3 Positive and 3 Negative Aspects of Brazilian Culture

Being a fresh gringo to Brazil has given me some insights on the cultural differences between Brazil and the U.S. Some of cultural differences can lead to some problems. Take this story for example…

Being new to Brazil I was trying hard to make Brazilian friends and get integrated into Brazilian culture. After a few weeks of living in Brazil, I was finally invited to my first party and I was really excited!

This was a great opportunity for me to make some friends, practice my Portuguese, and see how Brazilians party.

E-livro de graça: 101 Palavras que você não vai aprender na escola

 Read What do Gringos Really Think About Brazil?  |  leia este texto em português

One of my English students wanted to have a class on Sunday morning, but because I really wanted to have a good time at the party, I told him I wouldn’t be able to teach him that day, even though I could’ve really used the money.

When the day finally came, I was so excited I couldn’t think about anything else. I was told the party started at 9pm, but I arrived a little late, at about 9:15. I walked up to the door and I could see through the window that there was a family having dinner…

I didn’t know what to do. I didn’t even know the person who’s house it was! I called my friend that invited me to the party but he didn’t answer his phone. I thought maybe the party had been cancelled…

I waited around for awhile for my friend to return my call, but eventually I just went back home, defeated.

I decided to just watch a movie and forget about the party.

At about 1am I awoke from the sound of my phone. The friend who had invited me to the party was calling. I picked up the phone and he told me the party was awesome and asked me why I wasn’t there…

Little did I know that Brazilians have a different concept about time. It was too bad that I missed out on the party because I wasn’t used to Brazilian culture. But I sure learned my lesson…

The Good and Bad of Brazilian Culture

I’ve been living in Brazil for almost four months now which has given me plenty of time to notice some differences in the culture here, and compare it to the United States, where I was born and raised.

The main reason this article was written was so that our Brazilian readers can see how their behaviors are being interpreted by a foreigner and to give them another perspective on their habits and ways of life..

When you’re inside your own culture, it’s sometimes difficult to distance yourself enough to certain things that may be obvious to a foreigner, simply because everyone around you is doing it.

So when you have an outsider come in, they can tell you things about your culture that you may have never thought of. But even if you have thought of it, maybe the foreigner (me!) can give you a different perspective on it.

You may not agree with everything that this article says, and that’s okay, but I recommend that you be open to what someone from another culture has to say about the Brazilian way of life.

So without further ado, let’s start with the positive aspects of Brazilian culture.

The Good 

1. Brazilians are Patient

Unlike the USA, which is obsessed with efficiency and getting as much done as they possibly can, Brazilians are generally in less of a hurry. They don’t seem to get as stressed out about the little things like Americans.

Patient people are much more enjoyable to be around than people who aren’t. They tend to take pleasure in the little things in life, and are also less likely to get sick.

In other words, Brazilians are more likely to stop and smell the roses.

2. Brazilians are Warm and Accepting

I often hear how warm Brazilians are to people they don’t know. There are many examples of this, but I want to talk about something you may not be aware of…

One of the first things that I noticed when arriving here from the United States, was how much more comfortable people here are with holding eye contact.

Many Americans are very uncomfortable with holding eye contact; on the street, hardly anyone looks into anyone else’s eyes. And if you do make eye contact, it only lasts a brief second.

When you don’t hold eye contact with strangers, it makes you much harder to approach and start a conversation with. Also, when someone is uncomfortable holding eye contact, it’s usually because they are insecure, have anxiety, or are nervous.

Brazilians tend to be more comfortable in their own skin (. People are much more comfortable holding eye contact and the more you look into someone’s eyes, the quicker you two will connect with each other.

Just from this simple fact alone, Brazilians appear to be more warm and inviting.

3. Brazilian Culture is Less Individualistic, and More Social

Both individualistic and social cultures have their positive and negative aspects.

Individual cultures can leave people feeling isolated and disconnected from the world, while social cultures can lead to conformity and lack of free-thinking.

Individual cultures produce people who think critically, embrace their unique gifts and perspectives, and strongly believe in their ability to succeed. Social cultures tend to produce people who are very comfortable in social situations and feel a sense of community with people and nature. This includes strong family values which creates families that are very close and happy together.

As was mentioned above, although both cultures have their positive and negative characteristics, they compliment each other extremely well.

So whether you were raised in a social or individualistic culture, you’ve likely gotten most of the benefits you’re going to get from it. However, spending time in a different culture than that which you were raised in can lead to rapid growth.

So this section has two messages: one is that Brazil is a great country for Americans to go to and two, America would be a great country for Brazilians to go to.

