Tuesday, 18 December 2012

What I didn’t know about Brazilians…

is that they would spread the word about this blog in an unbelievable manner. Rapaz! More than 75.000 meninas e meninos and other funky people have read this blog, counting. Cheers for your emails, comments, corrections, wedding proposals and the occasional death threat. I am glad you enjoyed reading my slightly polemic and thoroughly personal view of Brazil. 

Yesterday, CBN radio in Curitiba even conducted an interview with me. Enjoy the gringo’s Portuguese here…

I am heading back to Germany on Thursday. Thank you for the magic Brazil, it has been some absolutely wonderful two years. Vou ficar com saudades. A gente se vê na copa. Imagina isso!

I will try to keep on writing about whatever my impressions are, wherever I am. Stay tuned. And come to Germany at some point to tell me how we are.



(Me soaking up the Brazilian sun @ Inhotim, Belo Horizonte)

Tuesday, 11 December 2012

What I know about Brazilians...

1. All Brazilians brush their teeth at lunchtime.

2. Brazilians are generally pretty happy people. Yeah, compared to the average northwestern European they certainly are.

3. Brazilians can add a –inha or –zinha to pretty much every word. Just take caipirinha.

4. Brazilians have awesome names. People I have met are called: ‘Letsgo’, ‘Madeinusa’, ‘Waltdisney’, ‘Isaac Newton’, ‘Mona Lisa’ and ‘John Lennon’. Terrific!

5. Brazilians like people. Be it in the park, the shopping center or the beach – they prefer a good crowd to lonely places. Oh yeah… they love shopping centers!

6. Brazilians of all ages make very frequent use of the thumb. Be it in traffic, at sports games or just seeing a friend on the street - “giving and getting the thumb” is part of your daily moves. For more Brazilian hand gestures, please refer to: http://www.worldcupriobrazil.com/20111013_brazilian-hand-gestures/

7. When Brazilians turn 15, it’s party time (baile de debutante). Big time. Suit time. Or weddingdress time. Or Disneyland time. God knows why.

8. Brazilians have some unique anatomy. If something should be done quickly, or is demanding, the Brazilian would say so and underline his statement with a snap, created by a loosened index finger snapping against the other fingers. Only real Brazilians can do it.

9. Brazilians are stuck in traffic. But they seem to be super comfortable with a 2-hour trip to work each day and back. Also going on a 600km daytrip is no big deal for Brazilians. Tranquilidade, cara.

 10. Brazilians are waiting in queues in front of nightclubs. Sometimes 200 meters. Even though they know that nobody’s in the club. Marketing de fila, gente.

11. For Brazilians, most things are tranquilo. Or tudo bem. Or suave. Or susse no musse for that matter. They are generally pretty relaxed people.

12. Brazilians have this beautiful word called saudade, which cannot be translated. In fact, according to scholars, it is translated as “I have saudades of you”. It can be described as a "...vague and constant desire for something that does not and probably cannot exist ... a turning towards the past or towards the future." A stronger form of saudade may be felt towards people and things whose whereabouts are unknown, such as a lost lover, or a family member who has gone missing. It may also be translated as a deep longing or yearning for something that does not exist or is unattainable. Brazilians even celebrate the day of saudade, which is January 30.

13. Brazilians get married at the age of 24. Preferably earlier.

14. Brazilian daughters have to call their mums at least three times per day. It’s within their biology.

15. Brazilians love their calculators. They have to.

16. Brazilian drivers use every millimeter between cars.

17. Brazilian Portuguese is simply beautiful. I personally recommend the dialect of Minas Gerais.

18. Brazilians are pretty good in turning everything into a samba. But then, I haven’t met many Brazilians that can really samba. Oh well… Maybe it's because I live in Curitiba.

19. The work/party ratio is spread across Brazil. The further south you live the more you work, the further north you live the more you party. It’s as easy as that. Hence, Brazilians of Rio know the joie de vivre. Brazilians of Sao Paulo know how to work.

20. Brazilians seem to love the constant thrill. Be it driving like mad or just the daily shower with the danger of an electric shock. The adventure is always out there for Brazilians.

21. Brazilians are specialists with regards to resistors and transformers. There is neither a common voltage nor common electric plugs.

 22. It is common practice for Brazilians to cancel meetings last minute. Refreshingly enough, nobody is resentful however.

23. Brazilians will always invite others to their homes, for a beer, for a dinner or um bate-papo when they meet someone for the first time. It’s common understanding that this never actually happens.

24. Brazilians seem to like sex. When (still) living with parents / grandparents / spouses their preferred place to exercise their moves is the Motel.

25. Brazilians are absolutely welcoming and hospitable. They use a saying I love: “My house is like the heart of a mother – there is always room for another one.”

