaucho” which very loosely translated means “Cowboy” and probably stems from the fact that Southern Brazil was originally a farming region. There are large German, Italian, and Portuguese contingencies and not necessarily from WWII as one might think, but in fact 40 years before that. Apparently the Brazilian government at the turn of the 20th century went to Europe and promoted Brazil as a lush country with lots of opportunities to farm, grow, and start a prosperous life. Europeans took advantage of it and their heritage prospers today.
The first thing I noticed about Brazilian culture is that friendliness is very important. They really like their “please” and “thank you’s” so please use them wherever you are. “Obrigado” means “Thank you” and “Por Favor” is “Please”. The boundaries are less clear than in other cultures where colleague-ship ends and friendship starts, in other words, people are often friends with people they work with and socialize with colleagues after work. It’s not uncommon to have people gather at your home, even those you don’t know well. For example, I was invited to a colleague/new friend’s home for Feijoada, a wonderful traditional dish of sausages, dried meat, and black beans served with rice and sliced oranges. It was delicious!
Discussions are rarely controversial unlike France or Germany, and people try to maintain harmony by staying on more neutral topics. Negative feedback or constructive criticism is given carefully, if at all, and it can be hard to know whether someone appreciated your content or just found you a nice person to be around. However, in Brazil, maybe it doesn’t matter. A person is their content. Know what I mean?
There is “lightness” in Brazil, an easy-going, laissez faire attitude and people joke, laugh, and love easily. It’s a wonderful environment for an extrovert and an easy one for an introvert. Nothing quite like it really.
I’m looking forward to spending more time there to get a better sense of the people and lifestyle. Make sure to look for my next blog on “Reflections on Brazilian Culture Part II”.