Review: The Biggest Loser – Brazilian Version

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.

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Review: Prejudice? Really?

An article I read the other day: Voices of Brazil, the models facing prejudice at home, from the Guardian, really bothered me and I just felt I had to write something about it, being black and all.

First of all, the author accuses Brazil of choosing a white couple to represent the country in the World Cup draw, which is downright incorrect. Brazil chose Camila Pitanga and Lázaro Ramos, two black actors, for the draw and Fifa rejected them and chose the two white models and couple, Marcelo and Fernanda.

Secondly, black models are rare anywhere in the world, Why? Because we are a minority in most countries and women find it harder to identify with women of other races and because models are chosen for other reasons, not because of colour. I mean, the world´s catwalks are not exactly abundant with Asian models, are they? People should never be forced to choose someone because they are this race or that race. That, to me, is racist.

Maybe black models have more chances outside Brazil, but it is precisely for the “tropical” look that they are chosen so being from Brazil might even be a bonus. Countries where there is a low population of black people are usually the ones who hire them the most. But again, so what?

I just wish people would stop whining about idiotic things and start acting to improve the serious things this country has to change. Picking on a country for just about everything is not going to solve anything.

There, I´ve said it.

Rolezinhos Explained – A reflection of inequality in Brazil

A fascinating new phenomenon that has recently emerged in Brazil is the “rolezinho”, which is the literal translation of “walk around”(e.g. vou dar um role) like when we decide to walk around the shopping centre or streets. The fascinating thing about this new trend is that it is a direct reflection of the extreme inequality there is in Brazil.

A group of people, usually from a same community, such as a favela or “sem teto” (homeless people) notify the press and organize a trip or rolezinho to a shopping centre. The interesting thing is the reaction of the shop owners, attendants and other regular customers, usually of middle and upper classes. They immediately grab their cell phones to call the police and clutch their bags from fear of being robbed. The presence of the press usually strips the police of any reasons for violent action because these people, like all of us, have the human right to be there and simply want to visit a shopping centre. This action forces middle and upper class Brazilian to face their own bias and prejudice without any excuses or justifications. They have no where to run.

The entire action is obviously organized to convey a message and protest against the discrimination these communities endure day after day by people of a different and often foreign social class.  The result is absolutely fascinating, especially when they decide to eat at the food court or use the restrooms. The panic they cause is a punch in the face of Brazilian society in general and a clear message delivered by a specific segment of society simply by being there.

It took me a while to understand what all the commotion was about and I initially thought people were actually protesting in shopping centres, but then, after watching the video, I realized it is all about people simply wanting to visit a shopping centre that has been invisibly “off limits” to certain segments of the population for so long.

I think this is all amazingly positive trend and hope it does not attract wrongdoers and people with bad intentions. If the rolezinhos manage to maintain the peaceful approach and very powerful but silent message they are trying to deliver, I think this will be one of the most successful revolutions of Brazilian society, and proves my assumption that Brazil is not a racist nation, it is a classist nation.

Here, the 19 minute video “So quero conhecer o shopping” (I only want to visit the shopping centre). Enjoy.

Living in Brazil: Builders

Someone posted a comment and mentioned the topic of builders in Brazil. I thought that deserved a post of its own, so here goes.

Dealing with builders, painters and the like in Brazil is one of the trickiest endeavors you will probably undertake as a gringo, or Brazilian for that matter.

I have actually seen news reports on the subject and any advice should be seriously considered.

In my experience, and those of people I know, there are three types of builders in Brazil. Good, professional ones who usually work for construction companies, do lots of training and earn accordingly. Good ones who are self-employed and usually inherited their trade from their fathers, grandfathers or from watching other builders. They usually have a team of the third type of builder, or builders like themselves, in which case you are looking at a miracle. Most work alone. Either way, they should be considered a Godsend if you are planning on building anything because they are usually overloaded with work or extremely, rare. Then, there are the ones who say they are builders, which in rare cases is true, to some extent, or who learned the trade from someone else. They are usually alcoholic and/or very bad at managing money.

This last type of builder is unfortunately the most common so I will stick with them. There are some basic rules when dealing with this type of builder, and rules to steer away from them and try to get the second type of builder. If you are lucky enough and have the resources to hire an architect and engineer (another tricky endeavor), they might already have a team of trusted builders or might handle the builders themselves. In most cases, the engineer or architect will appear once a day for 5 minutes and charge you a fortune for every visit. So you are basically left to deal with the builders yourself.

