Giovani Coppini and Rafaela Rocha
Stereotypes. We all have been there. Because we are tall or too short, chubby or thin; because we wear glasses or have blond hair. At least once in your life you have been labeled under some concept that does not even scratch the truth. The same goes for nationalities: Russian and their vodka, Japanese and their brains, Canadians and their hockey, Indians and their gold. Stereotypes come for good and evil. They may say something about a people and their culture, but we have to bear in mind they are not the ultimate nor the most adequate definition. As Brazilians, some of us have faced some of these generalizations ourselves and they all involve Carnaval, samba, soccer, and the Amazon forest. But we are way more than that.
It is common opinion abroad that Brazilians are very passionate, happy, and kind people. That may be our Latin blood screaming, but we certainly like to have a good time. Some of the most famous images of Brazil and its people – which have been spread by the media and also by ourselves – divide opinions when broadcast as “the truth” about us: not everyone loves Carnaval and some of us look rather ridiculous trying to samba; not everyone has a gift for soccer (honestly, a good number of us are born with two left feet); and yeah, it may be hard to remember that we are the only country in Latin America which speaks Portuguese. Brazil is such an immense, richly diverse country that it is hard to define whatever we are under one single image. It is interesting to point out, though, that due to Brazil’s recent emergency in the international scenario some of these stereotypes tend to be deconstructed as the world gets to know us a little better.
Case in point is that foreigners seem to agree that we are very gentle and helpful towards them. Our friendliness apparently impresses visitors, and most of them think that this is a natural feature of our personalities. That, added to the fact that Brazil has been thriving in times of worldwide economic crisis, attracts foreigners to live here. Interestingly enough, according to a research led by Ipsos Mori*, 41% of the Brazilian interviewees think that there are too many immigrants here. It is quite controversial, tough, that 49% of the interviewees also think that Brazil becomes a more interesting place with immigrants around.
Despite this love and hate relationship, it is the Brazilian love for new and fresh things that keeps us going. The world may be getting to know us, and soon they will learn that yes, we have Carnaval, but we also have Bumba-meu-boi, Parintins, and our own version of Oktoberfest; we have samba, but we also have forró, frevo, and chula; we may have great soccer players, but we also play peteca, footvolley, and capoeira. We are not made of only one story, and neither is anyone. It is very likely that the known stereotypes about Brazil are indeed our own fault, for several reasons, but above all is the underdog syndrome from which we suffer. We may wear a brave and laidback front, but we are dying to fit in and to be taken seriously. Maybe it is time for Brazil to leave its inferiority complex behind and focus on all the great things we have to offer the world, much beyond reductionist images and labels.
* 1 The research is available online at Ipsos Mori official website: http://www.ipsos-mori.com/researchpublications/researcharchive/2833/Too-Many-Immigrants.aspx
by Diego Lunkes, Larissa Longaray, Tiele Kawarlevski
Throughout the project of Culture and stereotypes article (what concerns to discover how Brazil is seen by foreigner eyes), with the interviews, the documentary “The Foreign Eye” and the Nigerin writer Chimamanda Adichie’s speech, we saw that our stereotype is exactly how we thought it was. When we asked foreigners about their visions about Brazil before they arrived here, they answered what we thought they would: samba, jungle, beautiful and sensual women, beaches, slums and violence.
This is not so far from reality, but it is not just like this. They use Rio de Janeiro and Amazon as reference while Brazil has other twenty-six states. The documentary “The Foreign Eye” is concerned to show stereotypes, but it's done in an American way, like said Larry Gelbart, American television writer, playwright, screenwriter and author : “an American cake, but it had a Brazilian frosting". This happens because they are talking about different cultures and they just know how to do it if they see it through their own culture and this is how stereotypes are built. So, the stereotype ends up being a summary for reality and this summary just contemplates one vision about all stories, in other words, it is not a lie, it is just a bad summary. Like Chimamanda said in her speech: “The single story creates stereotypes, and the problem with stereotypes is not that they are untrue, but that they are incomplete.”
