Are you brasileiro?
by Emilio Neto
Now, in addition to checking
if you're American or French, thanks to Emilio, you can
see if you where you really belong is in
o Brasil, terra do samba e pandeiro...
Strength, contempt, and despair
- You believe in personal freedom in an individualistic way. You don't
see any connection between this and politics.
- You believe in God. You may, or may not, care for any organized
religion. If you do, you may belong to several different religious
affiliations at the same time.
- You're familiar with Xuxa, Roberto Carlos, Ronaldinho, Jô Soares,
Sílvio Santos, Ayrton Senna, the latest TV Globo soap opera (currently A
Indomada), Cid Moreira, Marília Gabriela, Sai de Baixo, Vila Sésamo
(Sesame Street in Portuguese).
- You know lots of things about football (soccer). If you're male, you
have your own list of the 11 players who should start for the national
team. You know something about volleyball and basketball. You are
curious about American football but baseball is absolutely
- You have four weeks of vacation guaranteed by law. You can sell half
of it back to your boss.
- McDonald's and other American-style franchises are more expensive and
more highly regarded, as a place to go for a quick meal, than the traditional
neighborhood bar/eatery (botequim).
- If you're middle class or up (about 50-70 million people), you have
telephone, TV and VCR, and one or more bathrooms at your place. You
don't need heating and may not have air conditioning. You pay someone to
do your laundry and other household chores like cleaning and cooking.
You're quite fastidious about neatness: yout house is very clean and
you take one or (during summer) more showers a day.
- You eat with your family, maybe with the TV on.
- You don't consider insects, dogs, cats, monkeys, guinea pigs, snails
or horses to be food.
- A bathroom almost always has a bathtub as well as a toilet.
- Until a few years ago, the State owned the telephone, railroad, electric,
gas, transport (serviços públicos), oil, steel, nuclear power, mining, docks
(setores estratégicos) and other companies. Now everything is being
privatized. You have a pretty clear idea of how each system works.
- Telephones are problematic. To get a new phone is difficult and
- The train system is for heavy cargo or, in big cities, the poorest
people. Planes are too expensive. Everything is done by truck, bus or
- There are dozens of political parties and you can't tell one from the
other. You vote according to personalities, not ideology. You believe in
a strong Executive, despise the Legislative and despair of the
Judiciary. You expect the politicians to do lots of public works so you
can see where your tax money goes.
- If you have been to college, chances are you were exposed to Marxism.
Apart from that, almost all political currents claim to be Socialist,
Social-Democratic or at least left-of-center. Nobody cares much about
- Between "black" and "white" there are many shades of race. Someone who
is not very distinctively black looks white to you. You probably think
you are white yourself, and it is only when you travel to the U.S. that
you find out it is not necessarily so.
- Mixed marriages are common but more so among the poor and lower-middle
class than among the rich. Pretty black or mulata girls, however,
often marry above their social class.
- You don't think most big problems could be really solved. You try to
find a way around problems (jeito) instead of actually solving them.
- You go to the courts, but only if it is a very important issue,
because otherwise it is not worth the expense, the time and the trouble.
Civil causes can last years, and penal causes also.
- You are very curious about foreigners. You enjoy having foreign
visitors in Brazil and wish there were more. You like to talk to them,
ask about their countries and especially about what they think of
Milk in bags
- You consider a foreign-born person who has lived in Brazil for a long
time and speaks good Portuguese as a Brazilian. People from Portugal are
neither Brazilian nor foreign, but something in-between; if they move to
Brazil they instantly become Brazilian.
- If you don't speak English, you're studying it or consider yourself
a fool for not doing so. If you are over 50 or have intellectual
leanings, you may speak French. You understand Spanish if people speak
slowly and think that because of that you don't need to study the
language. People who learned German or other languages are wonders of
- You think a tax level of 15% is high.
- School is free through high school, but if you have money you send
your kids to Catholic and other private schools. They then beat the
poorer kids in the admission exams for the public Universities, which
are free. If you are poor and ambitious, you may work during the day and
use your salary to pay for the private college you go at night.