First rule: Never, ever hire them on a daily-rate basis. Always use the “empreitada” modality, which means they get paid per constructed square meter or for the entire project. You should, of course, ask them to set a timeline and hassle them about it, and preferably hang around when they are working to make sure they stick to it.

Second rule: Never EVER pay them “vales” (payments in advance that are deducted from the total) unless they give you an amazingly great justification (usually an agreement before they start working, such as 10% in advance and 90% at the end of the project). As I said before, lots of these builders are alcoholic and very bad money managers, so they are usually penniless and will only appear to work when they need money. If you start paying them the “vales” they ask for, they will eventually reach 50% of the final price for the project, or more, and never appear again. This is incredibly common in Brazil and I know of people (Brazilians) who have unfinished homes and have no more money to hire another builder and continue the project because they already handed over 50% of the budget. It should be very clear before they even lay the first brick that you will not pay a penny until it is all completed ( in the absence of any other agreement). They will throw the “leite para meu filho” excuse and even cry but you must not waver. Trust me.

Third rule: Be careful with building material (this is a universal rule). They should justify every purchase and you should keep track of everything from screwdrivers to cement. Some builders don´t have tools because their temporary workers steal them, so they might ask you to buy tools. This is rare but it happens. Regardless, keep a close tab on all the supplies you buy. I know of builders who build their own homes with the stuff that leaks from other people´s “almoxarifado”.

Fourth rule: Always hire a builder based on recommendations. Brazilians create emotional bonds with everyone they meet, even builders. So they will feel personally responsible for his work and only recommend someone they truly trust.

Five rule: Likewise, if you find a good builder and have a pleasant experience, clutch onto that phone number with your life. You will probably need him in the future.

Interview #3 – Craig Bell

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1. Please tell us a little about yourself (name, nationality, occupation, country of residence, etc.)

My name is Craig Bell. I’m a Kiwi living in Brazil, and after working in the corporate world for 16 years, for the last 10 years I’ve been self-employed and developing various projects.

2. When and why did you decide to move to Brazil?

I moved from México to Brazil in 1997 as the General Manager for the Mercosul region for Fonterra, a large dairy co-operative from New Zealand.

3. What were your thoughts on Brazil before you actually moved here?

I’d visited a couple of times and my first thoughts were that Brazil was playing catch up with the rest of the world at the time as it was just emerging from hyper inflation, and the range of goods and services wasn’t that high a quality. But I also thought it was a monster in terms of scale of opportunity.

4. What were your first impressions (good and bad)?

Well being based in São Paulo, I thought the traffic was driving too fast and there was too much of it! I thought “these guys have to be the world champions of bureaucracy and business complexity” (and they still are!). Basic infrastructure like cell phones or banking were awful at the time, and after Mexico it seemed a bit drab. But as I got to know the place, there was an infectious happiness in the people which has left a lasting impression on me, and that helps I guess to overcome the daily challenges of government and living.

5. Which have been the most positive and negative experiences in Brazil?

Bureaucratic red tape to get just about anything done including endless trips to the cartorio to get signatures notarized would have to be at the top of my list of negative experiences.

Travelling just about anywhere in Brazil has been real fun, and in helping to set up a farming business (www.leitissimo.com.br) in the interior of the country it has been personally very satisfying to see a whole community develop largely as a result of our actions.

6. What is your advice to foreigners who are thinking of moving to Brazil?

Firstly here’s an excellent and funny blog that captures pretty well I reckon what Brazilians are like.

http://manuelschneider.blogspot.com.br/2012/12/whatiknowaboutbrazilians.html?m=1

You’ll need patience to get most things done. If you’re thinking of setting up a business you’ll need an added dose of patience, and you must get good legal and tax advice. Keep every single bit of paper.

Be prepared to pay and pay well for health and education. Private services are great, public are poor.

7. How did you find or look for work in Brazil? (On site, internet, etc.)

I was transferred with my company, but anyone from overseas looking for work should tap into a network of ex-pats and put the word out that they are looking. I think that is probably the best way.

8. What was your level of Portuguese when you moved to Brazil and what language difficulties did you have when you arrived?

