When many people think “Brazil”, they think about amazing, open and all around friendly people who wish for nothing less then to show their huge smiles and hospitality.
I don’t disagree with that in any way, Brazilian people are some of the most amazing and caring people I have ever met in my life – and for me, one of the main reasons as to why I love the country.
They are an especially diverse group of people as well who can claim roots from all corners of the world. Check out this little video with a slide show, showing the diversity of Brazilians (it has some cool music too):
But Brazilian people are culturally very different to many of us (even if we identify with their culture) and if we don’t learn to see eye-to with them, this difference could cause a lot of unintended confusion, misunderstandings and conflict in the long run.
For this reason, I am going to give you 5 easy replicable tips you can utilize in order to build a lasting and functional friendship with a Brazilian. I am basing these 5 tips on what I have learned myself and what people have told me that has worked for them.
Disclaimer: no one person is alike and I cannot guarantee you that my advice will give you a great friendship. A great friendship with Brazilian people takes time, investment and sacrifice – and this is true for any relationship.
1. Investing Carefully
Brazilians are super friendly and pleasant people to be around, but some may unfortunately be out to benefit from you. You know, people who just hang around waiting to pounce on an opportunity to get something out of you.
So you have to be careful to weed these types of people out from the ones who truly want to invest in a friendship.
How do you avoid being taken advantage of?
Here is how you do it:
First: take it easy and understand that people are just open and friendly (which is a wonderful thing!) and don’t expect to notice right away if there are some bad seeds in the batch. As time goes on, you will spot them quickly and avoid learning the hard way.
Second: Give it time and see who is really interested in a friendship and watch out for these people who just want to use you as you will find many who associate a foreigner with being a huge field of opportunities.
These people can be tricky sometimes to weed out, but generally they are the ones who hang around and are always asking about “how they can XXXX” or “how we can XXX” or “how you can help them to XXX”.
It’s generally pretty easy to spot these types of people as they are only interested in taking. But if you are having a hard time spotting them and figuring out how to do so, here are a couple of helpful “careful’s” for testing the person:
- Careful in letting them free-load
- Careful in loaning them any money
- Careful about giving them rides unless they split the gas
- Careful about loaning things
Not that I’m trying to bad mouth anyone or focus on the negative, but all to many times I have been in uncomfortable situations where people did everything they could in order to benefit from me. But as soon as I was more careful with free-loading or “borrowing” money, the problems pretty much went away.
So I have a general rule of thumb that goes like this “Only giving, loaning or allowing them to be advantageous from me until after they have proven that they are trustworthy”.
Make sure that you find people who are willing to give and take because friendship is a two way street.
There are tons of amazing Brazilian people out there and by following the above advice, you will have an amazing friendship with them!
2. How to Commit in a Friendship
Breaking the ice with a Brazilian person is actually quite easy. Most of the time they will come up to you wherever you may be and commence friendly conversation.
But how do you sort out friendly Brazilian people from the Brazilian people who want to be your committed friend?
I’m glad you asked!
This is actually a quite tricky thing for us more “cold cultured” people. Many times, we find someone we identify with and believe we could have a functional friendship with and begin pursuing. We pursue them with the mutual understanding that they want to pursue us as friends as well.
In Brazil, people are friendly in general and very open and hospitable. This is a great thing but we have to be careful as foreigners not to confuse openness and hospitality as being people wanting to establish lifelong and lasting friendships.
What did you think the first time you were greeted with a couple of kisses on the check?
My personal experience when coming to Brazil was total and utter sensory overload! I got to the point of freaking a bit out due to the fact that there were so many people pursuing me and I didn’t have the energy or resources to pursue them back. And this isn’t to say that I’m special and people flock to me, it says more about the friendliness and approachability of Brazilian people.
So with no more hesitation and to answer the original question, here are a few types of friendships and the level of commitment:
Just a Buddy
These are the most common types of friendships you have in Brazil (and cool ones): the guy you exchange pleasantries with at the bakery, the guy that offers you a beer at the beach or the women who chit chats with you at the local “feira” (local market).
This is because these are your hangout buddy’s or people you casually encounter around the city. You are on the surface friendly with them, but there is no commitment with these type of people. They are there to make day-to-day living more pleasant and don’t have any expectations of you.
