Thursday, February 2, 2012

Expat Adaptation and American Haters

A reader of mine, Marcio, asked two interesting questions in the comment section of my post  I Love my Gyno. No, they are not questions about my vagina, gyno, nor anything else related.

1. When does an Expat start feeling Brazilian, does your Brazilians friends/family consider you a Brazilian? 

I have been in Rio de Janeiro for 6 consecutive years now and I do not consider myself a Brazilian. I'm not. I'm American, born and raised. And that isn't a pride thing for my country but a stated fact. Of course I have picked up Brazilian traits. Hell, I even eat using a knife and a fork. I think Americans would string me up for that one.

There is always a need to compare how at home you are because Brazil is quite different. I do feel at home. I started feeling at home when I started understanding why and how things work here. A big part was being able to communicate with people and completing tasks without having to ask for help. When I went into small claims court and started the process of suing a company all by myself, well that made me feel pretty damn adapted! Keep in mind I also celebrated the first time I managed to order a pizza over the phone as well.

I find that Brazilians love to call foreigners Brazilians. My immediate reaction is to say "I'm a Carioca at heart." That is a true statement for me. I love a lot of the ways here. I feel at home in Rio. That being said, I still have days where I want to get on the next damn plane out of here. See, still a foreigner.

As for the family, they started considering me a Brazilian when I stopped being the quiet one at family lunches and actually became a part of them. That was the first sign. The other part that seems to amaze them is my raising my kids here. I don't know what aspect of it amazes them but they seem to be pretty pleased that I manage it.

2. I don't want to start a fight so if anti-americanism in Brazil is off-topic just ignore please. I think there is a little anti-americanism in Brazil most due to historical reason (search "brother sam operation" and you see what I mean) and bit of jealous mixed with back-slash but I always thought that brazilian would connect to you on a individual level - like bad mouth US government and politics for half an hour and them invite you for dinner with hi/her family...

I have dealt with my fair share of anti-americanism here. One evening I had to sit across from some ass at a bar wearing a shirt that said I (with two planes) and a picture of the World Trade Center on it (a horrible play on the I heart NY shirts). It was very difficult to not throw my glass at his head.

I generally avoid going into politics and such here as Americans are blamed for everything. We are blamed for the wars we start and at the same time the ones we refuse to get involved with. We started the Brazilian military dictatorship.  Actually, we have appointed all dictators in South America.... Bad example as it is quite possible that the US did. Anyway, I have had people talk to me as if I have the power to make a call and end a war. Sorry, it doesn't quite work like that.

Of course these bad experiences have a tendency to overshadow the good. Generally I have been welcomed regardless of my nationality. Pretty much, even if criticizing, Brazilians have been like you suggested "bad mouth US government and politics for half an hour and them invite you for dinner with hi/her family". 

At any rate it isn't that important. I am not overly sensitive with the hating the US thing.

How about you guys?


  1. Wow! I did not know about this Brother Sam operation! I'm surprised, I knew that the United States were involved in the military dictatorship in Latin America, but not so much.

    I was shocked to read this on Wikipedia:
    "On March 3, 1964, the New York Times gave the following report: The United States no longer punish military juntas for overthrowing democratic governments in Latin America. This news did break out in a series of conflicts across the region."

    the power of media is impressive!

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  3. I think human beings tend to view each other far more as members of groups and clans, than individuals (interestingly enough though they have no problems viewing themselves as individuals, and tapping into that individuality when creating art for instance). Anyway some argue that we are like this because of our cavemen origin where demonstrating alliance to your own kind, and beating down anyone that was not part of your immediate group was the norm. In the context of that period perhaps it made sense to act this way.
    Anyway if this pattern exists, and it is so very ingrained into us, then I see no point in stressing out about it. It is what it is, as they say. I usually dismiss the behavior that is consequential to this tribal nature as faulty wiring, and move on.

    Oh, the first time I managed to order a pizza I celebrated by ordering another pizza: I've been celebrating since

  4. Mrs Rant, thanks for entertain me by addressing my questions, I truly appreciate your candor and insights

    I think expats gain more than experience and personal growth while living on a foreign country, I fell that living abroad changes a bit how you perceive your country (It happened to us at least). It makes your view/perception more focus somehow, and you see the beauty, the bad and the ugly (for better or worse)

    I don't think you can change who you are, so you can't stop being an American and you should be proud of where you came from for it is part of you - and that is a good thing - (as Martha Stewart would say)

    What I try to ask was when did you stop felling an tourist/outsider and felt that you belonged was part of the society. you did address that.