I had some average Spanish when I arrived, which was a bit of a help to learning Portuguese, but there really is no substitute to putting in a couple of hundred hours of serious study to pick up the language.

9. What were the challenges you faced regarding finding a job?

Not really applicable as I arrived to a job. But being self-employed for the last 10 years, I think the biggest challenges are staying disciplined while you think about and implement the next opportunity.

10. How did you distinguish yourself from other Brazilian candidates for the position?

N/A

11. What advice would you give any European that is looking for a job in Brazil?

Best to line something up before you leave Europe, as Brazil is expensive to hang around in.

12. How did you legally work in Brazil and did you run into any problems during your working visa application?

I applied for a RNE (now called a CIE). The process was just slow and bureaucratic, like a year on a protocol for some reason, and then I had to return to my New Zealand to pick it up in person. I think the process might even be longer these days. There’s all sorts of visas and they need to be researched to see what is most appropriate.

13. What was your overall experience working in Brazil?

It was and still is very enjoyable, due to the opportunity to create in an environment of hard-working but fun people.

14. How did you make friends in Brazil? (Online, bars, etc.)

There were a couple of people I already knew here, and I was fortunate enough to tap into their networks, and I also met a lot of people playing sport here.

15. Tell us about good and bad experiences you had making friends or acquaintances in Brazil.

Brazilians have a tendency to say “you must come around home sometime” but think of it as more of a ritual discussion than an invite! Overall though I’ve had some great experiences meeting people through sport, lunches, friends of friends etc, and have probably met an eclectic bunch I would never have met back in NZ.

Interview #1– Iulia

As requested by one of my readers, I am starting with interviews of people who have lived or are living in Brazil. The questions are all the same, but you are welcome to submit new ones.

Here goes interview 1.

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1. Please tell us a little about yourself (name, nationality, occupation, country of residence, etc.)

My name is Iulia Balteanu, I am Romanian, I graduated Economics but as a profession I chose to be a Mathematics, Romanian and English teacher. I lived in Brazil for 2 ½ years.

2. When and why did you decide to move to Brazil?

I decided to move to Brazil in March of 2010 because I always wanted to learn the most beautiful language which is Portuguese and because there are lots of opportunities in the fast growing Brazil.

3. What were your thoughts on Brazil before you actually moved here?

The cliché ones: samba, amazing beach resorts, dark skinned people and not too developed cities… But the reality is totally different and amazing!!!

4. What were your first impressions (good and bad)?

At first, the dimensions of Brazil scared me as well as the image of the homeless people and the huge development of the cities and the good infrastructure. And after I discovered the best asset Brazil has, its people and their huge hearts and great hospitality.

5. Which have been the most positive and negative experiences in Brazil?

The most positive: the people who are really helping the foreigners to adapt to their culture and to find a job, place to stay, learn Portuguese etc. and their acceptance of strangers.

The most negative: the big number of homeless people and robberies in the centers of the cities.

6. What is your advice to foreigners who are thinking of moving to Brazil?

To be prepared for everything, especially delays, unorganized meetings, to give a lot of time to the authorities in order to register their papers but to have patience because in Brazil everything gets solved delayed but in a magic way! J

Working in Brazil

7. How did you find or look for work in Brazil? (On site, internet, etc.)

Internet and networking. It helps a lot to have recommendations in order to get hired.

8. What was your level of Portuguese when you moved to Brazil and what language difficulties did you have when you arrived?

My Portuguese was level 0 but I was speaking Spanish so it took me 3 months to learn the language at a basic to intermediate level. But I am a native speaker of Romanian which is a Latin language, which helped me a lot.

9. What were the challenges you faced regarding finding a job?

It is very hard to find a job without knowing somebody and having a network…

10.How did you distinguish yourself from other Brazilian candidates for the position?

I distinguished myself through punctuality, hard-work, willingness to work in a serious manner, and the credibility given by the fact that I am a European citizen, fact that I find very unfair towards the Brazilian candidates.

11.What advice would you give any European that is looking for a job in Brazil?

To ask everybody, but everybody about job opportunities in its company.

12.How did you legally work in Brazil and did you run into any problems during your working visa application?

I didn’t work legally because is very hard for a company to hire foreigners.

13.What was your overall experience working in Brazil?

