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Do Gringo / Brazilian Relationships Work? (10)

Updated: Feb 2, 2020

(dificuldade 10 – pode encontrar uma lista de vocabulário no final)

We’ve all seen the movie – the one where the chiseled-jawed American drives into the back of the car in front as the sexy Latina girl flashes by in a flimsy dress. The message is not very subtle, but then American movies rarely are – that babe is hot, and by implication, a lot more exciting than the women I get to hang out with in my daily life or I wouldn’t have just crashed my car!

Latin males too are often depicted as handsome, suave, elegant and confident – and always exceptional dancers! Again the idea is to contrast these characteristics to the average American or British male, who is the complete opposite of these things – either the beer-swilling slob slumped in front of the television filling his face with Doritos, or an emotional stiff in an ill-fitting suit who looks like he’s never seen a day’s sun in his life. It’s usually the black actors who are the suave, sexy ones – the Idris Elba’s and Will Smith’s of this world. English-speaking women on the other hand are usually depicted as filled with angst about everything from their weight to how their parents never loved them, and are always obsessed about the men in their life, as if they don’t actually have lives of their own. Meanwhile the gay character has to react to every situation like a three-year-old playing pass-the-parcel, and grandma is either a kindly drunk or a vengeful psychopath. But I digress.

In movies, stereotypes abound, and there is a reason for this. Without wanting to go too off-topic, it’s basically that a suave, confident protagonist who has it all is boring to watch for 90 minutes – unless his/her life falls apart. So, the protagonist is usually deeply flawed as then we can root for them to sort their lives out. But then, the stereotypes are usually stereotypes for a reason!

As soon as you visit Brazil, as with any multi-cultural country, it quickly becomes clear that people are all shapes and sizes, with different origins, accents, foibles and personalities. That said, there seems to remain an underlying sense that Brazilians are fundamentally different from British, Americans, Japanese, Swiss or most other Europeans and, as they say…opposites attract...

I can’t find any statistics, but anecdotally it seems more common to me for a Brazilian girl to hook up with a gringo guy than the other way around. Part of this could be simple math – the ratio of men to women is higher in most other countries than it is in Brazil, so there are simply more gringo guys out there looking for a partner. There’s also a significant market for people looking to pay to marry gringos (and gringos paying to marry Brazilians) as a means of coming to, or leaving, Brazil, but we’ll discount those.

So what does attract Brazilians and gringos, and what are their chances of staying together in the long term?

To answer the first question – what attracts anyone to anyone? Studies overridingly show it is physical appearance. Hence the huge success of Tinder. We judge a book by its cover. And some of those covers can cause you to…well…er…crash your car perhaps? Never happened to me of course, but there have been some near misses! But what about after you’ve hooked up and shagged each-other senseless? What’s going to keep things going like Buzz Lightyear – to ‘infinity and beyond’? How long will it be before the girl is complaining that aquele chato inglês has left the bathroom filthy yet again and she não aguenta mais, while he is down the pub bemoaning to his mates that his delightful Latina firebrand is burning out of control, and if he has to put up with her mother a single night more he’ll be on the first plane back home?!!

A report by Psychology Today suggests 5 key factors that increase the chances of a relationship surviving over time:

1. Kindness – warmth, loyalty and understanding

2. Similarity – of attitudes, goals and values

3. Conscientiousness – reliability, being organized and industrious

4. Stability – particularly emotional stability

5. Effort – recognizing that relationships require work to succeed

Interesting it doesn’t mention ‘love’. Maybe love is what you get when you get all the other stuff right? Also interesting it doesn’t mention financial security, as just about every study suggests that couples argue more about money than anything else.

Then, if the above is a 5-point formula for success, what chance do Brazilian/Gringo couples have of ‘making a go of it’? Given I’m a gringo male, I’m going to focus on relationships between Brazilian females and gringo males – but I imagine much applies when the roles are reversed. WARNING: everything I’m about to say contains sweeping unverified generalizations!

