Everyone who has a blog and lives abroad for a while has a post like this, so I thought it was about time to write my own. It should be mentioned that it would be probably more accurately named as “Differences between Rio and Cluj”, but then everyone has their biases and it’s not like I’m gonna be less neutral than anybody else.
Romania’s internet infrastructure is awesome
That’s 500Mbps for ~15.51 EUR a month.
While this is 90 Mbps for ~40.06 EUR a month. Seriously. That’s ridiculous. It’s like 0.0310 EUR/Mbps in Romania vs. 0.4451 EUR/Mbps in Brazil. That’s 14 times more expensive. As a Brazilian one may feel humiliated, tempted to say Romania’s infrastructure puts Brazil’s to shame, but then…
… the transport infrastructure sucks big time
Seriously. The distance between Cluj and Bucharest is ~450km. The distance between Rio and São Paulo is ~435km. I’ve travelled from Rio to São Paulo in slightly over 5 hours with decent traffic. You can’t make Cluj–Bucharest in less than 8. It’s not 14 times slower, but it’s still really frustrating. There are very few highways in the country. The view can be very beautiful, as Romania has many different landscapes and wonderful nature. But you go through every little town, every little village, get stuck behind peasants in horse carts, it’s ridiculous. Pittoresque, perhaps, but incredibly frustrating.
Well, it’s worth flying from Rio to São Paulo if you’re in a hurry. Maybe we could fly from Cluj to Bucharest?
Hum, don’t think so. Besides avoiding going to Bucharest, of course, the solution I’ve found is taking a night train and staying in the sleeping wagon. It stops countless times in all little towns on the way and it takes 10 hours, but at least I can try to sleep most of them.
Romanians are not macho at all compared to Brazilians
I work with IT so I always have lunch mostly with guys. Never did any of them make any comment about the attractiveness of a woman who passed by on the street. Never did any of them make any comment of this nature about any woman in the office. NEVER. This is unimaginable in Brazil. You may be thinking “ah, they’re nerdy IT guys, they’re not representative”. I have also worked with IT in Brazil. I have also studied computer engineering for several years. I am also a fan of Extreme Metal and Power Metal. I have been surrounded by men all my life, many of them “nerdy”. In Brazil, it doesn’t matter what subculture you belong to, if there are only men together: THEY WILL TALK ABOUT WOMEN. PERIOD. And they will most probably talk in an at least mildly sexist, objectifying way. The only group that will be more unlikely to go on this type of talk is very leftist, socially involved, feminist men. This is NOT AT ALL the case with my colleagues from work. Besides, even with feminist Brazilians you’re not safe because it’s pretty easy to disguise womanizing, objectifying macho behavior with a sex-positive discourse.
Everything is gay in Brazil
Still in the category of macho behavior, it’s also very, very rare for people to make fun of someone for acting “gay” in Romania. In Brazil it’s the most typical form of insult to a man. People don’t usually mean it like an actual offense, it’s just the way male friends talk. Sitting with your legs crossed is gay. Pronouncing adopted English words with an English speaker’s accent is gay. Caring about appearance is gay, unless of course you mean caring about your body, going to the gym and getting ripped, then you’re a real man, but if you’re not ripped and wear anything other than casual clothes, then you’re a fag. In Romania I have never been called a fag. Again, this is unimaginable in Brazil. I don’t look androgynous at all and I never wore very fashionable clothes, but guys will always find an excuse to joke about you being gay. Always.
Guys are not obsessed about “scoring chicks” and don’t brag about their ability in doing so in order to assert dominance
Finally, I have never heard any man tell any story about “scoring chicks”. At most I have heard them making generic claims about “what women like”, what would increase a man’s probability of success, etc. On the other hand, I have lost count on the number of times a random Brazilian guy went on a totally unasked for monologue about all the women he’s hooked up, fucked, almost fucked, is going to fuck, how hot she was, how much of a slut she was, etc. And this includes men with girlfriends and even wife and kids. And they’re not ashamed. On the contrary. They brag proudly about their cheating stories.