The overall experience was good because the Brazilians are very nice and empathetic and never happened not to get paid and stuff like this. The working laws are very advantageous for the employees too.

Relationships

14. How did you make friends in Brazil? (Online, bars, etc.)

In Brazil you make friends everywhere! At work, school, bars, clubs, in front of the building, bus station, even in the Botecos. J They are very friendly and they love to speak to foreigners due to their curiosity about other countries.

15.Tell us about good and bad experiences you had making friends or acquaintances in Brazil.

Good: Everybody is inviting you in their homes, beach houses, parties etc. Is very easy to make friends and that’s how I got to know lots of wonderful places like Rio, Atibaia, Litoral Norte de Sao Paulo, Campinas, Interior de Sao Paulo etc.

Bad: Be careful that Brazilians don’t know how to say NO. They always say “Pode ser” which to other people means that can be possible but when they say this usually is very less possible…

Getting past the attitude

Insecure people always have an attitude and that is true for everyone, everywhere. The first thing I noticed when I set foot in Brazil was the insecurity. This insecurity leads to the impossibility of accepting criticism because you feel attacked. This is also true for most Brazilians, also. There are some major and almost life-threatening things that they simply do not accept:

De Jijoca para Acaraú
De Jijoca para Acaraú (Photo credit: deltafrut)

1. They drive very badly (the accident rate is one of the highest, if not the highest in the world. Period. Drive for 10 minutes just to see the horrors committed on the streets. The way they drive does not match their so-called “friendliness”, it´s almost creepy, like split-personality creepy)

2. Most of them can´t speak English but insist they can (this is going to be a major problem when the world cup-olympic games saga starts. Learn or die, there´s not other option. The world is not going to learn Portuguese. For more information, check “US Universities reject Brazilian scholarship students because their English is unacceptable”, and other articles that have been popping up almost daily in the news)

3. The jeitinho brasileiro is not a good thing (there is no “we” in the jeitinho. Although most die to prove that it´s positive, related to being creative. Real creativity is very different. Just to give an example, you would never hear someone advertise they use the jeitinho in their business or to solve serious problems (politicians, for example). For Brazil to start thinking as a nation, as people with the same objectives, they have to eradicate the jeitinho and use real, all-encompassing, all-including creativity. Instead of inventing a great excuse to jump a queue or be attended first, while treating everyone else like an idiot, use that creativity to complain about the long queues and benefit everyone. Well, that would also require courage.

4. No one cares about serious social problems. (Again, as Brazilians are mostly me-me and family-me, they don´t really care about anything unless if affects them directly. They are an emotional lot, so they really suffer when their loved one is hit by a drunk driver, but until that happens they laugh off the 3+ whiskeys they had before stumbling into their cars. No, it´s not everyone, but the one´s who don´t drink before driving laugh at the ones who do and do nothing about it, so it´s the same thing. In summary, the social problems they suffer are the result of negligence or denial)

Yes, Brazilians are friendly and kind and I love them to pieces although they probably hate me by now, but touch on any of these topics and get your stones ready because they are fiercely defensive and that attitude you didn´t see before will jump up in your face.

The consequences of bad education

According to Ibope, 75% of Brazilians can´t write, read and interpret a long text. That means that only 25% of Brazilian can fully understand a long text.

(Source: http://noticias.terra.com.br/brasil/noticias/0,,OI659284-EI994,00-Ibope+da+populacao+nao+sabe+ler+direito.html)

I don´t know how high this percentage is in other countries, but the lack of reading or discussion on serious subjects is very evident when you start talking to people here and this is what I meant when I posted that there is a cultural void in Brazil. I don´t know who is to blame for this obvious disadvantage Brazilians have, but I have my suspicions.

My only contact with the “academic” or “educational” world was when I taught English Text Interpretation at a federal university in Ilhéus and when I studied for my driving test. I even wrote about this in the “Driving school experience” post.

In both situations, I noticed one thing that is probably the basis for the educational problem Brazilians have, and this problem is definitely based on the Jeitinho Brasileiro. Call me a blundering lunatic, but these statistics just prove my point.

Brazilians have a lousy education because the study material and method suck. Period. When they start school, they copy texts written by the teacher on the board that they don´t understand. They copy and copy until they supposedly learn how to read and write. The method is based exclusively on memory.

