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April 08, 2009


Marcio E. Goncalves

"Marcio, it is definitely speculation, but I wonder if the higher density of European ascendancy has anything to do with how curitibanos approach friendships"

Well, that's the explanation that most curitibanos will give you (because everyone likes to pretend that Curitiba is Europe...) - but I think it's bullshit...lol

Because Curitiba already existed for a long time (centuries) before the big wave of ukranian, polish and german immigration and this "coldness" is not found only on their descendants.

For example, my background is spanish-portuguese-african-native-brazilian. My family moved to Curitiba when I was 2 years old. But I'm pretty much a classic "curitibano" in the way I act.

Also, Santa Catarina as a whole has much more "blond european" descendants than Curitiba, and "Catarinas" are ridiculously friendly people (In a "carioca" level I'd say).

This "curitibano way" is something that is assimilated by everyone that immigrates to the city - regardless of color or ethnicity.

I've seen some sad transformations of happy immigrants turned into a cold "curitiboca" (that's how we "curitibanos" classify someone that is TOO MUCH "curitibano").

I'd love to say that I'm not a cold person, but even with a conscious effort to be more friendly I'm much colder and reserved than a carioca or paulista.

I think that the cold and cloudy weather (Curitiba is much colder than the South as a whole, because of the altitude. Much colder than Porto Alegre, for example.) plays a great part in this "curitibano" mood.

Actually, I think californians here in San Francisco are MUCH MUCH more friendly than people in Curitiba. I mean, they talk and smile to strangers (something very rare in Curitiba)...lol

But it's really difficult to "bond" with an american in general.


Excellent post, Rachel!

Jen, you must be the unluckiest person ever to land in Brazil, since most Brazilians I know are always eagerly cultivating uncompromised friendships (myself included). Maybe you just failed to understand how the Brazilian's social grammar (thanks, DaMatta) works.

For example... you suggested that a friendship without common connections has no substance. Do you think that institutions, projects, communities of practices etc are the only sources for this substance?

The word saudade (both form and meaning) is indeed translatable, I think. The problem is that Brazilians tend to have more saudades than Americans. (Take it with a grain of salt...)

Pardon my English.



Please read the following:


I think that this text explains very well why Saudade is untranslatable. After reading, please make me know your comments.

Thaddeus Blanchette

Marcelo, remember when I mentioned "linguistic handwavery"? That paper's an excellent example of it.

First of all, the author pretty much admits that the two phrases you cite (sentir falta/sentir saudades) can both be adequately glossed in English by "miss". He doesn't like to do that because he thinks it inelegant and he sort of unilaterally decides (for no good reason that I can see) that the same English phrase absolutely CANNOT cover two Portuguese ones (though why it cannot is not explained). But he makes no bones about the fact that the phrase can be quite adequately translated that way with no essential loss of information to the listener.

The rest of the article goes about showing precisely HOW "saudades" can be translated with a variety of English words. The only conclusion that the author really comes to is the one I've already mentioned above: "saudades" is a much broader and more flexible word than any of its English translations so there's no ONE word in English that covers all of "saudades" meanings. Well, no duh.

The Eskimoes supposedly have 26 different words for our "snow", Marcelo. That doesn't make "snow" a deep and subtle concept, just because it's a general term able to take in all the Eskimoes' 26, y'know? In fact, it makes "snow" rather imprecise, which is exactly the same thing with "saudades".

Furthermore, the article openly states two things that DaMatta certainly doesn't believe (and which is the main point of his argument): 1) the EMOTIONS labled "saudades" certainly exist among English speakers, and 2) "saudades" isn't a word that only Portuguese-speakers have.

So 'splain it out for me, Marcelo: what are you seeing that's so deep and mystical and untranslateable in "saudades"? The article you linked us to certainly doesn't show anything beyond what I've already said, does it?

