Cultural differences between Brazil and USA

Cultural differences between Brazil and USA

By Ana Lucia Richa

By Ana Lucia Richa

Rockford College – Internexus Student and

Brazilian Journalist

Where are the vicious monkeys from Rio de Janeiro? Where are the gangsters from Chicago? Maybe they are hidden in the same place: the creative foreign minds.

The economic phenomenon of globalization has increased our cultural interaction. The main reason is the development of high-speed communications media, especially the Internet. Anyone in the world can have the same information about a country as a person who lives there.

But the globalization phenomenon didn’t dispense with prejudice and twisted stereotypes.

On May 31, the Fox network showed The Simpsons episode “Blame it on Lisa,” in which, Homer, Marge, Bart, Maggie and Lisa traveled to Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. This cartoon is a good example of a twisted view about a country and a culture.

The Simpsons episode in Rio de Janeiro caused quite a negative reaction in Brazil. Riotur, official tourism bureau of Rio de Janeiro, has asked its attorneys to file a civil lawsuit against FOX in a U.S. court over the description of its city by The Simpsons.

Riotur President Jose Eduardo Guinle feels that the episode overstepped practical boundaries in satirizing the city, and that his bureau’s $18 million Brazilian Reais advertising campaign for the last four years to attract tourists has accordingly been damaged.

During the episode, the accent of the Brazilian characters is Spanish, but the Brazilian language is Portuguese.

The cartoon shows a place named Samba School where lambada and macarena are taught. But Samba Schools aren’t places, they are guilds that prepare thematic parades for the Carnival; the lambada is a dance from Bahia, a state to the north of Rio de Janeiro; and the macarena is a Spanish dance.

While attempting to take a taxi, Homer Simpson is taken hostage by the taxi driver. This kind of crime isn’t impossible in Rio de Janeiro, but this type of kidnapping is very unusual. Otherwise, this city wouldn’t rank first in number of tourists visiting Brazil. According to Riotur, more than 220,000 U.S. citizens visited this city in 2001.

The cartoon also shows vicious monkeys attacking people, mice on the streets and a snake that swallowed Bart Simpson. But Rio de Janeiro is very different from the jungle, with about 5,600,000 inhabitants, according to the Brazilian Institute of Geography and Statistics.

While in the hotel Bart Simpson watches a Brazilian children’s program which is sexually provocative. But the biggest part of the children’s attractions in the Brazilian TV channels are cartoons imported from the U.S. like The Simpsons.

If the episode of The Simpsons is a deranged stereotype, what are the most outstanding differences between Brazil and the U.S. way of life?

The Brazilian Internexus student, Lintao Wan, thinks that the food is the first difference between these two countries. Wan believes that Brazilian people prefer fresh and natural food, while Americans are used to eating processed food. Wan feels that the Brazilian eating habits are focused on avoiding canned and genetically modified food; whereas, in the U.S., eating habits focus on the body’s appearance and health suffers.

Eating makes not only health sense but social sense for Brazilians. Lunch usually is the main meal for Brazilians. All meals offer a social activity, especially to the family.

Tammie Griffin, administrative assistant of Internexus-English Language Studies Center, has had many Brazilian students in the school and also has Brazilian friends. She believes that the Brazilian families are more united, and the parents and relatives are closer than American families. She also pointed to friendly relationships as a particularly Brazilian characteristic, as Brazilians make friends easily.

The Brazilian welcome for new friends and foreigners made an impression on Mary Giometta, Internexus-English Language Studies Center director, who has been in Brazil twice. Giometta believes that fine Brazilian hospitality is a cultural characteristic. She also noticed the people greet each other. In Brazil, friends greet with a kiss and a hug. The handshake is more often used in formal situations.

As for expressions of general sentiments, Americans express their patriotism more than Brazilians do. While in the U.S., people express their patriotism with U.S. flags everywhere, Brazilians display the national flag only in or in front of government buildings.

Both Brazil and the U.S. are large, multi-ethnic and multi-religious federal republics, and both have an extensive commercial relationship. The globalization phenomenon has improved the information exchange between these two countries.

Although The Simpsons can even be seen on television and the Internet in both Brazil and the U.S., the image of vicious monkeys roaming the streets of Rio de Janeiro requires a huge and creative leap of any imagination. By the way, is Al Capone still alive?

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