When the exams comes, the students who pass are those who memorized the most. There are no interpretation or discussion questions, no thoughts or opinions, nothing. When they finish school, they are tested to enter university based on the same principle of memorization. Text interpretation is very basic and it is perfectly possible to pass the exam without understanding anything you have read or written.

Basically, education in Brazilian schools is information that must be memorized to get at least 6 and pass, enter a university, get a diploma and start a professional career.

At the university I taught for a short period, none of the students knew how to summarise. I had to teach them. The smart ones got it almost instantly. Their grades went up almost 30% (students who had previously gotten 6 later got 9). This also goes to show that it´s not an incapacity, it´s just omission.

At the driving school, I was shocked how they only taught the information that would come up in the written test and actual driving exam. We did not drive at night (the exam is during the day) although this was a requirement and we could skip the information that did not appear in the exam. We basically memorized as little as possible. No one was curious, no one really wanted to learn the rules of safe driving or even how to drive properly. They just wanted to pass the exam.

When Brazilians go to an exhibition or to the theatre, they always love everything. No matter how bad it is. They don´t digest what they have and don´t have their own opinions because they were not taught how to. Again, that is what I consider a cultural void. What is the point of having all these cultural events and great museums if you have no opinion? Brazilians get offended when I say they have no culture. They do, but not all of them understand it or feel confident enough to come to their own conclusions.

If you don´t believe me, watch programmes like Zorra Total (with the exception of a couple of comedians, the rest is…. just watch it and then we´ll talk) or Brazilian TV commercials. This problem is also reflected in problem solving. When they realized the driving test was too easy, the authorities decided to add another 15 classroom hours, but the material is still exactly the same, so the schools are forced to teach and then pretend to teach for another 15 hours (you just sign the frequency sheet and go home). Then you have the queuing system and idiotic unfounded requirements people are always inventing to supposedly solve a problem, and create a new one.

Is that normal? Does that happen in your country, too?

At school in London, we had English Language (equivalent to Lingua Portuguesa) but we also had English Literature and I think that made all the difference. In English Language, we learned how to read and write, but in English Literature we learned how to understand what others wrote, how to summarize, how to discuss, how to express our opinions. Information was digested and turned into something individual and unique. It was beautiful.

That, in my opinion, is what is lacking in Brazil. It´s not the teachers, it´s not the students with family and disciplinary problems, its the method. It´s the defective way information is presented and the lack of interaction and real contact with that information. This terrible void the Brazilian educational system has only created citizens who don´t think for themselves, who don´t understand, who don´t know what is right or wrong, good or bad. Call me a witch, but I think I am the only one who is truly mourning.

Meeting people in Brazil

A lot of gringoes ask me how to meet people and make friends in Brazil.

Brazilians are very friendly and outgoing, but they also need a lot of reassurance before they make an actual friend that is not someone they´ve known forever or a family member. They tend to stick to a closed group of friends and seldom go out without one or more of these friends. Unlike Europeans and North Americans. a Brazilian will never go to a party without knowing anyone. If a Brazilian is invited to a party that was not arranged by a group he knows well, he will either take his group, his girlfriend or family members with him. This means that you will have a tougher time than in the US, say, where people tend to move around alone. Life can get lonely here unless you are married or living with a Brazilian, in which case you can join your spouses/companion´s family/group.

The best way to make friends in Brazil is studying, teaching or working (in a school, university or office). If you are a language teacher, start off in a regular language school even if the pay is less. Then you can teach our private students and compensate the financial loss. Forget about teaching one-to-one all the time unless you want to roam the city streets alone forever. If you work in a language school, you will probably make friends with other gringoes before you make friends with a Brazilian, but you have to start somewhere.If not, enroll in a course, preferably a university programme. Study groups are usually closed, but just seeing you there in class everyday will boost their confidence.

You can also make friends in bars and parties, but they tend to be more superficial. The kind that invites you over but doesn´t expect you to actually appear. In order to make real friends, you have to do something with Brazilians, like study or work. Few people know this, but Brazilians are incredibly insecure. They need time to investigate, ask you about your background, engage in 5-minute chats by the coffee machine on a daily basis… They don´t like deep conversations, so forget about being to frank and direct about your problems. Keep it light until someone invites you over for lunch….then you can consider yourself “befriended” and accepted inside their circle of acquaintances.

