1. “Awesome! It’s #1 on my bucket list!”
Indeed, Brazil’s a cool destination, and I just love when someone realizes it. People are nice, the weather’s lovely all year round, and there are great outdoor spaces and hip cities.
I tend to reply, “Awesome! Here’s my email. Let’s talk, and I’ll share some insider tips.” Those tips always involve pão de queijo (cheese bread). Because the world will be a better place when the deliciousness of pão de queijo is globally appreciated.
2. “Wasn’t it crazy during the World Cup?”
It was fun. Kind of sad in the end, sure, but fun. Unless you live in the Vila Madalena neighborhood of São Paulo. Then it was the seventh circle of hell.
3. “I LOVE Brazilian music.”
Thanks. We all do. Music is a major conversation starter, and most Brazilians are into it. But do you prefer Bebel Gilberto or old-school Sepultura? Because, for many rock fans, the greatest music act to ever rise from Brazil is this quartet of headbangers.
Sepultura was the most successful Brazilian music group in the US, Asia, and Europe for a long time, selling more records than Jobim and Gilberto. Then this guy came along. Damn you, Teló!
4. “Where’s that, exactly?”
Not everyone can point to Brazil on a map although it’s the fifth largest country in the world. Can you believe it? And São Paulo (no, no, the capital is Brasília) is the 10th most populous city. We’re big!
5. “Pelé was great, but Maradona (or Beckenbauer, or Zidane, you name it) was a better player.”
Yeah. Soccer. Every time. Which leads me to:
6. “I felt bad for your country…you know…THAT DAY.”
Can we talk about something else?
7. “Did you vote for Lula?”
Gringos with a mind on global issues will always try and start a political conversation. Although I’m never afraid of going there, I tend to avoid it, for these are tough times in Brazil. Presidential elections are approaching, and there’s been a lot of polarization, rage, and confusion surrounding them.
8. “Woooohooo, caipirinhas!”
Drunk gringos, every time! We all love the national drink, and I’m pretty good at preparing one. But it’s not possible to make a caipirinha with rum. That’s a daiquiri. Sorry.
9. “Ever read Paulo Coelho? The Alchemist changed my life!”
Isn’t it strange that one of the most commercially successful writers ever comes from a country that barely reads? Now that we’re on the subject, Brazil produced some great writers whose works are available in English. Machado de Assis and Jorge Amado come to mind.
10. “My sister-in-law in the US is from Minas Gerais.”
I can always foresee the Minas Gerais commentary if my interlocutor is North American. The city of Governador Valadares in MG state holds the record for sending Brazilians to the US. There was even a popular novela ten years ago about the misadventures of a poor young woman who decides to take a chance and move north. The name was “America,” and here’s an excerpt. It’s hilarious. But fear not; in the end she comes back home.
11. “I’m planning to go next year. Is it safe?”
The answer is, as in most places: It depends. I tend to think of my country as safe, but bad things do happen to gringos and locals, and you should stay alert. But please don’t avoid Brazil because of the stigma of violence.
12. “I had the best time in Rio but got mugged.”
Yeah, me too. Twice. Best way to avoid it in Rio (and everywhere else) is to act like you know what you’re doing, and don’t carry expensive stuff. Play it safe and have fun.
This is what I got in southwest India most of the time when announcing my cool Brazilian heritage. I can only blame it on their total lack of interest in soccer. As you know, Indians in general prefer cricket.