Today is more about perspective, about spending some time in Brazil, now my third trip, and growing up in the United States. I think we (US citizens) lose some perspective of what the world is like and how other people live. We are offered so much opportunity, availability to services, products, employment, and a way of life that most don’t have. Maybe we take some of that for granted. I am extremely grateful for all I have been given and the availability to so much, but sometimes I forget. There was a time I was shopping at Staples and my Brazilian-American wife was looking at the pens, she could not decide. I asked what is taking so long and she said, “there are so many options”. I never thought about that but in Brazil you have fewer options, a smaller section, but in the US we have a whole aisle just of pens. Perspective. The other day we went to the market, there are a few here and there but, in the US, I can think of six in a few miles from my home. All bigger in size. Many people shop in the neighborhood at small stores. Perspective. These are just a couple of examples.
The two cultures are very similar in many ways but also very different. Growing up in the US we tend to be more driven by individual accomplishment; go to school, then college, get a good job, work your way up, etc… The end goal is more stuff, a big house, multiple cars, more toys. I’m guilty as much as the next guy. I did all these things, always chasing the next promotion, raise, and bonus. I now wonder if I’m a slave to all that. In some ways I am, I financed my daughter’s education and that has risked my retirement. I do not have enough working years left to pay it off. I could risk default or lose some of my social security. My wife went to a top college in Brazil, granted it was in the 80s, but the idea of borrowing the amount of money I did is shocking to her.
People in Brazil have the same desire to go to school, a better their life, and get a good job. The political and economic environment does not have the ability yet, to provide the same level of access we have in the US, but they seem happier and I now I see why. Where in the US we tend to expand outward, in Brazil it is more common to maintain a family in a city community, like the street of Leblon I showed in an earlier post. They are more of a collective society. The suburbs do not seem common from what I see. Here the community and family interaction are tighter, they are closer together. Kids usually go to college close to home, it’s not that common to move to another state or live in a campus. When dining out it was very uncommon to see people on their cell phone, they talked and enjoyed the meal. Go to any restaurant in the US at anytime and I bet most if not all people are on their phone. Even when you leave the city of Rio for a country home in Teresopolis, the way of life does not change. It is a small community with a small town feel where people still get out and walk or bike everywhere.
The people are friendlier and seem more content. I may go a whole day and not have anybody say good morning. I walk down the street here and I have every single person says “bom dia” (good morning in Portuguese). This is common wherever you go. Life is simpler in many ways. How often do you go to a doctor and spend 20 minutes filling out forms? We went to a doctor here and the office held 3-4 people max, no forms were filled out, the doctor came out and got you personally, you spent time talking before the exam and after. Easy, perspective. They have good medical facilities; if they have insurance or private pay. Here is the kicker, it was a quick test, very minor, no referral, and no insurance needed. It was far cheaper than the cost in the US, why? For the most advanced country in the world.
I grew up in the suburbs but there is something special about a city neighborhood. The streets are alive with life, people walk and interact. It is much more personal. Getting a coffee or fresh juice with a sandwich on the street corner with everybody else, it gives you a perspective, you are part of more than your little world. I enjoyed listening to the noise at night while falling asleep, much different than an occasional cricket in the suburbs.
Maybe it is me, I have no desire to chase a promotion or a big raise. I have worked a long time in very stressful environments. This way of life, slowing down and enjoying my surroundings is more to my liking now. With all the technology and comforts of a country like the US, you do lose something, and you don’t know it is happening. I think my goal over the next couple of years is to wind down more, try to have the best of both worlds. I would like to see how I can get to a point to sped part of the year in the US and part in Brazil. I must find a way over the next couple of years. Something as simple as having your clothes dry on the line outside in the sun smells better. Dryers are not common here. I remember that as a kid in the US, but has technology and advancement made everything better?
Here is where I sit to have my coffee, and this is what I look at. Not bad. I do the same thing in Leblon, sitting on a bench outside the apartment, on the street and enjoying my surroundings. It is calm, relaxing and I feel less stress. I can’t even think of any problems at the moment.
FUN FACTS: People who are born in Rio like my wife are called “cariocas”. The carioca accent is unique and easily recognizable, filled with its own slangs. If you want to learn more about that, check out her upcoming Udemy course: “Brazilian Portuguese for Absolute Beginners” on Udemy, where she teaches English speakers the basics of the language with a “carioca” accent. Get the coming soon launch info at luisawholley.com.