I've accumulated quite a few Top Ten lists while living in Brazil. Have a look at the titles and scroll down for the full lists!
Top Ten Reasons Gringos Should Pay Attention to Brazil
Top Ten Reasons You Know You're in the Brazilian Middle Class
Top Ten Wacky Ways to Fix Brazil
As dez licoes cariocas
1. Top Ten Reasons You Know You're a Gring@ in Brazil
2. Top Ten Things You Better Get Used to in Brazil
3. Top Ten Ways to Piss Off a Brazilian
4. Top Ten Gringos in Brazil Videos
5. Top Ten Tips for Doing Business in Brazil
6. Top Ten Things I Can't Live Without in Rio
7. Top Ten Historical Similarities: Brazil and the US
8. Top Ten Misconceptions About Brazil
9. Top Ten Ways to Stay Sane After You Graduate From College (Brazilian Style)
10. Top Ten Things I Used to do in the US and would never do in Brazil
11. Top Ten Things Americans Don't Get about Brazilians
12. Top Ten Reasons You Shouldn't Visit Rio de Janeiro
Though journalists, international affairs professionals, travel lovers, and international businessmen are already well aware that Brazil is the country to watch, there are still many gringos who aren't tuned in to Brazil's ascent or don't quite understand the country's importance. This list is for those gringos.
10. Rio de Janeiro, Brazil's cultural capital (but not the national capital - that's Brasilia) is an excellent urban case study when learning about the developing world. It shares certain characteristics with other developing cities that provides many important lessons and a useful perspective on urban conflicts, like inequality, violent crime, and drug trafficking, as well as positive changes like a growing middle class, increased purchasing power of the average consumer and social movements.
9. It's a quickly growing tourism mecca with 5.2 million international visitors in 2008, and it's hoping to attract travelers away from Mexico and the Caribbean to its world-class beaches, Carnival, and nightlife.
8. It's part of BRIC (Brazil-Russia-India-China), a term created by Goldman Sachs expected to have the largest economies in the world by 2050. Brazil, which already weathered the global economic crisis than most of the world, already has the largest economy in South America and the sixth-largest economy in the world. It has some of the highest-earning companies in the world, and rapidly growing industries across the board, from technology services to agriculture.
7. It has a growing middle class, one of the largest in Latin America, that has not only expanded in numbers but in salary level and purchasing power, making Brazil a much sought-after consumer base, for everything from deli meats to movies to Macs. Hundreds, if not thousands of international businesses have opened stores and websites in Brazil to attract customers, from European sports car companies to fast food chains (if you so chose, you can have a Big Mac in Manaus, shop at Armani in Rio, or get yourself a Lamborghini in São Paulo).
6. President Lula Inácio da Silva has become one of the world's most popular politicians, and though he's likely to run for a third term in 2014, 2010 is an election year with a variety of very different candidates who could change or continue Brazil's trajectory. Brazil's election will be the election to watch in Latin America next year.
5. Brazil discovered new offshore oil fields in 2007 which have been touted as a potential billion dollar industry. Though the country is already a major oil producer, and its state-run petroleum company, Petrobras, is one of the highest-grossing companies in the Americas and the world, the discovery could propel Brazil into OPEC and make it a major oil power. Since the oil is so deep under the ocean floor, it is still hard to tell how much oil will be accessible, so it's important to stay tuned to find out. Meanwhile, Brazil is also the world's second- largest ethanol producer and the world's largest ethanol exporter, and is on the forefront of alternative fuels.
4. Though it's common knowledge that Brazil will host the 2016 Olympic Games and the 2014 World Cup, Brazil has become host to a large number of international events, conferences, and meetings in recent years, from academic conferences to important diplomatic meetings to major business events. Chances are that if you work in a globally-connected industry, there's a chance you may have to travel to Brazil within the next few years.
3. Brazil has the largest population in Latin America with nearly 199 million people, and Brazilian tourists are flocking to the U.S. more than ever because of rising salaries, a cheap dollar, and better prices on consumer goods. They are also coming in large numbers as students and businesspeople. That means that the chances of meeting a Brazilian in the U.S., no matter where you live, is higher than before. And it seems to me, at least, that there are a growing number of Brazilian-American couples.
2. Because of so much increased contact with the developed world, many transnational issues have become much more important and more will arise in the next few years, from drug smuggling to immigration, from terrible tragedies like the tragic murder of Jean Charles de Menezes and the kidnapping of Sean Goldman, to wonderful partnerships, non-profits, and cultural exchange.
1. There is much, much more to Brazil than the international media would have you believe, beyond the most commonly exported images of the country . There's much more to it than Carnival, soccer, narcos, and scantily-clad beachgoers. And you can discover all there really is to know about Brazil right there.
Top Ten Reasons You Know You're in the Brazilian Middle Class
I recently discovered an amazing blog called The Classe Media Way of Life, which seems to be inspired by Stuff White People Like, except by making it into a kind of ironic how-to guide on how to be a middle class Brazilian. After reading the entire blog, it inspired me to write a new top ten list.
