“As Easy as Rice and Beans” is a popular phrase in Brazil because of how prevalent rice and beans are found on the dinner table. I feel that this phrase describes most of the culture in Brazil. Everyone seems to be much more easygoing than people in the United States. I respect this deeply – I think that the ability to just chill out is both under-appreciated and difficult to do. Over the last few days, I wrote down instances I noticed this happening:
1. Brazilians I spend time with tend to use sidewalks loosely. Where I am accustomed to sticking to the sidewalk and waiting until the light turns green before walking across the street, I noticed that many Brazilians walk in the road until a car comes and cross busy roads whenever it looks safe. The world is your oyster and crossing the road is not that serious.
2. There are many puppy prints in the sidewalk because of dogs walking over freshly poured concrete. I have seen at least three instances in São Bernardo do Campo (see picture below). It’s endearing that you can see reminders of the cuteness of dogs, but more endearing that the prints have been kept for so long in so many places. There are no strict regulations about smoothness of concrete; I think people see them as a feature rather than an imperfection.
3. When walking in groups, we walk very slowly. When walking and talking, we walk very, very slowly. It’s slower than what leisurely to me would be. There’s no need to get anywhere soon; we’ll get there when we get there. We are enjoying the present moment.
4. The dance and party culture is alive. There are parties all the time, and dancing at many events. I talked to the daughter in my host family about the night scene and she said that many people dance, sing, and drink together at parties and festivals. Parties are a huge part of the culture; there are parties and clubs practically everywhere. But people aren’t just drinking to drink or to avoid their problems. They genuinely enjoy being in community with the people around them. Many professional people around the area prefer to work evening shifts so that they can stay up later and party with their friends.
5. Greeting styles are real – what you read about online is true. They are more touchy than most Americans are (I was taken aback when a girl kissed me on the cheek when we met for the first time). Men that are friends almost always handshake or hug when greeting each other. When you meet someone for the first time, you say “prazer” to say “pleasure to know you”. I think that all of it shows a genuine care and trust for the other person. People are comfortable with each other and less guarded than I am.
It’s not that Brazil has a “slower” culture than Americans do, and it’s not that “they” are all that different from “us”. When in Brazil, we expose our more relaxed, more passionate (see a futebol game for proof of this), more human sides.
I enjoy sharing the comfortability and humanity that my host family and new people I’ve met have exposed me to.