We are all foreigners
“Oh, Brazil???” And there comes the smile.
I’ve heard about such experience from another people, mostly friends. When they travelled abroad and the natives discoveries that were talking to a Brazilian citizen, something magical always occurs. A little bit of joy, curiosity and and amusement creating a brand new conversation between unknown people.
I finally experienced that when I went to Paris, in 2013. I’m Caucasian and even in Brazil a lot of people told me that I look like a European citizen. Sometimes they really thought that I’m a foreigner. According to several people, I could be German, Italian, Argentinian or Jewish. But they didn’t misidentify my wife, a Brazilian brunette with curly hair and brown eyes. So, the question was just to confirm: “Where are you from?”.
It was always funny. I remember a serious receptionist at Saint-Chapelle (a church next to Conciergerie, where Mary Antoniet was arrested at French Revolution) suddenly said to us: “Bom dia” (“Good morning” in Portuguese, the language spoken in my country). I had to ask how he knew we’re from Brazil and he pointed out the tourist guide in my hand, where you could read the words “São Paulo” – it’s the second biggest city of Brazil. And, of course, he gave us a smile.
What had all of those people felt as soon they heard “Brazil”? What’s in their imagination, what did they have in mind? Perhaps the most common stereotypes are: carnival, soccer players, beautiful women, beaches. This video make my point about that issue:
But I don’t want to be prejudiced neither do I want to be stereotyping peoples’ minds and motivations. I realized that Brazil has a powerful image around the world, and It’s positive almost always.
Nelson Rodrigues, one of our best writers, described once that we, Brazilians, suffer from “slum dog complex”. It’s a habit to despise our potentialities and characteristics (like our country and culture), thinking that we’re not good enough. And the foreigner is better then us, and that we should strive to be foreign from our own land.
There are some examples: we forgot good (and historical) musicians like Tom Zé. But when the producer David Byrne discovered him, the Brazilian critics said “Oh, what an artist!” If the North-American talks about this legendary musician, then it has to mean this artist is indeed special, right? And when we have doubts and lack of confidence about our strengths and talents, it’s our “slum dog complex” commanding again. When we won the 1958 Soccer World Cup with a 17 years old Pelé playing like an adult, beating the Swedish team in Sweden, Rodrigues stated: “It’s the end of slum dog complex!”. Nevertheless, sometimes we resuscitate it.
However, I have to remember that we, Brazilians, are foreigners too. That’s so obvious to say a thing like that, but only when we have direct contact with another culture or place beyond our boundaries we realize that. In Paris I felt that taste and, I must say, I liked it! Yes, I was then the outsider, the extraordinary one who came from another reality to there.
We play different roles across the world. The globalization and the facilities to travel and to connect with another people by technology emphasize that kind of situation. Thus, we have the choice to maintain our prejudices and closed mindedness about the foreigner (the stranger?) and about ourselves, or to be open.
Being open is to give up power, control, and any other thing that immobilizes us. Raul Seixas, a great Brazilian rock-star, sang: “I prefer to be a walking metamorphosis, Instead to have the same old opinion about everything”.
If we’re all foreigners in some way and sometimes, why keeping cultivating stereotypes and barriers to know, to listen and to understand the other human beings who divide the Earth with us? The (cynical or innocent) deafness is planting intolerance, hate and all kind of wars – inner or outer ones.
By the way, even in this material world we’re all foreigners. Why so serious?