Most of this behavior in Romania is seen as, when not just plain shocking, bad taste, vulgar and uneducated. A type of behavior that usually a “manelist” (manele fan) would engage in. Which brings us to another difference:
Low ghetto culture is not mainstream in Romania
When I say ghetto culture in a critical way, it’s important to be clear that I mean artists like Snoop Dog and not Tupac. Ghetto artists may be critical and make music with positive lyrics, but we all know that unfortunately nowadays these tend to be exceptions. As much as I may hate the vagueness of such expressions, when I say “low” ghetto culture in the lack of a better term, I mean stuff like this:
This is not considered cool. They do not play this in mainstream nightclubs. They may play eurodance, pop and other painfully mainstream nightclub music that I can’t even categorize, but not manele. They will play Hip-Hop though, and depending on the nightclub they won’t leave “Wiggle” out of the playlist out of decency. They won’t, however, play manele. Ever. Which reveals quite a level of hypocrisy and social discrimination if you think about it. I do grant, however, that the fact that it’s sung in a foreign language makes it easier to create some distance from the lyrics.
But although tolerated, even Hip-Hop is not that popular. In the New Year’s party organized by the company where I work, which is supposed to be the most generic party possible so that it pleases everyone, there was no Hip-Hop. First there was a band playing mainstream hits like, I don’t know, Happy and Get Lucky, and then some DJ playing electronic music. Maybe the DJ did play some Hip-Hop but very little and certainly nothing like “Wiggle” or “Talk Dirty”. When the band asked if we wanted manele, there was a lound “NO!” uttered from the crowd. Ironically, the vocalist went on and said “alright then, manele from other countries!” and started playing Brazilian hits like “Ai se eu te pego” and “Eu quero tchu, eu quero tcha”.
Meanwhile, the main attraction in my freshmen party in PUC, one of the most elitist universities in Rio (and a Catholic one), was this guy:
(at least they spared us the dancer in the PUC performance)
The favelados in Romania are țărani
Only 54% of the Romanian population lives in urban areas. In Brazil we are 90%. Unlike Brazilians, Romanians who own farms in the countryside are not descendants of rich families who bought long stretches of land in newly discovered territory. They’re part of a lineage that has been here for millennia, and who rely on the little land they have not for business but for subsistence. Many of them are quite backwards, superstitious and ignorant. For those who don’t know, the village where Borat comes from was actually filmed in the countryside in Romania, not Kazakhstan.
The consequence of course is that you can tell based on all sorts of cues that some people are țarani (peasants). Clothes, behavior, language, etc. This makes the word very similar to “favelado” (a person who comes from a favela), with the difference that people here say it openly in any context, not being careful at all about whether it may sound offensive and elitist or not, which brings us to the next topic:
People are not politically correct at all
I’ve already written about this in a previous post, so I won’t expand much on it here. But basically it’s somewhat normal to say very racist things about gypsies and get away with it without anybody having a strong reaction. Romanians also talk about people of other races in a very dichotomic way, especially black people. It’s almost like a black guy is primarily a black guy, and only secondarily a guy. People don’t mean it in a bad way at all, they’re just really not used to them. There are almost no black people here and most people actually find them exciting and exotic, probably because of American movies and music. But it’s funny because it’s very awkward and rather impolite in Brazil to call attention to someone’s race when it’s not relevant.
People smoke a lot, everywhere, and it’s legal
People smoke too much. It’s horrible. They smoke everywhere: in public places, indoors, doesn’t matter. Every time you go out you come back home stinking and have to put all your clothes to wash, not to mention the known health effects of passive smoking. The ground around park benches is always littered with dozens of cigarette butts. Even kids smoke. I’ve seen young teenagers (~14 years old) smoking on the streets and people don’t even react, it’s normal. This is probably the hardest thing to get used to.
That’s all for now
I could probably go on about other differences but I tend to write too much so I’ll stop here for now. But don’t worry, I’ll write again if I think of enough significant differences.
“I work with IT so I always have lunch mostly with guys. Never did any of them make any comment about the attractiveness of a woman who passed by on the street. Never did any of them make any comment of this nature about any woman in the office.”
That was definitely not my experience. On my first day on the job, when we went to lunch, I was SHOCKED but how everyone spoke about women and what they joked about. While in general at the office people didn’t make those jokes, they did make them occasionally.
I think you’ve been spared the macho bragging and gay jokes because you are a foreigner and people tend to be somewhat more polite in that case. Still, from my subjective experience, even close friends don’t talk that often about conquests and cheating, but it does happen.
At least smoking is on the way out. People tend to want to quit smoking while they’re still in their 20s-30s while my grandfather quit at about 60 and my father 50 and I don’t smoke. 😛
Let’s hope they make it illegal to smoke indoors soon! 😀
I’m writing this as a comment and not a reply because it addresses a question raised by multiple people.