Two notes: first off, the Brazilian middle class is considerably different from the American middle class, and both "Classe Media" and my list really apply more to the upper middle class. Second, while "Classe Media" is so spot on, it's also meant to be sarcastic. My list, too, is meant to be ironic and not to be taken too seriously, as it is intended to be a comedic generalization (and from a Gen Y perspective at that).
10. You love Obama, but you despise Lula (goddamn commie).
9. You made a Facebook account, but you check Orkut every day.
8. You bought designer boots to wear on your shopping trip to New York in May, only to find women walking around in Havaianas.
7. Your family can afford a country house where you spend weekends and holidays, but your 35 year-old brother still lives with your parents.
6. You love the Black Eyed Peas, but you hate axé. (Que lixo brega!)
5. You go to the movies all the time, but you've never seen a Brazilian film in theaters (you bought Tropa de Elite on a pirated DVD before it came out).
4. You've been to Bariloche, Buenos Aires, and Disney World, but you've never been to the Brazilian Northeast or the Amazon...
3. ...and you speak decent English, but don't know how to say "airplane," "flight" or "luggage" in Spanish.
2. You get HBO, but you watch novelas from 8 - 10 every night.
You'd like to have everyone think that you're much happier tweeting on
your Blackberry from an expensive club or driving your imported car to
eat at a fancy sushi restaurant, but you're actually happiest sitting
on the beach in your bathing suit, crowded together with the masses
(that is, as long as you're immediately surrounded by gente fina), or at home eating rice and beans with your family (that is, as long as the meal was prepared by the housekeeper).
Top Ten Wacky Ways to Fix Brazil
WARNING: This post is purely satirical. It is not meant to be taken literally.
Brazil has many complex problems, ones that won't be solved with a magic bullet. But I came up with some ideas of my own that could help combat some of Brazil's major problems.
10. Add the "soccer clause" to the penal code. Convicted felons would be banned from all soccer stadiums in Brazil for life. Recidivism, reduced jail time for criminals, and felonies are all big issues.
9. Offer material incentives for college graduates, masters and Ph.d recipients to stay in Brazil. For college graduates, offer a laptop. For masters graduates, offer a car, and for Ph.d recipients, offer large housing subsidies. Brain drain, like in any developing country, is an issue.
8. Rather than increase income taxes, require that people with a minimal income of R$36,000 donate two cesta basicas per year to the local food bank. The number of cestas should increase with income. Hunger is a problem, despite recent social programs to help the country's poorest citizens.
7. Ban the use of private cars on holidays. Charge a minimum fine of R$2,000 for breaking this law, and expand public transportation services on holidays. Drunk driving is a big problem, especially on holidays.
6. Put a bar in every public hospital. Might as well make the experience pleasant for the patients' family members patiently waiting to be assisted. The extra revenue could help pay for more doctors and equipment. Overcrowding and long delays are the scourge of the public health system.
5. Charge fines with a minimum of R$3,000 for misdemeanors, even ones like peeing in public and littering. If the person can't pay immediately, deduct every paycheck directly until the fine is paid. Urban chaos and petty crime in cities are common.
4. Invite Oprah to do a massive, long-term "Big Give" campaign in Brazil. Poverty is one of Brazil's largest obstacles to becoming a developed country.
3. Hire the MST to police the Amazon, going after illegal ranchers and loggers. The government already pays them, enabling them to buy weapons and supplies. They already live in inhospitable places and their purpose is to seek vigilante justice. Why not put them to work doing something useful? Environmental destruction is a major concern not only for Brazil but the whole world.
2. Add the "mommy clause" to the penal code: any time someone is convicted of a felony (murder, rape, armed robbery), the person's mother must be imprisoned along with the criminal. In the absence of the mother, the person's father would be imprisoned. In the absence of both parents, the brother, sister, or best friend would be imprisoned. The criminal and the relative would be imprisoned in different facilities, with zero contact between the two. Violence and violent crime plague the entire country.
1. Privatize Congress. Since a large portion of the federal government's corrupt politicians come from the legislature, and since many of the government programs Congress oversees are poorly run and also corrupt, why not try an alternative? Privatization has proved a boon for other previously public government organisms (Vale, Metro Rio, Telefonica, etc). It would help with accountability, efficiency, performance, and transparency. Corruption, particularly with this branch of government, is historical and one of the country's most frustrating problems.
This is the story I originally wrote for the Gente Boa section of O Globo that they decided not to publish (nor an abbreviated version). I wrote it in January, but I finally decided to post it now.
As dez lições cariocas
10. Para as mulheres, não dá para fazer planos durante os jogos mais importantes de futebol. Não adianta sair para boate ou filme; os homens recusam sair de frente de uma TV para poder assistir o jogo. Não adianta sair com as amigas para um restaurante ou um bar; os garçons estarão distraidos pelo jogo. Não adianta dormir; os gritos te deixarão acordada até o final do jogo. Como dizemos em inglês, If you can’t beat em,’ join em,’ ou seja, se não pode vencé-los, junta-se à eles. O melhor plano durante os jogos é assisti-los!