And now that you feel good from reading the positives, let’s check out the bad stuff stuff Brazilians can improve on…

The Bad

1. Brazilians are Sensitive to How Foreigners Perceive Their Country

For some reason, Brazilians are very concerned with how other people perceive their country. For more info, check out the article Gringo Stereotypes, What Do We Really Think?

I’ve met numerous people who don’t like carnaval because it gives Brazil a bad image.

On one hand they’ll talk bad about the government and the negative aspects of Brazilian culture, and then they’ll get upset and defensive when they hear a foreigner say the exact same thing. Do you ever do this?

We had a poll on the Real Life English Facebook Community about how Brazilians thought foreigners perceived their country and almost EVERYONE had bad things to say. There were maybe one or two responses out of X amount that were actually a positive image.

Why do you think people think badly of Brazil? In my experience, it’s been the exact opposite.

I think this attitude has a lot to do with Brazil’s social culture. Brazilians can be very attached to the image of Brazil as if it was their own self.

I don’t notice this attitude in America at all. When foreigners criticize America, many Americans are quick to agree.

But on the other hand, some Americans are so self-centered that they don’t even allow the viewpoints of the people of other countries to even enter their awareness. They just think America is the greatest, and that’s that.

For example, when Americans criticize America, a stereotypical response is, “If you don’t like America, you can just get out.”

But on the other hand, being passionate about your country and actually caring about it are very good things.

2. Brazilians Don’t CORRECT People on Their Portuguese

As a Portuguese learner, I find it very unhelpful how Brazilians tend to not correct gringos on their Portuguese.

Sure, you don’t want to correct everything that someone is saying, but when you hear someone say something wrong, use a phrase that no one really says, or mispronounces something, correct them. Just because you know what they were trying to say, doesn’t mean everyone else will.

When you don’t correct someone’s Portuguese, you’re preventing them from becoming a more fluent speaker, you’re slowing down their growth.

Maybe the reason Portuguese is “a hard language to learn” is because Brazilians aren’t helping foreigners learn it!

I know Brazilians are just being polite and are very conscious of hurting people’s feelings. They don’t want to seem like a know-it-all or like they’re being condescending for correcting the person they’re talking to.

But don’t worry about hurting someone’s feelings. Most people like to be corrected because they want to know how to speak the language correctly. You don’t have to be in a class to correct someone’s mistakes.

When correcting someone, just make sure to say it in a nice way. For example, if my English student was to say, “I never been to the United States,” I would correct them by saying, “Oh, so you HAVE never been to the United States?” Then they can correct themselves by saying, “Yes, I have never been to the United States.” This doesn’t interrupt the natural flow of conversation.

Another way you can correct someone is if you notice them mispronouncing or using a word that is uncommonly used, you can make a mental note of it and just wait until there’s a lull in the conversation to bring it up.

English speakers are very well known for correcting other people’s English, even other natives! Often on the internet, people can get a little out of control with correcting people’s grammar and spelling (known as grammar nazis).

So please correct people on their Portuguese!

3. Brazilians are Habitually Late/Flakey

Brazilians just don’t really seem to care about doing what they say they’re going to do when it comes to time.

As an American, if you say you’re going to be at my house at 8:00, then I expect you to be at my house at 8:00, not 8:30. This was the problem I talked about at the beginning of the article.

Now you may look at this as just an American too stressed and in a hurry, but that’s besides the point.

The point is, why don’t you care about doing what you say you’re going to do? Because it’s common in your culture is just an excuse.

If you don’t know when you’re going to arrive, then SAY that. And if you don’t know if you’re going to show up, communicate that too.

Obviously, sometimes things happen that are out of your control. You’re not going to be on time 100% of the time, but that doesn’t mean you have an excuse to be late 100% of the time either.

From the point of view of other cultures, being habitually late communicates you don’t respect my time.

Again, I’m not addressing the issue of “why does it matter if I’m a little late.” No, it’s about doing what you say you’re going to do. It’s about having integrity.

However, I understand that because Brazilians have a flexible time frame, they tend to be more patient, relaxed, and live in the moment.

Conclusion

Don’t take this article the wrong way. Brazil is one of my favorite countries in the world, which is why I’m living here right now. It’s out of love for Brazil culture that I wrote this article.

But if there’s one thing you could take away from the article let it be this: correct people on their Portuguese! Remember, one of the reasons Portuguese “is such a hard language to learn,” is because Brazilians don’t correct foreigners trying to speak it! 😉

Stay classy, Brazil.