A Committed Friend
People who invite you over, who you can call up and ask for favors and them you, and where there is a general sense of well being and give and take; this is my definition of a committed friend.
These are usually the types of buddies who end up developing into better friends but not to the sense where you confide everything in them and them in you.
I personally have many types of these friends, there could easily go a month between us conversing but it’s as if there hadn’t gone over a month when we talk or see each other again. They don’t get mad at me for not calling or pursuing them, as they don’t do the same either.
Good friend commitment
So, what does a good friendship look like? In my opinion, it is a friendship where you call on each other regularly and where there is an expectation that you care for their well being in general and reciprocity on that level.
These types of friendships are those who are developed over time and those that will possibly last forever as they take a lot of investment and maintenance to upkeep.
If you are looking for a good Brazilian friend, then become buddies with some; let it develop into a general friendship and after some time, the good friends will stand out from the normal friends.
3. Pursuing a Friendship
How much should you pursue a Brazilian compared to a cold-cultured person (or colder person than a Brazilian)?
In our colder environments, people have a level of respect for each other’s personal space. We tend to expect that there is a mutual understanding surrounding the whole concept of knowing limits of personal space, what’s ours vs. there’s, being on time and a person of our word etc.
This doesn’t so much apply when you are friends with a Brazilian. One thing you need to understand is that Brazilians are very open and warm people. This means that they don’t internalize as much about things and there is this idea that a friend should always heavily influence decisions and actions of another friend, as this is what is expected.
The more you invade personal space, share things and have a relaxed position about time, the more of a friend you are. So don’t be afraid when a Brazilian person takes a shower at your place and uses your shampoo, raids your cupboards and keeps pushing you to do things and influence you about decisions. This is just a sign that you are doing well and he/she is pursuing your friendship.
4. How to Maintain a Friendship
In Brazil, maintaining a friendship is done differently than in cold countries. It requires that you, like above, pursue them a lot, are spontaneous and help each other out a lot.
In my opinion, there is a lot of spontaneity in a friendship – not a whole lot of planning and therefore the same is expected of you as well. Imagine having planned to hang out at home with your girlfriend/wife and all of the suddon, your friends call you up and ask if they can come over or do something else. The normal reaction would be to have them come over or go out and meet with them.
This was always a difficult area for me due to the fact that I wanted to plan things better to get things done more efficiently. In the end I had to learn to be more flexible for a friendship to function.
You need to be ready to do a lot of helping in your friendship as well. Since Brazil is all about whom you know in order to get things done, it is of vital importance that you have good friends who can help you out when you are in need.
Let’s say that (like what happened to me) you have been waiting ages for your visa and no one is being helpful at the Federal Police and you walk around clueless for ages, what do you do? Well, tell your friends about your situation and ask if they know anyone who can help.
In my case, a friend of mine had a good contact right in the head office where visas are approved and denied in Brasilia. In that way I was able to get a status and reference numbers to show the authorities so things could happen.
This will likewise be expected of your friend, that maybe you have contacts in high places or resources that can help them get things done.
5. If Things go Wrong
If for some reason things seem to go south in your friendship, how do you deal with it?
First make sure that you bring up any conflict or issue with your friend. It could be that you try and confront them but it seems that they wont pick up the phone or return your calls. This doesn’t mean that you should stop trying, it just means that he/she doesn’t want to be confronted with the uncomfortable situation.
This is ingrained into the Brazilian culture where everything is about comfort and enjoyment, and where the word “no” is hardly used, so it’s natural that people try and avoid difficult situations knowingly or not.
But when you finally get ahold of the person, you don’t want to just lay into them directly with the issue. This is a common cold cultured tactic: the non-beating around the bush way of speaking very direct to your friend. In Brazil, people do just the opposite and often get very offended if you speak harshly or direct.
So deal with difficult situations by speaking based on how you feel and what you observe. Try and focus on an issue and not directing comments at the person to resolve it.
Like I mentioned before, Brazilian people are amazing and true warm-hearted treasures. They are what makes living in and travelling to Brazil so wonderful and what keeps my passion for the country alive.
So when you find a good Brazilian friend, do everything you can to hold onto it and cherish them. It will enrich your life in so many unexplainable ways and contribute to making you a more open and warm-hearted person as well.
What has your experience with Brazilian people friendships been? Feel free to post your comments below.
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Cheers – valeu!