Beautiful women, string bikinis, carnival every day to a jungly backdrop – these are just some of the stereotypes that come from Brazil. However, a nation of over 200 million people is pretty hard to paint with one brush. Here are some of the most common misconceptions on what is stereotypically considered to be the Brazilian way of life.
The Amazon rainforest swallows up the north-west of Brazil before extending into Peru, Colombia, Ecuador and several other South American countries. Nearly two-thirds of the rainforest is located in Brazil and in cities like Manaus, which straddles the border of the forest, the Amazon plays an important role in tourism and supply. Yet Manaus is still a huge city in its own right and doesn’t co-exist within the rainforest. Nor do central, north-east and southern parts of Brazil have close proximity to the Amazon. In fact, from Sao Paulo to Manaus – the easiest entrance into the forest – the distance is about 2,500 miles (4,023 kilometers) away, or in other words, a four-hour flight.
Brazilians tend to be deeply passionate about football. Regional teams come with a fiercely loyal fan base and playing football – especially in cities with an outdoor lifestyle such as Rio de Janeiro – is a popular pastime. However, not everyone is that into football as outsiders may think. Although the majority affiliate themselves to some team, not everyone does, and some people simply are not interested in the sport. While some Brazilians are exceptionally talented at football, there are just as many that don’t quite cut it.
Brazilian as a language is not a language. Simple. Brazilians also don’t speak Spanish; nor is it a second language. Brazil’s official language is Portuguese, and although some guidebooks may even state that Spanish is widely spoken, it simply isn’t true. Portuguese and Spanish share strong linguistic similarities in terms of grammar and vocabulary, yet they are still very separate languages, and the differences are evident among native speakers.
This is an incredibly common misconception. Rio de Janeiro hasn’t been the capital in a very long time. The capital is Brasilia, a city in central Brazil.
While issues with crime cannot be ignored, the media often squeeze horror stories into a narrow context that shuts out the broader reality. Tourist spots in large cities are on the whole relatively safe, although it is wise to take precautions to avoid muggings. Thankfully, it’s not a daily reality to see people running down the streets waving guns in the air or drug trafficking openly taking place on street corners.
It’s often assumed that Brazilians are from either Rio de Janeiro or Sao Paulo. They could well be from there; or from one of the other many other cities or towns in Brazil. It’s a huge country of over 200 million people and they are not all concentrated in just two cities.
Rio de Janeiro, as well as other cities, do have favelas. The actual percentage of the population that lives in favelas is 6%. Although that still equates to approximately 11 million people, it is a far cry from the misconception that the majority of the city is made up of favelas. Favelas themselves fit into a typical stereotype of poverty-stricken, violent, pitiful places when in fact many have been pacified and are made up of a strong, close-knit community.
Some people often assume that Brazilians have dark hair, dark eyes, dark skin, fit bodies and, for the girls, big butts. Brazil is actually a huge cultural melting pot, influenced by immigration from Germany, Japan, Africa and the Middle East, among many others. The result is that a Brazilian can have blue, green or brown eyes with blonde, red or black hair, and have all different body types. The truth is that there is no typical Brazilian, and racial diversity is evident when traveling through the country.
Samba lies at the soul of Brazilian music, representing the country unlike any other genre. Dancing to samba requires skill and fluidity of a series of complex footwork that is tapped out at extraordinary speeds, resulting in a sensual, trance-inducing dance. While many Brazilians may know a few dance moves, not everyone can dance to samba; nor is it the dance that everyone gets down to at parties. Western dance music, rap, rock and electronic music are also very popular at raves, concerts, shows and clubs.
This is an old stereotype yet one that remains firmly ingrained in many people’s mind. ‘Hate’ is a strong word and few people are serious about what is, in fact, just some friendly rivalry. This rivalry stems from the beginning of the 19th century when the two countries were considered the most important in South America. This competition spread to football, a sport that both countries are immensely passionate about. So while the rivalry may be there, it’s harmless and certainly not hatred.
This largely depends where you live in Brazil. If you live in certain neighborhoods in Rio de Janeiro such as Jardim Botanico or Santa Teresa, you may be treated to the occasional little marmoset scampering around. However, in cities such as Sao Paulo or Belo Horizonte, people don’t share their daily commute with dozens of wild monkeys, no matter how great that may sound.