9. Tem regras sutis porém muito importantes no comportamento durante as refeições. Em meu caso, o mais difícil é não poder comer com as mãos, especialmente sanduíche, pizza, hamburger, bolinho, até as vezes batata frita! Sem talher, guardanapo ou palito, não é civilizado no Rio, porém nos Estados Unidos, é aceitável e esperado. As vezes vejo as pessoas limpando a boca depois de cada gole de bebida, mas não tenho paciência para isso; porém aprendi a limpar a boca depois de comer, ainda se fosse só um salgadinho na esquina. Não é comum ver os cariocas comendo ou bebendo enquanto andam, como é normal nos Estados Unidos, e isto é especialmente difícil para mim, já que gosto de multitask, ou seja, fazer mais de uma coisa na mesma hora para poupar tempo. Aqui, comer é um tempo sagrado, um momento separado do resto do dia.
8. Os cariocas são muito afeituosos e dão um beijo não só quando cumprimentam uma pessoa, senão também quando se despedem. Isso não é muito comum com os americanos, menos que sejam parentes, porque não gostamos muito de se tocar. Por isso, levei muito tempo para acostumar com isso. Mas ainda não sei como deveria cumprimentar uma pessoa, já que é normal para os cariocas dar dois beijos, mas as vezes as mulheres só dão um e se abraçam. Nesse caso, fico confusa e acabo com a boca arranhando no nariz da pessoa. E depois de ficar todo incomodada, tenho que dar beijo de novo justo depois do encontro, mesmo que seja curto!
7. Os cariocas reprimem os barulhos do corpo a qualquer custo. Agora nem penso em tirar um lenço de papel para limpar o nariz na mesa do almoço; tenho que ir no banheiro, ainda se vou limpar em silêncio total. Se fizer barulho (ainda no banheiro) as pessoas me olham com puro nojo. Sempre tenho que cobrir a boca quando tossir, ainda se estiver sozinha, porque se uma pessoa entrar e me ver, vai fazer cara feia. Mas por isso estranhei o costume do espirro. Nos Estados Unidos, é bem-educado falar “saúde” quando uma pessoa espirra, até para as pessoas que não conhecemos. No Rio, não é assim. Tanto que os cariocas não aguentam os barulhos do corpo, a maioria das vezes me ignoram quando eu espirro, fingindo não escutar. Os arrotos e as fratulências? Jamais--não tenho vontade de ser banida do Rio!
6. Os cariocas se vestem de um jeito mais formal do que os americanos quando saem de casa. As únicas exceções são quando vão para a praia ou fazem exercícios. Por isso, só nessas ocasiões é “permitido” para as mulheres andar de Havaianas ou de tênis. Nos Estados Unidos, muitas vezes ando de sweatpants ou calça de ioga, mas aqui nem atrevo. Não entendo como as cariocas andam de salto alto com tanta freqüência sem ficar com bolhas nos pés e dor nas costas, e fico muito impressionadas em ver elas andar assim na cidade inteira. Eu não aguento, e a maioria do tempo ando de chinelo (mas, pelo menos, de Havaianas Slims). O costume de vestir bem é um dos costumes cariocas que mais gostei e quando estava em Nova Iorque em Julho, minha mãe comentou comigo, “Por que está de vestido? Só vamos ao shopping!”
5. Os americanos temos um conceito que se chama personal space (espaço particular) porque não gostamos de ficar encostados nos outros e evitamos tocar as pessoas. Ao meu ver, os cariocas adoram estar em multidão e de ficar pertos, seja na praia, em um show, ou em um churrasco. Estão muito mais cómodos em se tocar e ficar mais próximos do que os americanos. Meu pesadelo carioca é ficar no metrô durante a hora do rush, como em uma lata de sardinhas. Fico perplexa quando uma pessoa senta ao meu lado no ônibus mesmo que tenha assento livre, e também quando uma mulher pára um centrímetro atrás de mim em uma fila.
4. Os cariocas tem uma especie de honestidade muito única relacionada com a apariência física. São muito mais abertos para apontar diferenças ou problemas, até com pessoas que não conhecem. Várias vezes, me falaram que fiquei mais gorda. O único americano que faria assim teria um desejo de morte! Mas muitas vezes, apontam coisas para poder ajudar, como mostrar uma mancha no rosto ou uma sujeira na roupa. Uma vez, estive numa loja buscando brincos. O vendedor me aproximou e disse, “Tem algo no seu cabelo,” e enquanto falava, foi tirar um pedaço de algodão do meu cabelo. Fiquei sem palavras porque no meu pais, fazer uma coisa assim com um desconhecido (e até cliente!) é impensável.
3. Acredito que muitos cariocas acham que os melhores lugares da cidade são os mais caros. Mas para mim, são os gratuitos. Adoro os parques daqui, como o Parque Lage, o parque da casa do Rui Barbosa, e a Floresta da Tijuca. Ė tão bom escapar da cidade para passear na mata e nos jardins. Ir na praia ainda é novidade para mim, depois de crescer longe do mar. Gosto de andar na orla, seja em Ipanema ou em Botafogo, e de correr na Lagoa. O Centro Cultural Banco do Brasil é meu museu preferido da cidade, que sempre tem exposição gratuita. Até o coração e alma do Rio, como os blocos do Carnaval e alguns ensaios das escolas de samba são de graça. Adoro andar de bonde em Santa Teresa, onde sempre assisto dramas cariocas.
