Breaking stereotypes

Oh yeah Brasil! The country of eternal sunshine, tropical beaches, caipirinhas, carnaval, football and warm, self-confident, beautiful dark-tinted women. Well… these stereotypes are by far not all you’ll find here, and you definitely wont find it always and everywhere you go. But, snow in Brazil? Yeah in various places during the winter. Cities where 90% of the population is just as white and caucasian as any western-european city? Sure, even with a german name if you like, ever heard of Blumenau? Some locals even speak a German dialect there, but they are still are proud Brazilians. And no, this is no small city that nobody knows of. It’s quite famous, definitely in the south, and lots of people go there for oktoberfests. Yup, exactly, oktoberfests in Brazil.

Some locals even speak a German dialect there, but they are still are proud Brazilians.

From north to south

I’ve always tried to be careful with stereotypes, but this Brazilian experience has really shown why it’s so important. I purposely set out to see 2 different parts of Brazil. My first volunteering experience with AIESEC was in the northeast, in beautiful city of Maceió, which is the capital of the state of Alagoas. My second experience volunteering experience with AIESEC was on the ilha maravilhosa, or marvelous island, of Florianopolis. This big island is the capital of Santa Catarina, one of the most southern states of Brazil. Because I stayed 6 weeks in each place I could really take the time to get to know the local culture better than any average tourist. On top of that I was working with and for local people in the NGO’s, while communicating with everyone in their native language, being Portuguese.

I really felt like I landed in a different country when arriving in Floripa after 6 weeks of Maceió

Floripa has an amazing diversity of landscapes on just one island. Enjoying the desert-like dunes over here.

These two places were vastly different. I really felt like I landed in a different country when arriving in Floripa after 6 weeks of Maceió. I had to re-adapt quite a bit to the environment, but I was still in the same country. Brazil is just a massively diverse country, not only in climate and landscapes, but definitely as well in culture and people. This should actually not be that surprising, considering it takes up about one third of the south American continent. Furthermore is has had ethnical and cultural influences from various indigenous tribes, African slaves and European colonizers, under which Portugal, England, Holland, Italy and Germany.

Drop everything you know

So yeah, is it getting to you that it’s not only sunny samba and palmtrees? Quite a lot of Brazilian people would even get annoyed when I was talking too much about these stereotypes. And that’s exactly what you should watch out for. How would you feel when people told you a thousand times you had beautiful hair, without ever giving you compliment on a nice personality trait? Well, for many it gets boring, annoying and shallow.

If I could stereotype one thing it would be that Brazilians enjoy being triggered emotionally.

And really, most Brazilians I’ve met didn’t like boring. If I could stereotype one thing it would be that. Brazilians enjoy being triggered emotionally, often it doesn’t even matter what emotion it is. Whether it’d be through funny jokes, verbal street fights, passionate kisses, great parties with typical music and dance (of which there are many!), delicious food, exciting sports games, good conversation, physical contact, it’s all good as long as they feel alive.

Brazilians are very welcoming on average. Got this warm comittee to pick me up at the airport in Maceió.

Your experience can actually be ten times as amazing if you totally drop stereotypes. If you enter a new culture while trying to eliminate anything you knew about it before, you might see things you hadn’t imagined before. This gave me so much more fun because my mind wasn’t looking for the things it was expecting to find. Staying perceptive and open really showed some cool, unexpected aspects of Brazilian culture. On average, Brazilians care alot about personal hygiëne for example. In the northeast, it wasn’t strange to take 3 showers a day. Of course climate plays a role here, and not all social classes can afford it. But even poorer people would always do their best to be clean. It’s not that I expected the average Brazilian to be unhygienic, but i was a funny remark i didn’t expect.

The upsides of stereotypes

So, you’re telling me that Brasil is not at all what visitors claim it to be? No, it’s just it way more than only that. And it’s more than worth exploring the non-typical things as well. However, I have actually learnt in Brasil that stereotypes aren’t that bad at all and are actually necessary sometimes to communicate about cultural differences.

In a practical sense stereotypes don’t actually exist. Every person is unique and has his/her own unique habits, values and personality traits. They will never be the exact representation of a culture. I have met Brazilians that were way more closed, individualistic or organized than some of my friends at home. I learnt in that I should never have too much prejudice simply based on someone’s country of origin.

I have met Brazilians that were way more closed, individualistic or organized than some of my friends at home.

Nevertheless, there exists something like averages. If you would have a good chat with a couple of hundreds Brazilians, which I might’ve done, you will see that some traits are really more common than others. On average, I would definitely say that Brazilians are more receiving, emotionally open, relaxed, group-oriented, self-confident and less judgmental in comparison to the average west-european culture.

Chill times with my host and a friend. Both quite different in ethnic appearance, but both 100% Brazilian and both the most lovely people.

A west-european would double-check before inviting a unknown friend of a friend into his house, but most probably invite him out of politeness. The average Brazilian would not even consider for a split second declining that request. I asked it once to my host in Floripa, she asked if i wanted more people to come before I even finished my question. “Imagina!”, she said, which you could loosely translate to “Imagine I would decline that (are you crazy?)”. While the result is the same, the attitude is completely different. As the unknown friend you’ll actually feel more at home, you don’t get any special treatment because your new, your just part of the group like any other visitor and will be treated like they’ve known you for a while already. There’s a more relaxed vibe in general.

“Imagina!”, she said, which you could loosely translate to “Imagine I would decline that (are you crazy?)”

Brazilians are a bit less organized and timely on average than their european counterparts. We made plenty of jokes with other volunteers about “Brazilian time”. If we’d arrange to meet up at 6:30, there’s a very high chance you’d be the first person there if you’re 5-10 minutes late. So we would say “6:30 brazilian time”, to actually meet around 7 and hopefully all be there at 7:30.

So we would say “6:30 brazilian time”, to actually meet around 7 and hopefully all be there at 7:30.

So, stereotypes. Good to discuss average cultural differences, but never take them for granted. You might not make to best connections with Brazilians as they are known for their stereotypes and sometimes arw bored of talking about them. That aside, stereotypes are sometimes just nice to make a little fun of other cultures, right? Nothing wrong with that.

Disclaimer: My stories and insights are merely written from my personal perspective and experience. They are in no way absolute truths. I’m sure that there will be perspectives that differ starkly from mine. I believe every perspective has it’s own value. Hope you keep an open mind and enjoy listening to mine. I also strongly encourage you to go explore and get inspired yourself, sharing your perspectives along the way. Be welcome to engage in the comments section.

2 Replies to “Breaking stereotypes”

  1. Love your work! you described brasil very well 🙂 when I was reading it, it felt a bit like a time machine back to a great time in this great country <3 thank you so much for this, keep up the work!!

    1. Thank you so much Madlin! Love your feedback as always! Curious to see your blog coming as well 😉

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