More Recommended Articles on Brazil

Return from 3 Positive and 3 Negative  Aspects of Brazilian Culture to Cultural Reflections

  • ramon goncalves de melo says:

    Maybe I should come up with 200 bad things about US culture.., for starters it’s not even a country, it’s a fucking company!!! Ha

  • Gringa says:

    My comment is limited to ‘being late’. In my experience It boils down to pure lack of respect for another and selfishness. No Brasilian that I know is ever on time with one exception : when it comes to collecting money.

  • Beatriz Carrea says:

    Plssssssssssssssssssss make this a video in youtube !
    A channel of the vision of a american in brazil.
    I will be your subscribe hahahaha

  • TTS says:

    I’m married to a Brazilian, and I live in Portugal. But I am a gringo.

    From my experience, I don’t know where this myth of the friendly, warm brazilians come from.

    I am learning Portuguese, and I find the Portuguese people far warmer, and friendlier. They will tolerate my bad portuguese, and try to speak it with me, even if they can speak good english. They never ignore me at social functions if I am there with my wife, they try to include me.

    The Brazilans we know, I am not sure any of them have every said anything to me other than greetings on arrival or leaving. Apart from that, it’s like i am invisible. They just seemed to like my wife, and regarded me almost as some guy there who didn’t belong so did their best to try to be as unfriendly as possible in the hope I just stopped coming. Which is what happened.

    I really love my wife, but kinda wish she was portuguese and not brazilian.

    • SomeGuyLiveInBrazilFor6Years says:

      This is very true. There’s a shallow friendliness but being included in their social circle is almost impossible as a foreigner.

  • Eddie says:

    There’s a lot of things here that i agree with, and it’s precisely because of the people why i moved here. I just find that people are so much more positive here than in the UK, and really know how to enjoy life. Regarding the less individualistic section, i’d say that’s both positive and negative. It’s great that people are more social but i have to admit that i find that Brazilians can be too conformist sometimes, and i found that sometimes the individuality of people can be sucked out of, ie in the workplace. Despite this, there’s nowhere else i’d rather live. I also write some posts about Brazil, feel free to take a look – Linguist Lifestyle

    • Justin says:

      Hey Eddy, thanks for sharing your opinion! I agree with everything you said.Take care!

  • Mark says:

    “Brazilians are Sensitive to How Foreigners Perceive Their Country”

    100% true…its so weird. They always seek acceptance. Makes them look insecure.

  • Paulo says:

    Interesting article, always nice to see how others perceive Brazil, even though it’s quite dangerous to generalise – esp. with a country with continental dimensions.
    I have some nitpicks though:
    1. When talking about culture, I believe we should avoid using positive and negative as classification. I would use like/dislike, making it clear it’s a personal opinion.
    2. Brazilians don’t correct people on their portuguese: I lived in 3 countries with different languages for longer periods. No one ever corrected me on my usage of their language, with exception of language teachers. And I asked people to! So I think this one is pretty universal.

    • Justin says:

      Good points, Paulo! Thanks for reading and commenting. I disagree with you there being no positive and negative aspects… We could use strengths and weaknesses too. I agree that it is an opinion, but there is universal value. Brazilians generally being hospitable, warm- I would say that’s definitely a strength, for which there are corresponding weaknesses, which I won’t explore here. Anyway, I didn’t write this article, and I would have written it differently in some ways. I did write this one: https://reallifeglobal.com/gringo-stereotypes-for-brazil-what-do-we-really-think/
      if you’re interested in hearing more of my thoughts!

  • chadza abraham says:

    I would recommend you as a good ,sober writer and correspond that country to Malawi.

  • Carlos says:

    USA is not America, USA is in America. Brazilians are Americans too.

    • Justin says:

      Not in English, Carlos. You can call yourself American, and you’d be right in the grander sense of our common identify (which I embrace), but people wouldn’t understand you because it’s not correct English. You’re more right in Portuguese, but the same confusion still exists, so that’s a completely different conversation.

  • Mariah says:

    Loved your article I’m Brazilian born and raise in SP when I was 18 years old as a model I traveled all around the world lived in the UK for 7 years and now living in Switzerland.. I searched about Brazilians so I understand more of what foreigners think about my ppl , I had the opportunity to be in many different countries and a lot of ppl from different places said that Brazilians aren’t able to say the truth because we feel like will hurt the person , for exemple .. let’s go for a dinner date ? Yes let’s do it ! And last minute they cancel , because they feel sorry to say no straight away .. something I heard from a French friend of mine .
    Anyways thanks for the topic
    Helped me conclude my thoughts about us Brazilians ..
    thanks
    Mariah

  • John Russel says:

    You’ve pretty accurately depicted my experience of Brazil, thanks for the good read.

