There is an important word in Brazil: simpático (or “carismático”). It refers to a range of desirable social qualities – to be friendly, nice, agreeable, and good-natured. A person who is fun to be with and pleasant to deal with…. Brazilians want very much to be seen as simpático. And going out of one’s way to assist strangers is part of this image.
This week I am in Brazil, this time in Sao Paulo. This is one huge city. In fact, it ranks 6th on the list of the world’s largest metropolitan areas, with just over 20 million people. And I swear, there are twice as many cars on the roads, all at once!
But Sao Paulo, and Brazil in general, is wonderful. And my strong feeling for the country does not come just from the fishing (surprise) but from the people. Brazilians are amazing people with a unique spirit; a combination of undeterred optimism and humour, with a few bars of music grafted on to their DNA. And right now the country is alive like never before with a very stable government, low inflation and a booming economy. And the future seems bright due to the recent discovery of massive oil reserves just offshore and a growing and well-educated middle class. The perfect combination for optimism and opportunity.
Tonight I had dinner with a client here in Sao Paulo who runs a heavy equipment assembly and aftermarket parts business. We had a great time and while, like businessmen the world over, he complained about the government and taxes, I could tell he was enjoying the budding opportunities for this firm.
One trait of a healthy country culture is the ability of people to laugh at themselves. Not to take themselves too seriously. He told me the following joke about Brazilians, then nearly fell under the table laughing.
“When God made the world he populated it with thunderstorm, tornadoes, hurricanes and other natural disasters. But in Brazil he only put sunshine, warm weather and long white beaches. The other countries started to complain to God that it wasn’t fair to favour one country.
And God replied, wait till you see the people I have put there!”
The other evening I was invited to a friend’s birthday party in Sao Paulo. The party didn’t start until 9:30 at night. In most places in the US or England, people would be in bed by then. About 2am the party was finally up to full strength and I was talking with a woman who lived in Rio de Janeiro and had come to Sao Paulo just for the party.
She was telling me that while all Brazilians enjoy having fun, Rio and Sao Paulo are on different rhythms. In Rio, she said, the people (they call themselves Cariocas) play during the day and spend time outdoors as much as possible; at the beach, hiking, biking, jogging, roller skating, and other outdoor activities. But in Sao Paulo, they have fun at night; clubs, movies, theatre, bars, parties. All of which start well into the evening and go till the wee hours.
Blame it on the Samba? Why not!
Tight Lines . . .
John R Childress