    I hope you/any expat realized that when a Brazilian calls/says you are a "Brazilian" it is a huge complement/praise. As in any country we believe Brazil is great ect

    I was wondering if we were this open still, the numer of illegal Bolivian and the influx of Haitian is affecting our "Brazilians love to call foreigners Brazilians"

    It seems that you experience more than simple anti-americanism, it did sound harsher, and for that i'm sorry. It cought me by surprise I thought Brazilians would relate to the person regardeless of their origin, I hope it tonne down after the Bush years.

    Yes, US of A gets blamed for real and imaginary (most of it) insults so I guess you have to have a thick skin...

    I wish you thew your glass, stool, bottles and any thing you could lay your hands on the head of that douche bag... That T-shirt should be insulting to anyone with a half brain.

    Plugadao, They did have a hand in helping end the military dictatorship, but they never will get the credit for that. it is easy and convenient to blame other for our shortcomings and we politically are quite left of the center and US is the poster boy for Capitalism...

  5. Oh, I love the photo by the way

  6. go to a flamengo game and try not to kill the guy waving the HUGE flag with bin laden on it and "torcida jovem" written on it.

    1. I did say "anyone with a half brain." :P

      I'm a Vascaino so the antics from Flamenguistas does not phase me at all, I expect it

      To be fair, I not sure that those sorry excuses for soccer fans relates Bin Laden image as an anti-american statement... they just see a guy in a cave defying the world. stupid, I agree but don't think it is done as an insult to the US

    2. I wonder if Bin Laden will reach Che Guevara status: a butcher that some adore without realizing that their idol wouldn't hesitate in murdering them if they ever displayed any sign of free will and critical thinking.
      This topic reminds of a Polish girl I knew who would, understandably, get offended when buteco intelectuals here in Brazil would compliment communism, and the old Warsaw Pact countries. You see she actually had to grow up in the place others merely romanticized to suit an ideology.

      If you must idolize it's better to take the Jim Morrison and Bob Marley route: dudes who wrote some nice songs, swayed some lovely girls, and just got stoned too often.

    3. I thought of Che, Cuba and Fidel (still an idol in Brazil). No way Bin Laden will displace Che is the t-shirt, posters etc

      But there is a huge difference here, while Bin Ladden, I think, isn't a statement against US/capitalism.

      The Che, Cuba and Fidel is a message against capitalism/corporate greed/exploration etc.

      You are right about your Polish friend, I believe that all the Brazilians/Argentinians/Chileans wearing Che/Cuba/Fidel shirts would not adapt to life under Castro regime... But we still wear them (and so did I on my youth) it's complicated... Cuba represented the only country that stood up against the mighty US while the continent was under right-wing dictatorships that was something to behold.

      Well, this is how I view it. It could be different for someone else...

  7. GWU has tapes of JFK and LBJ discussing the possibility of helping the military overthrow the president in Brazil (mostly for not giving preference to well-connected American companies and service providers - especially AT&T), but the Brazilians from Minas and the South accomplished the overthrow before the US "need to intervene" as they had planned to.

    The US did, however, directly help install and maintain many dictators and unjust governments in this hemisphere to help American business interest (Guatamala and the Banana industry is a particularly grusome case, if anyone is interested in this stuff).

    A lot of people think Americans are ignorant about their own history (and with movements like the one to take out any potential "anti-white" history from Arizona curriculums...its not hard to imagine why), but if you show people you are aware of it and some of the details...and think its awful...they usually shut up pretty quickly.

    If they don't, you can always remind them of Larcerda's treatment of the poor, the massacres of Indians in Jesuit settlements in the South and the fact that Brazil needlessly butchered so many Paraguayans after already winning the war that that country's population still hasn't recovered...and let them know it isn't nice when the pot calls the kettle black.

    Every country has its problems, but you can't blame individual citizens for them.

    I think most Brazilians get that.

    1. Filipino civilian dead: ~200,000 to 1,500,000 "A lot of people think Americans are ignorant about their own history" Ýou are.

    2. Anti-white history ? WTF ?

  8. As an outsider I think that the barrier between you and your host culture (being Brazilian) is reduced when you tell them that you are not from there and they reply in disbelief, "but you speak Brazilian!"

