After living here for more than nine months, I’ve had my fair share of frustrations. But, as in all things, there have been pleasant surprises along the way. Here are a few things Brazil does better than the U.S., adding to my list of things I’ll miss when I leave.
1. Starting light, Tums. Yeah, those tablets you chew when you have heartburn or indigestion. It’s as if you’ve picked up a piece of chalk from your grade school blackboard and chomped on it. Just thinking about the sensation between my teeth makes me cringe. Here they have Eno, a powder you dissolve into water and drink. Think Alkaseltzer, only it tastes like pineapples or guarana. And it’s so much more effective; you’re back to new in just a few minutes, whereas with Tums, a 50% improvement is a good thing. Free advertisement, Eno. You’re welcome.
2. Sweets. Brigadeiro, goiabada, passoca, pamonha, pe de moleke, fresh, sweet juices. Just to name a few. I didn’t even have a sweet tooth, but I’ve grown one here.
3. Today I saw the new Hunger Games movie, Catching Fire, a week before it comes out in the U.S. But that’s not even the best part. I saw it in the VIP movie theater. These are a staple in malls all over Brazil. There’s a regular theater, but that’s merely plebeian for those of high society who are willing to pay a couple dollars more for the same movie. In exchange for those two dollars, they get to sit in leather reclining chairs (ok, let’s get real, probably pleather) and not wait in a long line for popcorn or beer, as they have their own food counter. The most important part of all this is that they don’t have to deal with the loud, cheap shitheads who normally flock to the theater on a Friday night. As their unavoidable chatter and mid-movie phone calls are a particular pet peeve of mine, I will never go to a regular theater again. Thank you, Brazilian classism.
4. I had health insurance before leaving the U.S. to work in Brazil, but even so, it didn’t cover all the vaccinations my company recommended. I chose not to get the yellow fever or hepatitis B vaccines because of their high price tags. I went to a public health center here and got them for free, no questions asked about my insurance or country or origin, no forms to fill out.
5. Brazilians are better at not doing anything. I get that American work itch; I go on vacation, enjoy the first day or two, then I get the urge to be productive, do something of worth, and going to the beach and not thinking about anything are not cutting it. Then I mentally flog myself for that illogical thought after looking forward to this vacation for months. I hate myself for never just living in the moment. Brazilians know how to do that, and it’s a trait I hope to pick up.
6. Speaking of the beach, Brazilians know how to love their bodies more. Or if their sentiments don’t quite reach love, at least they’re proud to wear whatever they decide to the beach. Which is usually a thong for women and something slightly larger than a speedo for men, regardless of age, body type, or weight. There are 80-year-old whales of women wearing thongs on the beach, and I love it. It makes me want to stop sucking my stomach in, go order another caipirinha, and people watch.
7. Finally, Brazilians know how to have more realistic professional relationships. I work at a university with professors, and students call them all by their first names. They get drinks with them. They friend them on Facebook. Some may call it unprofessional, but I like having an atmosphere where I can be myself and students respect me for who I am, not for the cold, professional front I put up because it’s expected by my superiors. It’s a cessation of a mental and emotional stomach-sucking-in, and it makes my life a little bit more comfortable.