On the other hand, we have other parts of this story. When we interviewed the foreigners asking about their actual vision of Brazil, they answered that it has changed. They discovered that, actually, we are friendly people and receptive with the foreigners, that we are hardworking (then we are not partying all the time) and not everybody likes samba and soccer. They also discovered other cultural expressions, like it is said in the website article Real Life for English (http://migre.me/c834h): “Brazil knows how to party and how to celebrate its beautiful culture with many festivities throughout the year such as Carnaval. The world is amazed by cultural expressions like samba and capoeira.”
We are completing the foreigners stereotyped vision about Brazil, so it is interesting to say that what is called "a whole jungle" is, in fact, our biodiversity. Our country has a really big variety of animals and vegetation, but differently from the stereotyped image, we do not domesticate wild animals in our backyards. And about our rich culture: during the colonization of Brazil, we had a lot of immigration, for example, Italian, German and Polish. So, we are a big mixture.
Our mixture is our culture: richer than a simple stereotype. This is the cake filling.
By Ângela Trevisol and Guilherme Ramires
November 29th, 2012
If anyone has never been to Brazil, they can have preconceived ideas about the country. These ideas come from daily news about the nation and from movies, made by filmmakers who try to illustrate our reality. Sometimes, media just demonstrates the negative points of Brazil as in news, showing tragedies, poverty, corruption, banditry, et cetera. In addition to that, foreign movies made lately have just demonstrated the negative points about our country; by the word ‘lately’, we mean since 1970, in which we can see in the films “Blame it on Rio,” “L’homme du Bresil,” “Anaconda,” and, more recently, “Turista,” productions that show, beyond a negative point, a false view of Brazil. But how can this view be corrected? How can we show a true image, or the nearest of a true image of a country? Showing the truth is our purpose; and we did that through a survey, in which foreigners from Asia answered some questions.
According to an interview that we did to Asian foreigners at UFRGS about their view of Brazil, we got some points of view about our culture: one point that was known by them before coming to Brazil, and another point that they got after coming. During this survey, which we carried out about the view of our country in the eyes of the others, we noticed a curious division about our nation that is made abroad that was in the Asians’ answers: Brazil is divided into jungle and beach (Rio de Janeiro). Obviously that this is not a truth, but what it really means is that people abroad just know one single story about our country, a story told usually by those who do not know Brazil utterly, in its complexity. We refer to media, which has the power of inputting a lot of true and false information about anything, anywhere, any people and any nation. Brazil, for example, is known abroad as the land of carnival, a popular party which occurs in our single mentioned city, Rio. The rest is the jungle. But once here, our interviewees told us they got another point of view; they reported to us that our country has also a northern and a southern culture, which they did not know. So they concluded that Brazil was much more than they had seen before; much more than just samba and carnival.
Another view commonly noticed is that Brazil is known abroad for soccer. Not extending our arguments, we have to say just that, fortunately or unfortunately, it is not the country of the soccer, because our soccer has been, lately, a failure in both the Olympics and the World Cup. If we could choose a sport to represent Brazil in the next years, it would be fair to choose volleyball whose team has done their best around the world in championships. Getting back to our focus, we have indeed a lot of characteristics that can represent our country, but not just one. Our country must be known for all the culture it has: the southern people, the gaúchos, the chimarrão (gaúchos’ most popular drink), the Kaigang people (the Brazilian Indians), the Olinda dolls, the Bahian food, our telenovelas. At last, our country prescinds from culture; it is rich and its richness must be respected as much as any other country’s.
On the other hand, there is something the interviewees said that is in agreement with the native Brazilian Portuguese speakers’ opinion: the difficulty in learning the Portuguese grammar (by the traditional method). The worst part for them to learn is the grammar class of the verbs, which has lots of possible conjugations (like the verb “amar”, which means “to love” and that has eighty-nine possible ways to conjugate).
Asians, who came from China and Korea, answered to some questions. The first impression they had of Brazilians, especially after knowing Brazil, was the joy of the Brazilian people. They said Brazilians are very friendly and hospitable, are always smiling and have a lot of passion. We could notice that they spoke very sincerely, because now their view is no longer that of someone who has never met a Brazilian person; now they live with us, they are like us.