    I think that when people on the street ask you for directions (and really want them) you are becoming well integrated in your host culture.

    When your favorite argument comes up and you stay quiet for lack of conviction in your once clear position, you are likely becoming well integrated.

    Having said that:

    Every time I don't immediately succumb to my in-laws I am both reminded and understand deeply that a) I am not part of the family really... in large part because...

    b) I am not Brazilian.

    As another poster mentioned, you are born where you are born. It is a large deep root in your identity and it is naive to think that you can change it and that it does not show. Long after your accent is lost, your clothes are right, your mind is opened you accept that no matter what you do, you are born at a certain place and time and that this unique experience defines you at your core and everyone to sees it. When that happens you are at home in your own skin, where ever that is geographically ... Brazil, US, other... but you know that will never be Brazilian.

    In my experience (> 12 years), most Brazilians who push that you are Brazilian are not being sincere and usually have another (often materialistic) agenda. I want to say though that there are definitely truly kind hearted exceptions, but they are rare in the larger cities.

    1. I love the speak Brazilian thing. Isn't it Portuguese ;)

  9. "most Brazilians who push that you are Brazilian are not being sincere and usually have another (often materialistic) agenda. "

    i am sure they call you brazilian so you get them an iPad !!

    if they say she seems brazilian she must seem brazilian to drama or over thinking please.

    1. Maybe you just have met the wrong people, I do not know much this kind of materialistic and liar Brazilian who they call you ''Brazilian'' just to get an Ipad, hehehe, it is actually, quite strange that you give an Ipad to a other person only because it tell you that you seem to be of another nationality.

    2. plugadao
      I was being ironic! I am making a comment on AnonymousFeb 2, 2012 10:54 AM

  10. I actually have seen the opposite. Brazilians always ask where I from but they guess somewhere in South America- Argentina... Then when I tell them America they always respond with "Que chique". I have always got the impression that Brazilians like America :)

    I will probably never feel like a Brazilian for the simple fact that my husband is American as well. We have zero ties to Brazil and while we may be comfortable here we will always be American.

    1. They don't mind the word American, Because they know that American isn't a nationality (look it up in your passport), but just as a foreigner from the American continent "gringoes/foreigners" who cannot integrate into Brazilian society. Let's be honest, what culture do people have except eating Dutch apple pie?

  11. brazilians like americans a lot!

  12. I've worked in Brazil but never once did my work colleagues ever talk to me about American politics. I'm married to a Carioca for 30 years and I'm accepted very lovingly by all my in-laws, neices and nephews. One factor in cementing the relationships is that I an fluent in Portuguese so there is no communications barrier. Still they see me as an American but they never talk to me about American politics or criticize the US government. I only understood Americans after I had lived ourside of the US for some years. When I came back I saw what appeared to be a changed country but it wasn't the country that had changed so much, it was me. I then could see the defects that I never noticed before. One thing for sure is that my relatives think my wife is marvelous (which she really is) and that Brazil must be a wonderful and exotic country although they never have visited and probably never will but their image of Brazil is very positive. They would all like to come to Rio for a visit.
    Yes, historians tell us how past US governments, obsessed with communism, supported dictatorships as the lesser of two evils and to some degree, the US government has a inconsistent approach to it's foreign affairs like we do big business with China, the largest communist country in the world but won't even talk to the smallest and closest communist country of Cuba. We supported or ignored the dictators of North Africa until the Arab Spring and then quickly jumped to support the rebels. I spent a lot of time in Brazil during the dictatorships and saw how my Brazilian colleaugues hated it but they never blamed what the American government did or didn't do on me. I never agreed with what the US government did but I never discussed this with foreigners in any country.
    Once when I was in Singapore I was having lunch with a group who had been assembled from all over Asia for a meeting. I asked a young Korean sitting next to me how the average South Korean felt about the US having 50,000 troops still in Korea after more than 50 years after the cease fire agreement was signed. A peace agreement was never signed by the North. He turned to me with hatred in his eyes and said that they hated it. I was surprised that he got so emotional because I thought we were just going to have an objective discussion but obviously I touched a very soar point. I cut the emotion short by suggesting that we American's are tired of spending millions to support his government so if he would get his government to release our troops which are there at the request of his government and I will work on my end to get my government to also call and end to our troop support of South Korea and then we can both just hope that North Korea doesn't send it's million man army south again like they did in 1950. He did't respond. He just fumed in his hatred of Americans. I think if I had asked that same question to a Korean old enough to remember the war, I would have had the opposite reaction. The young often don't know their own history and are too naive and simplistic in their politial awareness.