2. O que mais me incomoda no Rio é a injustiça, que practicamente forma parte da vida. Não pode escapá-la, porque estará presente onde for. Não aguento ver nenêns famintos, nem garotinhos sujos, descalços e desesperados, nem as velinhas pedindo esmola. Apesar do que as pessoas as vezes dão dinheiro e comida para os mais pobres, fico incomodada com a atitude indiferente de muitos cariocas, como “sempre era assim, é assim agora, e não posso mudar nada.” Talvez eu seja ingenua ou idealista, mas eu concordo com o Machado de Assis que “a indiferença é o pior de todos os males.”
1. A coisa que mais valorizo sobre os cariocas é que se você cair, sempre terá alguem para te segurar. Os cariocas são umas das pessoas mais solidárias e generosas que encontrei e sempre fico surpreendida como eles tratam bem os desconhecidos. Cada vez que tive um problema sério, os cariocas sempre me tratavam com paciência, respeito e muito carinho, me deixando muito mais calma e muito agradecida. Uma vez, estava no trem indo para um jogo em Maracanã com meu marido e o carro ficou muito quente e abafado. Comecei a passar mal e desmaiei. Quando acordei na plataforma, um grupo de pessoas preocupadas me rodearam, me oferecendo água, gelo e conselho. Continuei enjoada e mareada, mas senti estranhamente amada, despertada pelo calor humano.
Top Ten Reasons You Know You're a Gring@ in Brazil
Inspired by Jen's list, I decided to make my own that applies to both gringos and gringas living in Brazil.
10. No matter how hard you try to imagine otherwise, reais still feel like Monopoly money (despite how many of them you spend).
9. You do or have done some form of volunteer work, community service project, or academic research in Brazil.
8. You know you'll get disgusted or curious looks if you pick up that slice of pizza/sandwich/french fry/hamburger/olive/piece of cheese with your bare hands, but sometimes you just can't help it.
7. You post photos of your Brazilian life and travels on Facebook, Myspace, or your blog, making all of your family and friends at home jealous of you.
6. You've invested money into blending in, be it with dresses, shirts, Brazilian-style bathing suits, shoes, sandals, or even jewelery.
5. You own at least three pairs of Havaianas and wear them at every opportunity (though you've learned they're supposed to be used in informal situations, like at the beach).
4. You speak fluent Portuguese, but the second you pronounce a word with an accent, like an "lh" or a tricky "r," the person you're talking to whips his head around, stares you down, and says,"Você é daqui não, né?" [You're not from here, are you?]
3. People constantly ask you if you'll give them English lessons which either a) thrills you, since you're barely scraping by teaching or b) annoys you because you have either refused to teach from the start or have moved on to greener pastures and never want to look at an English textbook again.
2. You came here because your significant other is Brazilian. Or you came single and left with a Brazilian--or stayed here with one!
1. Whenever you admit to a new acquaintance that you're a gring@, you inevitably face the question: "Do you like Brazil?" Though for you, that loaded question would be better answered in a thesis than in a few words, you smile widely and say, "Of course! I love it!"
Top Ten Things You Better Get Used to in Brazil
Living in Brazil is no picnic, though at first glance it may seem to be. The follow list encompasses things that I still have a very hard time dealing with and will probably never completely get used to. Nevertheless, adapting to these things and accepting these realities is absolutely essential in order not to go insane.
10. Driving. Driving in Brazil is an experience, even if you're just in the passenger seat. If you don't almost get into an accident every time you're on the road, consider yourself lucky. (Not to mention the less common and terrifying carjackings). Also, traffic in major cities is absolutely horrendous, partially because of too many cars and ineffective public transportation, but also because vehicles tend to block intersections during rush hour, making traffic even slower.
9. Privacy. Be prepared to relinquish a sense of your own space and privacy if you plan on really integrating into Brazilian society (or if you decide to date a Brazilian). Expect guests to show up unannounced, expect them to stay all day, expect them to make plans when you already have them, expect them to try to make conversation when you're trying to work, and expect them to use your stuff, not necessarily by asking first. Also, along the same lines, expect people to invite themselves over for the night and repeat the list above.
8. Lines. Brazilians have a great affinity for lines, and will flock to them even if they don't actually need to be on them. Waiting in line is a fundamental part of living in Brazil, and increasing your patience for them is pretty key. Despite this, not many people respect lines, and you'll find people cutting them constantly, stepping right in front of you as if it were the most natural thing in the world. Also, unlike in the US, there are sometimes lines specifically designated for the elderly, pregnant women, and the handicapped, and people will sometimes abuse these lines as well.
7. Meaning what you say. An important part of Brazilian culture is pleasing others, and it's considered polite to tell people, "Come over to my house!" even if you don't mean it; ditto for making plans, going out, or extending an invitation. Out of every 10 social invitations you receive, expect 5 or less to be legitimate. Make sure to exchange information, (not just to give your number), and to follow up. A tell-tale sign that an invitation is out of politeness is if one or more major details is missing, like the place or time, since there's a strong possibility that person will never call to fill you in. Another facet of this concept is that when you ask for directions, people will give them to you regardless of whether they actually know where to send you, so it's always a good idea to ask three different people for directions.
