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.
An interesting experience to share: see the meme on the left about women in Saudi Arabia not being able to go to a library alone? Well, I had the chance of listening to a Muslim woman in a party I went to last Friday. This woman said that even though we see Muslim women as victims of oppressive men, THEY are the ones who want to maintain the status quo, in particular the ones from rich families. The system that keeps women from enjoying the freedom that we have here also “protects” them in her view. They don’t have to work and they sometimes have a beautiful home and everything material they need. They like to take care of their husbands because they are the providers. They are scared of being homeless, live in poverty or become single mothers. So they like their golden cage.
Which makes me think that women have not yet found power, and never will until they have money. Money rules. A woman who can support herself and well doesn’t need to subjugate to anyone. There are many who have achieved this in the western world, but overall women continue to have the simplest positions and the lowest paying jobs. Therefore, they turn to men to save them. We all know that a man can be fat, old and bald that he can still find a younger woman who is attractive as long as she sees him as a good provider. Money has an interesting way to create “love”. Obviously, she will move on to a better provider if she has the chance.
It’s a vicious circle. Education is the route to financial independence; so it entrepreneurship. Many women feel they can’t compete so they lag behind. A man is the only way to feel safe and secure, especially when children are involved. That is one of the reasons women stay in bad relationships and “fall in love” for men with money. In third world countries that is very common. So I was presented with this other angle of the “poor Middle Eastern oppressed women”. This lady also said the mothers raise their own sons that way, to feel more important and more valuable than a woman, and have sisters cater to their brothers since a young age.
I say education is key, but women’s desire to be protected keeps them from achieving.
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.
1) Go out with your hair wet after a shower. How many people do you see with wet hair in the US walking around?
2) Not wear a bra. Nipples showing? No biggie, every woman has them.
3) Wedgies. Brazilian women like tight pants and jeans, and they like bikini-like underwear. Wedgies are normal and nobody even looks.
4) Mothers breastfeeding in public. Nobody even looks, since it is a normal thing nursing mothers do and it is never sexualized.
5) Men walking around the city or driving without a shirt in the summer. Nobody looks, nobody cares.
1) Brazilians mock and imitate an American trying to speak Portuguese. They will certainly laugh behind your back, not at you. They especially laugh at how non-Portuguese speakers cannot understand the facts nouns have genders-and which preposition to use.
2) Brazilians criticize the American bikini bottom, calling it a “diaper”
3) Brazilians mock the way tourists dress when visiting Brazil, especially the knee high socks, Hawaiian shirts and the very worse peccadillo: Birkenstocks with socks (granted, Europeans like that more).
4) Brazilians always allude to Americans being overweight-I have hammered this enough on this blog.
5) 100% of the time if you see a table at a cafe sitting on their smart phones silently and not talking to one another, they are for sure Americans and that’s known as “Festa Americana”.
6) Brazilians criticize American parties. They say people don’t have fun, just stand in the corner, don’t dance and go home early.
7) Brazilians make fun of the fact most invitations in America have a start time and an end time. Brazilians think it’s rude to tell the guests when they should leave. Really a cultural thing.
8) Brazilians say Americans do not serve anything to eat in their parties but chips, peanuts and pretzels. Brazilians receive people with real food, hot food, not just Costco finger foods. If a Brazilian invites you to a dinner party or birthday party at their house, there will be real food.
Brazilian women have just been chosen the sexiest women in the world by Guyism.com. Some people have asked me why that is so. I tell them what I think may be the reasons:
1) It is a very large country; thus it could have a larger number of attractive women (and men).
2) The racial mixture is such that the population may have mixed the best traits of each ethnicity. Portuguese prevails; also Italian, African, Native Brazilian, German, Ukrainian and Polish compose the Brazilian racial orgy.
3) The warm weather all year long makes people expose their bodies more. That means there is more preoccupation with looks, working out, plastic surgery, and good diet. In fact, working out is a habit and gyms abound. Those who cannot afford gyms walk a lot.
4) Brazilian cities are made for walking. The benefits of that show in women’s bodies.
5) The racial mixture made a very feminine shaped body, where no one feature is more pronounced than others. The large buttocks are not a Brazilian reality as people think. It’s more of a nicely shapely behind, hips and a small waist look.
6) 90% of Brazilian women wear their hair long. That adds to femininity.
7) Brazilian women are very fashionable. The country has long followed the trends in haute couture and Parisian fashion.
8) Although Brazilian women like lipstick, they don’t cake on the make up like their Hispanic counterparts, making for a more natural look. Hairstyles are also less styled and more windblown.
9) Brazilian women dress sexy and trendy but not usually slutty (many exceptions of course, especially during Carnaval). Hispanic women like tighter dresses, higher heels and lots of jewelry, while Brazilians prefer a fresher and younger look.
10) The food is not so processed. People still cook from scratch and vegetables and fruits are fresh and abundant.
This is from my friend Craig Fine:
1) Take the average amount of tips that are given each week, and pay that wage to your employees.
2) Eliminate tips.
3) See what happens…
I hate having to tip a waiter, it’s always felt wrong to me and a bit unfair too. I mean, basically you have wait staff that begin to get addicted to the (promised) windfall of tips they will get during their shift if and when they get really busy. It’s like an addiction to gambling.
Do away with tips altogether. I would live this…and I would frequent an establishment that did this too. I think the benefits outweigh any possible downside to this genius plan. :-)”
I don’t need to repeat that the number one criticism Brazilians make of Americans is that everyone here is obese. While the US is probably the fattest country in the world, it doesn’t mean that there is not a portion of Americans who are health conscious, try to eat less and right and frequently exercise.
Other notions Brazilians spread of Americans:
1) American parents let their kids do whatever they want. In this case, we do have overworked parents who do not control their kids or impose rules, but there are many parents who do! Quite a gross generalization.
2) Americans kids leave their homes at the age of 17 and lose their sense of family. First off, not every child goes to school out of town. Many kids stay at home until they get a good paying job now, and even kids who go to College out of town continue living at home during breaks and holidays. Furthermore, the fact a kid spends 4 years of his life in College and never returns to his parents’ home does not mean they love their parents less or lose their “family” values. Most kids keep in regular touch with their parents and visit them often.
3) Americans are cold and only think about money. Another generalization probably stemming from the fact America was founded with puritan values and the Anglo-Saxon work ethic as well as the perception that Anglos, Germanics and Scandinavians have less emotions. Truth is, many Americans are very giving, help others, volunteer, are good friends and are there for you-sometimes more than the “warm Brazilians” who are all talk.
4) Americans only take two showers a week. Hmmm, maybe in Alaska. It really varies from individual to individual, but most people I know take a daily shower.
5) American women are “loose”. This is based on the fact it was in America that the women’s lib, the hippie movement of the late 60’s and the drug and rock n’ roll culture started. Actually, the average urban woman usually waits about 4 dates to have sex with a new potential boyfriend. STD’s and “The Rules” have made women a bit more self-conscious about having one night stands.
6) Americans are blond and blue eyed. Amazingly, some Brazilians still think America is mostly white. They have no idea how diverse the urban areas have become.
7) Americans love war and love to invade other countries. While this can be true of some more radical right wingers, nobody “loves” wars and would prefer not to be in one. Also, many people, especially liberals, are against pre-emptively invading a foreign country.
Many of these myths are based on accounts of people who have visited and lived in the United States, but many do not have the necessary exposure to American culture to understand it deeply. Many Brazilians do not learn good English skills or live surrounded by their Brazilian family or friends. And many myths are similar to the perception other countries have of Americans, many based on Hollywood and TV shows, which have shaped this perception since the advent of the motion picture.
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