Roland, interesting to hear your experience. Maybe I am lucky, or maybe like Marian said people are just careful because I’m a foreigner, who knows? In any case, I’m sure sexist comments happen. I’ve heard women complain and I’ve witnessed many myself, but they tend to be of a slightly different nature (e.g. “women are not made for ___” as opposed to “I’d fuck that slut”).
Secondly, the macho behavior I refer to is not necessarily explicitly sexist, it may take mild forms, like simply discussing which woman in the office is the hottest or something like that. Many Romanians would probably discuss this without considering it sexist, and it probably happens, but I really haven’t witnessed it. Not even once. Either it’s not as deep a part of the culture to talk about it, or they hide it from me. But even in the second case, it reveals a difference. If they hide it, it’s because they consider it somehow bad or impolite, which is already a difference. Most people in Brazil are not ashamed because they actually never though of it as something harmful, so they don’t even understand why someone would avoid such a conversation.
In any case, when I say it never happened to me, I don’t mean to suggest that it never happens at all. Like I said, the article is subjective and I’m sure other people have different experiences. I just mean that the probability of it happening here is much less than the one in Brazil, which I would say is around 100% (OK, I may be exaggerating, but much higher, trust me!).
Hi I just found your blog. very interesting how you can remove yourself from the small “imponderabilia” and see the bigger picture. I have met very few Brazilians who can do that. Interesting article btw, I was just reading the “Brazilians online” so very true. hey this is more of a question than a comment. I read you live in Romania, I was born in Brazil too and live in New Zealand since 2005. I feel so disconnected from Brazil and every time I communicate online with people back home I see we have nothing in common anymore and I feel like I should just walk away. Maybe this is what people call “identity crisis” more and more i look at Brazil and Brazilians as part of a long gone past, something I somewhat wish to forget. do you ever feel this way too? I ask because even the question sometimes can sound pedantic to other Brazilians, particularly the ones who cant wait to go “home”. maybe online it won’t look that way…You know there is a massive difference between “migration” and “tourism” Im sure, but I feel that most Brazilians who live abroad are still “Brazilians living abroad” I am curious to where you would fit in this scenario, sometimes I feel like Im the only one who actually walked away from the culture becoming more of a citizen of the world rather than a “brazilian living abroad”. you appear to be a highly intelligent individual, would love to hear where you would fit in this bridge between cultures. Cheers!
Hi Ricky, I’m glad you enjoyed the text 🙂 I know what you mean with the “identity crisis”, I guess I have also been through it at points. National identity is something I struggle more and more to understand. There have been periods, especially when I was younger, in which I felt ashamed and rejected my nationality, saying I hated Brazil and wishing I could be something else. Later I started to embrace my nationality and to think that, being a product of Brazilian society, my identity is a valid expression of “Brazilianess” even if it has nothing to do whatsoever with the Brazilian stereotype. In any case I also prefer to think of myself as a “world citizen”. Of course I may have SOME tastes, opinions etc that may reveal a Brazilian bias and that would be different if I had grown up elsewhere, but with globalization it becomes harder and harder to find things that could be said to be “exclusive” to any nationality. Liking beef, barbecue etc and feeling a certain historical resentment against European colonialism and importing their traditions for example are probably to a large extent a consequence of me being Brazilian. But there are so many people in Brazil who are vegetarians, who don’t care about wearing long pants at 40ºC to go to work, an so many people in so many other countries that like beef/barbecue and hate conservative dress codes that nationality becomes irrelevant. The fact is Brazil is very heterogeneous, there are too many subcultures and any generalization becomes meaningless. I have felt very often alone in Brazil and distant even from close friends, but lately with the help of the internet and social media I think I have a less pessimistic image of Brazilians. I follow pages and participate in Facebook groups with very interesting content and I see there are many smart people in Brazil with insightful opinions and interesting things to say. Of course, Brazil is still an underdeveloped country and has a lot to improve, but the scenario is not necessarily as bleak as we may sometimes be led to feel 🙂
In New Zealand it is very similar to Romania in terms of “machoness”, I was surprised at first when I moved in, I remember thinking adamantly that every New zealander man was gay because there was no spitting, no bulged pants, no genital scratching and definitely no talking about scoring a quickie. sometimes it is hard to identify as to whether the guy is gay or not because some are quite effeminate when compared to brazilian guys and often appear disinterested in sex. The ghetto culture here emphasises the sexual nature while most men in the big cities dont. It is very different from Brazil. I had to re-learn how to be a man here and that having a big bulge in my pants will only attract attention of the authorities or at a sex club.