Ten Things That I Hate About Brazil

(This is a companion piece to “Ten Things That I Love About Brazil”.  To find out what I love click here.)

It’s difficult to feel indifferent about Brazil. People either love it or hate it … or are in a very opinionated in between.

I have oscillated from love to hate to bewilderment more times than I can count. As I start to feel the urge to look outward towards new adventures in new lands, I feel it is appropriate to put down some of my thoughts on the land of the samba. Here are ten things that I hate about Latin America’s largest country.

1. Crime: Brazil has a lot of it.

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If you come from a country where the your only concern during a midnight supermarket run in your pajamas is whether someone you know will see you, get ready for a change of mindset. Brazil is a dangerous place – some places more than others. Does this mean you should lock yourself in your house? No! Although the homicide rate is insanely high, most of the murders are centralized in the poorer regions and where there are ongoing wars between gangs and the police. Outside of these regions your main worry is theft and muggings. Yes, these bandits are armed, but there aren’t dead bodies of tourists being collected from Copacabana beach every day. Nevertheless, the constant waves of crime does add an extra element of vigilance in my everyday walks, which does become a hassle. One can´t simply relax and enjoy the scenery here in Brazil. In fact my first mugging (ever in my life) occurred when I left a club at 2 in the morning figuring I could walk around downtown São Paulo like I had walked the streets of  Philadelphia so many times, alone, in the wee hours, contemplating life while on my way to the metro. WRONG!!! Clearly I am not dead. They were only interested in some cash and even thanked me after for my cooperation. Go figure. In my shock I said, “You’re welcome.”

2. Lack of Commitment: I don´t know how they manage to get married.

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It’s pretty generally known that Brazilians do not like confrontation, and so in order to avoid it they simply lie to you. They say they are going to do something but never give a date. They confirm their presence at your event, but later tell you that they forget they had a family gathering the same day. They will tell you they are interested in a project you are working on, but won’t get back to you for further feedback. It’s the way it works. Unless you get a hard Yes and see bodies moving, expect that most anything coming out of a Brazilians mouth is a non-committal style No – even their Maybes. This can be soul crushing at first if you are really looking forward to something, but soon you realize it’s the way things are and learn to depend on yourself and the few pro-commitment Brazilians friends that you will make along the way.

3. Falseness: Brazilians will lie to your face with a smile.

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Imagine a country inhabited by politicians: that is Brazil. Brazilians will swoon over you, tell you how great you are, kiss your feet, but when it comes time for you to put all that love they have for you to good use they have a tendency to disappear. The combination of this quality with their lack of commitment makes it especially hard to get any work done. Chances are that you will be surrounded by Yes Men who are ultra pumped about your next project, that is until they don’t return calls, schedule dentist appointments on the same day you scheduled a meeting, and waste a lot of your valuable time. Some of the falseness is very malicious, and it almost feels like Brazilians want to live their own personal soap operas (we’ll get to the drama section in a bit), but a lot of it also stems from being non-committal and non-confrontational and therefore not wanting to hurt anyone’s feeling with the truth. If there isn’t clear and present proof that your plans are going to happen within a day or two of having proposed them, move on.

4. Red Tape: There is a lot of it.

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I once knew a guy that needed a document, but to get that document he needed another document from another government agency. When he arrived at that other government agency they said they could only give him that document if he had the other document from the first government agency that had sent him there in the first place. Need I continue?  End of story is that he left Brazil cursing the country out – and all he wanted was to buy a cell phone, and yes, you need a document for that. Scary part is that this is not an isolated incident. The more you accept that Red is the fifth colour of the Brazilian Flag, the less expletives per day you will utter.