  13. I hear a lot of anti-American stuff all the time, so much so that (and I´m oddly embarrassed to admit this) my boyfriend and I often don´t tell people I´m American to avoid hearing the inevitable rant/hostile remarks that follow.(I´m not blond or tall and I don´t have an English accent, so it doesn´t usually come out on its own.) I would guess that our being around mostly university and arts people who tend to be more left-wing politically has a lot to do with this reaction, I can´t tell you how often I´ve been at a party where someone starts going off on something and then is surprised that I don´t 100% agree with their conspiracy theories about the world trade center. I guess it's a sign of being integrated into the culture when people forget that you're an outsider during conversations or introduce you as "American but not really" but for me it has the downside of other people defining what "being American" means for you. Like, you don't fit the stereotypes that they've seen on TV so you must not really be American. And really what annoys me is what I feel like is a lack of common courtesy-- I have had people, among finding out that I´m American, immediately tell me (unasked) that they have "no interest at all in visiting the U.S." and that "American food sucks, you must love being here"...which would be completely unacceptable to say about any other country.
    Sorry for the rant...haha I wouldn't even know how to react if some said "que chique" about being American! It's interesting that other people have had such different experiences.

    1. Unfortunately most of the people can't distinguish between people and Politics and so they end up offending somebody else. I talk about Politics a lot on Facebook and I have never had any trouble with my american friends on Facebook. I don't hate either USA or American people. I just can't agree with Washington Politics. And I don't care if some foreigner complaints about Brazilian politicians, I will agree with them without any problem!
      Respect is essential.

  14. i live as an expat in norway and i get anti-american stuff a lot. while some of it offends me, i just usually sit back and take it as im thinking to myself "you can enjoy that coca-cola you're drinking as youre bashing my country" with a sly smile on my face. usually the people bashing here are the ones most dependent on american tv, movies, clothing, and food/ i just chalk it up to ignorance and move on :)

    1. really Megan?

      the comment you made is similar to the diet coke drinkers (aspertame makes you dumb) here in the US who thought I'm anti American until they woke up after the banker bailout drama that's still going on (ahh yes, corruption at best, but we pretend everything is fine and prefer to look outside rather within). American tv? what's that? Most shows are foreign in the US or do you mean the corporate moppet shows like cnn international/fox news international and idols what was copied from outside?
      Not all movies are made in the US, matter of fact, majority are made outside and with foreign money. matter of fact not all actors are US born actors. uhmm real american clothing, ummm, name me the US brands that are NOT made outside the US are NOT designed by foreigners who grew up in the US.
      food and drinks..ahh made you think about mcdonalds and coca cola huh, even the US beer is foreign owned. So before you advice someone to chalk it up to "ignorance" as it best and move on, you need to educate yourself why there is so much so called anti american stuff. as "immigrant" a not so trendy word for "expat" i'll give you a hint..majority of the so called anti american stuff has nothing to do with the people who are born in the US, but with politics and bashing them is not bashing your country. But I understand what you mean, because the truth hurts when you hear that from a foreigner. I see it all day here in Miami-FL.

  15. Hey Rachel, funny that you have that picture (the woman with a gun, cute home, good old mustang there, oh boy gas was cheap that time..puhuu, how times have changed, and a big USA patriotic)ahhh..good old days to brag about..huh, but unfortunately that picture does't relflect reality anymore with the USA of today. after patty obozo aka Barack hussein Obama (your beloved leader) signed the NDAA (National Defence Authorization Act) into law on new years eve, while everybody was partying, oh what a guy,it's forbidden (yeah, you read that well) to show off your gun like that on your property (yes your private property), most drive a Toyota too, so much effecient rather than GM (Government Motors), a foreclosure sign is missing, and the US flag hanging at your house? Oh noo, forbidden (no, i'm not making that up either).

    Gee, I must sound now like an USA Hater..or maybe a realist who just points out the weakness of the US while people are born in this country refuse to hear it or read it, because it hurts.

    Anyway, good point to avoid politics, because you never win that battle since most information is out how US foreign policy is hurting it's own reputation.

    1. Ah yes, The US has always loved to cut it's nose to spite it's face. It's kinda our thing.

      I liked this picture because of exactly that. You'll see my picture style soon!