Brasilmagic\’s Weblog

Venting to the World

Women in the Middle East

libraryAn 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.

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November 4, 2013 Posted by | Being a woman, Difference between cultures, Society | | 1 Comment

The Crazy Americans

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

More:

http://www.theatlantic.com/health/archive/2011/10/why-more-americans-suffer-from-mental-disorders-than-anyone-else/246035/#slide1

http://news.discovery.com/human/health/united-states-mental-health-care-20121221.htm

October 24, 2013 Posted by | Difference between cultures, Lifestyle, Psychology, Society | , | 3 Comments

Can Starbucks fight against the cafezinho?

Coffee CupI 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.

October 24, 2013 Posted by | Difference between cultures | , | 2 Comments

In Brazil it is ok to….

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.

September 25, 2013 Posted by | Brazil, Difference between cultures | , , , , | 5 Comments

Just say no to “friends with benefits”

booty-call-text

Disclaimer: if you are a man or a woman who wants to be in a casual, no strings attached relationship, this post is not for you. But if you want to be in a committed, exclusive, genuine, safe and sound relationship, read on.

People need to learn to read the signs whether their love interest is interested in them in a serious way or just interested to have some temporary fun while they look for the “bigger better deal”. Usually, it is women who are more interested in making their relationship committed, while men notoriously have more problems with commitment. Blame it on biology or cultural upbringing, but it is a fact. However, there are some cases where a man is looking for a stable relationship while the woman just wants the party lifestyle.

One of things that is happening nowadays in our digital love era is that everybody thinks they can do better. No one is happy with what they have. People have become one more material possession. If you think you can do better than the one you are dating or seeing, you will NEVER commit to them. No matter how wonderful they are.

When you are in love and the hormones of attachment (oxytocin) are in play, it is very hard to detach from someone who is not giving you the respect you want. Not only there is the physical bonding, which is very addictive, but there is the emotional dependency. When being with someone feels good, you want more of that. When being with someone makes you smile or laugh, you get hooked. However, with time you may develop anxiety if you feel the other person is not on the page as you. The other person may not want to be with you much, has other priorities or makes others more important. The other person likes you but is not invested in you. The other person will not be there for you when the chips are down. The other person may box you into a certain day or time when they can see you, but exclude you from more important events. The other person may not contact you for long periods, completely disinterested in what is going on in your life.

“Out of sight, out of mind” is their motto.

Oftentimes, the person who is more in love misses the red flags. You don’t want to see the bad because the good feels so good. Like religion, you only care for the biblical messages that suit you and forget the vile things the bible stories condone.

One day you realize that the person you love is not giving you the signs you need to feel safe and comfortable. You see other couples and you compare. You see your friends adding proudly “in a relationship with…” on their Facebook status while your love interest hides you from their friends. You see other couples making long term plans, like travel or living together, marriage. You find out the other person has been actively been trying to find other relationships, whether online or offline. You realize that when you need their help, they find excuses. You realize that you are always wrong while others are always right. You just know that the moment the person you love finds someone more appropriate (in their eyes), they will drop you like a hot potato, with no remorse.

Many times the “friends with benefits” becomes a downright “booty call” system, where your love interest just calls you from time to time late at night when they have no better plans. There are no invitations done in advance, nothing planned ahead of time, nothing that includes his or hers friends and family.

You know something is not right and you start feeling bad about it.

So what do you do? You stay, because you have hope. Women in particular, are extremely hopeful creatures. They think their partner somehow has feelings for them and they will “see the light”. But they never do. There are rare cases where people decide to become a more committed partner, but it is not the norm.

If more women stop allowing this behavior what are players going to do? If men or women who are not being taken seriously STOP ENABLING people who are not treating them as a priority what will happen? Two things will happen:

1) Their self esteem will increase and they will be in control of their lives, opening up to better relationships.

2) By not playing the player’s game, players will have to step up their game, because they will not find any more willing participants. Either they will have to be alone or they will have to change and try to be more committed.