26. Brazilians have two lifes. One is their real one. The other one is the ‘Novela’ (the Brazilian soap opera).

27. Brazilians usually are decent of at least one European country. A lot of them look European and love their heritage – one of them opened up a Kuckucksuhr factory in southern Brazil. Yes.

28. Brazilians adore their cars. They buy them at the most expensive prices in the world, pay them off in at least 80 months, built in a crazy sound system (if it’s a pickup) and then are constantly paranoid about getting it stolen anytime. (http://www.automotiveworld.com/news/emerging-markets/89068-brazil-home-to-the-world-s-most-expensive-cars) ,

29. ‘Parcelar’ (paying things off in installments) or in other, broader words domestic credit, is growing at incredible rates in Brazil, and households are starting to struggle with the debt.

30. Brazilians have a very healthy patriotism.

31. Brazilians like massive TVs. And rede globo.

32. It is heartwarming to see the family love Brazilians have. Every Brazilian loves a good family cuddle. Generally, Brazilians love to be close. Giving an abraço (manly hug) or beijo (guess what) can be done both verbally, but preferably physically.

33. Brazilians are very cool with races. Not so cool with different social classes.

34. Rice and beans are more than the Brazilian’s daily bread. It is like a common religious daily meal consumed at abnormal quantities, uniting the whole country. If desired, you can put cut chips (batata palha) or flour (farofa) on it. On Saturday, the meal turns into a feijoada, including every piece of meat a pig has to offer.

35. Apart from feijao e arroz, Brazilians have countless religions. They are absolutely relaxed about mixing religions, e.g. some spiritual habits go along smoothly with catholic saints.

36. Everything is sweeter in Brazil. They love their beijinho, brigadeiro or tons of sugar in the coffee. So not only Brazil’s economy depends on sugar…

37. Brazilian women know how to cook. Brazilian men know how to do a churrasco (A churrasco is a religious ritual often taking up to several hours, preparing meat in a sacred manner over the open flame.)

38. Brazilians like to share their pizza. I’ve never seen anybody here eating a pizza alone.

39. Brazilians wear braces. No matter how old they are or what they do. It’s like a necklace for them. Just on the teeth. Bling bling.

40. Brazilians are the soy-kings. They can make everything out of soy (especially money) and put soy in everything (especially juice).

41. Brazilians enjoy a good caipirinha. Interestingly enough, it seems that there is a fair share of people drinking it with Wodka instead of the delicious Cachaça.

42. Brazilians seem to follow one caipirinha rule: If it’s a fruit, it can be turned into a caipirinha. They are doing a pretty awesome job out of it.

43. Brazilians have great coffee (which they export to Europe) and not so great coffee (which they drink). The same accounts for orange juice.

 44. Brazilians live football. They love it to the extent that you might have to choose a company according to the football club they are supporting. Of course nobody works when the Seleção is playing. You could risk getting stuck in traffic and miss the match. “Show de bola!”

45. Brazilians seem to think that Germans drink warm beer and eat Eisbein on a daily basis. And Sauerkraut. 

46. Brazilians think French people never shower.

47. Brazilians worship their beaches. Sitting on a canga (not a towel!), women always face the sun, men always face the women. It’s an unwritten law.

48. Brazilians fashion is generally focused toward the beach. From Havaianas to cangas to the so-beloved-bikinis or the sunglasses, that’s where they’re world-leading. In colder areas, e.g. Curitiba, the fashion is hovering somewhere in the 80s, maybe.

49. Thinking about it, the beach is a central part that life for Brazilians revolves around. When watching the weather report, especially in cities like Rio, the most important question is “Da praia no fim de semana?” – literally: “Will beach be possible this weekend?” and then, once received the news, it will be followed by cheers or sad faces. If beach “is possible” Brazilians going to the beach or on the beach greet each other in a very lovely manner: “Boa praia para você!” – “Have a good beach!”.

50. Brazilian homes are built for Brazilian heat and summer parties. The lack of heating and isolated windows letting Brazilians in the south freeze in winter each year is only overcome by the constant comforting thought of reaching summer soon and sleeping with 4 blankets and 3 jumpers.

51. Brazilian men always wear running shoes ‘tennis’. Always. Preferably Nike Shocks.

52. There is a higher quantity of women running around in Gymnastics clothing then elsewhere in the world. I’m sure they all do gymnastics.

53. Not all Brazilian women are extremely hot. Some are just hot.

54. There is an over-proportional quantity of silicone in Brazilian bodies, at any position you can imagine. Just some are hot.

55. Brazilian men love taking off their shirts on Sunday walks. Of course they keep their ‘tennis’ on.

56. Rio citizens don’t step on gullies because they’re afraid that they might explode. God knows why.

57. Every Brazilian is questioning the functioning of the country during the world cup. The phrase “Imagina isso na copa” – “Imagine this during the world cup” can be heard about twice a day. I’m sure they will samba their way through though.