7b. Spontaneity. Though it is the norm to invite people ahead of time for major events, like parties or holidays, other events are often spur-of-the-moment. In fact, legitimate invitations are more likely to be last minute than ahead of time. Hold on to your hat and go with it.
6. Change. It seems that during nearly every cash transaction, the cashier will ask you if you have exact change, or at least the coin amount (i.e., if it's R$10.70, if you have seventy cents). If you don't, they will frequently get annoyed with you. Breaking a fifty is like pulling teeth sometimes. Also, if you pay in cash, you won't always get exact change back since most of the time, the cashier will round to the nearest ten. So though you sometimes wind up paying a few cents less, you also sometimes paying a few cents more.
5. Personal space. The concept of personal space doesn't really exist in Brazil, and Brazilians seem to be far less aware of their bodies in space than Americans are, since many of them are used to and comfortable with being in large crowds. Don't be surprised to find someone's elbow in your face or someone breathing on your neck when there's room to spare; a person sitting herself down next to you when there are plenty of empty seats, or a stranger using your arm to stabilize himself on the subway even though there's a perfectly good pole within arm's reach. Expect people to block the subway door and not to move when you try to get by, or to take their sweet time getting off the escalator, even though several people are crashing behind them.
4. Duration of social events. Though social events will always have a start time, they'll rarely have an end time. Unlike American events, which have very specific time restrictions, Brazilian events will go on seemingly forever. It's common for formal weekday parties to go until 2am, and weekend ones to go all night. Expect daytime events, like barbecues or birthday parties to last anywhere between 5 and 10 hours.
3. Speed of life. Brazil moves at a different pace than the US. Lateness is common, though it is often blamed on real impediments, like traffic or rainstorms. Also, things just tend to move slower. People walk slower, fast food isn't exactly fast, and people take the word "relax" literally. This concept applies to all parts of life, including business. Also, at least in Rio, stress is looked down upon, and people will tell you to chill out, insisting that everything will work out. "Tudo se resolve," they say, making you want to scream, "WHEN, exactly?!"
2. Efficiency. Things just don't work that efficiently here, sometimes due to bureaucracy, and sometimes due to economic reasons. For example, in order to be able to expand job opportunities, clubs will hire a person to give you a ticket and a different person to take the ticket, or restaurants will hire both a cashier and a separate person to take your receipt. Other times though, inefficiency exists just because. It makes you want to tear your hair out, but if you can take it in stride, you'll be much better off.
1. Ambiguity. One of the the things that I find most perplexing, and sometimes frustrating, about Brazilian society is how so much of it is completely ambiguous. Since Brazil is a great big mixture of people from different countries and cultures, where the mulatta and feijoada are revered, and where rice can never be eaten alone, a great deal of Brazilian culture is a grey area, unlike the black and white American society. One of Brazil's most popular blogs illustrates this idea perfectly: Sedentario e Hiperativo (Sedentary and Hyperactive). Sometimes this may seem completely contradictory and mind-boggling. How can something be two completely different things at once? How could such a wealthy country have so much poverty? How could so much misery exist side by side with so much happiness? How could so much corruption happen in a place with so many honest people? How could so much violence plague a country know for diplomacy and conflict resolution? How could so much crime exist in a place where so many people respect their fellow countrymen? All of these are tricky questions, ones that leave you cross-eyed and a little insane. It takes a lot of getting used to.
Top Ten Ways to Piss Off a Brazilian
10. Mention the World Cup of 1950, 1998, or 2006.
9. Ask him what the rainforest is like when a Brazilian tells you he's from Sao Paulo or Rio.
8. Say, "I hear Buenos Aires is really nice. That's your capital, right?"
7. Make sexual innuendo and imply she is a slut when you find out a woman is Brazilian.
6. Forget to take a shower and/or put on deodorant before coming in close contact with a Brazilian.
5. Talk with your mouth full, and chew with your mouth open.
4. Declare your love for Argentina, Argentines, Boca Juniors, or Maradona.
3. Speak Spanish with him, since that is what language you assume he speaks.
2. Fail to answer anything but a very enthusiastic YES when asked if you like Brazil.
1. Criticize Brazil or Brazilians by making any remotely negative comment about either subject.
Top Ten Gringos in Brazil Videos
10. Bob Marley in Rio, wandering around Copacabana
9. Snoop Dog & Pharrell music video in Rio: on the Lapa steps, the beach and Parque Lage
8. Mariah Carey in Sao Paulo, being embarrassed by hysterical fans
7. Michael Jackson music video in Rio & Salvador favelas
6. Will Smith lives it up in Rio and tries tropical fruit
5. Richard Gere in a Brazilian hair product commercial, speaking Portuguese
4. John Legend music video in Rio, featuring the star of City of God
3. Arnold Schwarzenegger in Rio during Carnival, being a spectacular jackass
2. James Bond in Rio, riding along the boardwalk and fighting on the Sugarloaf cable car
1. Donald Duck in Rio
Top Ten Tips for Doing Business in Brazil
Since living in Brazil, I quickly found that there is a lot to learn as a foreigner in the Brazilian business environment. So I've decided to share the lessons I've learned so far with the rest of you gringos, because it will definitely come in handy.