A BIG sign you were just a booty call is when you end things with your flaky better half, he or she will not attempt to contact you or repair the relationship. He or she will not try to convince you to stay or fight for the relationship. Because in his or her mind, you were just convenient for a time period. Basically, your flaky romantic partner was not in love with you. They will actually feel completely indifferent that you are gone.

So women, if you continue enabling non committal men, they will continue to create havoc in your life and feelings, as well as the next person after you. If you don’t want to be friends with benefits, if you don’t like to be hidden, don’t stay. Run. Respect yourself. Say “F*** that!”

Just say no to “friends with benefits” and watch the players die out just like the dinossaurs after the asteroid killed all their food sources…

September 5, 2013 Posted by | Psychology, Relationships | , | 8 Comments

Over-40 Childless Folks

Disclaimer: as with all my posts, there are always exceptions to the rule and this is only MY OWN observation. Others may have a completely different view:

There are many circumstances why people don’t have children. Some people never wanted children, and that is a personal preference that needs to be respected. Others never had the opportunity nor was it a goal in their lives. Others threw themselves into their demanding careers and never thought about having children (sometimes regretting it later). Others wanted to have a free and hard partying lifestyle, and settling down with one person and being unable to enjoy life for maybe 2 decades seemed like hell on earth.

Whether it was a personal decision or just life circumstances, adults who never had children differ a bit from others from my observation:

First, having not gone through the stages of parenthood and all the sacrifice it entails, people over 40 who never had children seem to have a more selfish lifestyle. They are not used to care for others, only for themselves.  They don’t have to think what someone else wants to eat, take them here and there, take care of them when they are sick, change diapers and stay home while their friends are partying. They party well into their 50’s and 60’s as if they were still 25. They relate better with younger people who have no family obligations. Their lives have no structure: they don’t have regular meal times and tend to go to bed very late and sleep in. They are used to living alone and resent sharing their space or personal belongings. When in a relationship, they usually make decisions that don’t involve the other person, since they don’t have the habit of considering others’ needs.

People without children tend to have more pets, often dogs or cats who they treat as their kids. They also tend to spoil their nieces and nephews-people with children don’t often do that with theirs. On the other hand, while people without children may become more selfish over time, they sometimes also feel the need to assist others more-which is a good thing. It may derive from their need to “father” or “mother” someone, to nurture. Finally, people without children seem to invest more time in charities and causes-often a substitute for taking care of children, and sometimes like to work in professions that involve children (think headmistresses, clergy, nuns).

There is no right or wrong way to live one’s life. To have or not to have children is totally an individual choice, but there are some differences in the way people live and act.

August 22, 2013 Posted by | Lifestyle, Psychology, Relationships | 3 Comments

Facebook and Romantic Relationships

It is notorious how Facebook can cause problems for couples. It has been the cause of many divorces and break ups. Many married people have reconnected with former girl/boyfriends and started affairs.  Obviously you can keep secrets not only on Facebook but in other ways, and it’s just one more way to connect to people. There are numerous dating sites and chat rooms that facilitate cheating.

I know couples that have so much trust between them that they have each other’s password for emails and everything else. They feel comfortable and have nothing to hide. When you feel the need to hide, you need to reexamine your feelings for your partner and your relationship in general.

Facebook can sometimes show how committed you are to your partner. Happy couples many times have profiles pictures where they are together. Their relationship status is either “married to” or “in a relationship with” their partner, comfortable and proud that everyone they know will see it. Sometimes for privacy and professional reasons, personal information is not volunteered; but in that case, should you really have a personal page? When someone hides their romantic partner from their Facebook page, it means that they are torn and flaky about that person.  It can also mean they don’t want their backups-people they are either interested in or who are interested in them-to see it, for fear of alienating them. Are you afraid that if you add “in a relationship with” someone your “backup plans” will all defriend you? Are these people more important than your partner? Are you hooked on the admiration and ego lifting from people of the opposite sex?

If your relationship goes through a crisis or a break up, take a long time to change its status on Facebook. Don’t hurry to change because you might reconcile faster than you think. Don’t act impulsively.

