Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Reverse Culture Shock!

Well, after about a year and three months living in Brazil, today it’s finally time for me to pack my bags and head home. So for those of you who don’t know my (newest!) life plan yet, here it is....I applied for, got, and accepted a job teaching English in Moscow. I’ve always wanted to go to Russia.
BUT then I thought about it some more, and realised....I’m not done with Brazil yet.
So as soon as my work visa is processed, I’ll be flying straight back to Brazil. This means I’ll be in the UK for at least the next 2 ½ to 3 months. And I now find myself in a position I’ve not been in for over five years....I’m coming back to live in England for a while! I’m really looking forward to getting back and seeing everyone again, but at the risk of sounding dramatic (Who.....ME? DRAMATIC!?!), at the same time past experience tell me I need to brace myself for some reverse culture shock. 
"Yes, mine was the Big Mac with fries!"
 I guess coming back from Brazil will be easier to get used to than it was coming back from Japan (I won't be bowing at people who serve me in Tesco for a start!). Here is one thing I'm worried about though: that my overuse of Facebook may come back to haunt me. Facebook has become massive in the five years I’ve been away. I like using it because it’s pretty easy to keep track of what my friends get up to. But then Facebook isn’t only for my good friends....because over time I’ve found I’ve added quite a few acquaintances on here too. Some of these people I remember clearly how we met (it really didn’t take a long time for some of my friends to leave a lasting impression! Especially some of the guys I met in Japan.)...but some I really don’t remember how we met, or if I have actually ever spoken. You see, I'm really good with faces...but after that, my memory isn't so good! But these people appear on my Facebook wall; and I know as much about what they has been getting up to as I do about some of my ‘real’ friends! 

"Now then BFF! It's only bloody ME!!!"
Last time I was home I saw someone I know in a pub, and I enthusiastically went over for a chat. I knew a lot about what was going on in her life because she frequently updated her status on Facebook. Unfortunately for me in my drunken state, I’d completely forgotten this girl was someone I barely knew in ‘real life’. So she looked really confused when I bounded over for a catch up, because well, we had barely spoken before, and I guess my over familiarity made for an awkward moment! So here is a warning, don’t be my ‘friend’ on Facebook unless you want me to greet you like a long lost friend in ‘real life’, my memory isn’t great and I get confused!
  Another thing I find challenging to get my head around is how normal being back home is after such a short space of time. It doesn’t seem to matter how long I’ve been away for, after a few hours of being back it’s almost like I’ve never been away. Of course, this is great, but it lulls me into a false sense of security, because it’s like everything you have done before didn’t actually happen. Only it did happen, and people have moved on. So when you are laughing and joking with your friends, and they reference a private joke you know nothing about...then you stop laughing and need to ask what they are talking about, it's weird! You have to remind yourself that the reason you don’t know what they are laughing at is because you have been away, and not because they have been sneakily doing stuff without you!
  Slotting back into life at home can be quite frustrating when you forget small things too. I’ll give you an example of this; the first time I went home after being away for a year and a half, I turned on my Orange pay as you go phone, and found it was still working! Wheeeeeeeeeeey! So me and my sister Hannah went into the phone shop and called over one of the sales men. Maybe I’m wrong, but in England there are only two types of people who work in these shops. First there are those people who are really good at what they do, and know exactly what they are talking about. Then there are those guys who really shouldn’t be there and don’t seem to know anything about phones.

"Sorry, I'm kinda lost! What networks
are there in England?"
   So I was in this phone shop when this second type of phone shop guy walked over. When we started talking to him he looked like he was having trouble remembering to breathe, let alone breathe AND remember to answer my questions at the same time. The conversation went a bit like this:
“How much does a phone call cost to other Orange users?”
“5p a minute”
 “How much does it cost to call other networks, like O2 and, erm....sorry, what other networks are there again?”
The next five seconds were really uncomfortable, as me, Hannah and the phone shop guy all stood there staring at each other. I could see I'd surprised the phone shop guy. He might not have been able to spell his own name without the help of his name badge, but at this moment in time he had kicked my ass at, well....life!
I stood there feeling pretty stupid....how could I have forgotten something so basic? I turned to Hannah, who thought this was hilarious! Whilst staring at me she said, “oh my God, Andrew!” Then she turned to the phone shop guy and said “I’m really sorry, he has been in Japan for a few years, that’s why he can’t remember!”  
"Seriously, don't piss Mummy off....off you little shit!"
And on the same afternoon when we were walking down the high street, I saw a woman walking hand in hand with her kid not too far away. This kid must have really done something to piss Mummy off, because as we got closer to them, she stopped walking, looked at her kid, and slapped his backside really hard! Not surprisingly he started crying. I turned to Hannah and said “Jesus, did you see that woman smacking her kid?” Hannah looked at me like I hadn’t finished what I was saying....and simply said this,”and?” I was reminded that I was now in Scarborough and this was quite normal down Scarborough high street! I’d forgotten how the same standards didn’t apply here.

