For some, mention of Brazil conjures images of energetic soccer matches and vibrant parties. However, the culture of the country extends far beyond that.
Friday’s Coffee Hour, hosted by the International Student and Scholar Services, focused on addressing common misconceptions and highlighting well-known facts about Brazil’s culture, food, topography, economy and sports.
One aspect of Brazilian culture discussed Friday was the social norm of physical contact and expressive gestures incorporated into personal interactions.
“Brazilians are very friendly and we talk with our hands … We like this kind of contact … It’s a body expression,” said Marcellus Caldas, director of international research and faculty, and adviser for the Brazilian Student Association.
Ana Fonseca, Brazilian exchange student and junior in animal science, explained how Brazilians relate to each other.
“(Brazilians) like to stay together,” Fonseca, said. “All the time we stay very close … I think this is very strange for Americans.”
This difference is something that Brazilians, like Fonseca, have to get used to when coming to the U.S, said Wilams Ferreira da Cruz, Brazilian exchange student and sophomore in architecture.
“It’s hard for Brazilians to have some contact with Americans …we hug and kiss cheeks,” da Cruz said. “Some Americans have a (personal space) bubble.”
There is also the cultural misconception that Brazilians speak Spanish. The national language of Brazil is actually, in fact, Portuguese. Ursula Nobrega, exchange senior in architecture from Brazil, said this is the biggest misconception Americans have.
“It’s the language,” Nobrega said. “Americans think we speak Spanish. When we are talking, they have said, ‘Are you speaking Spanish?’ No, it’s Portuguese.”
Brazilians are famous for their barbecue or “churrasco,” and they sometimes cook and serve meat that can seem unusual for Americans, like chicken heart. They also have fresh fruits and vegetables year-round, something that some Brazilians here said they miss about their country.
“I think (we miss) the food,” da Cruz said. “Brazilians have some problems about the foods … We don’t have some special foods (that are) in Brazil like fresh fruits, vegetables and fruits and juice.”
Along with fresh produce, Brazilians also eat a lot of rice and beans. One specialty is “feijoada,” a popular Brazilian stew of beans and meat. Their national cocktail is the “Caipirinha,” made from the Brazilian rum Cachaça. Though it is 40 percent alcohol, so much sugar is used that Pedrozo said the alcohol can hardly be tasted.
One of the speakers Gabriel Granco, graduate student in geography, talked about the six biomes of Brazil and their differing features. The Amazon, for instance, accounts for about half of the rainforest in the world. In contrast, the Atlantic Forest was the first environment to be colonized by the Portuguese and holds about 70 percent of Brazil’s population.
“There are two Brazils, one in the south that going to develop, and one in the North that’s not too developed,” Caldas said. “Brazil is like the United States, a melting pot.”
According to Granco, Brazil is the biggest exporter of soybeans, sugar, coffee and beef. Caldas also emphasized Brazil’s other industries and its recent economic success.
“The airplane industry in Brazil is pretty big today … the car industry is pretty big, we have the ‘flex cars’ (more commonly referred to as flex-fuel cars), which are cars that take both ethanol and gasoline in the same tank,” Caldas said. “The BRICS are the five countries that are the emergent countries … BRICS means Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa. Brazil is one of the emergent countries … the income level, the medium class has increased.”
As Caldas suggested, Brazil’s economy is on the rise. However, according to Nobrega, there is a still a major obstacle that the people of Brazil need to overcome.
“It’s hard for the people to understand and accept the government because it is really corrupt,” Nobrega said. “We have money to be a really rich country but because of this reason we can’t.”
Rodrigo Pedrozo, graduate student in plant pathology, was the Coffee Hour’s other presenter and talked about Brazil’s most famous sport.
“We love soccer,” Pedrozo said. “We play soccer everywhere, that’s our sport … If you tell us good things about our national soccer team, we will love you guys forever.”
The presenters also told the audience about some cultural quirks.
“We clap our hands while we sing ‘Happy Birthday,'” Pedrozo said.
He also informed the audience that on the Brazilian flag, the lone star above the motto, represents the one Brazilian state above the equator line.
Some in attendance said that though they thought the content presented was informative, they felt that the presentation could’ve been even more thorough and elaborative.
“I think the speakers … covered the main topics I’d heard before about Brazil,” Hamilton Quezada Guerrero, graduate student in curriculum and instruction, said. “Overall, it was good, but I think they missed some places … like Rio which is a very famous landmark city in Brazil … and the World Cup. But what they were supposed to explain, they did a good job. I really liked it.”