Overseas Briefing

By Stephanie Roush

As I sauntered through the seemingly endless aisles of the grocery store today, a Faith Hill song blared from the loudspeaker. In the United States, Faith Hill might seem like a strange choice, but in Brazil it goes unnoticed. I even overheard someone saying “Eu adoro Faith Hill,” [I love Faith Hill]. In Brazil the constant reminders of American culture are inescapable. In fact, I walk by a billboard-size advertisement for an all-inclusive Disneyworld trip every day.

On the university campus I see at least 10 people dressed in clearly labeled Abercrombie or Hollister shirts every day. American brand names are buzzwords in Brazilian small talk. They just sound a little different with a Portuguese accent.

I came to Brazil expecting to watch dramatic daytime Brazilian television with my roommates and hear the sounds of samba in the street.  Instead, I’ve watched dubbed Sex and the City with my roommates and heard Rihanna played at almost every club I’ve been to.  I ask my classmates what music they listen to and they tell me they love Florence and the Machine or the Black Eyed Peas.

Even though a Brazilian classmate of mine might be wearing a Pink Floyd shirt and talking to me about “Game of Thrones,” the Brazil mindset is almost incomprehensible to an American liberal arts college student. What Brazil, Florianópolis in particular, does best is relax, a laughable word for many Middlebury students. There is no rat race; there is no rush to do anything. Many college students decide to complete one major and then complete another one for four more years.

In Brazil everything closes at two p.m. on Saturdays because Brazilians all go home to have churrasco with their family. For those who don’t know, churrasco is grilled Brazilian meat usually on a stick and always well seasoned. A Brazilian “churrascaria” typically lasts six to eight hours. Proctor isn’t even open for that many consecutive hours.

My initial reaction to everything being closed in Brazil from Saturday afternoon until Monday morning was that the Brazilians are sacrificing great business hours; they would make so much more money if they stayed open for just a few hours more. Yet, I realized that my reaction perfectly explained the difference between the American and Brazilian mindset.

Why would the Brazilian want to work two more hours on a Saturday when they could be eating freshly grilled meat and drinking beer with family and friends?  My capitalistic conditioning associates making more money with a better quality of life, but a Brazilian would tell me I’m wrong to think that way. Leisure isn’t a negative concept here.

It took me a month to understand that lying in a hammock watching the sun set on the ocean’s horizon with a beer in hand isn’t a reward for a long week of work, it’s a part of life. Middlebury students work hard all week to “deserve” a couple of Keystones on the weekends.  In Brazil what you deserve is the choice between working and relaxing.

Aproveitar is a verb that loosely translates to “take advantage of” in English.  I’m constantly being told that I need to “aproveitar” my time in Brazil because life here is better, or, more objectively speaking, slower.

While I was initially put off by the amount of American culture in Brazil, I’ve come to realize that it signifies something completely different here. It reminds me that I’m immersed in a culture with similar taste, but different values.

Brazil has taught me that although we live in an era of cultural globalization, it is not one of a global culture.

Written by Stephanie Roush ’14 from FLORIANOPOLIS, Brazil