Touchy Issues

Brazil (Photo credit: NASA Goddard Photo and Video)

Ok, I have to admit that I have refrained from writing for a while because I understand that Brazilian readers might find me too critical, but some things just have to be said.

These last few months, I have been reading lots of posts from foreigners ( and similar websites) and Brazilians alike. Mostly on finding work, doing business, surviving, the “boom” we are supposedly experiencing but not feeling, and so forth. It was refreshing to know that I am not alone in my frustrations. It seems that when foreigners say something good about Brazil, mostly in articles in official media, Brazilians attack saying it´s not that good. When they say something bad, they also attack saying it´s not that bad, why are they here, why don´t they leave, etc.

My point being? Well, this seems to be Latin American characteristic as Argentinians are the same, but Brazilians are incredibly touchy when it comes to anything…Brazilian.

This incapacity to take constructive criticism or accept any form of comment or opinion on the way they do things is one of the most damaging characteristics they have. It all boils down to insecurity. The Brazilians are the most insecure of all the South American people I have met, no exceptions. They only appreciate something when it is the reflection of something else (they seldom open a restaurant with an innovative theme, for example, unless they saw it on a trip abroad), and they only feel secure about something if it is being done somewhere else, mostly in films. Women cut their hair and dress to look like women in the novelas, men buy SUVs that are considered eco un-friendly and costly in the rest of the world but that still appear in US films. The Brazilians are great imitators, although that innovative restaurant might not get the crowd it expected because people here are sometimes afraid or skeptical to try anything new.

The problem is that they fail to see that the rest of the world is praising us, emerging countries, because they need people to spend. No one is buying anything in their countries, so they say we are booming, emerging, “the ones”. It´s nothing personal, it´s just business. No one really cares. It´s the Brazilians who should care, about Brazil.

If they could only value what they have, what they are, and only imitate the good things from other countries, like investments on education, science, technology, sports. If they would only allow good, stable companies to enter Brazil to improve the incredibly bad quality of raw material used in some Brazilian industries (glue on shoes, thread in clothing, dyes, etc.), some finished products, such as furniture (Brazilians women have been crying for Ikea for years), and services, and compete with Brazilian companies to make them more aware of the importance of customer assistance, quality… the red sea. So far, they have only swum in the sea of carefree, tax heavy, bliss, which is incredibly expensive and short on quality.The tax load is the main culprit, but it´s not the only one.

You can only grow if you are eager to listen, to really take in the good things that you see in other countries, other companies, other people.

In Brazil, people have only just started to complain. When I got here 20 years ago, there was nothing in the way of customer rights. Now, there are websites where people complain about services and damage company images. But there is still a lot to do. They have to REALLY complain to improve things around here. The only noteworthy public manifestations on the news are for the legalization of marijuana, gay rights and the like. No one hits the streets to complain about the billions they pay in tax and then have to take their kids out of private school because they can no longer afford it, about the billions politicians steal under their noses every day, in every way, about the buildings that collapse, the planes that crash and kill hundreds of people and no one gets compensation, no one goes to jail, about the increasing violence they see every day on TV, with absolutely no consequences, about the criminals that are given amnesty on Christmas and never go back to jail, only to commit more crimes, kill, rape. Those manifestations are never popular. No one can be bothered to organize those. Brazilians are collectivist, but only with the people they know. Only with their closed social groups, family, colleagues. There is not strong sense of society, of “we can do it!”

There is, of course, that annoying Brazilian law that say you can´t speak ill of anyone.

The terrible weight of reality will hit us all hard on the head if we do not start to accept that there is a lot of work to do, and do it, if we do not stop shrugging off constructive criticism from the people who have chosen to live here or were born here and love this country (no, not me, important people!), from the people who come here to work and find it almost impossible to enter the market, to get a job, or even clear their goods through customs! To protect a country is one thing, to ensure work for its people is also one thing, but to prevent other successful companies from entering Brazil to improve the life of Brazilians and make their products and services better through healthy competition is entirely another. To keep that cloak over our heads, to avoid discussing issues that matter, those really gritty, touchy issues is just prolonging the inevitable. Maybe the world cup and the Olympic games will rip that cloak off with a vengeance. I hope not. I hope it comes from us.