  • Robert says:

    Well, I’m an employee in Brazil. Came here because my girlfriend is from here. I agree in most what you wrote except about being relaxed about little things. After having different jobs here I can assure you that they are very individual and worried about small things at least if you are an employee. They are really worried about making money (which is okay) and they expect you to be ready to do whatever they ask you. Also, they live in a perpetual novela.

    You love it or you hate it. I guess that’s why there are not much foreigners in brazil compared to others Latin American countries I’ve been.

    I’m from Europe. It’s been a hell of a ride for me (and I feel that sometimes they are nice to me only because of my nationality, I noticed suddenly changes of behavior when they know when I am from).

  • mhNJ says:

    I found this when, out of frustration, I googled Brazilian culture. You see I am selling the contents of my deceased parents home. Lots of selling on Facebook Marketplace! 100% of my no-shows (people who make an appointment to see/buy then don’t show and don’t message) have been foreigners. (I am able to view their FB profile to determine this) Mostly Brazilian, some from the islands: Dominican, etc. I am SUPER busy with this business of my parent’s estate! This is not “laid back and relaxed”….. This is rude! I set alarms on my phone so I am sure to be available at the time they set and then I sit there (at parents home) and wait! I almost want to start including in my Marketplace ads (in Portuguese and Spanish) something to the effect of “Please keep appointments you make with me” but I guess I’d be the one labeled as rude. Sigh.

    • Justin says:

      Yeah it sucks. You gotta confirm with them before you leave home hahaha!

      • bruv says:

        oh yeah? im a brazilian, but i arrive on time at places, even though im burnt-out, i correct other people, i like making friends and the only reason i am sensitive its because you guys stereotype us

        • Agnieszka from RealLife English says:

          We agree that stereotypes are a harmful thing, Bruv.

    • bruv says:

      yea man

  • Nilson Neto says:

    I am from Brazil and I agree. Your article is very good and equilibrated. I think that the explanation of why Brazilians don’t correct the Portuguese of another person is because we live in a heterogeneous country (in terms of academic stage too), we learn that is impolite correct the people that speak differently from us and we aren’t used to speaking with people that want that we correct them. But I agree that in all the three points we need to improve. (Sorry about my English, I am not fluent and I didn’t use google)
    Nice Work!!

  • Anonimo says:

    sobre os brasileiros não gostarem de corrigir os outros e porque no brasil existem diversas formas de falar, então nos não achamos que a outra pessoa errou, como exemplo minas gerais , com o uai

    • bruv says:

      exatamente, os americanos não tentam estudar realmente o brasileiro, ele só usa o que a internet diz

  • Bruno says:

    I’m always surprised about the common coment “brazilians are warm and receptive”. As a brazilian, I see Brazilians as envious, idiotically competitive, anxious, unpatient, unkind and stressed. I also see Brazilians as extremely hipocriticals. They are friendly with foreigners but agressive with their own people.

    • bruv says:

      é um pouco de verdade tbm kk

  • Holly says:

    Interesting article, but I disagree with your comment about Americans being on time. For a meeting or appointment, sure, punctuality matters. For social events, less so. I’ve never been to a party that started on time, and folks tend to run 15 minutes late on average when casually meeting. Maybe it’s a regional thing.

  • bsagreg says:

    Leave it to a righteous Americans to go to another country and try to tell them how they need to change there ways, so that we may learn there language easier. Brazils patients is great, but the whole country should be on time for me the righteous American.

    • Agnieszka from RealLife English says:

      Thank you for sharing.

  • Brazil the best says:

    O cara não tinha que inventar e falou de horário kkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkk a me poupe, literalmente brasileiros quando tem compromisso sério chegamos no horário e se não estamos no nosso país, chegamos no horário. Agora se marcamos um encontro pra um café, saída algo que >NÃO< seja importante, chegamos atrasados mesmo.

  • bruv says:

    as a brazilian, i am sensitive about how foreigners see our country, because we are stereotyped, like: “omg Brazil is so bad because like, its only crimes and dance huhhh durrrr” and the only state that all the americans see on Brazil is rio de janeiro, that is the worst example you could get from brazil, i never got robbed in life and i dont dance every single second “Ö, omg how, how he doesnt like dancing and soccer omg he is truly an brazilian?????!?” like, try to look further into Brazil, and not just look at what everybody talks.

    Brazil is not bad, just different than your country

    • Agnieszka from RealLife English says:

      We agree, Bruv! We love Brazil and Brazilians too! That’s why Justin chose Brazil for a country to live in 🙂