10. Put it all in writing. This would seem obvious for business deals, but also applies to other transactions, like renting an apartment or making an agreement that you might otherwise do verbally.
9. Get to the point. Sometimes Brazilians have a tendency to go in circles or dance around the point. Be very specific and tell the person exactly what you want or need in the clearest manner possible, and also be sure to include a deadline.
8. Improve your Portuguese. Though Brazilians working for multinationals and big companies usually speak English, some don't speak it that well. (Trust me, I used to teach English). Being able to speak Portuguese will not only enormously aid your work but will also earn you respect from Brazilian associates.
7. Use your nationality as needed. Depending on the situation, it can sometimes help to plug your gringo status. You'll find that in some situations, people will be much more responsive and much quicker to get back to you if you mention you're American or British. They may also even be nicer to you and more accommodating.
6. Face to face beats email. I've noticed that Brazilians aren't as big fans of email as Americans, since personal relationships are a much more important part of their culture. As such, it's better to make plans, negotiate, and explain details by phone or in person. Don't be afraid to accept invitations for lunch or drinks, since negotiations don't necessarily take place in the office.
5. Don't expect to be a revolutionary. Just because things don't work the same way they do in the US, and just because things may seem slow, inefficient, or illogical doesn't mean you are going to change the way things are. If you're a foreigner working in a Brazilian company, you may have more luck trying to make small changes and improving efficiency, but when doing business with Brazilians, don't expect to impose your methods.
4. Follow up frequently. This is absolutely essential, because I've noticed how some people may never respond unless they are constantly reminded. Don't be afraid to be annoying.
3. Pick your battles. If your company has a Brazilian affiliate or subsidiary, you're going to have to adapt to the Brazilian way of doing business. However, if you do business internationally, it's wise to chose between several Brazilian companies and find which is easiest to work with (besides having the best deal), and if you really find it impossible to do business here, try elsewhere! It's not worth it to pull your hair out if you can't deal with the way things are done.
2. Plan ahead. Generally speaking, Brazilian business is slower than American business (especially New York business), and it's always a good idea to leave extra time if you're running on a deadline or working on a short timeline. Planning ahead will save you a lot of teeth gnashing and nail biting.
1. Work on your patience level. Brazilian business just works differently than American business. At times it may seem slow and inefficient, but most of the time, things get done eventually. Using these tips and a healthy dose of patience, doing business in Brazil will be a lot easier!
Top Ten Things I Can't Live Without in Rio
10. Capucchino from Confeitaria Colombo in Centro
9. An agua de coco (coconut water) from Na Lagoa e Legal o Coco, when running along the Lagoa
8. Bonde (streetcar) to Santa Teresa: cheaper, more pleasant and maybe safer than the bus
7. Havaianas flip flops, which I wear as often as I can get away with it
6. HSBC, since it has a ton of branches that don't charge me to take out money
5. Suco de melão [melon juice] from Big Bi Sucos on a hot day
4. VEJA & VEJA Rio Magazines, to learn a little history, catch up on the news, and find out what's on in the city
3. The Metro, a complete life and timesaver
2. NET Wireless Internet & Cable TV, to feed my Internet addiction and supply me with American shows
1. A daily dose of Cristo
Top Ten Historical Similarities: Brazil and the US
Brazil and the United States have a lot more in common than it may seem on the surface. Let's take a look. I've also made this into a page on the right column.
10. Both countries are huge, geographically speaking: the continental US encompasses 9.6 million square kilometers, and Brazil spans 8.5 million square kilometers.
9. Both countries are former colonies, founded by Europeans who claimed the land for themselves and killed many, many Indians in doing so. To this day, both countries struggle to address unresolved issues with the Native Americans, who have been marginalized and demoralized.
8. In both countries, the South tried to secede. In both cases, they failed.
7. There are deep cultural, historical, and economic divisions between North and South. In the US, the North has been historically wealthier and more developed, similar to the South of Brazil, while the South of the US has a higher population of blacks and higher levels of poverty, like in the Brazilian North.
6. Both countries have struggled to separate church from state.
5. Both are dependent on agriculture, despite a huge service sector in each country.
4. Both have destroyed the environment, especially forests, in the interest of industry and commerce, and only in recent history have both countries tried to curb environmental destruction.
3. Both countries owe their cultures and economic success to immigration, since both countries are melting pots/salad bowls and home to people from all over the world, from Italy to Japan to the Middle East.
2. Both countries developed modern capitalism on the backs of African slaves, and the legacy of slavery still deeply affects both societies.
1. The US and Brazil are both economic giants, modern democracies, and political powers, but both are at a precipice in which the future is still uncertain.
Top Ten Misconceptions About Brazil
Gringos, in particular Americans, often know very little about Latin America and maintain grossly stereotypical misconceptions of Latin American countries, especially Brazil.
Here we go:
10. Brazil is one big rainforest! I can't wait to travel to Rio to see the leopards and anacondas.
Though about 60% of the Amazon is in Brazil, most of the major cities are in fact quite far from the rainforest. Though there are other forests, Brazil's cities are not in fact in the middle of the jungle.