58. Brazilians don’t get stressed when facing problems. Conformismo is the key-word and “faz parte” a key-phrase. They frown, sit down passively and wait for better days. Sometimes they play a Bossa which goes along smoothly with the suffering. A classic example: All Brazilians hate the operator TIM. But none would go out there and change anything about it.

59. Brazilians’ incomes range from Chad to Switzerland. Although Brazil’s Gini Coefficient has seen a drastic drop between 1998 (60,7) and 2012 (51,9), there is still a long way to go to reach the income situation of its BRIC counterparts (Russia:42; India: 36,8; China:48).

60. Brazilians will tell you that they suffer high (import) taxes. And it’s true: they live in one of the most expensive countries on earth. Taxes are not only high - they are hideously complicated, and take around 36% of GDP, a far higher number than in other middle-income countries. Moreover, it seems that the government's ability to collect taxes has run far ahead of any effort to streamline them.

61. Brazilian’s suffer a bureaucracy that is worse than Germany’s bureaucracy. The only thing they have is called jeitinho – a way around it, way to solve it, way to appreciate it.

62. For some reason Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC), the craziness of Mixed Material Arts is a huge success in Brazil. Women and men get together, prepare a churrasco and enjoy some sweet bashing up until the early morning hours. Get involved!

63. “São Paulo (12) and Rio de Janeiro (13) remain the most expensive cities for expatriates across both North and South America”. http://www.mercer.com/press-releases/cost-of-living-rankings

64. I have met an incredible amount of Brazilians that work extremely efficient, long hours and study in the evenings and on the weekend.

65. In Brazil you are either a lawyer or a dentist. The first is to overcome Number 61. and the second to confirm that Number 1. is done well.

66. In all aspects, politics, economy or football - Brazilians have a hate-love relationship with Argentina.

67. If Brazilians only knew how beautiful their countryside is...

68. Brazilians love Crocs (as in the shoes).

69. All Brazilians seem to want to work in the public sector. Some of them do the entry exams for the jobs, receive a place on a ‘waiting list’ and wait forever to get a job at Petrobras. No wonder, mostly meaning exorbitant incomes and a secure job once you get in. Please see: http://www.economist.com/node/21556916 

70. When parking a car in Brazil, it doesn’t matter where you are, in the city, in the outskirts or somewhere lost in the jungle – you will always encounter somebody who will charge you for parking. Always, everywhere, without exceptions.

71. Brazilians love their music. From two weird singing cowboys (Sertanejo), to beautiful Bossa Nova, Samba, MPB or wild Brazilian Funk, Pagode, Brazilians mostly chose their genre according to their (social) background and upbringing. But you can rely on them that when it comes down to the classics in any of these genres, all Brazilians will be able to sing the songs of their heart and move their hips to it.

72. Brazil has an incredible amount of cover bands. They are making up for the lack of hipster bands touring Brazil. A friend of mine is playing in a pretty successful Interpol cover band. ‘nuff said.

 73. Brazilians all seem to hate Brazilian funk. But then you meet all of them bouncing like crazy at the party.

74. Brazilians are pretty flexible people – they tend to change their jobs every 6 months.

75. Brazilians will always give you great recommendations. They will tell you “you have to go to that and that restaurant, it’s the best in town,..” Funny enough, in most cases, they haven’t been there before, but they sell it to you with such a passion that you would instantly buy it.

76. As a Brazilian student, you either live at home with your parents or share a room with 4 other people.

77. Every Brazilian outside of Curitiba thinks that Curitiba is the perfect, role-model city in terms of infrastructure and urban planning. Every Brazilian living in Curitiba is suffering a collapsing transport system.

78. Brazilians don’t take off their shoes when they step into anybody’s home.

79. Brazilians love fireworks!

80. Brazil can get freaking hot!

81. Brazil can get freaking cold!!

82. Brazilians love “day of…”, e.g. day of the stewardess, day of post-rock, day of skateboarders,…

83. Brazilians generally tend to complain about their country, especially their country’s politics. But then, they could never leave it. Or if they left it at some point, they surely come back after a maximum of two years.

84. Brazilians, if in business or private, usually tend to use their first names when they talk to each other. To the extent that when I asked an acquaintance named Paulo, what his last name was, he replied: Just call me Paulinho. Doctors and lawyers are always called Dr. even if they don’t have a PhD.

85. Understanding taxes or doing proper business according to Brazilian tax law is a bloody nightmare. There are hideously complicated trading taxes between different states of the country. How crazy is that? Moreover, doing business is incredibly expensive, compared to many other Latin American countries. Dilma, please let the animal spirits roar!

86. Even though things aren’t perfect in Brazil, it is improving in many ways. The only ones who don’t believe in it are the Brazilians.

87. Brazil is one of the few countries, where the farmers are actually the fellas with the big money.

88. Against all concern, compared to its Latin American neighbors, Brazil’s democracy has yielded broad political continuity and economic stability.