Despite many qualities attributed to Brazil, we must not forget that we also have defects, and, in opposition to what we think, foreigners spoke open-minded about it. They said, for example, the streets here in Brazil are very dirty; there is trash everywhere, which gives an impression of a city without organization. Moreover, according to the foreigners in Brazil, things take a long time to happen; you have to wait in long queues for having a lunch, making copies, going to the bathroom and so on. They do not stand it.
By the way, the fact that UFRGS was on strike was a cultural shock to them, because the Asian people use their time for just studying hard, not for “wasting” time – Because what they think about the strikes is that they are a waste of time. “In country, China, there is no strike, and there it is forbidden”, they said. “But here in Brazil you just want to strike,” concluded the interviewee. In this case, the foreigners did not form a view based on stereotypes or on media propagandas; the impressions were taken by the coexistence of these people here in Brazil.
We got also another aspect about what they used to think of Brazil, when they were in their country: they soon imagined handsome boys and beautiful girls. And this can be true: we have one of the most beautiful and most well paid top models, Gisele Büdchen. Our girls are just as gorgeous: they have a “tanned body”, because our great sun all over the year.
Of course we are not just known for our girls’ beauty, but we have talented people too. For example, our music is known all over the world, especially for Bossa Nova (Elis Regina and Tom Jobim). We also have great divas as Maria Bêthania, who can make you fall in love; and Ivete Sangalo, who can make you get happy and get off the floor. The foreigners even know us for our other singers like Michel Teló and Roberto Carlos.
It’s not only in the music that we are well known, but our writers are as just amazing. We have one of the most translated writers ever, and even if we Brazilian do not like him, the foreigners do: he is Paulo Coelho. There is also Veríssimo, and what about him? He is one of the funniest writers all over the world that makes us to be known for our happiness.
The foreigner also commented about another aspect of our culture: our food. They said that our candies are sweeter and our food, in general, is saltier. Of course that it is like this, how could it be different? We are strong even in the food. And more, it’s delicious despite of the fact that is just “meat, meat, meat and meat” – sentence said by an interviewee about his preferred food.
by Camila Brugnera, Cyntia Trevor and Renata Staudt
The Amazon Rainforest is known as the biggest forest in the world. Five and a half million square kilometers (1.4 billion acres) are covered by this rainforest. The region includes territory belonging to nine nations: Brazil, Peru, Colombia
and French Guiana
. The biodiversity of plant species and animals is the highest on Earth. Because of these diversities a lot of problems occur, for example, the illegal animal trade and deforestation. We conducted our research is based on how foreign people see our forest and its stereotypes. We know it is very easy to create false ideas about things we do not know very well, and there are a lot of stereotypes about the Amazon Rainforest, that we, Brazilians, built.
Most foreigners usually think of the Amazon is only a huge and a beautiful forest, with wild animals walking among naked people. They don’t even know about Brazilian native Indians.
In July 2010, the famous actor and film director Sylvester Stallone was recording a movie in Brazil. During an interview, he said: "You can shoot people and blow things up and they say 'Thank you
! Take a monkey
home with you!'. The stereotype “Brazilians have pet monkeys” is strong among foreigners, but the one that “foreigners think monkeys are our pets” is also strong among Brazilians. We emphasize our own stereotype (and we blame the others for that).
We, Brazilians, build wrong stereotypes about ourselves. All we see in the media are advertisements showing soccer players, carnival and sexy women wearing only bikini tops… but we never see advertisements showing our reality: hardworkers, different cultures, crowded buses and even less the Amazon issues. Therefore, as we mentioned before, foreigners see us through our own eyes. They believe in the stereotypes we show them.
Although we show the world negative stereotypes, we have found some interested people that knew something about deforestation. One of the interviewed guys said that “Beef farmers cut down the trees to raise cattle, but they don’t consider they can do it in another place”, and another one said “I think the government should do something to repair it, this forest is really important”. Even though these guys don’t know much about the rainforest issues, we can notice they really care about it. These interviewees told us that there are actions we can take to save the forest (such as saving water, taking care of animals, planting trees instead of cutting them down).