9. Brazil is a tropical country, so no matter where I go, it will be hot and sunny!
Brazil is quite hot in the summer, but in the winter, the Southern states, like Rio Grande do Sul, Santa Catarina, and even Sao Paulo can get quite cold. When it rains in the winter in Rio, it gets really cold because very few buildings have insulation. And as for the sun, it rains a LOT in the summer.
8. Brazilian women are all gorgeous! It's a pure schmorgasboard of ladies over there!
This is an age-old excuse used by gringos who drunkenly hook up with ugly Brazilian women. Well, Brazil is a major exporter of models, and there are lots of beautiful people, but I gotta tell you, there are just as many ugly people here as in any other country.
7. It's one big Carnival all over Brazil, year-round! PARTAY!
Carnival actually happens for a week each year in February, though you can see some samba school rehearsals during other parts of the year. Brazilians do value their leisure time and there's lots of nightlife in all the cities, but the actual Carnival revelry, complete with bands, parties, and costumes starts in late January and runs for a week or two after the real Carnival.
6. Brazil is in Latin America, where people
don't care much about the law. It's totally legal -- or at least,
acceptable, to do drugs. I hear coke is really cheap there, so it must
be cool to buy it!
Drugs are in fact illegal here, despite their availability. Buying drugs in Brazil helps fuel the violence that plagues its major cities, so actually it's VERY unacceptable to drugs. And even being a gringo, you can get some jail time for getting caught with controlled substances.
5. I speak a little Spanish. Brazilians speak Spanish. I will totally be OK to communicate!
For the love of god, this kills me every time. Brazilians. speak. Portuguese. And though you can get by with a little Spanish, Brazilians really hate when you speak to them in another language assuming they will understand it, even if they do.
4. Most Brazilians are poor, so I'm not really expecting the same level of comfort and culture that I'm used to.
Though Brazil has a higher poverty rate than the U.S. or the U.K., it has a rapidly growing and significant middle class and a small but very, very wealthy upper class. Shopping malls are now a million-dollar business in Brazil, and major cities have five-star hotels and restaurants, as well as museums and concert halls. People don't live like Indians in most of Brazil.
3. Brazilians are so sensual. They're all nymphomaniacs, and all the women must be easy.
Prostitution is a problem here, partially due to its legality, partially due to the demand. HOWEVER, Brazilian women are not sluts, despite the fact that people here are much more comfortable making out with strangers than gringos may be. In fact, generally speaking, Brazilian women are a lot less sexually liberal than American women. Don't go to Brazil expecting to get laid, because you may be in for an unpleasant surprise.
2. Brazil is in the "Third World," therefore everything must be cheap!
Then you are in for a big shock. Especially now that the dollar is so weak, Brazil is incredibly expensive, for everything: food, hotels, transportation, clothes, books, electronics, gasoline...shall I go on? If you want to go somewhere cheap, go to Argentina.
1. Brazil is a country where anything goes, and the law doesn't really matter. I can do whatever I want, even if it's something I wouldn't normally do in my own country. I have more money than most people here anyway, so I get special treatment.
I'm shocked at how many people have this attitude, even if they don't think about it consciously. Though unfortunately, gringos are often seen as being "special" outsiders, that doesn't mean you have the right to break the law, do immoral things, or take advantage of Brazilians, and in one way or another, you will pay for your actions. This includes but is not limited to: destroying the environment to run a business, engaging in child prostitution, and smuggling, buying, or selling drugs.
Top Ten Ways to Stay Sane After You Graduate From College (Brazilian Style)
10. Drink up. Buy yourself some limes, cachaça and sugar, get some ice, and make yourself a caipirinha at the end of a long day of invoices and data entry.
9. Sign up for a dance class: exercise produces endorphins, which helps you forget about what an ass your boss is. But don't forget about your own ass--you can even take a Brazilian exercise class that focuses exclusively on the bumbum, like Leandro Caravalho's famed "Brazilian Butt Lift" class at several gyms in NYC. Samba is an excellent work-out, too.
8. Join a cause. Because how many entry-level jobs are THAT fulfilling? Volunteer in your hometown, or find an NGO worth supporting abroad, like say, in Brazil!
6. Learn a new language. If you've studied any Romance language before, Portuguese is a logical and fun choice. Plus, language classes help you pretend you're still in college and help you meet new people. Vamos aprender falar português?
5. Listen to extremely upbeat music. I recommend axé. You will either love it, bop your head wildly and forget that you spent the whole morning filing, or you'll think it's absolutely ridiculous and just laugh and laugh and forget you spent the whole morning filing. A good place to start is with some Ivete and with some Daniela Mercury.
4. Go find an all-you-can-eat meat restaurant. It will really help you forget that tomorrow you have to enter a classroom filled with psychotic, back-talking children. Brazilians do churrascarias right, in New York and everywhere else.
3. Get some sun. If you're lucky enough to be near a beach, then well, you're pretty lucky. If not, take a vacation--stat! I know a good place. Or crank the heat in your apartment, turn the lights up, and put on some bossa nova.
1. Move abroad!!! And why not to Brazil?
Top Ten Things I Used to do in the US and would never do in Brazil
10. Wear sneakers for anything other than working out or hiking. I can count on one hand how many women I've seen wearing sneakers just to go out, except for a few who think it's OK to wear Converses with a dress.