- College is four years long, except Medicine which is five or six. Many
people stay for graduate studies (Mestrado) with Government
A tanga is another story
- You don't eat much mustard or ketchup except at McDonald's or
pizzerias. Pepper often comes in liquid form, in jars. Milk comes in
cardboard boxes or closed plastic bags.
- You eat rice and beans at least once a day, six days a week (except
Sunday). You eat a lot of chicken and beef, but not much pork (except
salted pork with beans) or fish (except in some parts of the Coast). You
also eat pasta, potatoes, yam and other starch, but not as much eggs,
cheese and milk as in the US. You know you should eat more greens and
vegetables. You try to compensate by eating fruit (bananas, papaya,
- You consider plums, strawberries, peaches, cherries and other delicate
temperate fruits to be delicacies.
- The date comes first: day.month.year. There are no specific dates
engraved in the collective memory except for the national and religious
- You have a skeptical view of the great political events of Brazilian
history (Independence, Republic, sundry constitutional changes). Them
old-time politicians were probably not much different from the current
lot. If you are black you may remember 13.05.1888 (Emancipation of the
- A billion is a thousand times a million.
- The decimal point is a comma, everything else is a dot.
- World War II did not concern Brazil at first. It was a problem of the
Americans, and the U.S. kept asking Brazil to help them. Which we
finally did when the Germans started sinking our ships and killing our
sailors with their stupid submarines. Our troops fought in Italy, and
Brazil helped a lot, but the U.S. was ungrateful after the war, giving
money to their former enemies instead of those who had stuck to them
when the going was rough.
- You expect marriages to be made for love, not arranged by third
parties. You can get married by a judge, by the Church or both. Church
weddings have legal value if you take the certificate to a public
notary. The reverse of course is not true. If you live like a married person with
another person of the opposite sex the law says it is the same thing as
if you were legally married. You have a best man and maid of honour or,
sometimes, up to seven couples of men/maids. And, naturally, a man gets
only one wife at a time (and vice-versa).
- If a man has sex with another man and is at the bottom, he's a
homosexual. If he is at top, then you have to check the context. Maybe
he was young or drunk or both. But it is certainly nothing to brag
- Once you're introduced to someone, you can call them by their first
name. All public personalities, including the President and other lofty
figures, are called by their first names except in an official context.
Bossa Nova? What Bossa Nova?
- If you're a woman, you don't go to the beach topless, unless maybe in
some deserted spots. Exceptions to this rule are the prostitutes that hunt
for tourists at some famous beaches.
- A hotel room has a private bath.
- You see foreign (mostly American) films subtitled, never dubbed,
except for children's movies.
- You seriously expect to be able to transact private business without
paying bribes. You frown upon people who go after Government money by
paying bribes to high officials, and rejoice when they are unmasked by
the press. However, you are not above using your personal and family
connections to speed the bureaucracy, or even tipping a police officer
or some lower clerk.
- If a politician has been cheating on his wife, it is not your
- More and more stores are taking your credit card. Before, during the
time of the high inflation, almost all stores took personal checks with
some form of official identification. Even today, pre-dated checks are a
popular form of consumer credit.
- A private company can fire just about anybody it wants. The Government
and public companies seldom fire anybody.
- You don't like bacon. You think it is gross to eat bacon for breakfast
like the Americans do.
- Labor day is in the fall, that is, on 1st May (Southern Hemisphere
fall). There are only two seasons anyway: hot-and-humid (6-month summer)
Always slow down for red lights
- Your knowledge of American pop culture is surprisingly deep in
some areas and nil in others. For instance, if you're between 25 and 50, you know a lot of American disco stars
from the late '70s and progressive/heavy rock groups from the '60s to
the early '80s. You don't know American punk or new wave groups, only
the British ones (I can't figure out why). You do not
know, or already forgot, Chuck Berry and other black rock stars; you do
not know any American country, folk or gospel singers. You don't know many American TV and theater personalities, unless they've crossed over to the movies.
- You know Brazilian soap opera. You consider it much better than
American soaps and sitcoms.
- You know Brazilian pop/rock: Paralamas do Sucesso, Barão Vermelho,
- You idolize all the great Brazilian singers/songwriters: Chico
Buarque, Caetano Veloso, Giberto Gil, Djavan, Roberto Carlos. And female
singers: Gal Costa, Maria Bethânia, Elis Regina.
