The other day I watched (for the first and last time) the Brazilian version of The Biggest Loser, that reality show where overweight people literally kill themselves to lose weight and are asked to leave the show if they don´t lose enough of it.
The Brazilian version of this show is really interesting because it very clearly reflects one of the biggest differences between the US and Brazil. Merit versus Likeability.
In the US version, as I said, the competitor who loses the least weight must leave the show, and that goes on until the very end when the biggest loser (the person who lost the most weight) gets the prize.
In Brazil it works like this: the competitors starve themselves to almost death and do lots of excruciating exercises and are weighed in front of an audience, just like in the US version. The tragic thing about it is that the audience then chooses who they think must leave based on how “nice” they are. I had to watch the painstaking process of a man who lost the most weight, an amazing 10 kilos on one weekend, having to leave the show because the audience “did not like him”.
That, to me, is the tragic reflection of just how important “being liked” is valued over “being worthy” in Brazil. The person who works the hardest, makes the most effort and has the most discipline is rejected, mistrusted or ignored because there are others that are more likeable. This also reflects that nagging complaint of most foreigners who live and work here: merit and professionalism per se are just not valued in Brazil. No matter how hard you work, if you are not nice, you won´t get very far.
Once someone actually told me that I would not get work in Brazil because I am “difficult”, but my clients all tell me I am professional, punctual and reliable, which, to me, is so much more important than being “easy”. I do, however, now that if I was always charming and hugable, I would get a lot more work in Brazil.
It´s an aspect of Brazilian society that will probably never change and probably one of the reasons professional, disciplined, hard-working and, above all, serious people are not usually elected for the best jobs. Those are reserved for school buddies, family members and close friends.
I don´t know if this happens in other countries but I am positive that the Brazilian rules of the Biggest Loser would not be as acceptable as they are here.