Last week I watched a Brazilian news show on which the main reporter interviewed several “estrangeiros” (foreigners) about their experiences living here in Brazil. When the time came for them to talk to the American, of course she was the ultimate personification of the worst stereotypes of my people. She was skinny, white, blonde, and blue-eyed (nothing wrong with any of those things, but the stereotype here is that ALL Americans look like that OR that we’re all grossly overweight). She spoke no Portuguese and barely made an attempt to learn it. When asked what her favorite thing about Brazil was, she replied “cheap maid service.” You see, in the States, having a maid is a privilege often reserved for the rich. Not in Brazil! Here, labor is so cheap that you can exploit people as you please! (sarcasm) But seriously, that was her answer.
I was ashamed, at that moment, to be an American.
Even the Mars landing, all those gold medals, and our excellent demand of frying things could not bring back my pride. Instead, I thought, it would be worth giving an alternative answer. Sure, there are things that suck about Brazil (AS anywhere), but there are lots of things that are awesome…far beyond cheap house cleaning.
If they had interviewed me, the viewers might have been confused. I “look Brazilian” (or so everyone here says). I speak Portuguese. I don’t wear Hawaiian print shirts, Tevas, or carry my backpack to clubs. I can handle my liquor. I have an uncanny ability to never look lost, even though I am ALWAYS lost here (the streets go in spirals…no joke…and change names about 3 times per block). And I would give a much better answer than the bimbo they had speak for us. You see, what I like most about Brazil is its….
– People. They work A LOT (though are rarely given credit for their dilligence) and yet still make time to be with family, to hang out with friends, and to be generally cordial even on the most craptastic of days.
– Parties. They go all night. They make NYC’s 4 am closing time look like the hours of a daycare center. Their club nights are ragers…some even go as long as 24 hours. I have never been able to make it until the lights come on (though that’s a personal goal I plan on accomplishing this week!)
– Music. Let’s face it: Brazilian music is the bomb. And I am not just talking about samba and bossa nova, folks. Every day, there is a new type of music popping up here, even as close as someone’s backyard (funk carioca, anyone?). Sao Paulo’s DJs give the audio knights of Western Europe a serious run for their money and the triangle swinging, accordian slinging forro players make American country look pitiful.
– Juice. Go into any diner and you will most likely have the option of anywhere from 5 – 15 fresh juice options for under $3. The juice list at the diner down the street from me, despite being written in alphabetical order, still makes me dizzy JUST from its awesomeness. Acai, strawberry, grape, mango, cashew (yes, that’s a fruit before it’s a nut!)…you name it, they have it. Pretty sweet…literally.
– Shoes. Whenever I am in Brazil, I buy a sh*t-ton of shoes, mainly because the equivalent shoe in the US will be a) double the price, b) uncomfortable, and/or c) fall apart before I can even break it in. The shoes here are reasonably priced, cute, comfortable (I can’t speak to heels as I hardly wear them, but I hear those are pretty comfy too…considering), and e v e r y w h e r e. I can buy shoes in the metro station! (not even kidding). Brazil is also home to some of my favorite shoe designers like Melissa and Louloux (whose sale I finally had a chance to go to! more on this later), both of which are always challenging the status quo with cutting edge designs.
– Beauty. I can get a manicure/pedicure for $10 or less, depending on the city, and they get rid of all the cuticle! My polish lasts longer and my nails generally look prettier (I have short grubby nails that I tend to bite…the convenience of getting manicure/pedicures here helps prevent that). The hair products are also amazing, especially for people with curly hair like myself. They have a hair product for every single racial and/or ethnic group and all the possible racial mixes therein. And if you hate your hair type, there is a treatment, serum, conditioner, or process that can help you with that for under $50. Hair salon services are also reasonably priced. On another side note, everything seems to grow faster here (my only guess is that they have fewer preservatives in their foods, even the packaged ones + the higher temperature in most places = open pores). My hair and nails grow like wildfire.
– Repairs. People still fix things here instead of jumping to buy a new version of whatever broke. There is someone who possesses the skill to fix whatever failed you and usually very cheaply.
– TPM magazine. It’s technically “Trip Para Mulheres” (Trip (a men’s magazine) for women), but “tpm” also means “pms” in Portuguese, so it’s a funny play on words. It’s like Jane or Bust, but in Portuguese. SADFACE that I can’t get a subscription sent to the US, but I am trying to work some magic to fix that.
– Reduced Movie Tickets. Depending on the day of the week, movie tickets have different prices. Wednesday is the cheapest day. Students and old folks get half off. When is New York going to catch onto this awesomeness?
– Muggia. The best bag boutique in Rio. They make beautiful pieces of leather, canvas, and mixed materials. Their purses are on the pricey side, but they’re worth it. They last f-o-r-e-v-e-r!
This is just a sampling of my favorite things about Brazil. There are many more. But in a 10-minute news segment about my experiences here, that’s what I would have said.
– Retail DJ