When Brazilians Play

Living here, it really feels like every other week there’s some sort of day off…either that, or there’s been an apocalypse (ie, everyone disappeared) and I didn’t get the note. The easiest way to tell there’s a holiday on a weekday is not to consult a calendar but to walk down the street. Virtually every shop will be closed and the neighborhood will resemble a ghost town. In fact, similar scenes can be found every weekend since Sundays are no different.

One might think that if they open up shop when their competition is closed, they’ll get all the potential business. Not so, though. On such days, customers are also hard to locate. So where do Brazilians go, then? Barbeques, beaches, bars, the house of a friend or relative? While I have yet to figure out where they go (there’s only 190 million of them to ask), knowing Brazilian culture, I can say I’m pretty sure they are simply enjoying themselves. What a concept!

The Brazilian calendar has eleven public holidays that everyone gets off from work or school. Depending on the state, one probably has another five added on (like in Rio), totaling sixteen days off. When the national and state holidays are combined, and one throws in weekends, it’s easy to see why a foreigner might feel like a loner on these days.

I’ve met many Brazilians in the US that were like working-machines, going from before sunup to after sundown on a regular basis. I met one guy in particular who slept 4 hours a night and worked the rest of the time, seven days a week, for years on end. If work ethic isn’t something that is picked up overnight, then Brazilians who leave Brazil are leaving with such an ethic in tow. For people that are really hard-working and entrepreneurial, how is it that they have such a laid-back culture?

After thinking the question through and coming back to it later, I remembered reading about a possible reason for the duality. If someone lives in a country that has a history of handing out unforeseen tomorrows, which is to say, where no one knows what will happen tomorrow, they might develop two strong, yet opposing needs (working a lot and playing a lot). Brazilians work hard because they know how to take advantage of the moment. And when there are days off, well, those moments are taken advantage of with the same amount of determination.

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4 thoughts on “When Brazilians Play

  1. When I lived in Uberlandia I remember going downtown on one of those holidays to meet up with someone. It looked like a ghost town. You could have shot a gun down the avenue and not hit anyone.

  2. One thing that has always baffled me since I was a child is: where do people go on Sundays! People always disappeared on Sundays. I remember when I was a child there used to be a lot of kids playing in my street (including me), but then on Sundays the street was empty. I never found out where or why people disappeared.

  3. People don’t just disappear. Sunday is leisure day, and we tend to take it rather literal around here. So the most probable answer is that, if it is an extended holiday, everyone who can leaves town, particularly to small towns nearby; but if it’s just a lazy sunday, then most people are probably relaxing at home (theirs or someone else’s. We’re quite fond of having big family meals on sundays), or enjoying the sun at a beach nearby. I live far from downtown Rio, so it’s just not worth a two-hour trip to a place where nothing is open (except the musems), and that includes waiting longer periods for a bus, since they ride with the same frequency on weekends. The only good reason for me (and a good part of the population, since the majority lives far away from the Centro and Zona Sul) to take up the long journey is to visit good friends, or for big occasions like weddings and such.
    (sorry for the longs posts, I tend to talk a lot) :p

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