Let’s take warmth and understanding. How do Brazilian females match up with your typical western gringo male? I’d say that Brazilian women are generally very warm and caring, and tactile, and ‘wear their hearts on their sleeves’. They put a lot of themselves into a relationship, but expect a lot in return. Gringo males on the other hand can appear cool and aloof. You won’t always know what they are thinking, and they don’t necessarily smile a lot. Their sense of humor can be sarcastic, which doesn’t always play well to a Brazilian crowd. And then there’s the language barrier – unless you speak each other’s language well, you may have difficulty expressing yourself as you intended (or accidentally call some enormous meat-head a cafejeste thinking it meant malandro, as I did once!) – so it can be easy to cause offence. What starts out as an exciting delve into the unknown of meeting someone from a different culture, can quickly cool into thinking the other person doesn’t understand you or really care. Brazilian females also have quite a short fuse. The gringo male quickly needs to learn to deal with it, and the same approach won’t work for every girl. You need to dig a little deeper into the psyche…

The same applies when it comes to attitudes, goals and values. Given the different cultures, these can vary hugely. If you are from a devoutly religious background, are very close to your (large!) family, and want to get married and have children sooner rather than later, then is an agnostic, independent world-traveler who rarely sees his parents and wider family, and is willing to move to yet another country to further his career really the right person for you? Maybe yes. Opposites do attract after-all, and if he’s never had a family he could feel close to, then he may love hanging out with yours. But you’ve a lot of issues to work through at some point…

Conscientiousness. Can I even spell the word? I guess this is about whether you are a serious person. The Brits and Germans do serious very well. Brazilians on the other hand…I guess it comes down to what part of the country you are from. Paulistanos seem to be very different from Cariocas in this regard – at least that’s what the Cariocas tell me! As far as the relationship is concerned, a lot of it comes down to expectations. What exactly are you expecting from your future life partner? To stay home and look after the kids and have a meal ready for you every night? Or to get out and work for 14 hours a day? But if one of you is working 14 hours a day and the other isn’t… you are going to be beating to two entirely different drums.

Emotional stability…I think it best I avoid this subject…other than to say, we can beat to different drums in more ways than one!

Effort – recognizing that relationships require both of you to work at them. Which implies that you each need to be a little flexible, and learn to fit in with the other’s routine, be it letting them do their own thing occasionally (e.g. going off to play golf!), or attending all their friends’ birthday parties. What it doesn’t mean is that you try and change a fish into a race-horse, or conversely have to abandon your natural sense of self and self-respect and bend over backwards to accommodate your partner’s every need and whim. If you can’t view each other as being on equal terms in most respects, then respect is what will suffer. I don’t think this is any different than for couples from the same country. It’s just that you are probably starting from spaces much further apart.

Then there’s the question of loyalty, or more specifically, fidelity. According to, infidelity is officially the number one reason why couples split up. Although infidelity, like any marital issue, is something that can be ‘worked out’ and doesn’t necessarily spell the end of the relationship, it is not hard to see why it often does. Aside from any feelings of anger and betrayal, there has been a fundamental breach of trust, and trust is the absolute bedrock of a healthy relationship in my view. If you can’t trust someone with whom you are utterly inter-twined, then who can you trust? Trust is like credibility – once it’s gone, good luck trying to get it back again. And at the risk of being a little controversial here, São Paulo doesn’t exactly help itself when it comes to encouraging male fidelity. All the boates are full of married men (so they say!). If you are single, why would you want to go to one when there are so many better options? And in a city where many couples each work 12 hours a day, you can easily end-up spending more time with an attractive colleague than with your partner. That’s a lot of time to discover alternatives to a relationship that might be struggling at home.

