Brasilmagic\’s Weblog

Venting to the World

World Cup: fanaticism or patriotism?

As every native Brazilian, I love the World Cup. Since it only comes every 4 years, it is very exciting, like a dear friend you haven’t seen for years.

A lot can happen in fours years of a person’s life. Therefore, many Brazilians like me tend to remember each World Cup and what was happening in their lives in that period.

I remember my first World Cup and how I came to get the fever: 1970. Mexico. Brazil was proclaimed champion. Pele, or “King Pele”, as he was called, played brilliantly and scored so many goals that Brazilians went wild. I vividly remember the fireworks after each goal. I also remember my father gathering the family into his Dodge Dart and letting us kids sit on top, while a slow procession of cars honking their horns and carrying big Brazilian flags took over the streets. This sense of victory and patriotic pride made quite an impression on my young mind.

For many World Cups to come, there was always celebration involved, but none ever topped the thrill of that 1970 World Cup. Maybe in the subsequent years I was less impressionable and had other things going on in my life. Still, every World Cup was awaited with eagerness. I knew Brazil would perform well and that we would use the games as an excuse to party and hoot.

Things changed when I moved to America the last time (I have lived on and off both countries since I was 4). Living in the cosmopolitan and diverse Washington D.C. area, it was always easy to find a group of Brazilians watching the games together or a restaurant/bar that would show the games and attract Brazilian patrons. I would then have my little 2 hour fix or cheers and hoots. Once I stepped out of the restaurant we would leave that magic world and see Americans going about their business, not giving one thought to the fact there was a World Cup going on.

See, in Brazil the World Cup fever begins a few months before the games begin. You start seeing green and yellow gear being sold in stands and stores, you start seeing ads on TV referring to the championship and you hear people discuss the merits of each player and how good the coach really is. You are surrounded 24/7 and in every corner by the World Cup. During the games, life practically stops during the 2 hours that Brazil plays. I am sure emergency room employees are glued to a television set (or should I say monitor nowadays?).

Meanwhile, in North America, you hardly hear or see any mention that there is a World Cup going on. Few channels show the games. Few ads on TV except in a specific channel that broadcasts the games live. Forget radio. Newspapers carry a small update on the Cup amidst other stories about basketball and baseball. Sports commentators discuss local games while ignoring the worldwide event that brings together millions of people in the planet and generates millions of dollars.

We have heard many reasons why Americans don’t care for soccer (or shall we say, football): too boring, too slow, not enough goals, children’s sport, girly sport, not violent enough, the USA team is not good and Americans don’t like anything they don’t excel in, Americans consider it a “third world” game, Americans relate it to dark skinned people (!), Americans see it as un-American…and the list goes on.

As much as I enjoy watching Brazil play, and as much as I cherish each victory Brazil has, having now lived outside Brazil for 12 years has made me look at the whole World Cup obsession with different eyes: it is ok to be happy and celebrate a Brazil victory, it is ok to cheer and jump up and down when we score a goal, it is ok to wear all green and yellow from your head to your toe when watching the games….but you have to keep things in perspective. This is a game, that’s all. This is not about your identity or your character as an individual or as a nation. Therefore, if Brazil loses a game or the opponent scores a goal, it is not ok to be extremely upset and storm out of the room, throw things and be depressed for days.

Brazilians tend to associate the success of their national team to their self esteem as a country. It’s just a game folks. There is always another game in the future. Losing a game or even the whole championship does not mean that your country is lesser in any way. Brazilians (and Argentinians and the Brits) need to let go off fanaticism. Brazilians should stop linking their identity as a country to the outcome of the World Cup. There should be other reasons to be proud of being Brazilian: economic success, growth, medicine, exports and progress in many areas.

Now, if you will excuse me, I am going to start planning the barbecue before the Brazil game on Sunday with family and friends…

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June 17, 2010 Posted by | Brazil | 3 Comments

Messy homes and cars

One thing Brazilians like to say about Americans is that they (Americans) have messy homes and cars. Obviously, this does not apply to every American! I have been in many fastidiously clean and organized homes in this country, as well inside many normally neat looking cars.

What Brazilians refer to though, is something I have also witnessed: cars that look like a trash can, with fast food boxes and cups strewn all over over the seat and floor.

Some people seem to live out of their cars, and you can find almost any item in there. As for homes, Americans seem to be bigger hoarders than Brazilians. I have also seen homes where you can barely walk around all the junk people keep. Some of these homes are rarely cleaned. In Brazil, even the poorest of the poor sometimes keep a neat house. It is almost cultural that homes are often cleaned. Maybe an inheritance from the slavery days where people had a lot of help, albeit free help?

I tried to come up with the reasons why we sometimes see messiness in some American homes while it is not so common in Brazil:

1) Americans have long commutes. Some people leave home early morning to work and drive dozens of miles to get, only returning at the end of the day. Therefore, they often eat in their cars and keep clothes or other personal items they may need.

2) Many Brazilians still eat lunch as the main meal at home. Lunch breaks at work are the norm, sometimes as long as 2 hours. People who eat at work and work for big companies usually have a in-house cafeteria. Therefore, buying food on the road and leaving cartons in the car is uncommon.

3) Many Brazilians use public transportation to work, and if they own a car, use it on weekends only.

4) Brazilians eat less junk food and pre-packaged food than Americans, thus eating in the car not the norm.

5) Only the top tier of the economic pyramid in America can afford to have cleaning ladies (sorry for the gender stereotyping) or full time maids. Most people have to do their own chores and cleaning. With Americans often working longer than 40 hours a week, house cleaning is relegated to weekends, if ever. In Brazil the middle class can afford maids or cleaning service in a more frequent basis, since physical labor is cheaper.

6) Eletronics, clothes, toys and other objects that can clutter a house are accessible to more Americans than Brazilians. With more economic power, Americans can buy more gadgets to fill their house. Meanwhile, since Brazil still has a large number of underprivileged people, it is easy to dispose of excess clothes, shoes or other objects that can still be used.

7) A warm climate like Brazil’s generally requires less bulky items in your closets.

I don’t remember seeing many Brazilian hoarders, but I am sure there are some. If anyone knows them, please share your story. People who don’t ever throw out the box of the item they bought, who never throw out those t-shirts from their youth, who keep piles of clothes that don’t fit them or are out of fashion in hopes they will wear them again, who like to have collections of everything, from coins to sunglasses to shoes…..everyone knows someone like that.

June 17, 2010 Posted by | Difference between cultures | 2 Comments

“I love you man!”

Former model Paulina Porizkova, one of the most beautiful women that ever existed, wrote this delightful post about Valentines Day and the meaning  of saying “I love you”: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2010/06/03/plus-size-male-models-haw_n_599175.html

I related to this post because when I came to America, I was often surprised at how the sentence “I love you” was used freely and in different contexts: among good friends, between parent and child and even between male buddies: “I love you, man!”.

In Brazil, “I love you”  is solely reserved for romantic love. It is used sparingly like pepper and only between two lovers. When it is pronounced, it means the world to the recipient.

For Brazilians living in the USA, it might sound very strange to hear it from their friends. And when they hear parents saying it to their children in every conversation, they think: “isn’t it a given that you love your children? Why do you need to say it all the time”? It sounds a bit corny. 

After reading Paulina’s post, I see that in other countries is also a romantic expression. In America, “I love you” was democratized and is an equal opportunity exclamation of affection.

June 3, 2010 Posted by | Difference between cultures | 3 Comments