As I've mentioned repeatedly, above, when you get into this level of linguistic nitpicking, one might as well be making the argument that Portuguese has no adequate term for "roof" because not all roofs are made out of "telhas". Unfortunately, linguistics majors forget that the REAL purpose of language translation is to impart information. When one translates "telhado" as "roof", information is quite definitely and adequately imparted. Likewise when one translates "sinto saudades suas" as "I miss you". Information - CORRECT and understood information - is imparted. The translation is a success in spite of linguistic nitpickings. "Saudades" is thus quite as adequately translatable as "roof".

QED, man.

Thaddeus Blanchette

Whoops! Make that "saudades is quite as adequately translatable AS roof".


I agree that saudade is easy to translate to english and is not a "sentiment" that doesnt exist in other countries, or doesnt have a good word for it. I agree with Thadeu about it, its just a romantic notion about portuguese language, and some foreigners that love Brasil end up embarking on it.

Usually, I will just translate SAUDADE as "MISSING SOMETHING". "Eu sinto saudade de X". "I miss X". If saudade has some "deeper meaning", thats something only poets know about. But then, english poets can also create deeper meanings for the expression "to miss something".

As for translating Ser/Estar into english, Wikipedia has a good article about it, since portuguese is not the only language where "to be" is divided into two different verbs

"Essence versus state

Romance copulae usually consist of two different verbs meaning "to be", the main one from the Latin esse (derived from *es-), and a secondary one from stare (derived from *sta-) . The difference is that the former usually refers to essential characteristics, whilst the latter refers to states and situations, e.g. "Bob is old" versus "Bob is well". (Note that the English words just used, "essential" and "state", are also cognate with the Latin infinitives esse and stare.) In Spanish, the high degree of verbal inflection, plus the existence of two copulae (ser and estar), means that there are 105 separate forms to express the eight in English, and the one in Chinese."

Copula Language
Italian Spanish English
Sum-derived Bob è vecchio. Bob es viejo. "Bob is old."
Sto-derived Bob sta bene. Bob está bien. "Bob is well."

In some cases, the verb itself changes the meaning of the adjective/sentence. The following examples are from Portuguese:
Copula Example 1 Example 2
Portuguese English Portuguese English
Sum-derived O Bob é bom. "Bob is good." O Bob é parvo. "Bob is foolish."
Sto-derived O Bob está bom. "Bob is feeling good." O Bob está parvo. "Bob is acting/being silly."

Mari Biddle


amo o Roberto DaMatta...ele explica o Brasil! Independente de ser, no meu caso, Cientista Social ou de outra area que nao as Humanas, seus livros vao direto ao ponto. Sou fa dele!

*P.S. Quando que seu blog vira livro?


Thaddeus, this is an old post and you may never read me, but I'd like to add a little something. I have had some intercultural relationships. People from different backgrouds, who speak other languages, you know, living in Rio... I think you have a point when you say that "I miss you" and "I long for you" can substitute for "Eu tenho saudades de você". Many different times I used these sentences to tell that I had "saudades". In other ocasions I used "Tu me manques", "Te echo de menos" and even "Я тебЯ скучаю" (Ia tebia skutchayu). They were all what French, Spanish and Russian offered. None of them could translate adequatedly something that I understand is essencial to "saudades": the melancholy that we feel when someone is missing. Not only the absence itself, or the recongition of its importance, but the sadness this absence causes in you. If I had pick a close word, the greek-rooted nostalgia (pain from what is afar) would be a choice. But even nostalgia has been transformed and people use it in a good conotation. I think that "saudades" has got something to do with feeling some pain.

tyler smith

How did you get in touch with him?

Brazilian in Canada

"To me, Brazilian friendships seem more superficial and dishonest, often borne out of a sense of obligation rather than any deep connection (speaking in generalities)."

And as a Brazilian living in Canada I can say, this person had the wrong friends in Brazil. they were no good, or at least not as i know, we are very loyal and over protective in general.

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