Learn more About Brazilians: Culture & Society !
If there is one word to describe Brasil, then it should be ‘diversity’. Not only because of the enormous variety of landscapes, climates and flora and fauna, but also because of the large number of different lifestyles of its people, who are an incredible
melting pot of cultures and races. Consequently, with a population reaching 200 million souls, THE Brazilian does not exist.
However, nowhere in the world the merger of different cultures had so clearly led to a new culture as in Brazil; immigrants brought their own history and customs with them, creating an entirely new Brazilian culture. How diverse the people may be, everyone feels definitely Brazilian. If only because of the sheer size of
Brazil: Brazilians consider their country as a separate continent within
|So what is ‘Brazilian’? Brazilians originate from native Indians, black African slaves and white European colonists from Spain, Holland and of course Portugal. Almost all Brazilians have at least some traces of two or more of these distinctive racial groups in their bloodline, although half of the population consider themselves as being white and 6 percent being black. In more recent years you can add Italian, German, Polish and other European immigrants, Middle Eastern merchants, Japanese contract labourers and permanent expats from other Latin American countries: there is your melting pot!
When in Brazil you will encounter
Braziliansof all shapes, sizes and colours and it is the common opinion that every newcomer can add something to the culture and society. The acceptation of miscegenation is one of the most important binding factors in the Brazilian identity. However, in practise the distribution of wealth seems to be effected along racial borderlines; it is safe to say that the poorer the Brazilian, the darker his skin.
THE Brazilian does not exist...
Three other very important aspects of Brazil’s greatest common divisor are the passion for the three F’s: Família, Futebol & Festa! No matter how rich or poor, how black or white or how northern or southern: THE Brazilian is very fond of his family, football and partying.
Family comes first to Brazilians. Grandfathers, grandmothers, aunts and uncles often live together in extended family groups. But the concept of ‘family’ does not end here; even the maid with her family can become so connected in time that they are also considered as family. In fact, everyone joining the regular family gatherings is considered as family, a blood relation is of lesser importance.
In general, Brazilians stay living in the parental home until they get married, at what age that might be. Some continue living with their parents while married when funds are not yet sufficient to move into their own home.
|The 3 F's are uniting the diverse Brazilian society:
Family, Football, Festivities
|Children are the heart of every family; family life focuses on them to a large extent. It is remarkable how democratic many Brazilian families are; every member, even the youngest, has an equal say in the decision making on many things, like holiday destinations and the colour of new clothes. For many, Brazil is a paradise for children. The relationship between parents and children is more based on mutual affection and respect than on discipline.|
Grandparents are important in the upbringing, especially in lower classes where often both parents have to work (when both parents are still around anyway). In higher classes nannies play an important role in children’s lives. It is common they keep in touch with the family long after childhood.
football. Brazilians believe that their football is unique in the world, influenced by samba and capoeira. It is played and watched with almost religious devotion. In fact, football can be considered as the binding ‘religion’ between all social groups in Brazil. When the national team plays, families and friends gather around their televisions in the street to watch the match together. When Brazil became World Champion for the fifth time in 2002, the next day was determined a national holiday.
On the other hand, when the national team has lost a game, people cry openly in the streets and there is a palpable atmosphere of widespread sadness. The passion and accompanying emotions are similar when club teams play important games. Streets are deserted during the famous ‘Fla-Flu’ encounters (between Flamengo and Fluminense, the most popular teams in Rio de Janeiro) or the notorious matches between Corinthians and Palmeiras, arch rivals in Sao Paulo.
But football is not only the love for the game (or, as some pessimists say, the love for the party afterwards...) that keeps an entire nation spellbound. Football is also the epitomized Brazilian Dream. In a country with elaborate inequality, football is one of the few ways to climb the social ladder. If you have access to a fair share of prosperity nor good education, good football skills might be your only asset in life. Many young boys in the big city slums (favelas) dream of becoming one day a big star like Pelé, Ronaldo, Ronaldinho, Neymar or...