9. Walk around everywhere listening to my Ipod with it in my hand or pocket.
People do use their MP3 players everywhere, but they always try to tuck
it away and put their headphones through their shirts. I don't see how
this would help if they were mugged, so I chose not to risk it.
8. Say hi to a friend without kissing, hugging, or shaking hands with them.
7. Have a cup of Starbucks semi-permanently plastered in my hand. This is partially not by choice, since there are no Starbucks in Rio and take-out coffee is kind of unheard of. However, I noticed that people here don't like to eat or drink on the run. Perhaps it's rude.
6. Be afraid of a party being busted and/or drinking anywhere but inside a bar. I've never heard of a party being broken up or the police being called, though it probably happens on occasion. Drinking anywhere and everywhere is legal here, too.
5. Wear more than 2 layers, or coats, scarfs, gloves, and boots.
4. Eat pizza with my hands, in public. Sometimes, when no one is looking, and we've ordered in, I will greedily eat half a pizza with my hands. But I'd never do that in a restaurant, or even a fast food pizza place.
2. Wear my pajamas in public. Though I wasn't as bad as some people I knew in college, who wore actual pajamas to class, I rolled out of my dorm to class wearing enormous sweatpants that I may or may not have slept in the night before.
1. Take everything I have for granted. It's hard not to learn to deeply appreciate having a home, a job, a family, and financial stability when you live in Rio and see how many people suffer each day.
Top Ten Things Americans Don't Get about Brazilians
During my time in Brazil, these are the things I've had to get used to.
10. Most women, of any social class, have both their nails and toes perfectly manicured. Yet many women don't seem to shave their legs, opting to bleach them or just let it grow. Those that actually have hairless legs apparently wax, since there is no women's shaving cream available in Rio.
9. Many dogs you see in the street have either some sort of outfit, booties, or both, especially in Ipanema and Copacabana. People love to dress up their dogs like little girls.
8. Despite an unnatural obsession with hygiene, many people let their dogs poop all over the streets, leading to people stepping in the poop and getting the streets and their homes dirty.
7. Brazilians have an unnatural obsession with hygiene. Many Brazilians take two showers a day and take their toothbrushes to work. These things are apparently not OK: leaving bags or purses on the floor, sitting on your bed with your street clothes on, or leaving newspapers on the couch.
6. Platform sandals.
5. Brazilians love a crowd. Like a huge, overwhelming crowd. The beach? Check. Street parties? Check. Clubs? Check. Family gatherings? Check check.
4. Brazilians flock to lines. Even if they don't know exactly what it's for or if it's the one they're supposed to be on. Everywhere. The movies, the metro, the mall. Not to mention Brazilians have a lot more patience for lines than Americans.
3. Rice and beans. I enjoy a good rice and beans dish every now and then. But many, many Brazilians, of all walks of life, and all social classes, eat this at least once a day, if not most days of the week.
2. Brazilians are much more comfortable with nudity than Americans. Actually, they're really comfortable with it. Being mostly naked, or watching mostly naked people, or being mostly naked while watching mostly naked people, it's totally cool in Brazil.
1. Brazilians are obsessed with the image of their country. Every Brazilian I have ever met has inevitably asked me, "What do you think about Brazil? Do you like it here?" This apparently happens to many gringos. Why do you care so much what we think? You're like teenage girls. You know you have a beautiful, amazing, incredible country. Why do you need to hear it from us?
Top Ten Reasons You Shouldn't Visit Rio de Janeiro
10. You just hate natural beauty. Mountains, ocean, beaches, forests, palm trees, tropical flowers. Not your thing.
9. You like cold weather. It gets really hot here in the summer, though it is very lovely in the winter. But you won't find snow or skiing here.
8. You dislike attractive people. Thongs on hot women?? Chiseled men in Speedos? Gisele and Rodrigo Santoro? So not for you? Rio's not the place for you, my friend.
7. You don't like to visit countries that don't speak English. Portuguese is the official language here, though some people in tourism speak English. If other languages intimidate you, Brazil probably isn't the place to go.
6. Your religion prohibits you from drinking alcohol and dancing. Caipirinhas, cachaca, countless types of beer, drinques. Samba, lambada, forro. Rio is sacrilege for some.
5. You think that Rio de Janeiro is the Amazon, complete with jungle safaris and anacondas and piranhas. Here, there are some beautiful forests, complete with some monkeys and parrots, but Rio de Janeiro is hundreds and hundreds of miles from the Amazon.
4. You're interested in doing some arms dealing. Thanks to thousands of American, European, and Middle Eastern-made weapons that enter Rio each year, violent crime continues to be a big problem.
3. You enjoy prostitution and are seeking the services of Brazilian hookers. Stay at home, perv. There's enough HIV here already, thanks.
2. You do drugs and plan on buying and taking some here, namely marijuana and cocaine. The drug trade fuels the violence in Rio, so your purchasing drugs perpetuates the violence that plagues our beautiful city. Stay out, we don't want you here.
1. You're afraid. If you're intimidated by this city, you might as well go nowhere, since you run risks traveling to any country, or even to your local mall. So stay at home and watch some reruns and be lame.