89. If Brazilians want to go to the pool, they either use the one in their house or go to a so-called “clube” where you have to be a member. Public pools per se are very scarce.

 90. Brazilian’s don’t wear black clothes on funerals.

91. In Brazil you will find literally every hairstyle (usually influenced by football players), every skincolor, and every ethnic background. The Brazilian per se does not exist.

92. Brazilians don’t have moving stairs rules. You need to battle your way through.

93. Brazilians enjoy the service of frentistas, people who fill up your vehicle.

94. Brazilians discriminate zebra crossings.

95. Brazilians eat avocado as a fruit, not as a vegetable.

 96. If Brazilians consume a lot at a restaurant, it is common habit to order a saideira, a free drink to finish off the meal.

97. Brazilians are the fastest to leave the cinemas. My hypothesis is that they only go into the movies to win the race at the end, being the one who first leaves the theatre.

98. Brazilians have an interesting perception of last names. They are particularly interested in last names and it sometimes seems to me that it they relate some value to it. Speaking of names… Brazilians cannot believe that my name is Manuel and that my sister is called Theresa. And then, Brazilian authorities all want to know what my mother’s name is. What’s my momma got to do with this?

99. Brazilians go crazy if they find out that an international band is playing in town. They’re from the UK or the US? They have to be awesome! Let's go!

100. Brazilian’s don’t throw toilet paper in the toilet.

Little update:
More than 75.000 meninos e meninas have read this post. I am overwhelmed...
If you want to hear me personally, check out the Interview I gave on CBN on Monday, reference

"What I didn't know about Brazilians..."

Thanks for your comments! I am loving the discussions!

Monday, 10 December 2012

I love working in Latin America, but sometimes...

Doing an audit in Buenos Aires on Monday and Tuesday. Trying to get out of BsAs on Wednesday early morning from Buenos Aires Aeroparque Airport. As the flight was delayed, I would have missed my connecting flight in Montevideo.

Pluna was being so nice and transfered me to a flight operated by Gol, leaving out of Ezeiza Airport in the afternoon. After a long taxi ride, I finally got to Ezeiza, being informed, that this flight is delayed as well. After some sweet 5 hours of waiting, I could finally board my plane to Asunción, Paraguay and subsequently to Curitiba, my Brazilian home, feeling all nice and comfortable to reach homey home soon.

In the early evening hours, the flight took off in Asunción, heading towards Curitiba. Reaching Curitiba, we thoroughly enjoyed the view of thick fog hovering over the not so beautiful airport of Curitiba. Thanks for whoever built it there, being the only foggy spot around. Anyways. Our pilot decided ‘we cannot land’.
Off to Sao Paulo, folks! Landing in Guarulhos at around 21.30 in the evening, now just slightly worried how this whole thing wouldl turn out. At that time, Curitiba Airport was now officially closed. I received the warm offer of flying to Florianopolis and subsequently taking a 7 hour bus ride to reach bed. Erm yerrrr. Not. I kinda pushed the GOL folks to get a hotel in Sampa.

 “No hotel available in Sao Paulo”. Yeah right. I was off, going on a quest to find one on my own, which indeed didn't seem too easy. Finally, a happy GOL dude came up: “I’ve got a hotel for you. In Campinas!”. Okay GOL dude, that’s 70km away. Never mind, I took a taxi to Campinas, hoping to catch a flight to Curitiba from Campinas airport the next morning (that’s what they had promised me). Waking up today after around 3,5 hours of not so deep sleep, I firstly destroyed my Galaxy S2 by throwing it on the floor of my hotel. 

After the probably most expensive wakeup call of my life, I then took a quick shower, rushing to Campinas airport. And guess what. The GOL flight to Curitiba had been canceled. High five, anyone? GOL wanted to offer us the courtesy service of driving us (BACK in my case) to Guarulhos. Great idea on a day, when public transport in Sao Paulo is on strike and 250km (!) traffic jams are reported. 

I chatted with a couple of people at the airport and found out that Azul was offering a flight just 20 minutes later to beloved Curitiba. And, yes yes, there were 7 seats available. I was trying to convince GOL to pay the flight for me, and it didn’t work out in the first place. They sent EVERYONE to Guarulhos, but I had enough of going back and forth and bought my AZUL ticket, to later try to reimburse it with some head monkey dude of GOL, which worked out, somehow. 

Really not caring much about anything anymore, and forgetting about all the business appointments I had missed, I went through the security check and walked towards my gate. Just to find out… yeah you guessed it… my flight being delayed… by another 4 hours… bligh me. When I finally touched the ground in Curitiba at 14.00 this afternoon, I couldn’t quite believe it. 2 days to return home from Buenos Aires. 6 airports. 3 airlines. 1 broken phone. fml