Making friends in Brazil

The other day I read an article in “gringoes” in which a foreigner complained about making friends in Brazil and the difficulty Brazilians have in saying “no” to invitations, leading to a low headcount at parties, say. The author (it was a help-type article) explained the dynamics of Brazilian and friendship, but failed to answer the question, “how does a foreigner make friends in Brazil?”

This may seem ridiculous to people accustomed to travelling and meeting new interesting people, but Brazilian friendship does not follow quite the same rationale one is used to. As the author very wisely put it,  the most important thing for Brazilians is family. They will happily attend the wedding of a family member, no matter how distant, but will rarely appear at the wedding of a work colleague or friend-seeking gringo. The reason for this is easily answered when one makes the fatal mistake of actually attending someone else´s birthday party. You will politely be seated at a table, with people who already know each other but are not family members of the hosts, to silently witness the delights of someone else´s party without being seen, heard or spoken to.

It is not impoliteness, although there may be a seed of that somewhere, it is simply lack of social skills. Brazilians are emotional people, not intellectual. They are moved by emotions and meeting strangers means dealing with the negative emotions of insecurity, self-consciousness, shyness, etc.  Staying within the family comfort zone implies not dealing with anything risky.

They do not know how to deal with people they are not emotionally connected to. No emotional connection = no relationship, even if the context is a company meeting.  They hate formality and are totally uncomfortable with any type of decorum and ceremonial courtesy. Back slapping and joke cracking is always preferable and present in any occasion. Foreigners find that intimidating and they perceive that discomfort, no matter how subtle. Insecurity, inadequacy or defensive arrogance seeps in, which only makes matters worse. Safe-distance, semi-formal relationships are a mystery to them. It´s all or nothing.

These limitations make is difficult to work with and for Brazilians, as being your colleagues “buddy” gets all caught up with being professional and objective. You will get better results from Brazilian workers if they like you, which can be tough on a Scandinavian executive.

Returning to the subject of friends: the answer is simple. You cannot make Brazilian friends unless you accept their (culturally unfamiliar) habits. Here are some basic rules to survive in the Brazilian friendship arena:

1. They can´t say NO. When you invite someone out, accept anything other than “yeah, sure, how about after work today?” as a NO.  Brazilians prefer to go to the movies alone or with their moustached spinster aunt than go with you. If there is no deep emotional or blood connection, there is nothing. They can´t deal with the silence, complex conversations, unexpected questions and the emotion toil of bonding from scratch, no matter how shallow. They only function in groups (the collectivist concept), and feel inadequate with the one-to-one approach.

2. They are always late. If you do manage to drag a Brazilian away from his girlfriend or mother-in-law´s chá de casa,  expect long waiting sessions. From doctor´s appointments to simple queues, waiting is a Brazilian way of life. Never arrange to meet outside the theatre or ask to be picked up at your home. You should pick them up (expect a long wait in your car) or arrange to meet at parties, where you can keep busy until your would-be pal arrives. A friend once planned a midday barbecue. All us foreigners arrived 5 minutes early while all the Brazilian invitees arrived from 1-4 hours late! One guest arrived at dusk with her entire family and no sign of guilt.

3. Never take invitations seriously. If there is no formal written invitation with RSVP and a contact e-mail/cell phone number, ignore the invitation. I was once invited to tea with a home-made cookie promise from my potential colleague´s mother and everything, only to be greeted by a closed door and a dead silent house on the day of the tea party. My students laughed when I told them I had actually fallen for it that one time (the invitation “joke”). If you are invited, believe me, it is because no one else wants to go or they need a larger crowd. And never, whatever you do, accept the, “come over whenever you want,” invitation unless you want to see hostile Brazilians at their best.

So what do you do? There are two options:

1. Accept work “confraternizações. They can be productive and help the people you want to make friends with get acquainted and build some type of emotional bond without having to deal with the bad emotions. Go to colleagues chá de casas, chá de bebês (to which you will be invited because of the gift) and little work get-togethers. They are boring as hell, but can lead to a few promising friendships.

2. Make friends with foreigners, who might or might not know Brazilians. The best option is moving to a town with a university. They are usually packed with foreign teachers and students from all over Brazil who are just as lonely as you are.