"And this one time,
in Brazil!"

  Also, the three times I have been home since I was living in Japan, I couldn’t stop starting the majority of my stories with “In Japan (and I am pretty sure I will be starting all my stories with ‘in Brazil’ when I get back). I get annoyed with myself for doing this after a while, so I imagine I must really be quite annoying for other people....so please bear with me whilst I settle back in guys (and get some new stories!).
   I guess me and this blog will be having a vacation from each other for a good few months. Thanks for taking the time to check it out; and for everyone reading in the UK, I hope to see as many of you as I can whilst I’m back...even if you don’t really know me that well but you have me on your Facebook list! 

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Attitudes Towards Sexuality and, erm...Beer Bottles!

This blog was written a few weeks ago, at the same time I wrote my ‘New Year in Ubatuba’ blog. Whilst the tone of that blog was quite pleasant, I realised that what I wrote alongside it didn't sit so well. I guess you could say this blog also links well with my last blog about Sao Paulo gay pride too, in that, from what I’ve seen of Brazil in the year or so I’ve been here, it would appear it is no accident one of the biggest gay pride events in the world happens here....because people appear much more open about sex, and how they express their sexualities.
To describe why, let me start by taking this opportunity to go back to the New Year’s house party I previously described in Ubatuba. Myself and my housemates had left the beach to continue partying, and someone plugged their ipod into some speakers, and pumped out some dance music. As I walked inside to get a beer, the music changed from the bubble gum pop we were listening to, to some Funk Carioca. I doubt I will forget in a hurry what I saw next....as I walked outside, the group of about 8 women that I was sharing a house with (whom I had thought were lovely up until this point!) were dancing obscenely! They had their asses a few inches off the ground, and were thrusting their crotches quite aggressively, in time to the music, like they were something out of a banned rap video/dogs on heat!
"Right, I've got me bottle,
now get them 'choons on!"
This on its own wasn’t shocking, after all, we were at a party. However not long after this, these girls then upped the stakes. I had NEVER up until this point seen ladies dancing in public like this before....they started doing the ‘bottle dance’! There were beer bottles strategically placed on the floor, and the women were grinding their hips and lowering their crotches in the direction of the beer bottles. They were contorting their bodies as they moved up and down over the neck of the bottle...in a very erotic way!
The almost middle aged guy in me was wondering if this was safe, imagine if one of these women, in their shit-faced state, slipped onto of these glass bottles, how would you explain that down at A&E! But I think it was the sheer shamelessness of it that struck me as very different to what I’m used to. They looked so comfortable with themselves dancing like this. I’m from England (the country that gave the world Jane Austen), and generally, in England the women don’t dance like this, because I guess it’s not how women are supposed to behave.

Actually, scrap that, women kind of do sometimes behave like this. Anyone who has been in a nightclub ten minutes before closing time will vouch for me here, when I say it’s not uncommon to see a group of women stampeding onto the dance floor to dance to something like Beyonce or Christina Aguilaira just before chucking out time. By doing so, the women who walked in to the club sober, are now after a skin full of drinks, more likely to be going all out, and be throwing themselves around, tits and asses swinging all over the place!

Well ladies, over here this provocative dancing has been taken to a WHOLE new level....and some! I later found this on Wikipedia to describe what I'd been listening to:

Funk carioca (English: Rio Funk), favela funk and, elsewhere in the world, baile funk, is a type of dance music from Rio de Janeiro, derived from Miami bass.[1][2]
 Although originated in Rio, funk carioca has become increasingly popular amongst (mainly) low classes in other parts of Brazil.

