Articles by carla

Myth or Reality about Brazil – Part 2

In the first part of our series about common beliefs about Brazil, we talked about soccer, language and culture.

Here are some other burning issues our Pocket Culture contributors were dying to know.

In my house, this is REALITY, as in most Brazilian houses. We tend to have our breakfast every single morning with fresh bread straight from the bakery (which we call french bread), milk and coffee. This would be standard for almost all families. Then, for the ones who can afford it, some ham, cheese and papaya is also pretty common. (more…)

June 13, 2012 6 comments

Myth or Reality about Brazil – Part 1

It is undeniably true that every country has a certain national ethos, one that is part of our identity. However, there is a thin line between of what it means to be from a certain nationality and what it is a stereotypical view of a group of people.
We will take a tour around the globe to try to dispel myths and understand different realities.

This is the kick-off of a new series in Topics of the World that will feature what is myth and what is reality in relation to our countries. I’ll start with Brazil, my country which I am so proud of. Yet, this doesn’t mean that Brazil doesn’t have many complex issues that we have to face every single day.

Our Pocketcultures contributors helped me think of what it means to be Brazilian and live in such a vast and diverse country with their burning questions about Brazil. We start from the basics, talking about our language, capital and soccer.

REALITY: The capital of Brazil is not Buenos Aires, nor Rio! Rio used to be the capital of Brazil, but, in 1960, Brasilia, the new capital, was inaugurated after a five-year construction period.  Brasilia is known for its urban planning and modern design.  Though I am a proud Brasiliense, born and raised in Brasilia, the city is still mainly populated by migrants who came from other states to build the city. My mother’s family, for example, came from the Northeast of Brazil, and my father is Sicilian. As you can see, my town is made of contrasts and cultural diversity.



As for our language, we speak Portuguese, not Spanish, as many might think. And we tend to say that we speak Brazilian Portuguese to contrast it with the Portuguese spoken in Portugal. Though we can understand and communicate with each other, Brazilians and the Portuguese have linguistic differences in terms of  accent and vocabulary. However, the Portuguese language ties our common cultural and historical backgrounds together, reminding us of our past heritage.

Humm…Tough question, girls! The MYTH part: that Brazilians are not interested in learning Spanish. I guess that if this was totally true, we wouldn’t have  Spanish Language Schools around. However, REALITY is that we tend to take decisions based on priorities and immediate needs. So, for many Brazilians, English would be the first language they’d choose to learn as a second language. Not that Spanish is not a high priority, it should be due to our proximity and commercial relations.

But, you are right, Nuria, that we rely on the fact that we can understand Spanish, so, even if it is speaking a terrible Portuñol (Portuguese with Spanish-like accent and some Spanish words), we can communicate.

In the South of Brazil, though, due to proximity with other Spanish-speaking countries, I think Brazilians feel the need to speak Spanish properly. And, in many cases, some of the Portuguese words are similar to Spanish because in the South there was more Spanish influence than in other parts of Brazil. Even in cultural terms, the South has much in common with parts of Argentina with the gauchos tradition in both countries.

Lucy, English is certainly one of the languages that many Brazilians try to learn. In Brasilia, there is this very peculiar tradition of most kids going to language schools to learn English. At the Binational Center I work for, there are many thousands of students who study English. I wouldn’t say that this is a general REALITY, for most of our low-income population doesn’t have the money to pay for language instruction.

Though English is a mandatory subject in public and private schools, it is generally not taught the proper way and, in this case, most students don’t go beyond the basics and can’t use English in a contextualized, communicative way. Spanish would be second in the list of interest, I’d say. However, there has been an increased interest for French and Mandarin, among other foreign languages.

REALITY for sure! Soccer is considered to be a “National Passion”. We are now preparing ourselves for the World Cup 2014 in Brazil. Everybody has an opinion about it, be it to criticize our National Team and coach or to digress about the stadiums constructions and transportation infrastructure issues.