5. Drama: “The world is a stage …” – NO! Brazil is!!!

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The nightly soap opera is still one of the highest rated television program in the country. Brazilians love their drama, and with strong melodramatic tones. Arguments can start here over which side of the bread one should put butter on. There is never a quick exit, as someone tries to prove their side. And after they have proved their side they will make sure to bring it up again in 6 months in order to truly beat the horse to a bloody and senseless death. The most frustrating part of a Brazilian argument is that since they decline to say what they really feel, and don’t like to commit to things, it is usually only an argument for the sake of argument – they really don´t want a resolution. The quicker you learn this, the less likely it is that you fall into a Brazilian trap. There are a lot of emotions, and if you are not ready for them, or your culture is more reserved, prepare by doing some primal scream therapy and get to know your inner child; you will need it to survive.

6. Lack of Culture: A global epidemic to which Brazil has succumbed

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Across the world there seems to be a dumbing down of culture. You can see it evidenced in popular movies, television shows, and especially in music. Yet there are always little glimmers of intelligence out there: kids that speak in full sentences, movies that leave with you out of the theatre, songs that evoke strong emotions as well as thought. Brazil has latched on to the negative trend of zombification of the masses, but is lacking sorely in the latter. The music is dull, television is one soap opera followed by a variety show followed by another soap opera, and there is no film industry of which to speak highly. People, in general, don’t pick up books, or think outside of their own little boxes. This is a real tragedy considering the great art and culture that has come out of Brazil in its long history. The 1960s and 70s, for example, were decades that brought us the great works of world renowned musicians, actors, and singers like Milton Nascimento, Sonia Braga, Bibi Ferreira, Tom Jobim, Elis Regina, among countless others. Brazil is in serious lack of a cultural movement for the masses.

7. Racism, Sexism, Homophobia etc etc: If it’s bad, Brazil’s got it in abundance.

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It doesn’t take too long being in Brazil to notice that black people are rarely shown on television unless they are maids or butlers, kicking a ball, living in a favela (Brazilian slum), dancing during Carnival, or being shot at by the police. Joining the blacks into a fine little stereotyped peg are the women who are mostly objectified or portrayed as using their sex appeal and congeniality, instead of their brains, to move ahead with their plans in soap operas and film. Gays (and other LBT people) are treated well as long as they can entertain, and don’t mind toning they “gay” down in everyday life. Indigenous people are simply forgotten, and xenophobia of all sorts is on the rise. Brazilians like to be portrayed as one happy multi-cultural family, but they are actually quite divisive. There is indeed a certain comradery among people of all sexes, races, and whatever else makes up the melting pot, but it is done while keeping a polite distance. It’s just like meeting someone at a bar and exchanging numbers after a wonderful night of beers and conversations but never hearing from that person again; people here are generally not genuinely interested in each other. At the end of the work day each group goes to their assigned spots and prepare to tolerate each other again the next day. It’s sad really for a country with such a unique blend of people to still suffer from these social ills on such a mainstream level.

8. Prices – Everything is expensivear129780261747916

When George Harrison wrote “Taxman” he could have never imagined Brazil, if he had, perhaps the song would have been more to the tune of “While My Guitar Gently Weeps.”  There are extremely high taxes on everything in Brazil, so everything is more expensive to cover these charges. If you are thinking of buying an international product, you are then met with even higher taxes which the protectionist government uses to try to push the national brands. There is no way around this. Brazil will suck you dry.  If you are fortunate enough to be earning in strong foreign currency, you may still get frustrated by the prices, but it will be manageable. But if you earn in Reais you will feel the pinch. To give you an idea of how outrageous the prices are here, there have been foreign companies which are famous for their low prices that have decided against investing in Brazil so as to not blemish that standard. Happy shopping!!!

