Obviously there are huge differences in culture and behaviour when moving to live in another country, on another continent, on another hemisphere… It was overwhelming at first but now having lived here for more than a year I now understand the basic behaviour of Brazilians. Some aspects I don’t particularly appreciate while others I love. Sometimes I feel that Brazilians’ behaviour is the anti-behavior of Swedes. I think Swedes could learn a few things from Brazilians, as I have done living here. So here is my count down list of 8 Brazilian behaviours I hope to take back to Sweden with me.
Brazil is run and ruled by WhatsApp. I have so many groups active on a daily basis that Peter, my husband, is on 30th place, a long scroll down the list even though we communicate on WhatsApp every day!
I have the dentist, the paediatrician, various doctors, taxi company, dermatologist, wax clinic, manicurist, electrician, plumber, basically every professional I use I have WhatsApp contact with. Then there are all the groups; Olivia’s class, James’ class, summer school, housewives, CrossFit, different event groups, crisis management, expatgroups etc. The list goes on and on.
It is fantastic that I can get hold of people so easily whenever I need to. It is so easy to schedule appointments, re-schedule, ask questions, get information, coordinate events etc. I hope Sweden will catch on by the time we move back.
7. My curves are MY curves. They are beautiful and I will flaunt them.
This might as well be tattooed on every Brazilian woman’s body. The way they move and dress says it laud and clear. They don’t limit themselves to dressing according to body type. Everyone here puts on a teeny weeny bikini for the pool or beach. The term “bikini body” as I know it means having a body that is slim, tight abs, tight butt. In Brazil “bikini body” is any body that is actually wearing a bikini. I love Brazilians view on the female body. The clothes in the stores are all meant to enhance, flaunt and flatter the female curves. Vibrant colours, cut out patterns, tight over butt and chest, flowing skirts, deep cleavage.
And then there are the shoes. Brazilian women wear heels more often than not. It gives the booty a lift and completes the look.
And the hair of course. Brazilian women almost never where their hair up. Even at the gym they often leave it down which is something I’ll never do. Many go to the hairdressers once a week and get their hair washed, blow-dried and styled. It only costs like 50 SEK. A part of their beauty routine.
So, my observation is that Brazilian women come in all shapes and sizes but they take care of themselves and flaunt their female attributes with pride.
6. Being on time or in Brazilians’ case NOT on time.
Swedes are rivalled only by the germans in punctuality. The 5 minute rule makes sure Swedes are always in place 5 minutes ahead of time. Constantly rushing to get to school on time, getting to soccer practice, getting to your hair appointment etc. Brazilians are never on time. If you invite people for dinner at 7pm, they will arrive at 8pm. When attending a crossfit workout in Sweden, people stand around waiting for the workout to begin. In Brazil only the Swedes are there when the workout starts and the rest drop in during the first 20 minutes. Peter tells me people don’t show up for meetings until 40 minutes into the meeting and matter of factly say they were having lunch offering no apology. There are of course downsides to not being punctual but I have identified the major difference; Brazilians never stress while Swedes are always stressed for time! I remember getting stomach aches as a child if I was running late to school or for track practice. James is always first at soccer practice the rest dropping in as they please. We should choose when it is crucial to be punctual and take it easy the rest of the time. We should also stop judging others when they are late.
5. Friends of my friends are my friends as well
I just love how Brazilians are friendly with everyone. We were instantly welcomed by friends of friends to join in events, parties, dinners. They even invite our friends to join. Last weekend our friends Tatiana and Fabio invited us AND 20 of our friends to their country club to play volleyball and barbecue. Its has a wonderful snowball effect where everyone is friends with everyone. There are no groups. At least not that I can see.
4. The more the merrier
Is a phrase that rings true in Brazilian culture. Brazilians are very hospitable and invite friends and friends of friends to functions be it a Mother’s Day family celebration, a birthday, a party arranged by the gated community, charity dinners you name it! They might start off planning a dinner with close friends and end up with a stampede of people. The Swedish way is more closed off. Swedes commonly schedule dinner with friends (often 2 months in advance) and don’t invite others even if you happen to bump into mutual friends at a the supermarket the same day shopping for said dinner! Brazilians take the opportunity to spend time with friends and tell them to come over.
3. Dinners are all about the company
We have dinner with friends 2-3 times a week. Half of the time it is spontaneous. Weekend dinners are more often planned a day or so in advance. The hosts provide most of the dinner but guests often bring something be it a bottle of wine, fruit, some bread, a dessert, a salad. Sometimes or often friends arrive with a Tupperware with leftovers as a side dish. It isn’t coordinated or perfect but it’s supposed to be. Getting together is all about the company, being with friends, kids playing with their friends. It’s not about wowing your friends by presenting a perfect three course dinner that you spend all weekend preparing. This is something I am taking home with me. Having friends over for dinner with the sole purpose of spending more time with them. Even if it is soup and salad, leftover lasagna or even pizza delivery. With everyone so busy with work, time is scarce to do what really matters. Two of our closest friends live just a few minutes away but still we only see them once a month! That is going to change when we move back to Sweden. Marina and Fredde, remind me of this and hold me to it!
2. Compassion and support for foreigners
I always feel like an idiot speaking Portuguese because I know that I sound funny, I don’t have the right intonation or melody in my speech, my body language doesn’t translate properly and if I mispronounce the word “bread” in Portuguese I am actually saying “penis”. But the Brazilians I meet don’t laugh or judge me. They encourage me to speak Portuguese, help me, they try really hard to understand what I’m trying to say when I say “I like to bake penis”. They congratulate me on my Portuguese and apologise for not speaking english. They always offer to help with things that require higher level language skills like calling the electrician or doctor.
I can always count on the mothers of the children in James’ class. They have been there for me and helped me with everything from finding good doctors to how to get my white laundry clean. These women are fantastic.
Once my neighbour Thauana knocked on the door, gave me a potted plant and told me she just wants me to know that I have friend I can count on. I almost cried happy tears. This past year she has helped me with lots of things and I am so grateful for the compassion and support from our friends and the Brazilians in this town. I will think about this when I move home where I know there is a big need for compassion and support for foreigners.
1. Looking out for each other.
I have never experienced such love and care as I have from Brazilians. It is not that Swedes don’t care but we are more mindful of maintaining ours and others’ personal space. Swedes seldom show up on friends doorstep to have a coffee or just say hi. Even when we know a friend is having a hard time we stay away waiting for them to make the first move, to invite us to come over. But, the problem is, when we are in need we don’t naturally reach out. We don’t want to burden anybody with our troubles, we don’t want to have to clean the house for someone to come over. So there we are. The friend in need sits alone, needing a friend, a shoulder to cry on. And the worried, caring friend sits alone waiting to be invited.
When James was very sick a few weeks ago I had to rush him to the hospital. I was a little stressed James being so ill and having to talk to doctors in Portuguese, Peter was out of town. As I was getting ready to go there was a knock on the door. It was my friend Tatiana who gave me a big hug, told me she was driving us to the hospital. She then stayed with us all night, refused to leave even when I said that I had everything under control. She was being a friend plain and simple. I could have managed on my own but it was so much nicer having her there. (Turns out she had some contacts at the hospital that helped us a lot)
So, the short version; knocking on a friends door in good times and bad times, if only to give a hug, is something I am going to bring back to Sweden.