Before leaving for Brazil to study for 9 months, my knowledge of it’s culture and the country at large was limited to stereotypes. You know, the Amazon river, football (soccer), samba, beaches, the Christ and carnival to name a few. I find that many Americans know little about this massive country. So, I just want to point out a few things that will hopefully spark a deeper interest in Brazil.
If I had to describe the Brazil in one word it would be “diverse”. It is huge! Located in South America, Brazil is the largest country on the continent and would be bigger than the United States without Alaska. Brazil is the only country in the world that lies on the equator while having contiguous territory outside the tropics. Every land form is simply beautiful! You can find hills, mountains, plains, highlands, scrublands and green all around. The waterfalls, beaches and rivers would blow your mind! Brazil’s Biodiversity is one of the richest in the world.
The demographics of Brazil is immense. Two of my favorites are race and religion. The racial dynamic is a melting pot. About 45% of the population is classified as multiracial and let me tell ya, its a beautiful mix. Its a mix that largely consist of the indigenous people, the Portuguese and the African slaves. Quite different from the U.S., Brazilians are known for being able to racially classify themselves or specify their exact skin color. For example, on an application you can select white, mulato (mix), prado (another kind of mix), morano (brown), preto (black). Socially, racial classification is even better; my favorite is “cafe com leite” (coffee with milk color). Even more interesting, there are large communities of immigrants. The following countries have residents in Brazil at a population greater than any other country in the world, other than their native one. They are German, Japan, Italy, Lebanon and Syrian. Outside the the racial demographic, religion is very diverse. The country was formed by the Roman Catholic Church but there are many variations or syncretistic practices to Catholicism. Less popular than Christianity, there are big population of Spiritism and Afro-Brazilian religions. While I was studying, I stayed with different Brazilian families. Each homestay family I stayed with practiced a different religion.
Brazilian Portuguese is special. Brazil is the only Portuguese speaking country in the Americas. The differences between Brazilian Portuguese to Portugal’s is similar to American and British English. Its development has influence of Amerindian (indigenous languages) and African languages. To me, with foreign ear, Brazilian Portuguese appears to be sung with an melodious rhythm. In São Paulo, there is an entire Museum dedicated to the language of Portuguese.
Now that I have studied in Brazil, I have an entirely different opinion of the its culture. To describe the Brazilian people in one word, although impossible to do so, it would be “hospitable”. The Brazilian culture is very large and diverse but the virtue of hospitality is what I found across the board. For the most part, Brazilians love their country and feel like they belong in the Brazilian nationality. It was the receptive personality of the people in which I experienced and loved the most. On my first days in the country, I experienced the following examples:
In a restaurant, it is not uncommon for the stranger sitting next to you help you order your food. Standing on the bus, the sitting person would offer to hold your bags. If your lost, seemingly anyone would help you get to your destination. At someone’s home, you must eat until your stomach explodes.
How could you not love such a place? I encourage all who read this blog to learn more about this amazing country!