Brasilmagic\’s Weblog

Venting to the World

Brazilians coddle their adult children

A Brazilian was shocked when I said I was going to ask my adult daughter to contribute towards the household expenses (a small percentage) since she is coming back to live with me after College and before she heads to Graduate school. I have talked about this subject before on this blog, but I want to discuss this big cultural difference that shapes how different Brazilians and Americans are.

Basically Brazilians live with their parents until they get married. And if they never get married, what happens? They will live with their parents forever. Shocking? For most Americans, yes. If you ask any 20-something American, their dream is to have their own place, or live with people their age. Yet, with the economy still in recession and high student loans, young people are flocking back to their parents’ house. Nevertheless, they still want it to be temporary.

What is hard to understand is how Brazilians let their employed-and many times very gainfully employed-adult children live with them without ever contributing to the household expenses. Especially if the parents are not rich and have to think of their retirement. This teaches their children to feel entitled: entitled to protection, entitled to have someone taking care of them, as well as being always dependent.

The main reasons Brazilian adult children live with their parents in Brazil are the lack of opportunities, low salaries, very expensive apartment rents and the comfort of their parents’ house, which many times have a full time maid. Who doesn’t want to have dinner on the table, freshly washed and pressed laundry and a clean house for free? But there is a secondary reason: Brazilians are much more emotionally dependent on their parents. They take a longer time to mature, especially women. They don’t seem to mind their parents’ interference in their daily life. Few Brazilians leave their parents’ home and the city they live to venture into the world as I did. They want the benefits that being close to home brings.

Who is right or who is wrong? Based on my own experience, having raised two very independent and responsible young adults, I think I prefer the American way. I am very proud of the young women they became; very proud of how self-sufficient and fearless they are, all the while keeping their emotional ties with me-in a good healthy way.

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May 18, 2012 - Posted by | Difference between cultures, Family

14 Comments »

  1. Haha, dating Brazilian girls sometimes means having high school flashbacks where you pick her up on the street hoping to avoid seeing her parents, and mind you we’re talking about a woman who is probably 24 years old, even worse is getting snuck into her house late at night and not being able to leave until the parents go off to work. (“My mom can’t see you!”). I also know an adult Brazilian woman in her early 30s who is a lawyer and hid the fact that she is a smoker from her father and when he would call she would launch into this little girl’s voice and get all sweet while lying to him at the same time. For his part, he is rich and bought her some properties and apartments and still gives her an allowance to which she spends on parties and comforts. I think the trend right now though is that adult children in Brazil are more often getting there own places because unemployment is going down and jobs are getting better but it’s not unusual for someone to live with their parents and as you say it’s not only for financial reasons. I’ve noticed that it’s a two way street, the kid enjoys being coddled and also the parents go out of their way to have some sort of leverage over the kids life so that they stay.

    It’s hard for me to say though whether this is so bad, I think sometimes American families can be overly cold to one another and I think it’s weird that there is an unspoken rule that once you are 18 you have to leave the house. As for expenses, I have to say that I don’t think I would charge my daughter to live me with me if she was an adult and on her way to grad school, I would do it if I thought she was lazy and I thought she needed it but otherwise I don’t think I would charge family members for anything. I also don’t think that because I wouldn’t do it that it’s such a scandalous thing either, at some point as I reach adult life I would expect my relationship with my parents to be more lateral and closer to friendship then when I was a child. American parents seem to transition to this where I could see Brazilian parents would resist it and maybe never ever allow it.

    When I point out to one of my friends or girlfriends about how they are still acting like little children with respect to their relationships with their parents, it actually has an affect on them and all of sudden they stop doing it. Seems like once you make them aware of it, they change. My friend no longer talks like a little girl when her father calls.

    Comment by g2-75713e3437c6eb18051d7f013bf69b44 | May 18, 2012 | Reply

    • Interesting Tim. Thank you for your perspective.

      Comment by Brasilmagic | June 9, 2012 | Reply

  2. I wonder how they make the transition to independent adult status? Having dated a number of Latino men, I am tempted to say that some never do. And yet, others do while maintaining an intensely close relationship with their families. I envy them the closeness yet, wouldn’t want the interference that goes along with it.

