Brasilmagic\’s Weblog

Venting to the World

Public Displays of Affection

An interesting difference between Americans and Brazilians has to do with PDA-Public Display of Affection. In Brazil, it is habitual to see couples kissing in public, and I am talking French kissing, not little pecks. Since many people still don’t own a car, young people sometimes sit in public squares, parks, standing against walls and kiss, hug, kiss and hug. You don’t see much PDA going on in America, not even of the more discreet kind.  Sometimes I go out with my adult daughter (who will always be a baby to me :)) and I put my arms around her or kiss her and I can see that people look, obviously pleased to see a mother who shows affection towards her child. And I sometimes see middle aged couples who hold hands and lightly kiss each other, which is nice of anyone who has been together for so long 🙂

I am a bit of a pyschic when it comes to foretelling which couples will be together only by watching their body language. I usually notice who loves whom more, who is not interested, who is the neediest, etc. I can tell by the way a man puts his arms around a woman protectively that this is a good husband. I can see by the way a woman looks at a man admiringly that she values him and this is a relationship that will last. Men need women to look up to them. Many marriages start dissolving when a woman only criticizes the man, nothing he does is good, etc. I feel Barack and Michelle’s marriage is a good one, and that Cindy’s and McCain’s is full of tension and not much love left. But that’s subject for another post… I can also differentiate between an honest and sincere PDA and a fake and agressive PDA which some couples engage in to show off or to mark their territory.

Public display of affection in Brazil is a cultural thing. It is a country where romance and family comes before work or hobbies. Physical affection is good and not a reason for embarrassment.

That brings me to the reality faced by Brazilians dating an American man of Anglo descent, or a Brazilian man dating an anglo woman. White anglo Americans feel unconfortable with too much proximity, too much touching and kissing. What comes naturally to us is seen by some of them as an invasion of privacy. Hey, this is the nation where breastfeeding (thanks Angelina Jolie for the magazine cover!), nipples and camel toe are seen as indecent exposure!

Brazilian (or should I say Latin and European folks) dating an American also need to understand that the words “I love you” have a different meaning to each culture. In Brazil, those 3 words are very special and only said between a man and a woman (I guess between homossexual couples too). “I love you” is reserved for romance. You rarely say “I love you” to your children or siblings or friends. In the US,  I have heard a guy say to another guy friend: “I love you man”. Those words in Brazil would be a scandal! He loves him..uh oh..they must be gay!  Many American children are also brought up saying “I love you” every time they talk to their parents. It is as automatic as saying “Goobye” or “How are you doing”. It becomes a habit.

I have told my children I love them, but only in very special occasions. They know I love them, I don’t need to tell them that every time I talk to them. Otherwise the words lose their power.   I still see “I love you” as romantic words to be said ocasionally between a man and a woman who DO love each other.

So, no matter how long I live in the US, some cultural aspects of my Brazilian upbringing will still hang on. I  will hug and kiss my husband and children in public, would breastfeed (discreetly, but still would if I could LOL), will only say “I love you” in special occasions to my kids and will say it to my husband more often than not.


October 21, 2008 - Posted by | Being a mother, Difference between cultures, Relationships


  1. I think the idea is good but you need to modify it a little.

    Comment by Viagra | August 26, 2009 | Reply

  2. I am an American woman dating a carioca, am 36 and grew up in the conservative southern Baptist south east. But I have no problem with PDA! And I LOVE that it is so open in Rio.
    I remember when we were riding the bus together for the first time, we were kissing each other on the lips every millisecond it seemed and few people really paid us much attention. Even though we were making lip smacking noises from the kissing..haha

    If we had been kissing like that HERE…it would have been considered so rude and obscene and people would have looked at us with disgust on their face. Grrrr..

    Comment by Shay | December 8, 2010 | Reply

  3. Good day! I’m a 24 years old brazilian living in São Paulo state, and I must disagree with you in one point: Saying “I love you” to relatives or a friend isn’t a “scandal” here. Usually you say it to friend in special occasions, not often, but I’ve always heard that from everyone of my family, no matter when we meet. Maybe it was different back when you had this experience, but I just wanted to point out that it’s not problem to do so nowadays. Thank you!

    Comment by Glauco | December 20, 2013 | Reply

  4. […] America – In countries such as Brazil, kissing is definitely an acceptable form of showing affection in public. French kissing is even a […]

    Pingback by Do's and Don'ts of Global Public Displays of Affection | July 21, 2014 | Reply

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: