Blame it on the Samba . . .

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

About johnrchildress

John Childress is a pioneer in the field of strategy execution, culture change, executive leadership and organization effectiveness, author of several books and numerous articles on leadership, an effective public speaker and workshop facilitator for Boards and senior executive teams. In 1978 John co-founded The Senn-Delaney Leadership Consulting Group, the first international consulting firm to focus exclusively on culture change, leadership development and senior team alignment. Between 1978 and 2000 he served as its President and CEO and guided the international expansion of the company. His work with senior leadership teams has included companies in crisis (GPU Nuclear – owner of the Three Mile Island Nuclear Plants following the accident), deregulated industries (natural gas pipelines, telecommunications and the breakup of The Bell Telephone Companies), mergers and acquisitions and classic business turnaround scenarios with global organizations from the Fortune 500 and FTSE 250 ranks. He has designed and conducted consulting engagements in the US, UK, Europe, Middle East, Africa, China and Asia. Currently John is an independent advisor to CEO’s, Boards, management teams and organisations on strategy execution, corporate culture, leadership team effectiveness, business performance and executive development. John was born in the Cascade Mountains of Oregon and eventually moved to Carmel Highlands, California during most of his business career. John is a Phi Beta Kappa scholar with a BA degree (Magna cum Laude) from the University of California, a Masters Degree from Harvard University and was a PhD candidate at the University of Hawaii before deciding on a career as a business entrepreneur in the mid-70s. In 1968-69 he attended the American University of Beirut and it was there that his interest in cultures, leadership and group dynamics began to take shape. John Childress resides in London and the south of France with his family and is an avid flyfisherman, with recent trips to Alaska, the Amazon River, Tierra del Fuego, and Kamchatka in the far east of Russia. He is a trustee for Young Virtuosi, a foundation to support talented young musicians. You can reach John at or
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10 Responses to Blame it on the Samba . . .

  1. Frank Ryan says:

    That is a funny joke. I have never been to Brazil but would love to visit (even more so after reading this post).


  2. I feel like I am living vicariously through you. I need to get out more. Thanks for the inspiration.


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  6. agogo22 says:

    Reblogged this on msamba.


  7. drikkaglaser says:

    You are absolutely right! I am from Sao Paulo… love it but it is crazy!


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