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Published: June 12th 2009
Brazil is a country that thrives in chaos. Cariocas, who are reputedly lazy, especially thrive in a lackadaisical and casually blissful lifestyle, or at least like to portray that image. Bargaining for deals is the norm and plans are rarely made in advance. If Buenos Aires is Paris, Rio de Janiero is the floor of the New York Stock Exchange…if the brokers wore Havianas and drank Skol.
Brazilians have learned to thrive in this environment, however, and negotiate its idiosyncrasies to their advantage. Beggars wait until change is given before hounding people for money, striving to create such a degree of confusion and chaos with their persistence that the tourist just hands over the coins. The cab drivers gamble on traffic by offering fixed rates.
Everywhere that the group encounters long lines, crazy traffic, or Brazilian almost certainly breaking the law, Cesar can be counted on to quip, “Whatever, this is Brazil, and that’s how things work here.” They almost seem to pride themselves on their inflexible bureaucracy and red tape. Some of this curious behavior is understandable given how different Brazil is from the rest of South America. They perceive themselves as different and somewhat superior to their neighbors, so they need more officials, and having had a monarchy in their country, they have a legacy of such bureaucracy.
In the same light, however, one cannot overlook the problems that this chaos and bureaucracy creates for the country. It hurts the tourist industry, as the greater inconvenience for American travelers is not the silly fee they must pay for a visa, but having to jump through countless hoops to get it. The oft-criticized police are trained to act first rather than determine who is right and who is wrong, or even the right course of action. This means on one hand that arrests are too common, and that major events like a bus hijacking can leave the authorities scrambling and bamboozled. Businesses have to struggle to get things done and the government works at a snail’s pace, all of which clearly hinders Brazil in the global community.
All of this seems to matter little to Brazilians, who like it or not, are sill perceived as very happy people. Perhaps the stress of fixing all that is chaotic in this country would just be too troublesome for the people who work to live, while we Americans are busy living to work.
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