Monday, July 25, 2011

In Brazil Family is all Relative

This weekend my son met his 4th cousin. Of course, per Brazilian law, he was referred to as just a cousin, not 2nd twice removed or anything fun like that. That's probably why I didn't even know that the "cousin" visiting was actually a second cousin and the aunt (his Mother) not the sister but the cousin of my Mother-in-law.

This has only confirmed for me that if you have been to 2 family lunches and talk to a one of the family members on the phone once a year, you are a cousin by Brazilian genealogy.

So why I am at all surprised that we are invited to... take a breath and prepare for this one... the late Grandmother's boyfriend's daughter's boyfriend's son's wedding.

That, my good friends, is just awesomeness in it's purest form!


  1. i wish i thought it was awesome like you. It would save me from correcting my husband everytime he refers to crazy 2nd fourth fith-twice-removed random-ass people as relatives. i calmly state "they are NOT family." I don't know, i don't like calling every human family. Maybe it has to do with the fact that on my engagement party half of the city showed up claiming to be "family" want to know the bill? meu deus. my inlaws (first degree who i accept as family) laugh when i explain that in the US, we dont know (nor give a damn) who our second cousins are much less a fourth cousin! brazilians believe in the more the merrier. Maybe you have gotten used to it and accepted it, but so far a year and a half in and it turns me off more and more. i know i need to accept this as my adopted culture, but i am very fond of intimate family relations. to a point it just doesnt seem personal anymore. just a load of chaos.

  2. I have lots of 3rd cousin who I am very close to! Of course they are family.
    For me a cousin is a cousin period. It doesnt matter if its 2nd , 3rd or 4th...
    I know I can count with them and they can count w me :)

    i think its sad some people don't give a damn about their 2nd cousins....

  3. Mallory, I think you have hit on one of the sticking points... When you have a "family" party here people feel they can bring along any family relation (plus their girl friend or aunt), no matter how distant. So your BBQ for 20 people bursts into a BBQ for 45 and you still have to pay for everything. And you have no idea who is drinking your beer.

    Here it is just another fun Saturday. In the States we would sometimes tell people to leave.

    So very different.

    I guess the saving grace is that once you are known to the family network you are invited to even the most distant wedding or 15th birthday or 3rd year birthday event. So if you seek to take advantage of free food and drink... you can get on the gravy train. But if it is close connections you seek -- it is more difficult.

    Cultural differences...

  4. I have to say that I don't mind the cousin thing. I think it's quite humorous and enjoy the game of trying to figure out actual relations. My Brazilian family does think the fact that I don't keep in closer contact with distant family members is sad.

    I do, however, put a stop to the Tio/Tia thing. My kids do not call every single person that. You earn the Aunty title in this house via blood or friendship.

  5. u would ask your cousin's BF or aunt she brought with to leave the BBQ??

    why is it more difficult to have close connections? u can still be very close to them. in fact i think its easier since u will see them more often and will likely be closer to them.

  6. Anon - be clear, no one would be asked to leave unless they were being out of line. In this case you would not ask an aunt to leave, or a grandfather to leave, even if they were drunk and being obnoxious. But the friend of a relative brought along for the party? Yes, If they were being obnoxious I would feel no family obligation to allow them to pee at the picnic. I would pull the family relation who brought them along aside and tell them they needed to take the uninvited, obnoxious guest home.

    We have had this experience here in Brazil. Some parties can get pretty big. But at what point do we not need to support strangers who are just a drag on things?

  7. hi Jim
    thats a horrible experience!! I am so sorry
    I am glad nothing like this ever happened to me in brazil or in any other countries I have lived in...

  8. Aw, I came on to say how awesome it was that Rachel gets to go to a wedding and get free food and alcohol in the name of "family"! Sure, I mean once a year or once every two years, you foot the bill for the big party, BUT! - think about how many options you get to be the one on the receiving end! Also, Brazilians are way better than Americans about offering to split the prices of things, or pitching in for a party if you ask when you invite them. So we've only had one big party that was a little expensive for us (we threw ourselves a housewarming party when we moved into our old apartment), but a ton of people brought food and beer so it wasn't even that expensive.

    Live it up!!! :D

  9. I agree w Danielle....if u invite all your family to your wedding for example they all invite you too ....

  10. I think the fact that Brazilians consider many extended family cousins is just a completely different subject from people showing up to parties uninvited, relatives or not.
    I have a huge typical large extended Brazilian family and no one ever showed up to any party or get together if not they were not invited.

    And I have to say, it's not totally unheard of that some Americans do the same, maybe these are regional differences within the US.
    My experience in Oklahoma was very different from what I see folks describing here.
    My Oklahoma family considered all their distant relatives family, they had large happy family reunions every year, folks drove in from Florida, New Jersey, California and other distant places and took pictures together and had a great time.


  11. My Iowa family does not keep track of the extended family. Then again, they were hicks. You figure that one out ;)

  12. Rachel,

    Perhaps the rural north ( Iowa ) is different than the rural south ( Oklahoma ) in that specific matter... ;)