We had an interesting discussion with a Brazilian student recently returned from a Science w/o Borders scholarship at the University of Nebraska. When we set these kids off to places like Nebraska, I wondered how they would adapt to the cold. There is no place in Brazil that ever gets as cold as Nebraska does on a typical night in February or March. In fact, summer in Nebraska is cooler than winter in most of Brazil. But they evidently liked the cold or at least didn’t mind.
He talked about the differences in our countries. Little things count. Brazilians hug on the first meeting, Americans not so much. Brazilians and Americans like beans. But the Brazilian black beans and rice is very different from our pork & beans that Brazilians call sweet.
On the plus side, people are similar in both countries in their general goodness. Our Brazilian friend cautioned his fellows not to mistake Americans’ more distant body language as a sign of distance of coolness. He said that the people of Nebraska were almost uniformly friendly and welcoming. I felt proud of my fellow Americans.
One big surprise for our Brazilian friend was how sparsely populated were the “big” cities of Nebraska. Nebraska is not the most densely populated of American states, but American cities are fundamentally different from Brazilians ones. Brazilian cities are much denser. You are driving through mostly empty territory until suddenly you see a city. It is almost like looking at a wall of tall buildings rising out of the soil. American cities have extensive suburbs. You begin to drive into the city long before you get to the center. And when you get to the center, it is often not very densely settled. I have noticed this difference myself when driving and flying. When flying over the U.S. at night, you see lights spread out over wide areas. There are houses and streets down there. In Brazil there cities are areas of very bright light surrounded by darkness.