A myth that is perpetuated by many Brazilians is that there are many mentally ill people in America compared to other countries. Mental illness is a condition that can affect any human being, anywhere.
America has a higher number of serial killers, although the crime du jour seems to be senseless shootings of as many people as possible. Brazilians like to say that in Brazil there are more crimes of passion while America has more crimes of hate. In reality, there is a lot more crime per capta in Brazil, fueled by money and goods (cell phones, watches, cars..).
When it comes to the urban myth that Americans are crazier than other nationalities -which can encompass from slightly nerdy to violently murderous-here are some possibilities:
1) The nuclear family is less prevalent in America. Many single parents, higher divorce rates, more lonely seniors, more never-married folks.
2) The decentralized cities, the far-out suburbs, higher dependency on individual cars instead of walking and public transportation; less human contact overall.
3) Winter. Long months of short days, grey skies, uninviting cold temperatures that make people cocoon. It is well known that people get more depressed in the winter and rainy days.
4) The Protestant work ethic. More work, less play. Long hours, 3 jobs, long commutes. Less time for family, friends and community.
5) A more materialistic society. Acquiring goods only promotes temporary happiness. There are many poor folks in developing countries that claim to be very happy with very little.
6) The gun culture. The “cowboy and war movie” culture. The glorification of violence instead of diplomacy and negotiation.
7) Lifestyle. More processed foods, less fresh fruit and vegetables. Less walking and biking compared to other countries. Low nutrition diets and lack of exercise do not promote mental health.
8) Extreme individuality. The idea that everyone can “pull themselves through their bootstraps” makes people not look for help and suffer alone. Selfishness in intimate relationships that makes people never commit because they are waiting for the bigger better deal.
9) The cost of therapy. Mental health was not included in many health plans. Now, under the ACA, it will be. Nevertheless, most people cannot pay their share of the cost. Free services are few and sometimes not quality based, and people do not know where to find it. Clergy do not have the qualifications to help mentally ill people and sometimes only make it worse with religious prejudice.
Here are some staggering statistics about mental health in the US vs the rest of the world (from 2004): http://www.webmd.com/mental-health/news/20040601/rate-of-mental-illness-is-staggering
I bet Starbucks marketing directors had several meetings to discuss the Latin American strategy. After all, their expansion plan in the land of good coffee might not be as clearly as successful as their American venture. America was the land of bad coffee. Yes, anyone who remembers the 70’s and 80’s in the US probably knows how terrible coffee was: a brown semi hot tasteless concoction which resembled tea. In contrast, Brazil is the country of the famous “cafezinho”, an espresso-like small cup of very strong coffee, preferably black, 2 teaspoons of sugar.
Starbucks pioneered good coffee grains from exotic tropical countries into America. The coffee was hot, black and fragrant. Lattes became popular. Americans were hooked. Suddenly no one wanted Folgers anymore, no one wanted weak coffee anymore. It became a habit and an addiction. People had no idea how to live without a strong dose of caffeine. Different flavors, milk, soy, almond milk, syrups, coffee from different countries, a cozy place to enjoy a book or work in the laptop.
Brazilians are not used to drinking coffee in paper cups. Brazilians are used to small china cups. You can hardly find “creamer” in any Brazilian supermarket. When Brazilians are not drinking black coffee, they drink “cafe com leite” (which is half coffee, half milk), usually in the morning.
So what are the chances that Starbucks will be a great success all over Brazil? Good. Brazillians love American labels. Starbucks gives status. Starbucks is a cool coffee shop. However, changing the traditional way of drinking coffee will not happen overnight, nor will it happen in large scale. Price is a consideration. Brazilians do not have the income for Starbucks. The cafezinho is dirt cheap. I suspect Starbucks will be restricted to the higher income urban Brazilians, the mall dwellers and foreign tourists. Hopefully, Starbucks won’t suffer the fate of “Outback Steakhouse”, which cannot compete with the wonderful Brazilian “churrascarias”-Brazilian barbecue/steakhouses.
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