Brazilian culture is not just those things we think about at first glance when we think of Brazil. There is something intangible that can be felt, when you visit Brazil, which is not easily put into words.
Now if you ask people who are not from Brazil, what they think of when they hear the word "Brazil" will say something like:
and the resulting, infamous Brazilian bikini wax.
Sorry guys, for those of you who are visiting for the bikinis! I'll have more on those topics at some point, since they ARE a small part of Brazilian culture, but first, let's take a look at some of the many other abundant treasures that Brazil has to offer.
In order to do this, I need to share with you my own experience of Brazil culture. This perhaps more than anything else, expresses the true heart and spirit of Brazil.
Like all countries on our beautiful Earth, each one has unique and special gifts to share. I have not traveled extensively nor visited lots of different countries, however my experience of living in Brazil taught me a great deal about the gifts that this amazing country has to offer.
Now even though I had Brazilian friends, had studied Brazilian Portuguese, and was well educated (at Harvard no less!!), honestly nothing prepared me for actually living in Brazil!
Back then we didn't even have the internet, and so I relied upon stories I'd heard from others who had visited, to help me to prepare.
Even though I traveled with friends from the U.S. as well as Brazilians, I still found myself experiencing a huge culture shock. It wasn't a bad or even painful experience, in fact I considered it quite positive.
Even though it was stressful!!
My visit to Brazil shook up all the things I took for granted in my life. Like toilet paper!! I don't mean to be crude, but some places that I lived in did not have electricity or toilet paper, things I had never lived without.
I wasn't visiting Brazil as a tourist, rather I was traveling to spiritual communities for my own learning and healing, so that I could be of greater service to the world in my own work. I lived in cities as well as very rural areas, some of them very remote.
The experience changed me in so many ways. I came to deeply understand how economics shapes our consciousness, both for the good and the not so good.
Brazilian Culture - Generosity
I was deeply humbled by the generosity of all Brazilians that I met. There, I was considered a "rich American" even though by American standards I was quite "lower middle class" or even less, but even the poorest of people that I met generously offered me food when I visited their homes. It was quite something for me to experience. I got to see all the fear I was carrying with me, that was illuminated in the face of such pure generosity.
Brazilian Culture - Going With the Flow
I also noticed how much baggage I was carrying, both literally AND figuratively! My fellow Brazilian travelers would carry a modest bag with them, I had a huge duffel bag which was very awkward.
I was often in situations where things would break down, like buses, cars, water heaters and so forth. One time I was on a bus traveling back to Rio by myself, and the bus broke down. "Acabou!"
We pulled over on the highway, and everyone got out of the bus calmly and waited patiently. I was a wreck, as I had no idea how they would fix it, or how we would get to where we were going, how long we'd be out in the hot sun without water and food, etc., etc. etc.!
Somehow it all worked out, and I noticed how accustomed I am to feeling "in control".
Brazilian Culture - A New Way of Doing Things
Well, I definitely did not feel "in control" in Brazil. It was not easy to get things done in the way I am used to in the United States. There was always something breaking down, or plans would change, or the phone wouldn't work, or whoever we were waiting for would be late.
One it took three hours for us to be picked up by our friends ... while we waited in the rain!!
Our friend had forgotten about us, and there were no cell phones back then!!
Brazilian Culture - The Beauty of Nature
At the same time, I felt the LEAST stressed out I had ever felt in my life. The magnificence of Mother Nature was absolutely stunning, even in cities like Rio de Janiero. I felt held by the Earth there and at peace somehow. My body felt like - "I am Home". It was a GREAT feeling!
Brazilian Culture - A Natural Spirituality
One of the greatest delights for me about being in Brazil was that I could talk to almost anyone about God. Unlike in the U.S. where speaking about spiritual matters is considered controversial, or makes people uncomfortable, in Brazil it was very natural.
People would ask me "why did you come to Brazil?" and I realized that I could be truthful. I replied "Deus me mandou" (God called me), and in response I received a knowing and reverent look to the heavens. That was really something for me to experience!
I can't tell you what a jolt it was for me to return to the U.S. and encounter a very different consciousness. On my first trip back to the U.S. from Brazil, an irate and very entitled American in the New York airport was loudly yelling about his lost luggage. I felt really embarrassed to be an American at that point!
Here are some more of the most amazing and unique aspects of Brazilian culture that you will want to know about, especially if you are considering visiting there!
Brazil is home to more than 194,000,000 people (an approximate figure as of 2010) whose ancestors come from all over the world. Like the United States, Brazil is a nation of immigrants. Brazilians are an ethnically diverse people with ancestors from Asia, Africa, Europe, the Middle East, and North America.
Many people in Brazil have intermarried and so there are many people of diverse, multi-ethnic backgrounds. More than half the population is of European descent, about 40% are of mixed African and European descent.
Brazil was a colony of Portugal from 1500 until 1815. They became independent in 1822.
People who live in Brazil are known as brasileiros, (Portuguese for "Brazilians") and most were born there, although it is also possible to become a naturalized citizen after living in Brazil for 15 consecutive years and learning to speak Brazilian Portuguese.
Foreigners who are from a Portuguese speaking nation such as Portugal, Mozambique or Cape Verde (no name just a few) are eligible to apply to be a naturalized citizen after only a year in Brazil.
People from Portugal who are living in Brazil are granted the rights of Brazilian citizens, according to the Brazilian constitution.
Now, each of us is a beautiful, unique individual, and at the same time, we are part of the family and the country we were born into. I met thousands of Brazilians while I was living in Brazil, and although they were each unique, there were some things I felt about the Brazilian culture and people as a whole.
In my experience, the Brazilian people are warm, generous and heart centered. People are more important than things. Relationships matter, and take precedence.
Brazilians are extremely hard working, although things get done there differently than in the U.S. You won't find a lot of punctuality in Brazil unless you are in Sao Paolo, which seems more attuned to the "western" ways.
You will spend a lot of time waiting, and you need to simply accept this, and learn to let go and to trust the "flow" of how things happen there.
For me I found the "caos" (chaos) of how things get done in Brazil quite a challenge at first, until I surrendered to it. I found some relief when I was in Sao Paolo for a short time!
I also found the Brazilian people to be optimistic, and that many have a faith in God that sustains them through many difficulties. I learned a great deal from this, as I have always tended to a more despairing attitude. This changed when I was in Brazil.
Although it is impossible to generalize, since Brazil is a very large country and things vary from region to region, in general this was my experience.