Just now when millions of people are following Olympic athletes’ performances, we decided to take you to Brazil. Our Spanish coach, Juanjo, agreed to speak up and tell us about his Brazilian adventure. From Santander (Spain) to Rio de Janeiro, he unveils the cultural and language differences. Take this journey with us to the city of Corcovado known worldwide for the 125 feet statue of Jesus, Christ the Redeemer and discover how the Olympics has changed the everyday life of Brazilians.
Hello Juanjo, can you introduce yourself for your readers?
My name is Juanjo (Juan José). I was born in the north of Spain, in a city close to Santander called Torrelavega. I’ve been living in Brazil, in Goiania, for over three years now. Here, I’m a middle school Spanish teacher. I also work for a language school and I’m a SpeakPlus coach. I love teaching my mother tongue. When you teach a language, you don’t just teach a student how to communicate, you also give him a part of your culture and identity. What makes me the happiest is to see ten-years old students speak Spanish and to feel how the want to learn the language.
Why did you decide to go to Brazil?
I moved to Madrid when I was 26. There, I met a Brazilian girl that became my wife. Four years later, she wanted to go back to her country and so we moved there. I left home for love.
Tell us a little about Brazil…
When I left for Brazil I thought that I would get used to it pretty fast. I soon realized that there were so many differences between both cultures! First, the schedules are completely different! Here, life starts way earlier than in Spain: for examples, my co-workers start working at 7 AM. Same thing for meals: in Spain I used to have lunch at 2:30 PM, here we eat before 1 PM.
I was also really amazed by the weather. Brazil is a very big country and climates are varied. In the middle of the country, the weather is very warm, you can wear summer clothes all year long!
The paperwork required for day-to-day life is way more difficult than in Spain. You need a lot of papers to open a bank account and the waiting time is unbearable before you can pay a bill. Public transportation is pretty bad, you need a car or a bike.
Inhabitants are usually very nice, but their lifestyle is less stressful than in Europe. I think that the Latin American culture is more about passion and feelings. In Europe, we are looking for numbers and efficiency.
What are the main differences between Portuguese and Spanish?
Before I came to Brazil, I learned the basis of Portuguese but it’s always better to learn by speaking to natives. Portuguese and Spanish are pretty similar but I don’t think it’s an easy language to learn, even for a Spanish speaking person.
Portuguese’s phonetic is way more complicated and varied. Brazilians often have troubles understanding me when I talk. For example, the way you pronounce “B” and “V”. Spaniard often pronounce it the same way, but in Portuguese, those two letters are pronounced very differently. You also have to mind the false friends: words that sound the same but have very different meanings. For example, the word “exquisito” describes something very tasty, but in Portuguese, it means something strange.
What would you recommend to someone that wants to visit Rio de Janeiro?
Rio is a wonderful city – which is why we call it “Cidade Maravilhosa” (Wonderful City) – that attracts a lot of tourists thanks to its beaches and beautiful landscapes. If you wish to go on vacations to Rio, here are some places you HAVE to see:
“El Corcovado” where you can see the Christ the Redeemer statue and that offers you a beautiful view of the city.
“El pan de azúcar” where the Sugarloaf Mountain is. It also offers a great view of the city on the other side of Corcovado.
Copacabana and Ipanema are the most famous beaches in Rio and tourists often go there. You can practice a lot of sports all along Copacabana.
El “Morro de Santa Marta“, close to the “favela” or Santa Marta is a place where you can make a full guided tour in order to see the city. That’s where Michael Jackson shot one of his most famous music videos.
If you are a soccer lover you have to see the Maracaná stadium from the inside. There, you can visit the Museum with all the most famous players of the history of Brazil.
The “Barra de Tijuca” is one of the most developed quarter in Rio:
Did the Olympics change the everyday life of Brazilians?
It’s been two years since Brazil entered an economic, political and social crisis. Economically, there was a slow down of the country’s growth rate. Politically, the country is in the middle of a profound crisis, and corruption scandals impact every political party.
Nowadays, the country is headed by an interim president taking over Dilma Rousseff suspended by an impeachment process. Therefore, the population is demotivated and they criticized the amount of money spent on the Olympics Games instead of investing the money in education and healthcare. The truth is that the Olympics could have been a great opportunity to generate economic growth in Brazil but it became a nightmare because of the poor management of politicians.
Now that the Games have started, Brazilians are closely following what is going on even though is a soccer oriented country. And with all of the above being said, the level of enthusiasm that should be expected is not there.