Should Brazil’s Expats Return?

When did Brazilians become so afraid of adapting? We constantly hear our fellow Brazilians living abroad talking about how much they miss home, but they also say it is impossible for them to go back and re-adapt to their old lives.

Brazilians living abroad say they are so accustomed to their new “foreign” lives that it is hard to picture living in the tropical regions of Latin America again. This includes young adults who received an education abroad. Yes, perhaps there is some truth in this way of thinking, but, forgive me for saying so, going back is just not that difficult. Going back and readapting to the very place we came from could be the best thing for an individual – especially if that person can contribute to the growth of the country.

While living abroad, many of us have received training, mastered certain skills, and increased our overall knowledge. Many of us have become better human beings with nurtured abilities capable to influence and improve things around with little effort. A good number of Brazilian citizens living abroad carry with them a great amount of knowledge and expertise. These are, for instance, the people who should be heading back and guiding the country forward. The new knowledge we have acquired here is what we should keep and then apply where it is needed.

Brazil was always (and will always be) very different from the United States. The U.S. perfected democracy over the last 225 years while Brazil has struggled to maintain its democracy over the last 100 years. The styles of life today between the two countries are also very different. Most Americans live to achieve their personal goals in the long run while most Brazilians like to live one day at a time. The United States today is home to more than 1.1 million Brazilians. This unfortunately serves to explain the image of Brazil from many years ago – not only a country consumed by corruption and violence, but a place where millions of its own people felt the urge to leave and restart their lives somewhere else. But the curious fact here is that, many years ago, we moved and we adapted. A good number of us, Brazilians, started moving to other countries and remained there. When we moved, we figured out how to blend in the lifestyles of Europe, Asia, and America while still preserving our true Brazilian ethnicity.

Our own culture is reshaped by foreign influences too. Even before the 1800s, Brazil had welcomed immigrants from Portugal, and later on, people from the rest of Europe and Asia. Excluding the thousands of Portuguese emigrants who fled with the royal family to the former capital of Rio de Janeiro, most immigrants were brought with the main intent to work in the discovery of minerals and also benefit the agricultural industry, which has traditionally been the foundation of Brazil’s economy. In addition to these immigrants, we also have the African influences that were brought in even earlier by slaves. The Brazilian population as we know it shows the end-result of the “melting pot” the U.S has claimed to be producing.

Americans have for many years talked about how multiculturalism will eventually reshape the North American culture in the many years to come, but the reality is that this is old news in good-old Brazil. Our last names are Spanish, Italian, Japanese, Portuguese, and the list goes on. There are few Brazilians with native family names, if any at all. Our appearances are unique and modelled by the looks of all people inside and outside of our country. Brazilians can look like Indians, Koreans, Germans, Italians… the Brazilian people can look like everybody else. This is not to say that Brazilians do not have a particular look, but our unique combination of looks is what defines our people. This shows that Brazilians have long been adapting into our very own country even before the 1800s. Our own ancestors were once newcomers to the very place we call home, and we seem to have adapted very well, don’t we?

This is why Brazilians can actually go back home and do well. The difficulty in dealing with the idea of going back has to do with the transformation our psychology goes through after moving away from home. During our first couple years in America, as an example, we see ourselves as outsiders trying to blend in. We work like maniacs to feed our lives back home. We live a double life. But this only goes on until we realize we must pick one of these lives in order to simply live better. That is when we begin making fewer phone calls back home. That is when we start being more selfish and taking care of ourselves better. That is when we send less money to our people back home. We eventually realise that we can have a more comfortable “new life,” but in order to have that, more means have to be invested in ourselves alone. Then we develop a valid and reasonable counter-argument to comfort our desire to stay: perhaps the reason we do not want to go back home is because we enjoy both the comfort and convenience this new “American” life provides us.