But nobody knows that the Amazon is the first state in Brazil to create laws that provide for zero deforestation in the region. It is also the first state to implement social programs in sustainable development reserves to protect the forest and the survival of its inhabitants. If we preserve the environment we will stimulate economic growth. The Amazonas shows that it is possible to reconcile development with respect for nature.
Indians and riparian are the guardians of the forest and they know very well how to extract from nature only what they need, without hurting the environment. Then, the government created ‘’ The Ministry of Environment’’ that protects the biodiversity, water resources, extraction, etc.
We don’t blame foreigners for their lack of knowledge about the issue: even Brazilians don’t know much about it. We are so far from the Amazon Rainforest that everything about it seems to be different to our reality and it doesn’t seem so important for many of us. The bigger the city the person lives in, the less this person cares about the environment and its preservation: it’s not part of the day by day of many people in Brazil.
Culture and stereotypes
How do we face different cultures?
By Débora Heineck, Filipe Vuaden and Samuel Oliveira
Culture has always been defined as something shared by everybody from a same place, where people have the same beliefs, same tastes, same way of thinking and same position towards a situation. These aspects make a country unique, however, they are responsible for the creation of stereotypes.
Stereotypes are aspects related to the culture of a specific country or group of people. The problem is that culture is not homogeneous, because people are different. Stereotypes just show a few aspects about a culture, but people are more than that. The human being is very complex, so it’s impossible to reduce them in one or two characteristics.
In fact, culture is a general concept that includes the main characteristics of each place. Stereotypes are arbitrary aspects based on these characteristics. They are created considering peculiar behavior of a group of people. Nevertheless, what people think about a specific country may not be true. The behavior we see in a group or in a country may have a different meaning than the one we attribute to them.
The fact is that we can only judge a culture if we really know it. We have to consider how the history of the country influences the culture. Things like government organization, geographical aspects and religion can influence the way people think and behave. For example, Oriental and Occidental are very different, concerning diverse ethnic aspects, philosophy, government, food, the way people dress, education, music, work, etc. Because of these differences, a lot of stereotypes were created, like
“Oriental people eat insects and dogs” or “Occidental from South America live in jungles”, and both, Oriental and Occidental people, judge each other based on these stereotypes.
We need to have conscience about how we are judging a culture and make sure we are not spreading the false information about it. Culture exists to make people understand that we can think differently, we can live differently and we can learn with these differences. If everyone thinks the same way, the world stops evolving. So, we have to respect everyone’s culture, try to know it and to learn with it.
By Evandro Monteiro, Luana Schommer and Vanessa Eschiletti
"Then one Saturday we went to his village to visit, and his mother showed us a beautifully patterned basket made of dyed raffia that his brother had made. I was startled. It had not occurred to me that anybody in his family could actually make something. All I had heard about them was how poor they were, so that it had become impossible for me to see them as anything else but poor. Their poverty was my single story of them." - This is a short excerpt of Chimamanda Adichie speech, a Nigerian writer. Just like she had a single story about this family, people have single stories about Brazil.
Usually, foreigners think that Brazil is just Carnival, samba, Football, beautiful women and Caipirinha. But this is only one side of the story. We have much more to offer. For example, they think all our music has a fast, happy and funny beat, however Brazil has many different rhythms.
Brazil is one of the countries that suffer with the stereotypes. Foreigners have a set image of Brazil, a general vision of who a Brazilian is. But Brazil’s population exceeds 193 million people, and it’s not possible that 193 million people like to listen to the same music, to dress the same clothes, and to eat the same food. People look forward to coming to Brazil to see carnival and football, and they really are part of our culture, but of a small part. Moreover, only because carnival and football are part of our culture it does not meaning that here we are all about these things. The big problem is generalization.
There are many countries in the world, each one with its own culture, and even each culture has its own diversities. We cannot say that every Brazilian is sexy, likes samba, and is funny all the time. Even at the time of the dictatorship or during the wars in the middle of the last century, not all people thought alike. Diversity has always existed and will always exist.
We, Brazilian students of the English language, interviewed, in our University, mobility students from China, Taiwan, Japan and South Korea, and some of them think Brazilians are happy people, and they knew Brazilian music for samba and bossa nova. But we did not know much about their countries either. We were able to show some of our culture, and to demonstrate that we do not have only happy music with fast rhythms, among other things. The foreigners could show some aspects of their cultures too, and we both could deconstruct some stereotypes.
