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PAX, LUX ET VERITAS SINCE 1965
Post Portugal's Perception of Brazilians
Created by John Eipper on 10/05/15 8:27 AM

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Portugal's Perception of Brazilians (Tor Guimaraes, USA, 10/05/15 8:27 am)

Responding to my post of 4 October, John Eipper asked, "what is the general treatment Brazilians receive when visiting the Mother Country (Portugal)?  Portugal is unique among empires, in that the colony--Brazil--for a time became the metropolitan center."

Before addressing this fascinating topic, I must repeat my strong belief, expressed earlier, that "while cultural difference is a wonderful thing, individuals run the gamut of personalities within every culture, thus demanding great care interpreting so-called national character."

Compared to Brazilians, the Portuguese "national character" is noticeably more shy and reserved. So much so that when I noticed this difference during my first visit to Portugal, it was bewildering how such "wild" Brazilian people could possibly be descendants from the Portuguese. That bewilderment lasted until my first visit to Italy, whose influence on the Brazilian "national character" should not be underestimated. Without being a geneticist, that is where the genes for wildness came from, not Portugal.

To address John's question directly, as a Brazilian in Portugal I found the Portuguese extremely friendly, not superficially but at a deeper level. For example, at the end of many of my trips, friends and new acquaintances many times have left small gifts of things they learned I appreciated during the visit. Once they know you and become friends, they are just as deeply friendly as Chinese people, Iranians, and Arabs from traditional countries.

I remember one trip to the city of Guimaraes to help define my roots, waiting for the train departure from Lisboa, I started a discussion about my superficial impression that the Portuguese seems so peaceful and kind compared to the Spanish "national character." For a while during the train ride I was surprised that the normally quiet and reserved Portuguese jumped into the discussion on both sides, with or without invitation. So much for the character of the quiet and reserved Portuguese.

Please forgive one more reminiscence, when on a train trip from Lisboa to the University in Coimbra to check my paternal grandfather's student life. The University's administrators were amazingly kind, allowing a perfect stranger a completely free run of the historical student records, and even some long-distance phone calls to my father in Brazil to check on specific information. That was way beyond their call of duty, and their kindness deeply impressed me.

JE comments: These kinds of comments are the lifeblood of WAIS. Thanks, Tor!

Regarding Brazil's Italian roots, why is it that Argentina, which is equally Italian or more so, is not as spirited and jolly as Brazil?


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  • Argentines and Brazilians (Tor Guimaraes, USA 10/06/15 6:44 PM)
    Replying to my post of 5 October, John Eipper asked, "Regarding Brazil's Italian roots, why is it that Argentina, which is equally Italian or more so, is not as spirited and jolly as Brazil?" That is another interesting question that involves external perception of a group as a whole and the individuals in the group.

    My experience is that Argentinian individuals can be as "spirited and jolly" as their Brazilians counterpart. The problem is that as group the Argentinians have gained a very negative reputation among other South American nations. For example, at a Venezuelan resort in Caracas, watching the final of a Copa del Mundo soccer game between Brazil and Italy, the former won and from the veranda we could see that the entire city exploded with car horns blaring, parades, and flag waving in celebration as if the Brazilians were their national team. Somewhat surprised I asked my friends if instead of Brazil it was the Argentinian team the reaction would be similar, since we are all South Americans. The answer was an emphatic no. Pressing for an explanation the retort was that Argentinians are a bunch of (something to do with unusual sexual preferences), and that they think they are Europeans rather than South Americans.


    This different view of a group versus individuals in the group manifests itself in different ways. For example, my Jewish friends say that they feel and behave united as a group but they argue like cats and dogs among individuals in the group. On the other hand, they also say that some non-Jews love some Jewish individuals but hate the group as a whole. There seems to be some truth to that but personally I have great admiration for Jewish culture and their accomplishments which have greatly benefited mankind. But, as with any group, there are also many unpleasant Jewish people.


    JE comments: Yes, there are unpleasant members in any group. Yet Brazilians are fortunate in that everyone seems to like them, both individually and as a nation.  Everyone, perhaps, except the Argentines.


    OK, I won't generalize any more for today.  Please visit our homepage (waisworld.org) for this weekend's conference program.  I'll post more details on the morrow.


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    • More on National Character: Watching the English (John Heelan, -UK 10/15/15 5:38 AM)
      By coincidence, a Spanish friend recommended that I read Watching the English: The Hidden Rules of English Behaviour by social anthropologist Kate Fox. It certainly has a lot of home truths that he claimed helped him understand Brits better.

      JE comments: That murky domain known as "national character" was one of the underlying themes of WAIS '15. Why, Marie Ridley asked, do the Norwegians so cheerfully embrace their diversity of dialects?  In turn, Tamara Zúñiga-Brown gave us an idea of what Saudi students think of the United States.  And what is it, in the views of Cameron Sawyer and Roman Zhovtulya, that makes Ukrainians Ukrainian and Russians Russian? Finally, we discussed the relative merits of Cuba and Turkey as a setting for the next WAIS gathering. I failed to mention at the time that there is a statue of Atatürk in Havana. I stumbled across it in 1998.  Have the Turks returned the favor, with a bust of Martí (or, egads, Fidel) in Ankara?  I'm doubtful.

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