9. The Huge Government – Everywhere you go Big Brother is watching

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Brazil’s Government is huge. There are countless politicians (513 in Congress and 81 in the Senate), 35 political parties, and a slew of micro managing laws to go with them. Some could argue that this is good for democracy – more voices for the people. The reality is much different than the confabulation. What it creates instead is a perfect example of too many cooks in the kitchen, and with most of them more interested in taking a little bit of that delicious dish for themselves than serving it to us. Where big government becomes most evident is in the taxes – everything is taxed. A Brazilian works nearly 5 months of the year just to pay the government. Where there is big government there are also laws to make simple things like opening a business more of a life goal than a life choice. The government also tries to extend its hands out to censor speech, regulate the internet, and pass “anti-hate” legislation to “protect victims of society,” but as we saw above, it does little to improve the real life situation of most minorities and/or oppressed groups. It’s a government that coddles its citizen like an overprotective parent that stunts both economic and social growth. I had never felt such a strong presence of governing forces in my daily life before coming to Brazil, and as someone who appreciates the notion of smaller government and more individual freedom it has taken quite a bit of time for me to live with it even while despising it.

10. Self-Serving Attitude: It’s all about family … OUR FAMILY

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Something that may come as shock to people who first arrive here and decide to stay is how superficial Brazilian generosity really is. Brazilians tend to spout visions of unity and collectivism over beer and great music, but at the end of the day they are quite selfish and self-serving. Volunteering or mentoring are not things you often hear about when people talk about their life experiences. I have felt that there is a very strong sense of  entitlement that runs from the richest to the poorest. There is an attitude of, “I can because I can and everyone else is simply a co-star in my personal life drama.” Of course there are Brazilians who do give of their time, but there is little support for them. The mode of operation is simply, “take what you can, and leave some crumbs behind so you don’t come off as a complete jerk.” An example of this that caused ire among some Brazilians was when Pearl Jam donated all the money from their concert in Minas Gerais to the victims of the tragic dam break in the state. Social media went abuzz pointing out how embarrassing it was to have a foreigner come here and do this while Brazilians celebrities did practically nothing but offer their condolences. Off the top of my head I can’t think of any public figure who makes a public example of the importance of helping the less fortunate by giving of their own time and effort. There are plenty of call for prayers, plenty of requests for donations, plenty of petitions which are signed, but very little individual effort. Perhaps the nature of Brazil as a country of so much political, social and economic instability creates a culture of “protecting what is mine.” Whatever the cause, it does make for a very self-centered society.

And now that we got the dirty laundry out of the way, click here and let’s look at the reasons why Brazil does put a smile on my face.

P. Ray

If you are living in or have visited Brazil, what do you hate about the country?  Leave comments below.

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31 Responses to Ten Things That I Hate About Brazil

  1. Pingback: Ten Things That I Love About Brazil | Brazusa's Blog

  2. Sarah Holden says:

    Great article! I can agree with all of your points. What I hate most about Brazil is that they are terrible time keepers and don’t have any issues with arriving several hours late without so much as an apology.

    • p. ray says:

      Thanks for reading and commenting Sarah!!!

      Time is something I came to accept as a relative experience. It used to frustrate me, but there is no way to change it, I guess.

      Once I was at a nice beach restaurant and our food was taking forever to arrive, compared to SP time. I was about to complain but then caught myself and said, “Hey! In SP I don’t have this beautiful view.” So I chilled out.

      Little mind games like that have saved me from a lot of stress. Playing Angry Birds on the cell phone while waiting for clients too!!!

  3. alastairsbrazilianblog says:

    Ray, you have a great gift of being able to write about stuff that others might send you to sleep over and make it interesting and fun to read!
    There is also so much depth of conviction and personal experience so that males your writing very credible!
    Thanks for sharing!
    Alastair

    • p. ray says:

      Thanks for reading Alastair! I also enjoy you writing. You have a very sincere and gentle touch to your words, which (not-coincidentally) match your kind and generous personality.

  4. I moved to Brazil in 2000 and the empty promises were the first illusion with which I had to come to terms.

  5. Craig says:

    I liked your piece and find strong parallels here in Brazil to Italy ( the country I previously lived in) so much so that my mind screams out sometimes ‘Bring it on, I can take it!’ The trouble is I am then reminded why I gave up on Italy after 20 years. I think we have to remind ourselves of the great things about Brazil and try not to let the other negative points ruin your life here.