When we differentiate a group of people by characteristics we think that what the members of this group have in common is probably a stereotype. We believe stereotypes are always prejudiced, even if it is not what people intend. When a foreigner says that Brazilians are happy and communicative persons, they think it is a good point of our country, but when someone characterizes a Brazilian like this, this person is excluding all Brazilians that do not have these characteristics.
Maybe we feel more comfortable if the Brazilian stereotype is that all Brazilians love rock, are smart and hardworking people, and that they are all very shy. But even if we are known for other characteristics, they won’t be able to represent all Brazilians. A stereotype is always very dangerous, once we can be prejudiced without realizing it.
by Aline Maciel, Bruna Oliveira and Lira Quadros
The most common image of Brazilian women is a stereotype, most of the time, a negative stereotype. To confirm that, we did a survey in our English class at UFRGS with academic mobility students that came to Brazil to learn Portuguese. They have been living here, in average, since the beginning of the year and they have been studying Portuguese and Brazilian culture, in average, for two years. According to them, Brazilian women have a sexy body, dark skin, wear few clothes, have parties and dance samba all the time. In general the image of Brazilian women is always connected with beaches and Carnival.
The documentary “Olhar estrangeiro” showed us how those negative stereotypes were broadcasted around the world through the media, in special by the movies made by people who didn’t know the Brazilian culture and hadn’t been to our country.
Unfortunately this image is reinforced by Brazilian people themselves who value this kind of women selling the image of women wearing bikinis on the beach. This is the favorite image of the tourism market that wants to attract foreigners to our country.
The pessimism of many of the Brazilian people who give more merit to the imported things than to the native things also contributes to create this kind of myth. Since people say bad things about their own country, foreigners, who don’t know Brazil, believe these things are true. These myths or negative stereotypes are reinforced by the ignorance about our country and this is just one side of the many sides of our story. That can be changed when you deconstruct your pre-concepts and ideas about the Brazilian women, knowing other true stories.
First, the Brazilian woman, as all population of Brazil, is a mix of different kinds of people. That is because in the 19th century, Brazil received a lot of immigrants that saw the change to work here and have a better life. Our country received Asian and European immigrants from countless countries. So, our people and women can be similar to people and women from anywhere of the world, with various types of faces.
The Brazilian woman, in general, works a lot and doesn’t have so much time to stay on the beach. There are beautiful beaches in Brazil, it is true, and women wear bikinis there, but in the rest of the territory there is not a coast - as we can see in this map:
So women don’t wear bikinis out of the beaches. Another interesting thing is that, looking at this map, we can see that Brazil is huge, and, according to the website Wikipedia, Brazil is the 5th biggest country in the world, facilitating the diversity.
Samba, for example, is admired usually in Rio de Janeiro and by near places and it’s exhibited a lot in Carnival (a four-day party). But we have here in Brazil a lot of typical dances, which are not similar to samba. We have here in Rio Grande do Sul a typical dance called “dança gauchesca” witch is danced in pairs, and in Bahia a famous dance called Axé, that people can dance alone. But these are just some examples! Even in Rio Grande do Sul and in Bahia we can see people that don’t like or can’t dance those rhythms, because there are other kinds of music and people who may like music from other places too.
So, people, cultures and tastes in Brazil are really diverse, actually, like in all the other places. It’s possible to find many kinds of people, women, cultures, foods, dances, music here, in our country, because Brazil is an interesting mix. People need to be open if they want to see the real Brazil, that is different from what the media shows.
by Daniela Vasconcelos, Gabrielle Sirianni and Letícia Reche
Everyone knows the Brazilian culture through stereotypes. If you ask foreigners about what they see when they hear “Brazil”, probably they will say soccer, Carnival and beaches with beautiful women and happy people. But, is it our reality? Are these stereotypes totally true?
We had, this semester, the great opportunity to meet and talk with academic mobility students from Asia. When we asked them what they knew about Brazil when they still were in their hometown, the answers showed the most frequent and known Brazilian stereotypes that we have already mentioned in the beginning of this article. However, this is not their fault, but our media’s and publicity’s which show just what they think is most attractive in our culture.
