Contemporary Brazil is a vibrant blend of diverse landscapes, ethnicities, cultures and religions. While the rest of the world witnessed the successful Rio Olympics in 2016, Brazil has experienced a significant period of economic and social change.
As part of our ongoing Illume Guide featured blog posts, we interviewed our Brazilian Guide – Ana, to help us understand more about Brazilian core culture and how the younger Gen Z view the Brazil of today, as well as its future.
Hi Ana! Tell us a bit about yourself and your passions.
Hi, I’m Ana from Avaré, a city near Sao Paulo. I’m an International Relations student and I also work for the IAESTE organisation (The International Association for the Exchange of Students for Technical Experience, an international organization exchanging students for technical work experience abroad). I like reading, writing and learning different languages. I’m very engaged with social media and do film/ video editing on YouTube during free time. Currently I am working on my dissertation which is about how social media affects social movements around the world.
How do you see Brazilian culture?
The first thing that comes into my mind about Brazilian culture is diversity. It’s a country made up of people from all different ethnicities, which means we have the opportunity to learn the good things from each culture, as well as respecting the challenges that face certain groups – this understanding of diversity is something we are truly proud of.
We are a very warm and friendly nation. For example, even something as simple as being lost at the bus stop, people will be quick to offer their help and they might even miss their own stop to help you get to where you are going! I work in an international office and I get the opportunity to meet different people every day – it makes me really happy to see that everyone truly cares about each other.
The other side of Brazilian culture is that we can be quite conservative and traditional. Brazil is still a masculine society, so women have always had to take more responsibility with caring for the family. There is less pressure on men in society in general, while women have to adhere to quite outdated views on beauty – for this reason, Brazilian women care a lot about their appearance and would rarely leave the home without putting make up on first. Plastic surgery is very common and this has led to more affordable, but dangerous and illegal alternatives where in some extreme cases women have died.
Another less positive aspect of Brazil is what we call “Complexo de vira lata” or “Stray dog complex” where Brazilians are quick to criticise Brazil and are constantly comparing failures of the country to the successes in other wealthier countries. This means that many people values the skills, ideas and standards that come from outside of Brazil, rather than valuing or having confidence in the Brazilian way of doing things. For example, the last São Paulo mayor visited South Korea to understand and research more about their public transportation. Instead of considering how good those ideas would be for São Paulo, Brazilian people just said that those things wouldn’t work here because Brazilians don’t know how to do behave like South Koreans do.
What are the major changes in Brazil during the last decade?
The most important change in Brazil is that there has been an increase in true representation of diversity. I am starting to see different skin colours being shown on social media and fashion companies are getting better at showing models and different styles of clothes that represent the diversity of Brazil, e.g. C&A and Hering. One of the best examples is a campaign for a flip flop brand, Ipanema that features one of the most famous singers in Brazil, Anitta, alongside models of all shapes and sizes: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Aan4DVq6etg
Another major change in Brazil is access to information due to the growth of the internet. This means that the new generation of Brazilians are starting to question what is happening in Brazil, particularly with regards to what is happening with the Amazon and the treatment of indigenous people. But with this digital development is a growing power in the Favelas as many start-up businesses are originating there as people have the means to spread the word about their brand. For example, 1DASUL Vila Fundão and Egosss are all brands born from the Favelas.
A final change that is happening right now in Brazil is the booming fitness and health trend. People are starting to look more into healthy food, gym options, and there are so many more TV programmes informing about health. For example, Bem Estar is a show that is on every day at 10am to talk exclusively about health – shows every single day at 10 am is a TV programme talking exclusively about health – they bring in doctors and nutritionists and discuss different topics from sugar consumption, to alcohol to daily exercise and even meditation.
How do you describe Gen Z in Brazil?
It’s a generation who are forward thinking. Compared to our parents, we have more empathy for refugees and global issues, for example the younger Brazilians are more willing to help those refugees arriving from Venezuela.
It is also a generation that relies heavily on social media – I use it for finding basic information, job searching and buying products. It has made our lives a lot easier. WiFi is found almost everywhere in Brazil (e.g. public square, bus stop), so people who can’t afford internet at home can still use WhatsApp and WiFi outside of the home. Compared to Gen Z from Europe and US, I would say our peers are more aware of the right and power they got. If we want our voice being heard, we are still mostly staying online.
What’s more, our generation are starting to focus more on mental health. Young people are focusing on developing a career and want to do the best in their lives, thus mental health is becoming more important considering the pressure we are facing.
One person I’d like to mention here is Whindersson Nunes, the most popular YouTuber in Brazil. He is probably the most powerful influencer in Brazil nowadays. Born in a poor family in the north east, Whindersson used to work as a labourer, but nowadays he is a very successful v –blogger who makes funny videos about Brazil culture. He has a huge apartment and beautiful wife so many Brazilians look up to him as a role model because they also want to work hard and become successful like him.
What’s your opinion about class distinctions and uneven wealth distribution in Brazil?
While Brazil is a nation of diversity, there are gaps between different races – the South part of Brazil is full of people who have a European background, making it one of the richest parts of Brazil. This is in contrast to the North East where the majority of Brazilians are Afro-Brazilian and it is one of the poorest parts.
The gap between rich and poor is still very wide and they are quite segmented so they don’t tend to mix and they have different priorities. I’m from a middle class family but my closet friends who are from the lower class are often struggling to pay for food or the bus, whereas my richer friends from private university spend loads on restaurants and parties.
Ana, what’s your opinion about the future of Brazil?
I’m sure the country will be more progressive in the future. I think we’ll learn to discuss more, be more politicized, to engage more with the communities we’re a part of. I also imagine that’ll be a part of growing as a democracy. We’re still a really new democracy, if we think about it, specially with our years of a military dictatorship, so I think it’s the natural course of a country to develop more discussions about this sort of topic.
I also can see the growth in the economy helping more people out of poverty over time. This means we’ll have more people being consumers and definitely a more diverse set of consumers, so I imagine brands will start to sell more to those communities.
I can also see how some things will probably never change – our passion for football, for music, our kindness and warmth.
At least that’s what I hope.