Brasilmagic\’s Weblog

Venting to the World

Kids and Work ethic

A big difference between the middle class in Brazil and the middle class in the US is that teens and young adults in Brazil do not work until they finish college. And sometimes grad school.

No jobs during high school, college or summer vacations. No learning early to earn their own money. Parents pay for everything until their mid-20’s. I heard that the children of the president of Lilly Pharma here in the US had odd jobs in their youth to learn the importance of work. My daughters had odd jobs in clothing stores and departments stores, tutoring kids and day care centers.

Upper class Brazilians don’t want their kids (often white) mixed in with people from the “lower classes”. Jobs like waitressing, babysitting, gardening, etc, are considered beneath them. Work ethic is just not valued. Why make your poor kid work when you can give them everything? I understand the importance of concentrating in your studies, but what about summers? Are you going to let your 20 year old sitting for 3 months doing nothing? How about teaching them the satisfaction of earning their ow money, even if it’s peanuts?

Different cultures, different values. But a lot about the class system in Brazil is based on this idea that some people are better than others, and that lowly work is not dignified.

I was lucky to spend a part of high school in the US. I had a paper route and babysat. I loved not having to ask my Dad for pocket money and buy my records or other things I wanted. When we returned to Brazil and I started college, I worked as an assistant teacher at the American School of Brasilia, because I spoke fluent English. I also taught English in private language schools throughout College. I paid for my first ticket to Europe when I was 22 myself, and was proud of that. I never liked to ask people for money.


May 21, 2016 - Posted by | Difference between cultures, Family


  1. While not requiring college-bound youth to work may enable them to focus on study, the larger tendency of disparaging labor among the upper classes is likely detrimental to Brazilian progress. Indeed, this matches similar practices in other highly stratified societies with limited social mobility, particularly those with histories of slavery. The premiere example’s the US South. Both Alexis de Tocqueville and more recent observers have commented on how labor among free southerners has been disdained historically, and how this sapped economic vitality compared to the rest of the US, which has always been an entrepreneurial dynamo. A more recent example’s the USSR. I recall the anecdote of US diplomats at a Communist Party function, who were surprised to see the wait staff treated with blatant contempt. The guests attributed this to the de facto class structure among the Nomenklatura, which shielded its youth from having to work while at uni. By contrast, the US diplomats had either come from modest means and thus of necessity worked their way through college, or from wealthy families that required their sire to work so as to develop initiative and a sense for the value of money. It goes without saying the USSR wasn’t known for its dynamism.

    As with the above cases, I suspect Brazilian students not tending to work while at uni is symptomatic of disinclination towards labor and initiative among the prosperous segments of that society whit large, which greatly hinders Brazilian development efforts and perpetuates the extreme poverty that mires so many millions of its citizens.

    Comment by Ian Nieves | May 25, 2016 | Reply

  2. I just came across your blog late at night, just wanted to say thanks for writing! I’m currently dating a Brazilian girl for almost 10 months and just thinking about the future. Really just as many hopes as questions and your thoughts really helped.

    Please keep blogging. I may have to ask some questions down the road 🙂

    Comment by durkslessons | September 8, 2016 | Reply

    • Thanks!! Let me know if there’s anything I can help you with.

      Comment by Brasilmagic | September 8, 2016 | Reply

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