The better quality of life in America is certainly another force that makes us want to stay and not go back. It is normal not to want to go back to a place that slapped us on the face 20 to 25 years ago, and instead, we feel safer to stay in a developed environment that gives opportunities, even during the greatest economic chaos since the Great Depression. It is much easier to want to identify ourselves with a place that treats us better. From our past memories, home has always given us less room to move around. It has glued our feet to the floor and impeded us from even trying to climb the steps of the economic classes. America is a completely different place (or, at least, has been for the most part). Uncle Sam actually allows us, people of all races and backgrounds, to start fresh and make money if we work hard, which is the not the case in other countries. For those without a college degree, working in the U.S as a plumber or electrician can pay just as much, if not a lot more. Obviously, a college degree will be useful for the rest of our lives, but in the sake of this argument, working as a plumbing assistant will help pay the bills and more for a certain period of time.

The opportunities the Brazilian economy offers are not as abundant yet, but steadily and slowly, they are improving. As we know (and as we hear all the time), the Brazilian economy is getting better. Jobs are being created like never before. Foreign investment is being injected in the economy every day. Infrastructure and education are finally being considered for improvements. Women have better opportunities. Hunger and poverty are looked at as old shameful habits and being tackled by the government. Violence in the big cities is finally bothering politicians. Brazil is addressing its problems and aiming for better days in the future. Of course some old habits will never break (or maybe they will just take longer). Habits that cannot go away are, for instance, a national soccer team on a streak of disappointment, or soap-operas insisting on slowing down the brains of those watching them, or rich families hiring 24/7 cleaning ladies and stripping them away of any chance of succeeding with their own lives.

Brazil is still as good as the old days, but this time, it is moving towards the better days. With all the experience and knowledge we have acquired from living abroad, we make up a usable force for the Brazilian economy – young adults, especially. These are people with innovative ways of thinking that can revolutionise the old-school management style of Brazil. Even though our economy is moving upward, our political system of today is only a modern reflection of what it was in the recent post-dictatorship: old ideas to solve old problems. Young people who went to universities abroad nurtured different ways of thinking. They carry different perspectives and universal ideals that can be applied when trying to solve the stubborn problems of Brazil. This is not to say that Brazilian students attending colleges abroad are better, they are just better prepared because of the extra experiences they go through and opportunities they have. The article Brazil: Sustaining Economic Growth, published by several Brazilian magazines in the U.S and London, U.K, talks in greater depth about the underdeveloped educational system inside Brazil. When closely compared, it is evident that the American universities are producing better professionals and are in much better shape than the Brazilian ones.

So maybe the freezing temperatures of New York or the humid weather of Florida has eaten our memories of the tropical beauty of Brazil. Or perhaps the decreasing value of the Dollar is still good for everybody – as long as the Real stops trying to catch up to it. Based on its (recent) history, Brazil has given us many reasons to run away from home and never to come back. Recently, it started with the dictatorship, then went to the destruction created by the bad moves of Fernando Collor de Melo, and finally, it moved to the escalating violence and the lack of opportunity for the rest of the people.

But today, times are different. Brazil is not yet a fully developed superpower, and it may take a few decades to get there, but we can help the country get there faster. The catch here is that we will need to do some weight-lifting. We do no good if we move back and wait with our arms crossed for better days. Moving back will require some individual efforts. We cannot simply hitch a ride on a growing economy and catch the products as they trickle down – if we do that, we will actually slow down the process of development – we must apply the knowledge and abilities we have acquired abroad in order to push the country forward. The only headache here will be to update all documents and get used to the excessive bureaucracy again. Besides this little inconvenience, enjoy a very cold beer at bar do Zé followed by a churrasco later in the afternoon.

by Jose Ricardo Aguilar

You can read more of Jose’s articles at sites.google.com/site/joseaguilar113/home

2 Comments

  1. Clara

    Great article!

  2. When I was in high school, in São Paulo, my Biology teacher was a lichen specialist. He used to stress the fact that he was “the” lichen specialist. Nobody else was studying lichens in the country.
    Years later, in the mid-nineties, living in Paris, he came to my mind frequently.
    In the Northern hemisphere, it is almost impossible to be a pioneer, to be original. Somebody already thought, did or felt whatever you are thinking, doing or feeling right now. Probably better than you.
    This is, maybe, the greatest beauty of life in Brazil. You can practically create anything you want from scratch. That is fun and rewarding in a way rare these days.

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