- You consider it odd that Americans think of Brazilian music in terms
of Bossa Nova. For you, Bossa Nova is something that happened in the
60's and early 70's.
- If you have money, you count on excellent medical treatment. If not,
you are very afraid of public hospitals but to go them anyway. You're a
little hypochondriac and consider illness an interesting subject for
- You expect your doctor to actually talk to you like a human being. If
you ever get medical treatment in the U.S. you are shocked at the
coldness of most doctors.
- You went over Brazilian history, and some Western European, in school.
Not much American, Russian, Chinese, African, Asian or even other Latin
American. You do not know exactly whether Brazil is part of "Latin
America" or something unique. You couldn't name ten U.S. interventions
in Latin America without checking Mark Rosenfelder's web page.
- You want the military to stay put, behave themselves and not get
involved in politics (except when you are very mad at some particular
civilian politician). You think they blew it during the only time they ruled
Brazil (1964-85), and do not deserve, or wish for that matter, a second
chance. You are not able to name the top military commanders.
- Your country has never been conquered by a foreign nation.
- Except indirectly for the two world wars, which were in other
continents, your country has not experienced war since 1865-70 (against
Paraguay). Sometimes you wonder why all those crazy foreigners kill each
other, instead of enjoying life while they can. You think of Brazil as
an "island of peace".
- You envy the wide variety of choices Americans have for almost
anything they buy. If you have money you take a plane to New York or
Miami and shop till you drop.
- You measure everything in meters, kilos and liters (and Centigrade
- You are not a farmer (70% live in cities).
- Comics basically come in two varieties: newspaper strips for adults
and magazines for children.
- The people who appear on the most popular talk shows are mostly
entertainers, politicians, or rather strange individuals. Sometimes all
of the above.
Oh, those Portuguese!
- You drive on the right side of the road. You stop at red lights if
someone is around; otherwise you slow down. If you're a pedestrian and
cars are anywhere around, you better watch out carefully before crossing
- You think of Argentina as a pleasant country with two cities:
charming, cosmopolitan Buenos Aires, and beautiful Bariloche (where the
Brazilian ski championship takes place). You think Argentinians as a
people are arrogant and conceited, but you often like individual
- When you were younger, you considered the Volkswagen Beetle a dream
- The police are armed, sometimes with submachine guns. You are afraid
all police are violent and crooked, but at the same time you would
rather have them around.
- If you're a man, your ideal woman figure is plumper in the buttocks
and smaller in the breasts than the American ideal.
- The biggest meal of the week is the weekend family lunch. During the
week it is dinner.
- There's parts of the city you would not be caught dead at night except
in the company of a local who knows his way around.
- You feel that your kind of people aren't listened to in Brasilia. You
cannot imagine how it could be otherwise.
- You are scared s*less of a possible return of high inflation (up to
70% a month in February 1990).
- You like to do favours for members of your extended family, their
friends and relatives of their friends. You expect them to do favours for
- The normal thing when a couple dies is for their estate (if they have one) to be divided
equally between their children (with a chunk for the lawyers,
- The nationality people most often make jokes about is the Portuguese.
- You think of opera and ballet as something that happens on TV
sometimes. Theater is where big soap stars test their skills and satisfy
- Christmas is in summer. You spend it with your family, give presents,
and put up an American-style tree and also miniatures of the Sacred
- You may think the Church is too rich, and wish they would give more to
the poor; but you seldom give to organized charity yourself. If you are
a good person, you may help poor people you know personally.
- You cannot conceive the idea of a State Church, but you don't mind
that the intitutions use the name of God.
- You'd be hard pressed to name the leaders, but not the capitals, of
the main nations of Europe; you plan to visit them (the capitals, not
the leaders) sometime.
- You aren't familiar with European comics, except Asterix and Tintin.
Even American super-heroes are not so popular anymore (but if you're
over 20 you do remember the Spider Man).
- You've just brought a new answering machine from New York.
- Taxis are operated either by criminals or by exceptionally kind men,
who go out of their way to help old ladies and the like.
- You think everybody is entitled to a State pension when they get old
or work long enough, even if they contributed little for the Social
- Doctors are among the most important people in the world.
- There sure are a lot of lawyers.
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