‘Brazilians act and then think’ is what the Portuguese say (who claim to do the opposite). From Rio de Janiero and up the Brazilians are definitely an impulsive, spontaneous people who are very comfortable in their bodies. You can see this in their dance, their natural rhythm and relaxed sexuality.
To kiss someone in Brazil is of little consequence. People don’t tend to feel committed if they get intimate either. A fact that contributes to the enormous birth rate and single-mother families. You always see the postcards of the beach girls in bikinis – more realistic would be the 19 year old girl walking along with a baby on her arm.
It’s still a Catholic country but this seems to be limited to crossing yourself as you pass a church and believing in the healing powers of the saints. Just about everyone has faith but they don’t feel obliged to do very much about it.
These are probably the happiest people in the world and no matter how shit their lot, they joke and play around all the time. No one likes to get stressed with the big questions in life and they make the best of what they have. Very often a Brazilian will tell you:
‘Look, I have my wife, my samba, my beer, my football on the TV, my barbeque – why would I want to live anywhere else?’
There are huge social divisions though. The poor in the favelas are mostly black and illiterate, more at ease with a knife or gun in their hand than a pen. The walk and talk differently, seeming like a different people to the lighter-skinned, middle class and the rich Brazilians. The latter largely prefer to ignore the suffering and injustice of the poor and most know very little about what their lives are like.
Brazilians are very musical with a varied range of styles up and down the country. They have their own pop called MPB and Rio de Janeiro is the home of samba, the offbeat street music of the poor. Bossanova was also born in Rio and is light and jazzy though at times a little too sweet. The beats get stronger as you north and in the state of Pernambuco rhythm goes wild; coco and forro and others make this a drummer’s paradise.
The cities seem to belong to the black kids who roam the streets at night. Smoking or sniffing glue and building up to their first robbery these kids are smart, funny and ruthless. No one ever gives them the time of day and they get by any way that they can.
The happy, upbeat atmosphere can feel superficial after a while. North of Sao Paolo people aren’t too keen on thinking about the deeper stuff in life and that can leave you desperate for a conversation that isn’t about football, sex or the latest telenovela. By virtue of their education and social life you may find yourself hanging around with the more privileged of Brazilians and it can be hard to deal with their social ignorance – check out how they treat their servants in the home for example.
Brazilians are so liberal with themselves and others that not too much is taken too seriously. Punctuality is unheard of and no one likes to feel compromised. They can be fiercely jealous and possessive once they are with someone though as they know just how liberal everyone else is.
Many Brazilans have a pretty liberal sexuality. Although more flights to Brazil are sold every year based on the kind of steamy images seen in the licentious mood of carnival, the Catholic guilt trip never really took hold in Brazil. In fact, when the Inquisition came out to set things in order they soon gave up as they found that everyone from the landowners to the slaves to the merchants were copulating out of wedlock – accounting for the wide range of skin colours to be seen in Brazil today.
Brazil is fabulously rich culturally but only within its own borders. There doesn’t tend to be much consciousness of what goes on around the rest of the world and just about any foreigner is considered to be a gringo regardless of whether he or she comes from the US or Iceland.