    • p. ray says:

      Thanks for commenting Craig. I agree with you on that. I wrote about the ten things that I love about the country too, so that I can keep that perspective in mind. Brazil is certainly not paradise, but it’s not unmanageable. How long have you been here? https://brazusa.wordpress.com/2016/01/19/ten-things-that-i-love-about-brazil/

      • Craig says:

        Hi Ray I have been here 5 years now. I live in BH and after reading your top 10 love nature and ecotourism is something I am crazy about and Brazil is paradise for me in that respect. What about you?

      • p. ray says:

        Lucky you in Minas! I want to make it up there at some point. Food from Minas is my favourite.

        As for my favourite thing in Brazil, I’d have to say the nature aspect. It’s pretty damn awesome. I also like the general friendliness of folk even if, like I said, it can be a fly by night type deal.

  6. Charles says:

    Hey, Ray.
    I just want to congratulate you for putting in words such a difficult or (maybe) controversal issue.
    And I’m telling this as a brazilian.. which is more interesting. I live here all my life, although already travelled and met may cultures.. plus, my wife is foreign. And all of this, gave me the opportunity to watch my culture “from outside”.. from another perspective I never could see.
    The thing is that.. sadly.. your points and your point of view is very accurate, being that I myself “suffer” with the same issues.. even being a brazilian, which is very strange.
    In nowdays, I catch myself trying to ‘convince’ or even trying to show the others (my brazilian fellows..friends) what is wrong with us.. and how other culture reacts in the same situations..specially in the terms of Falseness and Lack of Commitment.. which are so bad, and sometime unbearable. I know for sure that for you, foreigners of all kind, this is one of the most hard things to get along… and I understand completely.
    It’s difficult to define why it’s like that… but I may say that you put good effort on that. Unfortunately, it’s probably because our history..the kind of exploration made by the Portuguese and that we had since the beginning of the country, when everyone tried to gain something and more and more, no matter what it’d cost. And it continues until today.. perpetuating this manners in our culture and in our lives.. from the very top (government) to the very bottom.

    Anyway. Thank you for you vision and bright oppinion. Hope it can help and clarify our way of being and our brazlian culture. Specially because.. I can see my country growing into another level of society until we ‘fix’ many of these points.. that you showed here.

    Take care, man.
    Ou melhor.. cuide-se bem por aqui.
    Sucesso, meu caro.

    • p. ray says:

      Thanks for taking the time to read and write a comment.

      Brazil is a tough nut to crack. As you can see I also wrote a Top Ten Love List … as there is a lot to enjoy about the country. It’s unfortunate that the negatives sometimes overshadows a lot which is so great about the nation and its people.

      I hope for the best for Brazil and try to do my part, as my family is from here. But you are right, not having grown up here, some things drive me up the wall.

      I am curious, where are you living now? Is there anything that you do miss about Brazil while living abroad?

      Best wishes.

      • Charles says:

        Well.. I understand you very well.
        And I aggre. There are really amazing things about Brazil. Weather, sites, nature, beach, food (which I love) are one of them.. although the negative side affects much more the day-by-day life..unfortunatelly.
        And by the way… even travelling a lot, I still and always lived here..in Brazil. But I can say to you that.. what I miss most (when Im far away) is definitely..the food and to hear my language on the street 🙂

        Big hug, my friend.