Facebook can be a really good way to evaluate what you really feel for your girlfriend, boyfriend or spouse.  I have several Facebook friends who praise and say beautiful things about their partners, celebrate their anniversaries, etc. I feel a huge admiration-with a twinge of envy-for these people.

Image

August 22, 2013 Posted by | Uncategorized | | 2 Comments

What you can learn from people on Facebook

I bet there are many masters and doctorate dissertations on the impact of Facebook in our lives. This post is not meant to analyze in detail the impact Facebook has, but to show how much you can learn about people-and cultures-through what people post. A person’s cultural level is rapidly exposed on Facebook. The comments they make, the subject of their posts. Here are some interesting observations about how people use Facebook:

1)      Most people use Facebook to tell friends and family what they are up to. That is, a deodorized and cleaned up version of themselves. Best pictures, showing off accomplishments, showing off their vacations and possessions. You will never see the real person.

2)      Some people use Facebook to vent their personal problems. They like the “public forum”-like a jury-of people giving their input about what they should do about anything-from love problems to how to unclog a sink.

3)      Exhibitionists delight! Particularly women in sexy poses and muscled up men, use FB to show off their bodies and pecs and get lots of attention and praise. Wannabe models and attention seekers love it.

4)      People with an agenda: whether for politics or particular causes, more and more people use Facebook to further an agenda-and find many likewise minded people. In that respect, Facebook, as with all social media, is an excellent way to educate and change minds, perceptions and worldviews.

5)      The religious and lovers of “cheap philosophy”. Usually women (less educated Brazilian and Hispanic women love this) post a lot about Jesus and religion, living their delusion. They also like memes with “positive thinking” and cheesy inspirational sentences that are nice but completely ineffective. That makes them feel “good” but all it shows is their lack of education and culture.

6)      The wannabe comedians. I have some of these on my Facebook and I love them. They have witty, sarcastic and funny lines that make us laugh every day. They are the wannabe comedy writers and should be writing for late night talk shows…

7)      The bad spellers. They abound on social media and you know they never really read an entire book in their lives…

8)      People claim Facebook is not important, but it really makes a statement of who you are and what is important to you. If you don’t want the exposure,  you should stay out of it.

August 22, 2013 Posted by | Difference between cultures, Social Media, Society | Leave a comment

Work less, play hard

The nature of work as we know it has dramatically changed since the middle ages. Work had no regulation, no limitation, no protection and consumed every waking hour of humans’ lives. In the farming era the whole family would physically work from dawn to dusk. In the industrial era children and adults would work long hours with little to no breaks in terrible conditions.

Thanks to the labor movement  and to “Das Kapital”, we now have regulations in place to have a balance between our work lives and our personal lives.

However, a bigger change is happening while we breathe: work-the way we work now-is becoming less and less physical and more pleasurable. How can work become more pleasurable? Simple: menial and repetitive tasks are increasingly being taken over by machines-automation and computers, so we even while at work, people have more time to chat with co-workers, go online or just sit back and relax-we are becoming more and more supervisors of our own work.

You may be thinking: how come cooks and servers are still working so hard? Yes, they do, and the nature of their work might also improve with time-it has certainly gotten easier with microwave ovens, electronic kitchenware and computers that calculate the bill.

Working from home and teleworking are also two big trends that improve our quality of life. We can do the same we do in an office cubicle and be more present for our families, friends and communities. Computers have made many administrative tasks completely viable of being performed from anywhere in the world. Doctors can more easily make diagnosis and see patients less. Robotics will improve and eliminate dangerous and risky jobs. War will use less human effort. I foresee “work becoming play” to be more and more pronounced over the decades.

 

 

Now, what that will do in terms of job creation and employment rates remains to be seen.Image

August 22, 2013 Posted by | Society, Workplace | Leave a comment

8 ways Brazilians make fun of Americans

American Tourist

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.

August 22, 2013 Posted by | Difference between cultures | 2 Comments