When the Brazilian team is playing in the World Cup, the country literally stops. There is no school, no work, nobody on the streets. We prepare our houses to receive friends and family for the games and there’s  a spirit of joy that is spread out everywhere. We cheer in anticipation and fear of not getting to the next stage,  and it would be inconceivable for us if we didn’t get far with the results.

When we win, celebration goes on for hours in a row, everybody goes to the streets, all Brazilian fans wearing yellow and green, two of the colors of our flag. Oh, even school calendar is adjusted to the games. We need to take into account that if there is a game in which Brazil is playing, classes just before the game and after simply don’t happen, for there won’t be any students around.

Now, you might ask me, “but aren’t there Brazilians who don’t like soccer?”. Oh, sure! There are many, but they wouldn’t dare say it, at least, during the World Cup! If they confess their sin, they are seen as the unpleasant guy. It is not just about soccer. It is about being together, celebrating and crying together.

And within the four-year gap? Well, soccer is still a big deal. I have a friend who says that he is not such a huge fan of soccer. However, he fakes it a bit, reads about it, and sometimes even watch the games only to have something to talk about the following day at work. When it is season time (almost all year-round with the national and state championships), there are games on Wednesdays and Sundays, plus some others during the other days of the week.

On Wednesdays, even the soap opera and TV News are shorter because of the games. Sunday afternoon you can’t count on many men around the country….there’s always a game to watch! In my house, for example, with a husband and two boys, I could disappear on Sundays and nobody would notice it! Can you imagine who runs the remote control then?! Certainly, not me!

Well, these are just some of the burning questions our Pocketcultures international team had for me. More to come soon about Brazilian beauty and Economics. Stay tuned!


Read more

Skateboarders in Brasilia

Brazilian paradise

How to dress for trendy Rio


June 8, 2012 5 comments

Brazilian Paradise

As a Brazilian, I´d highly recommend Tropicaldaydreams blog for the ones interested in Brazilian culture and life.

This is an excellent blog about Brazil that goes deep into some issues such as cultural differences, economic issues in Brazil, as well as in-depth reflections on Brazil´s problems, such as incarceration. The author, Barbara Lowenstein, has lived with her husband in Brazilian paradise, Búzios, in the state of Rio de Janeiro, for a decade. So, she brings to her blog a fresh expatriate view of the country with an insider perspective. This is a blog that has much to contribute to understanding what Brazil is about, demystifying stereotypes and getting to a more solid view of the country´s beauties and socio-economic challenges.

Photo from Barbara’s own collection.


March 27, 2012 4 comments

Skateboarders in Brasilia

Did you know that one of the most famous skateboarders in the world is Brazilian? Bob Burnquist is internationally renowned for his skateboarding maneuvers and extreme flips in the air. He has one of the biggest and wildest megaramps in his backyard. Can you believe that he has even gone for a base jump in the Grand Canyon?


September 1, 2011 1 comment

A New Year Begins in Brazil

Though our calendar started on January 1st, 2011, in Brazil, we always say that the year really starts after carnival. In fact, only on Ash Day after midday. Many of our plans and projects are postponed to the after-carnival calendar, which was a problem this year if you consider that carnival was really late. We generally have it in February.

This year the celebration started on March 5th. Carnival true holiday should have been only on Tuesday, March 8th. In reality, it started on the previous Friday (March 4th), and for many, it goes up to the following Sunday (March 13th)! It is a week-long celebration where many Brazilians travel to enjoy themselves, move their hips, sing until there’s no voice left. For the ones who don’t enjoy the Carnival madness, it is time to rest, be with friends, just goof off and disconnect.

Unidos da Tijuca - champion 2010 Rio Carnaval  024


March 11, 2011 3 comments

How to dress for trendy Rio

Rio de Janeiro (15)

I pack for a trip to Rio to celebrate my birthday. In my bag, nothing like the regular clothes I usually wear in my daily routine. It is more lightweight, with trendy accessories. More intense colors are needed for the perfect looks for the day at the beach and night at Lapa, a place of bohemians. I don’t want to look like a serious girl from Brasilia, but a cool tourist visiting the ebullient city of the Christ the Reedemer.


February 25, 2011 3 comments