There’s also another factor, which perhaps doesn’t get the consideration it deserves. Whenever you marry someone, in most cases you marry the family too. Have you ever opened a box of chocolates and had no clue as to whether you are going to get a Turkish Delight or a Walnut Whip? Well sometimes it’s more whipping than delight! The parents may be space invaders who wish to run every detail of your lives, or perhaps they are star destroyers who are not happy until they have sucked you into a black hole of financial misery – with all the emotional fallout that brings. Life is hard enough. Sadly those are two real-life examples, both of which resulted in the gringo and his family fleeing back to his own country. But then many couples choose to live in the gringo’s country to begin with, which presents a different set of problems. Now it is the Brasileira who has to learn to adapt, sometimes thousands of miles from her family and in terrible weather, although there are few places in the world where you won’t find another Brazilian to offer succor. But international relationships are easier when the two countries involved are close…

So, what can we conclude? Are Brazilian/gringo relationships any more or less likely to succeed than those between people of the same country? Currently in Brazil, one in three marriages ends in divorce. In the UK the rate is 42%, while in the USA it is estimated to be closer to 50%. These figures would be even higher if they included ‘co-habiting’ couples, who ‘divorce’ at a rate four times higher than married couples.

Having trawled the web, I can find no statistics, but there are several sites that suggest international marriages are more likely to fail, and certainly for a good percentage of international couples I’ve met over the years it hasn’t worked out, sadly. But there are many other cases where it has. Even I myself am happily married to my Brazilian ‘better half’ after twenty-one years, despite (or maybe because of!) having no kids, and having survived some challenges along the way. She still complains when I make a mess of the bathroom, and I get mildly irritated when she leaves the top off the toothpaste, but we’re closer now than we’ve ever been.

So, what’s the secret to success? Well, the list above isn’t a bad starting point…😉


chiseled-jawed – cinzelado

to flash – cintilar

flimsy – frágil / delicada

to hang out with – passer tempo com (normalmente sem objetivo especifico) – gíria

depicted as – retratado como

handsome – bonito

beer swilling – bebe muito cerveja

slob = preguiçoso + sujo + mal educado!

slumped – (neste caso) deitado / prostrado

emotional stiff – alguém incapaz de mostrar emoções

ill-fitting suit – terno que não cabe bem

angst – ansiedade

character – personagem

pass-the-parcel – jogo para crianças jovens (normalmente nas festas de aniversário)

drunk – bêbado/a

vengeful – vingativa

to digress – divagar

to abound – ser comum / onipresente

fall apart – disintegrar

flawed – com defeito

to root for – torcer para

to sort out – resolver

foibles – idiossincrasias / pontos fracos

to hook up with – conectar / começar um relacionamento (gíria americana)

hence – portanto/logo

near misses – quase acidentes

to shag – transar (gíria britânica)

filthy – imundo / muito sujo

to bemoan – reclamar

firebrand – cabeça-quente / alguém com um pavio curto

conscientiousness – conscienciosidade

to make a go of it – ter sucesso (expressão)

sweeping generalizations – generalizações abrangentes

to wear your heart of your sleeve – vestir o coração da manga

aloof – distante / indiferente

meat-head – cabeçudo

to delve – investigar / explorer

short fuse – pavio curto

to dig – cavar

devout – devoto / piedoso

to further – avançar

I guess – eu imagino (expressão)

in this regard – neste sentido

to beat to a different drum – ter ritmos diferentes (expressão)

to fit in – adaptar

to bend over backwards – dobrar para trás / ser muito complacente

whim – capricho

to split up – separar

to work out – resolver

to spell – (neste caso) significar

betrayal – traição

breach – quebra / violação

bedrock – fundamento / alicerce

utterly – completamante

inter-twined – entrelaçado

to be struggling – tropeçar / ter dificuldades

Turkish delight – delicia turca (tipo de chocolate)

Walnut Whip – marca de chocolate inglesa

whip – chicote

to suck – chupar

fallout – consequências

to flee – fugir

succor – ajuda / conforto

to trawl – pesquisar em detalhe (neste caso) – normalmente a ação de uma traineira pescando no mar

to make a mess – fazer bagunça


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