6 thoughts on “Touchy Issues

  1. Hi Cipriana,
    I am brazilian and I agree with everything you wrote about “us”, specially the ” low self-steem subject. I really think this is our biggest problem as a nation, which is sad.
    I have to confess that the first post I read ” making friends in Brazil” made me feel a little uncomfortable and I had to stop and think better about what you wrote cause I was almost writing you to go back home… lol kidding.
    I am studying to be an actress and my teacher is very committed to teach us about our culture and history. Since I started to study about our history (because we don’t learn real brazilian history in school) I have learned so much my culture and those issues you mentioned. I guess that’s why I understand what you say about us and agree with you. I can clearly see that your comments would help to us to make this country a better place to live.

    Keep this good work!!


    1. Thanks so much for your comment Érica. Sometimes it´s hard to write another post without sounding repetitive, so I am trying to write about other topics, like Nicholas suggested: writing about adapting and integrating. Thanks again.


  2. “No one really cares about political ideologies here”

    That should stay like that, forever, because I personal always tell a Brazilian, no matter where I find one and hear constantly the whining about corruption from the left bla bla…”Listen, corruption is everywhere, but that is not an excuse that Brazilians should accept the corrupt behavior, my point is, no matter wich party/coalition is in charge, if they do something right, admit that they are doing a good job, if not, make it them clear. second, politicians, no matter which party, they work for you, you do not work for them, make it them clear. They will understand, but you must be direct. Direct in Brazil can be seen rude, but in that case, you have to be brave. If you don’t do that, you will always be the loser and always have the whiners who only whine while have a low self esteem of themself and nothing will change. You don’t have to be super active when it comes to politics, but you have a duty, because you’re the’s in your constitution. I always make Brazilians clear, Brazil is a Republic, you vote or not, you’re the boss or the worker will be your boss if you don’t vote. If you’re not happy, big deal, vote him or her out, elect a new one, move on and do what you must do so you can enjoy life at the beach or wherever.

    It’s like it’s new for the Brazilian, again that has to do with the past that is still hanging there..those dark “obey and do not dare to complain days”, but that’s what Brazilians should tell each other. I’m not telling any brazilian what to do, but I explain it in a way that it’s ONE of the solutions. You know when it will change? I’ll bet with you..after the olympics. That will give an enourmous boast and will make the old critics (they are champion with that low self esteem attitude, brazil cannot do this, cannot do that, because we never had this..bla bla bla) think more that Brazilians can do it with the will and chill out with putting each other down. Some are also doing it, because it’s trendy and read it on the so called western media (whatever western in that case a Dutch I see that pure as..we’re better attitutude and you’re not because you can’t afford a cheap made in china product to be funny but that’s what it is, really)…that Brazil can do it, but ehh, still have a long way to go or sometimes they are direct, that Brazil cannot do it, period. That is what the so called western media is champion in, brainwashing other people outside their territory down..on a very nice way. They are so damn good in it and on a very polite way..(divide and conquer concept, yes it really exist that kind of agenda).

    “Have you ever noticed that Brazilians always clap? Even if the show/play/presentation was terrible?”

    Yes I noticed that, and I could not understand that. Later I could, i think, because it’s like they want to be polite but also has a bit to do as what you explain with those “touchy issues”. I do have to say that I see little changes that when it’s bad..they say it’s bad..buuuu..and when it’s good, they say it..though it’s a minority..still is. Now it’s going good with the economy, Brazilians demand more, what is a good sign but from the outside it looks like Brazilians love to whine. I hope you understand what I try to explain. I also noticed that it’s also the problem of that “Ahh whatever, don’t worry so much, it doesn’t work, let’s go to the beach or play/watch futebol” attitude. By time, with the strenght of the economy but rising prices because of problems outside the country (there is one of two reason where inflation comes from USA and Europe, second is lack of investing in infrastructure, anyway side issue) , brazilians will have no choice to complain and complain more and demand more effeciency. It sounds bad for what I type, but the crisis outside what will have an effect on Brazil, might (still depends on the Brazilians, but my hopes are high because of the new generation plus with the critical old generation who grew up in Brazil during those dark days) push Brazilians to ACT more. You mostly have it when it hurts the wallet while you know that it doesn’t have to be like that, because there are opportunities in Brazil to work/be more effecient. The growth is there and Brazilians know it..though some will always always have a sort of balance..can be good but can also be negative.