  7. Ok Let’s go through each one 1 by 1.
    1. Crime: Well this goes back to during the time of the military dictatorhsip in which Brazil liberal gov’t was overthrown in a CIA backed Coup and the military rules. During those years, many many rural farmers lost their land and where driven off their lands and came to the cities and the favelas where created & things have not changed since. It’s a legacy of the military dictatorship. And thank to a lot of nihilism that you country (US of A) exports to much of the world, single motherhood and broken homes have become cultural norms in brazil, aling with Child Worship and Dog Worship – two more things gringolandia exports to the world. But it has improved in recent years as Brazil is not even among the top 20 most dangerous countries in the world. But — just another reason why the 2nd amendment of the US constitution makes sense. Gun Control= Only criminals will have guns.
    2. Hahahahaha — you better get use to this & start learning how to translate code words if you want to live and work in other parts of the world.
    3. Fasleness: Well thank the very country that invented the sell job — YOURS! This is all exported from the US of A. I mean look at your current house negro president who the only honest thing he ever said to this day was “I’m really good at killing people & I look forward to that every tuesday.” BHO jr. — yes he is Jr. is without a doubt the MOST SOLID, POLISHED PROFESSIONAL LIAR THE WORLD HAS EVER SEEN.
    4. No Kidding, if you gonna travel & live & work in other countries it’s a given, sadly you’ll have to get use to it.
    5. Drama — well it’s alwasy a good idea never to move in or live with a chick, but still it’s nothing compared to the cunty attitudes that American women give you because of their deep seeded hatred for men. But sadly today’s brazilina soap operas are infested with lots of horsecrap feminism from the US of A, and the repulisive pathologies of American females are creeping up on the psyche of brazilian women in metropolitian areas. BUT I’LL TELL YOU THIS, I’LL TAKE A BRAZILIAN WOMAN OVER AN AMERICAN BITCH ANY TIME OF THE DAY. Adopt a no droma policy, if there is drama – Dump her.
    6. Lack of culture — I’m very sorry but coming from a country which doesn’t have any culture (the USA) and she hasn’t had a culture since the mid 1960s, and all she has these days is nihilism & exports nihilism via it’s movies & tv shows & socially nihilistic ideologies the world over, you’re not under any moral authority to say other countries have no culture, because if they don’t it’s because they’re adopting the nihilims of your country.
    7. Racism, Sexism & Homophobia — OK, while I’m not denying that racism in Brazil doesn’t exist, and I think it’s good that the topic does get talked about, it’s nothing compared to the USA, Europe, Argentina, Chile, Asia. In terms of race relations it’s better than many many other countries on earth, yet just because it’s better than other countries doesn’t mean the topic can’t be talked about, it should be. Sexism? What do you mean? Sexism vs. women (LOL) that is wishful thinking, Brazil is a very feminine society that embraces feminine values & has a religion that embraces feminine teachings & feminine values and it’s laws are as gyno-centric if not even more gyno-centric than many of the ICE nations inclusing yours. Women get worshipped. Homophobia? LOL — nonesense! Homosexuality get advertised and marketed everywhere you go & GLBT folks are never shy about putting on a show in public.
    8. Everythign is expensive — sure because of the taxes, but then again, that is monetary policy, believe me if you return to the US you see everythign there is expensive too. At least the cost of living is still generally cheapre in brazil than in the USA.
    9. HUge Government — Really???? Have you forgotten about the gang of 535 and all the other politicians at the local & state levels in your country, not to mention how much the gov’t in the US views her citizenry as a threat, and boy are they tryign to find everything they can do squeeze every dime out of the citizenry. Not to mention homeland security the instanding domestic army in the US, and the NSA spying on all of the world citizens. If anything Brazil is simply trying to copy the US model because they think it’s exemplary, when it isn’t. so much civil liberties getting eroded in the US.
    10. Self Serving Attitude — WELL GUESS WHERE THAT CAME FROM??? You country. At least in Brazil it’s still a “our family” attitude , in the us it’s “ME & ME ONLY!” “Screw my chidlren, I’m mnot leaving anyting behind for them, I’m spending my money now.”

    With a country like Brazil, it’s always better to make freinds before going. Now it’s easier than ever. And I guess on tip I would give people from the US, or any other country where individualism reigns supreme is….even if you had legitimate reason TO GET THE HELL AWAY FROM YOU FAMILY….and a lot of times family members talk once in a blue moon and see eachtoehr once a year….if you renting a room in a brazilian home with a family …. — if they take notice that maybe once a week or once every two weeks you’re communicating with family memebrs back home — that can be good sign. Because if you don’t, or beter yet…if they’re not seeing you do it….they might take it up as a red flag…even if they’re wrong on their presumption.