Every time the Brazilian culture is showed, the most important aspect which appears is soccer. Famous soccer players are in every Brazilian event, as they are the most important and known Brazilian people. So, they are more famous than our artists. Because of that importance that soccer has in our culture, Brazil is known as “the soccer country”. Maybe, that importance is the responsible for creating the dream of every boy to be a soccer player when he grows up and that is why there is a soccer field in most squares.
Other stereotype that the media creates and wants to sell, to everybody in the world, is the idea that Brazil is the country of parties, of happiness and sensual people, but not everybody cares about parties here. We do not have parties every day and every night! Other aspect is some musicians that are very inside the media, like Latino, who makes music about parties, drinks and sexy women, like his new song, “Despedida de Solteiro”, based on “Gangnam Style”, a hit by Psy, a Korean singer.
Related to this vision of Brazilians, who just give parties, we have another stereotype created. So, what about Brazilian women? Yes, big boobs, big butts, big smile, and small brains. NO! Wrong! Very wrong! This vision starts with the publicity of beers, in which every woman is sexy, but this stereotype is as wrong as the others. Not every woman in Brazil has big boobs, big butts, big smile and small brains. Each woman is different and unique, pretty and smart too. A good example of a powerful and intelligent woman is president Dilma; she is so important that she was remembered by all academic mobility students that answered our interview. Brazilian women in fact are pretty and everywhere they pass the looks are towards them, but we are more than just pretty faces. Our women are brave, they have husbands and kids, work out, take care of home, study and still have time to be pretty and go out.
Some of the stereotypes of easy and hot girls are made by the sexual traders, who come to Brazil from other countries and ensnare the poor girls with promises about a better future abroad, so when these girls arrive there, they become sexual slaves. This is a sad but true story about this stereotype of our women.
If we really want to change these stereotypes, which do not say the truth about our people, the propagation of different Brazilian cultures is really necessary. People from other countries have to know that there are here other sports which we practice successfully, that there are amazing writers, actors and actresses, and not just soccer players. They have to know that we dance other kinds of music, not just samba at Carnival and, the most important, women, like us, are not easy to seduce.
And, as we want this knowledge about us and our country, we have to respect and know the true culture of the others. So, before going out screaming about stereotypes of other countries, it is a good idea to do some research and always remember that we cannot believe in everything that we hear about other countries before seeing their side.
By Dêner Ramos, Fernanda Araujo and Thomas Rauber
The diversity of people in the world have created something called Culture. And culture is a synonymous of customs, social behavior and ideas of a group of people. The immersion of stereotypes in different societies turned this subject into a global concern, andBrazil is one of the countries that suffer from images constructed by the others.
The stories told about Brazil in other places seem to be believed by most people who hear it. Most of these stories are created by the media, which shows only one side of the culture in Brazil. In a documentary called Olhar Estrangeiro, the distorted conceptions of Brazil are visible and it is noticed the influence of the entertainment industry. The producer Bo Jonsson, who produced the Swedish movie Sällskaps Resor says that “all these Non-Brazilian films, they have this ready-made picture of Brazil”. The constant search for a superficial analysis of the Brazilian culture is one of the main reasons why the inaccurate images have been spread over.
When it comes to Brazilian stereotypes, it is common for people from different countries to think that women walk topless on beaches, that exotic animals live freely on the streets and that Brazil is a country of sensuality. But, when they come to Brazil, they have a cultural shock, because the reality is completely different from what they thought of before coming here. Chimamanda Adichie, in a video called The Danger of a Single Story, pointed out that “the single story creates stereotypes, and the problem with stereotypes is not that they are untrue, but that they are incomplete. They make one story become the only story”. According to her statement, we see the importance of being unbiased, that is, to consider all the variations which exist in a society. It is important to know the real information about the countries, not only what is in the media, once they are all “single stories”.
And that is the reality of Brazil. The single stories are created and spread worldwide because of the media. But what should really be considered is that Brazil is a country with a huge cultural diversity. It is important to know these variations in order to comprehend how significant this country is.