April 30, 2015, 9:47 AM ·
You might have watched this video, released in the beginning of the year. In it, the comedic group The Florida Men, inspired by their own personal experience as Orlando cast members, make fun of how Brazilians act in theme parks. Of course it was exaggerated, as comedy usually is, but Brazilians still strongly criticized it online, forcing the group to publicly apologize for it.
Jokes aside, as a Brazilian, former cast member and theme park connoisseur, I have to admit some of what the video was based on is absolutely true. Most of you has had your share of interesting stories involving tourists from the country in Orlando. After all, Brazil became the number one overseas-visitor in the city in 2013, surpassing longtime winner UK for the first time. Which means that, in 2013, almost 777,000 Brazilians came to Central Florida, a number that has exploded 900 percent since 2004.
As a Brazilian, living in the outskirts of our biggest city, Sao Paulo, I’m the first to say that this is NOT an article to defend ourselves, because we allegedly act in the wrong way when travelling. It is simply an article to talk about the cultural differences between Brazil and the US, and I’ll try my best to explain what those are. Of course it is an impossible task to put an entire population of 204 million people into one “box,” so I’ll make it clear that this is a general guide to understanding the Brazilian tourists in Orlando, divided into five topics.
The language barrier
Robert Niles and other writers from Theme Park Insider have experienced this when visiting Disneyland Paris, Tokyo Disney, Universal Studios Japan and other theme parks from around the world. Yes, we are currently living in an era in which English is perceived as the number one language. That still doesn’t mean that a person wakes up and says, "Hey! I can speak fluent English!" -- especially to Brazilians, since our language (Portuguese) is SO much different from English. We don’t have anything similar to Present Perfect and don’t get me started on those damn phrasal verbs - quotes taken directly from my English classes (I worked as an English teacher for 10 years in Brazil). Another aggravating issue is that English is not taught in our public schools here and even most private (and usually expensive) schools don’t have particular great teachers for it. The solution is to enroll your kid in specialized English schools or private classes for an expensive extra amount every month. (That is also very common among adults.) In the end, that still doesn’t mean that one will become fluent. My students were all upper-middle class, teenagers and adults, most of whom were still having problems after years of classes with the verb “to be” and the pronunciation of the sound “th” in “thing.” (Yes, that is very tough and unusual for a Brazilian!)
Combine that with the fact that Orlando is sold in Brazil as an easy place to travel, and that you can go there if you don’t speak English! If you think about Orlando’s signaled freeways and friendly maps and cast members in all theme parks, ready to help at any problem, and compare it to a place such as New York City, it is true. It is an easy, breezy city to visit... but of course doubts and problems can arise in any vacation, and that is when you see lost, non-fluent Brazilians in theme parks, trying desperately to communicate in a foreign language.
The Brazilian way of doing things
This is a tricky point, because I really don’t want you to see it as something negative. It can be good or bad, depending on the situation. In Brazil we have something called “jeitinho Brasileiro” (which literally means “little Brazilian way”). We have an unique way of handling things, very different from Americans, trying to take advantage of any loopholes we see. For example, we know that we can only travel with one overhead luggage inside the plane. But what if no one sees me taking three? Let’s try it then. The same principle can be applied to most rules. Fastpasses are only allowed at a certain, scheduled, time of day? But what if I talk to that cast member, explain my unique situation, and try to get in the attraction now?
That is why you can often see Brazilians trying to get something out of a situation which has a clear, stated rule. That can also lead, in an overuse of the “jeitinho Brasileiro,” to cutting line in front of other people, for example.
This didn’t come out of nowhere in Brazil. Since colonial times, things DO NOT run smoothly here, even in legal institutions. Sometimes we have to be creative to get things done, such as getting city hall to fix a huge hole on the street you live in. That is why we are perceived in business as creative people, always thinking outside the box. We have to be creative in Brazil just to get by and live our lives.
Disney has known this for a long time. Heck, the character Jose Carioca is the animated representation of the “jeitinho Brasileiro!"
Jose Carioca, center, with his buddies Donald Duck and Panchitos Pistoles
The shopping-spree necessity
This is not necessary something you see in theme parks, but more in the Orlando outlets. I still thought it was important to explain.
Things are expensive in Brazil. Very expensive. I’ll get a little economical here, but I promise I’ll be brief. Our current average wage is of R$1943 per month (having worked 320 hours that month). For us to go to the mall and buy a pair of Gap jeans, we would have to expend around R$139, or 7% of the average wage. In the US, that would represent only 1.5% of the average wage. It gets worse when we talk about electronics. An unlocked iPhone 6 Plus or Galaxy S6 will cost almost TWICE our average wage, whereas in the US it is roughly a third of it. Add to it the fact that we don’t have a lot of outlets stores or malls in Brazil and voilà! You get the gist of the shopping necessity that gets to Brazilians when they arrive in the US and see things like “Buy One, Get One Free.” It is our chance to stock up on clothes, tennis shoes, electronics and whatever we feel like we need, for a REASONABLE price.
Cheerfulness is our middle name
Brazilians are cheerful. Not only that, we greet each other with kisses on the cheek; hug people we hardly know; and are loud, loud people. It is in our nature. And that can disturb others when, in the middle of the park or in a line, we start talking loudly or decide to sing some song to pass the time! Don’t take it personally! We are friendly, optimistic and informal people and not afraid to show it, even when it isn’t necessarily the best place or time…
Living the “once in a lifetime” dream
If you think that the theme parks tickets are expensive right now, imagine for us, having to pay it in dollars, a currency at its strongest (current exchange rate: US$1 – R$3.10!). Plus airfare tickets (at around US$800), hotels, car rental, you know the drill. All of it in dollars!
A cheap solution to that is embarking on a pre-fixed tour with a guide, accompanied by other fellow Brazilians, a.k.a. those groups you see in Orlando, wearing T-shirts with the same color. That can be cheaper and also solves the problem with the first topic regarding the language. Even so, for a lot of Brazilians, it is their longtime dream to go to “The Happiest Place on Earth,” and it will probably be a dream they will get to live only once because of how expensive it is. So it is important to live such dream at its fullest, by visiting everywhere and, why not, using the “jeitinho Brasileiro” to do everything!