After having been in Brazil for over three months I feel I have begun to understand its people a fair bit. Being able to speak fluent Portuguese would have been extremely helpful in getting to know them better though.
It has to be said that they are some of the friendliest people you’ll ever meet, especially in the cities where they constantly seem to be making up for the violence and crime that is so prevalent (here’s looking at you Rio and Sao Paulo).
Their attitude to the weather is a case in point. When it rains people just stay at home, even if they’re supposed to be at work (unless they are part of that horrible breed of office workers, in which case this might be out of their bounds). In Trindade it rained for around four days each week but never did I hear a Brazilian complain about it. The visitors complained a hell of a lot, but the Brazilians not. They just stayed in, did whatever needed doing round the house, or just sat around watching tv and getting quietly sloshed (this second one is the most common).
One thing I do miss though (and I think this is quite a personal thing) is the lack of a broad sense of humour. All jokes seem to revolve around taking the piss out of each other or making over-the-top innuendos. All good fun, but I do like something a bit more succinct; a play on words or some slight sarcasm. It is quite possible that the language barrier means I do miss out on much of this because either when it’s in Portuguese I am unaware of the craic or because translation from Portuguese to English does not do it justice.
Saying that there has been two moments of inspired genius from my time here. First being Juan’s comments when Sarah showed her a shirt she had bought; “is that one of those shirts you get free when you buy a bag of sweets.” A cheap shot, but the laughter that poured out of him, at his own words, made for any shortcomings in the actual joke. Plus, it was quite an unexpected hit. The second has to be Eli’s words of comfort to Felix after pulling something of a fatty bumbatty; “Well, you have to slay a few dragons to get to the princess.”
It makes me glad to be English when I think of all the ways I can mangle words, make strange similes and generally utter absolute nonsense, and yet have people still understand me. I would love to find out that this can happen in Portuguese, but I just can’t see how it could do it. Whenever it takes on foreign words it always makes them completely Portuguese. There really isn’t the flexibility to build in new sounds, or new clusters of sounds, which makes English such a fun language to speak. Imagine if Stanley Unwin had been Brazilian, it would have been a nightmare; he would have been extricated to the streets as some kind of clown.
Just to finish off, and seeing as I’m making so many comparisons I should say Brazil quite obviously wins. There is no way England can ever compete with the girls and beaches here, which is why I can quite honestly see myself in twenty years spouting gibberish on Ipanema beach, as I desperately try and get the best of these two very different countries.