On squares, alleys, on the boulevard, throughout Brazil you will hear the sultry rhythms of the samba. The Brazilians are born singing and dancing and always have a good excuse for a party. The culmination of this joie-de-vivre attitude to life is, of course, Carnival. Baptised by the Brazilians ‘The greatest show on Earth’, Carnaval probably is the best recognised aspect of Brazilian popular culture throughout the world. Carnival is not only the festival itself, but also very much the preparations and rejoice the months prior.
Although each region has its specific traditions, Carnival is a vivid expression of the Brazilian identity. Young, old, rich and poor are dancing, drinking and flirting till dawn... Before it starts all over again! You can sleep later, partying at Carnaval is done with a tireless, surrendering passion. Carnival gives Brazilians the opportunity to completely forget all problems for a whole week and immerse themselves in carefree, exuberant celebration that binds a nation.
Besides Carnival, there are plenty of other holidays and festivals, for example New Years Eve (Reveillon). Many cities like Fortaleza, Maceió and Natal even organize out-of-season Carnaval events. As said: THE Brazilian has always an excuse to throw a party!
Affectionate, exuberant and social: Brazilians will not just go to the store to buy bread, but also to ask how the baker and his family are doing and what he thinks of last night's match. And do not be surprised if a quiet park suddenly turns into a lively dance floor after the arrival of a samba band. Brazilians as a whole are extravert and despite working hard - many have multiple jobs to make ends meet - they have a laidback nature. If things do not work today, then they will possibly the next day: ‘Tudo da certo no final’, tomorrow everything will be better.
|Brazilians like to make new friends and are usually very interested in strangers (if not curious...). Making conversation is second nature to the average Brazilian. Waiting in line, lying on the beach or just sitting next to a stranger in the bus: all make excellent opportunities for chatting and socializing. However it is possible tight friendships start like this, just an invitation from a Brazilian to have a coffee or beer does not make you his best friend. There is a lot more needed to get included in a Brazilian’s inner circle.
Like secure family ties, tight friendships are highly valued by Brazilians; much time and affection are invested in comradeship. In Brasil, being someone’s friend is a privilege and responsibility at the same time.
If you are not used to this expressive, ultra passionate kind of friendship or when you are keen on your privacy, the Brazilian idea of fellowship might be slightly annoying. However, if you as a foreigner do not make an effort to adjust, it might be possible you never make good friends with Brazilians as considered being 'cold' and 'distant, even after living a considerable time in Brazil.
Before you even start to meet Brazilians, it is important to understand that the people in Brazil speak Portuguese, and not many other languages. Perhaps some attendants of tourist information booths and travel agencies speak a few words of English, the vast majority does not. Traditionally, Brazil is a very inwardly orientated country, as it is self-sufficient to a large extent (at least, this is gladly thought by the average Brazilian). Speaking other languages is just not necessary to the Brazilian.
|So do not expect to meet English speaking taxi drivers, shop attendants and police officers. If you want to make the most of your visit to Brazil, it is recommended to learn as much Portuguese as possible (note that Portuguese spoken in Portugal and other countries is different to the Brazilian Portuguese).
In conversation, Brazilians often make physical contact. This is a way to let you know they are interested in you and your story, nothing else.
Another typical nonverbal Brazilian custom is to keep looking the other person in the eyes during a dialogue, both when talking and when listening. If you do not stick to this, your Brazilian discussion partner might think you have something to hide.
Being introduced to strangers can be quite formal. Men shake hands, often accompanied by a pad on the shoulder with the other hand. Women kiss on the cheek twice, but in Sao Paulo usually once. Men and women also kiss each other.
Note: in a business situation always shake hands, also with women. However, if the business relationship develops, it might be possible that soon will be switched to kissing. When you are not sure what is appropriate, better let your Brazilian counterpart take the initiative.
When you are introduced to a group of new people, it is well-mannered to greet every person individually. Just saying ‘hi’ to the whole group will not be appreciated. Saying goodbye is in the same style (handshakes between men, kisses for the ladies), accompanied by affectionate expressions of how nice it was to see each other and with warm greetings for everyone who could not be there. This also applies to conversations by phone; proper time will be taken to say goodbye.
Group discussions can be very lively and unorganized, seen through western eyes. Everyone seems to talk to everyone at the same time, people are interrupted without asking permission and jumping from topic to topic is customary: socializing Brazilian style!
Business culture: Doing business Brazilian style