    Also I would say Brazil is a good place for someone to master their street smart skills. LOL LOL

    • Michael Andrade says:

      Classic “blame all Brazil’s problems on the U.S.A.”. Very sad, indeed.

      • Gabriel says:

        American guys I’ve met and dated were really charming and sweet (to start with something positive)

        In the US there are loads of Yes Men (and Women) who promise this and that, who are so excited to be working with you and then they never get back to you because it doesn’t serve THEM (it doesn’t serve an American individual let alone their family or community) in some way.

        Funny you mention being a humanitarian and volunteering because I don’t think I’ve ever met an American who actually did REAL work. Talking about (mah rights mah rights) is easy but in the end it’s the person who’s the loudest people listen.

        Speaking of, I feel like America turned into a parody of itself. Once upon a time, America DID make a lot of progress on the human rights front. Now it’s more like people bully each other with this sense of entitlement (yes, playing the race card among other things) to GET somewhere, I don’t feel that it happens (did it ever?) through simply asking for help and peaceful cooperation.

        Then again, would asking for help even work? In the US I’m not sure if anyone does things unless there’s some money in it for them or unless it serves them (ME ME ME) in some way.

        In the US if you’re having a hard time it’s YOUR OWN FAULT, if you get sick and get ripped of and you don’t have good health care it’s YOUR OWN DAMN FAULT.

        In the US when you get to college they teach you to write an essay by making a claim and then backing up your claim with whatever supports your claim. It doesn’t matter whatsoever if you have a point or not, it matters that you can make your case. It doesn’t matter that your college education is worthless and that’s going to get you in debt.

        Instagram, Tinder, Facebook and Youtube (there’s a special place in Hell for Youtubers) are sinister. All they do is isolate you. If you spend endless time building your own image maybe those companies are making good money.

        But come on, it’s not “social media” if it promotes hatred and insecurity and if it all it does is divide people (which it does)

        I appreciate both Phil (and Charlie Wilson obviously) for discussing these issues.

        I don’t hate America I’m just saying that a lot of things about America are disappointing because of how Americans and American media present themselves to the world.

        We all depend on each other and how we live in this world and this brand of American individualism (whether it’s from a liberal’s or conservative’s POV) are extremely polarizing and both end up promoting hatred.

      • p. ray says:

        Thanks for your comments Gabriel. I am sure I could come up with an equally scathing list of things I hate about the United States also, and most of it would comprise some of the things you have mentioned.

  8. You should add more social media buttons (FB, Twitter, etc.) for your blog so that it can be shared with others…Great article…I’m a fan…Thank you

    • p. ray says:

      Hey Maurice. Thanks for reading and commenting. I was talking to a friend about that. I only have the Facebook link for The Bridge Point right now, but understand that I need to begrudgingly get hip to Twitter and even Instagram.

      I have blogged before but never taken it seriously. I am putting stuff out at a much more even pace now. So I am going to take you advice to heart. 🙂

  9. gkfische says:

    I appreciate your comment about the rise in xenophobia as it’s become increasingly more visible over the last year and half. I’ve been leading a project called Rostos da Migração (there’s a Facebook page and webpage – Rostos.org) to work on combating it through Missão Paz in São Paulo.

  10. Ron Llewellyn says:

    I have lived in Brasil for 8 years. This article nailed it. Everyday is a challenge not to be ripped off by a ‘Brazza’. I live by the following, “It will be late – it will be wrong – they will want more money – and – it will look like crap.”

  11. Pedro Henrique Malta Martins says:

    You write well and there is a lot of truth there.

  12. Pingback: Coming to Brazil to Teach English – a rough guide | Brazusa's Blog

  13. Gringo4life says:

    Nailed it… Absolute truth here. Preach on

    • p. ray says:

      thanks! make sure to check out the thing that i do love about the place. it’s mainly related to activities where people are not involved 😛

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