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How alike are Brazil and US? Individualism (and guns) are big.

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I saw this quote in the Brazilian daily Folha de São Paulo that summed up how little Brazil knows and understands the US.

The quote is this (the translation is mine): “As everyone knows, many Americans, perhaps the majority, think that to like sex is to have some kind of disease.”

Those words came from José Geraldo Couto and were in a story he wrote for Mais, the weekly supplement that is supposed to be Folha’s forum for more thoughtful pieces.

I’ve spoken to Mr. Couto a few times and he always struck me as a fairly thoughtful kind of guy.

But this statement is a perfect illustration of how little even educated Brazilians know and understand the US.

Let me count the ways

Brazil is no different from many countries in that there is a love-hate relationship with the US. But the two nations are very similar.

Both are continental-sized nations, inhabited by Europeans who subdued the local indigenous populations and built colonial economies on the backs of African slaves. Large wilderness spaces still remain.

Both have citizens who are open and friendly, but not very worldly.

Both are societies in which individualism is more marked than collectivism. The people are creative. Consumerism is king, and owning a car is not just vital, but a status symbol.

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