If you have been to Brazil and spent a decent amount of time with Brazilians you'll know they are on a truly unique level. I was recently based there for five months and now I'm back in New York I feel the need to try and explain what makes them such a cultural powerhouse. Maybe it's nostalgia or simply the need to try and understand what makes them unique. I tried to capture some of it here but I'm just another gringo scratching at their sun kissed surface.
When did lunch in America become such a glamourless routine? We eat at our desks, sucked into monitors, not even looking what goes in our mouths, cursing as a drop of mayonnaise interrupts our web scrolling. We eat while walking down the street or leave it till four o'clock, settling for the last grimey bagel at the deli. Sure, plenty of people still stop for lunch, eat with friends or see it as a chance to close some business deal but the real day-to-day sanctuary of it is gone.
In Brazil lunch is still respected. Go to any office from 12:30-2:30 and the entire place will be cleared out, don't even attempt to book a meeting over this two-hour period. They respect the social experience of lunch, large groups fill restaurants and talk to each other about things other than work, well they still talk about work but its far more social then the short jab that lunch has become here. A long lunch together is a daily ritual, they do generally work later in the day to be able to take two hours, but it's worth it. It breathes the flavor back into them.
New York may be the center of the world when you consider the mix of cultures but the variety of people within Brazil is impressive. From the top of the country to the bottom or simply looking at a mix of people on the street, it's hard to place a specific Brazil 'look.' The heritage of the indigenous indians, the largest Japanese population outside Japan, the Brazilian people cover an amazing array of shapes, complexions and backgrounds.
In Brazil the food is great but if there is one thing that will blow your mind, it's the curves. Sure everyone knows that Brazilian women have these beautiful big butts but it doesn't prepare you for the onslaught. The crazy array of shapes and figures, behinds that you wouldn't think possible on small frames. They hit you unexpectedly -- a woman will turn around and wham. These bodies seem to laugh in the face of rules that apply to the rest of our world. Many Brazilians in Rio are known for worshiping their bodies and the beach. While the statue of Christ is listed as one of the new seven wonders of the world, a Brazilian beach full of locals rightfully deserves to be listed.
Brazil paid attention when god told us to take care of our teeth. Walk into a bathroom in almost any restaurant, office or retail store and you'll see floss and mouthwash dispensers. They take dental hygiene seriously, brushing after every meal. Admit to not brushing your teeth after lunch and they will look at you in disgust, they bring their brush to work and get the job done. While this does help give them the edge, you need to offset it against the huge amount of sugar they put in everything. Their standard sugar sachet could double as a hacky sack or small pillow, these things are solid, if someone has a photo of one, post a link.
If you have played football with Brazilians, danced, worked or played music with Brazilians you'll know they bring a certain flair to the way they express themselves. It's almost painful to watch them samba, showing off this connection to the rhythm of life which seems so unattainable for the rest of us mortals. The architecture is cool as well, Sao Paulo is home to some large scale beauties, the facades of hotels with long sweeping curves or big sharp edges, personally I think it's their approach to private homes that sets them apart, open spaces built for the heat, a disregard for the cooler days.
Brazil and South America are very highly regarded when it comes to creative advertising, full disclosure, I was working with the Cannes worldwide agency of the year when I was there, responsible for some of Coke's most powerful work and the most shared campaign of this year, Dove 'Real Sketches.' I wish I knew what it was that made them so good, I guess it's the sum of the parts, but I know they look at problems differently than many other countries. Brazilians are not afraid to express themselves, they know how to celebrate creativity and recognize its importance within their culture. No other country I have come across respects advertising professionals more than Brazil.
Brazilians approach life with a kind of raw energy, there is a little bit of sex in everything they do. Daily conversations are spiced with a little bit of that sexual energy, not in an overly flirty or sleezy way but it's there. Well, sometimes in a flirty way, but this is Brazil. It fuels how they move, laugh, party and unsurprisingly they are known for being adventurous when it comes to sex in general. The number one selling drug in Brazil is Viagra. The number one selling drug in America is something called Aripiprazole, for depression.
Brazilian's have a hunger -- the Durex sex survey says that while 82 percent of Brazilians are having sex weekly, only 42 percent are actually satisfied. It's this healthy appetite to explore, the pursuit of pleasure that puts them ahead. I think everyone else could learn something from it.
Most countries export the majority of their premium Coffee, in Brazil top quality Arabica beans are everywhere. Sure, plenty of countries love it but no other culture has quite the same approach. I saw more savage arguments end with casual coffee invitations than stunning women in exercise gear. When you receive a coffee invitation from a Brazilian it's something you can't turn down, it says, "Ok, lets sort this out," but that is just one element of coffee in their lifestyle. Starbucks has infiltrated Brazil but the majority don't drown their espresso with gallons of milk and caramel syrup. They don't get their coffee from a donut shop either. I returned to New York to find a Dunkin Donuts right in the middle of Bedford Avenue. Seriously? Right off the L train.