    Now, because Brazil (it’s funny to read news papers here in the US, it’s like the DISCOVER Brazil) is gaining not only (sometimes fake) popularity here, but also immigrants (expats is the new trendy word, I’m sure you noticed that too) …can you blog about who integrates better in Brazil and who doesn’ for example..Europeans vs US citizens..who integrates better/faster in to so called Brazilian mainstream culture (whatever that is, because each region, brazil has 5 as you know has actually it’s own culture if you study it well, what you can find on my website.i’m sure you can see what it is).

    Anyway, keep blogging.


  3. Bravo, that was an excellent blog and so correct, but but but, Brazilians may be insecure (Argentines score higher since the meltdown, first one of the 21st century ..ahh don’t cry for me Argentina, you’re number one, brazil two :D)..but they are both, well Brazilians number 1 as usual, are the coolest people to hang out with :D…I’ve always typed, Brazilians that complain when they shouldn’t complain, but don’t complain when they should has a problem, a low self esteem problem that still in the air what comes from those dark days of the 70’s/80’s and mid 90’s (lost decade). Brazilians are innovative, and not only in tech, that is a fact, they are hard workers but they really have to try harder, because it’s a must how absorb those “touchy Issues” what will actually make them stronger, if they do that. I think one day, that will happen..I type I think, because I don’t know because I hope, but I’m patience, the world is changing and little by little (it should go faster) they change and smell the opportunities. I’m a political atheist, meaning do not believe in the bogus left vs right nonsense, but Mr President Lula da silva actually woke them a bit up by saying something like, We (Brazil) aren’t poor, we have to stop putting ourself down, because we do anything we want with the will, something like that, perhaps you remember better.
    Oh another thing, they really have to stop with that fake toucan vs pt paradigm. Specially on those silly blogs like the economist and many more. That’s exactly what the economist (neo-liberal fake free traders big business bank bailout lovers) enjoys, divide and conquer.

    Anyway, great post and keep up the good job.

    Dutch citizen, living in Miami-FL (not for long) and a Brazilian father 😀


    1. Thank you for your comment Nicholas. Seriously.
      Yes, I agree with you. The whole party vs party nonsense as hardly perceived in Brazil. No one really cares about political ideologies here, especially as they are so confusing and constantly changing. It´s not like the USA or UK, where everything seems to be based on parties and politics. It is also true that Lula, with his anti-imperialistic approach, together with all his Latin American buddies, did some good in terms of boosting the confidence of Brazilians.
      It really annoys me when I say I am Argentinean (an accident of nature, no offense, it really was) and they think it´s better than being Brazilian. It isn´t. No way. Brazil is the best country in the world. And they grimace when I say that. Their insecurity bothers me but I agree that it´s historical/cultural. And then there is one more thing they really have to work on to compete and be more productive, assure a better life for themselves, and that is: “senso crítico” or sense of judgment. Brazilian have none. At all. I don´t know if it´s their natural almost characteristic fear of confrontation or if they are so insecure that they don´t dare to like or dislike something. Have you ever noticed that Brazilians always clap? Even if the show/play/presentation was terrible? There is actually a study on that.
      When you buy an iron from a respected shop and get an electric shock when you use it, you have to react, but Brazilians seldom do, and that is making their rise a lot slower. If you find it difficult to complain, demand respect, demand good quality and safety and the compliance of basic rules you will find everything else a lot harder. Some thinkers here in Brazil are starting to question if Brazilians don´t complain because they act the same way with others they don´t know, as in the case of corruption: would you steal if you were there? Some think so. There is also an obvious lack of civic awareness. Brazilians think in closed groups, never as a community, a nation. Only family and friends matter.
      I love this country and I encourage people to stand up for themselves, to feel confident and react. The problem is trying to convince them it´s ok, that it´s productive, that it´s what makes life better.
      As you say, let´s wait and see…


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