    Comment by Wickedjulia | June 8, 2012 | Reply

  3. I Have posted a comment here a while ago but for some reason still can’t see it. I wonder if Brasilmagic could give some feedback on that, please. Thanks.

    Comment by Charles | August 26, 2012 | Reply

  4. It was on the 22nd of August. At first the post was here but it seems have been deleted. I look forward to hearing your comments.

    Comment by Charles | August 26, 2012 | Reply

    • Can you resend it? I am not sure what post it was. Thanks.

      Comment by Brasilmagic | August 26, 2012 | Reply

  5. I can’t because it was quite a long response and I wasn’t expecting it to be removed. I had spend quite a long time thinking through it and writing it, that’s a shame.

    Comment by Charles | August 26, 2012 | Reply

  6. Being self-sufficient and fearless is the goal of any parent for raising their children. Thank you for bringing up this important issue. Keeping adult children dependent is to cripple them for life. Very few can find independence on their own without being taught. You enable a dysfunctional co-dependency, rather than having healthy independent relationships with your adult children.
    Brasilmagic, can you contact me? I’d like to get your perspective on a situation I’m dealing with.

    Comment by jaxhealthcare | September 8, 2012 | Reply

    • The Brazil-USA personal independence is very complex. Most brazilians are very surprised to receive any support from government (don´t ask why we pay our taxes, we don´t know either) and have to depend on their family to support them if any problem arises. This have have a good side, brazilians take more risk in adventurous enterprises (like moving to another country, drastically changing careers, starting a business) because they know that should they fail, their family and frinds are there to help should they fail. And that is a two way path, most parents have no problem moving to their children home should they are in need (it´s a very common joke of mothers-in-law arsoning their own house, just to move to their daughter houses to make their sons-in-law live a hell).

      Comment by Hebert Magno | December 22, 2012 | Reply

  7. I am proud to say that I am a brazilian girl who always wished to move out my parent’s. My marriage helped me with that, but if it were not for the factor of getting married I would move out sooner or later. Brazilian girls are now becoming more independent in Brazil, as for guys… depends on the region and family background. However, many tend to be too connected to their families (moms) In my case, I always like languages and called myself a citizen of the world which helped me realize I could not live only in Brazil my whole life.

    Comment by Raysa | November 23, 2012 | Reply

  8. I am a Brazilian man. I guess it´s only a diference of cultures. Most Brazilians would live alone as soon they make 18, but few would get too far from their family. Not only because of personal need, but also because of blood ties. A relative of yours in need and you not being there to help is very shameful and painful for us. it´s not that we like someone free riding on us, but we are still living in a chaotic country and some problems aren´t anyone´s fault. It´s not only parent things, it´s very common brothers living together for life (even cousins) and after our parents grow old, we care for them personaly until they die (retirement houses seem cold and heartless for our sensivities). So no dieing alone for us.

    Comment by Hebert Magno | December 22, 2012 | Reply

  9. We do leave our parent’s house because it is so expensive to get our own place. Parent’s are responsible for their children but when they grow older, the situation reverts and it’s the children who are responsible for their parents when they are no longer capable of living independently due to old age. Brazilians never send their parents to a retirement house, as Hebert well remembered. If they do live by themselves, they usually live very close to at least one of their children so there is always someone to take care of them if they need. So there will be a time in the life of a Brazilian when they will have to take care of their children and their parents at the same time. It’s only fair, since they gave so much when we were small.

    Comment by Rita | July 10, 2013 | Reply

  10. Ops, I meant to say “we do stay at our parent’s house a long while because it is so expensive to get our own place.”

    Comment by Rita | July 10, 2013 | Reply

  11. I’m not sure about the general idea in America, but in Brazil, parents usually admit that they are most happier living, at least, with a son at home or living close by. Besides others reasons, I personally feel that I own so much to my parents and knowing that our time is not eternal, I don’t feel like living far away from them.

    Comment by Henrique | July 23, 2013 | Reply


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