In Brazil, Funk Carioca lyrics are often criticized due to their violent and sexually explicit, as well as misogynistic content - the degradation of women as objects for sex is a recurring theme in funk Carioca. Girls are called "cachorras" (dogs) - meaning bitches - and "popozudas" - large asses, and many songs revolve around casual and degrading sex practices with them.

"Novinhas" (young/underaged girls) as sexual objects are also a frequent theme in funk songs.[19]

I've included a bit of funk for you here, without the bottles!

It did make me wonder why I had been so surprised to see women dancing in such an unrestrained way. Why was I so pruish? A few days later though I was reading a British tabloid newspaper online, and it was discussing the X Factor final. I quote:

The X Factor final was the most controversial broadcast of recent times.Rihanna stripped to a bikini to perform What's My Name alongside a troupe of scantily-dressed dancers.

Later in the programme, watched by a peak audience of 18.8million, Miss Aguilera gave a provocative performance as she sang Burlesque alongside dancers in risqué lingerie. Parents were furious about the 'soft porn' routines, which featured lewd poses and provocative costumes, and described the scenes as a 'terrible role model' for children.
Christina, doing it for the kids!
In England one tabloid in particular, The Sun, is famous for having topless women on its page three. Tabloids are also known to print kiss and tells, and where some slapper will rate a footballers performance in bed. They often accompany this story with a picture of a 'kiss-and-tell girl' in HER 'lingerie' capturing HER 'lewd poses'.

Arguably parents can choose if their children can watch the X Factor and its risque performances; but any kid can walk into a newsagents and buy a tabloid. This seems to be ok, but Christina dancing in her underwear on TV doesn't. The lines of what are and what aren't acceptable when it comes to sex are quite blurred in England...which on reflection, is pretty strange.
But the lines appear to be anything but over here!

Originally I had assumed that it’s unlikely that you would go to a Brazilian family party, and they would do the bottle dance in between something like A-Ha and Britney Spears. Surely what I’d seen at the party was not something everyone would rush to the dance floor to do!?!
Well, I was wrong!

I was recently talking to my flat mate Kiko about what I was going to be writing in this blog. He told me that he was once at a family party, and he looked over to see his mother doing this dance. I incorrectly assumed he would be mortified that his mother was basically simulating a sex act in front him, all of his friends and relatives. His response however was far from what I had expected!
“Andrew, everybody does this only to enjoy, there is no problem!” I explained that I’d be quite embarrassed if I ever saw my Mum do the ‘bottle dance’, because, well, she would look like a whore it would be very out of character...”Andrew, you absolutely have a dirty mind!” And before I go any further, I must point out that Kiko’s mother is actually a lovely woman. From what I’ve seen of Brazilian mothers, she seems to be quite typical in that she is very family oriented, loves to cook and takes a very active role in her childrens lives....she just happens to do the bottle dance at parties! And from other conversations with Brazilians, she isn’t the only one!

"That's right ladies, you just go over there
and dance around a bit!"
Arguably the bottle dance has been around for about 15 years now, so everyone over here might have become a little desensitised to it. Yet you just have to watch Brazilian TV to see that Brazilians seem to be much more open about sex and sexuality than us Brits. I have seen quite a few shows (some during the day) that tend to include dancing women in bikinis, scattered around the studio.
I don’t watch these because I am a big perve, but because these are what are on over here. These women are never spoken to by the presenters, they are there simply to dance on the spot, and to occasionally pout at the camera. And often there isn’t actually any music on for them to dance to, but they still dance anyway! (And when I say ‘dance’, I mean they stand on the spot and sway a bit, so their breasts jiggle about!)
One Sunday afternoon I asked Kiko why there were women in bikini’s having their asses washed, with sponges, by a male contestant on a game show?”  “Well, erm.....why wouldn’t they be Andrew!?!"
Perhaps this is how Christina should have danced
on the X Factor!
Sex is very in-your-face over here, but who am I to judge? I might be from the country that gave the world Jane Austen, but I am also from the country with one of the highest teen pregnancies in Western Europe.
I’ll let you read between the lines as to what I’m getting at...but I will say this, to those British tabloid newspapers with a problem with Rihanna and Christina dancing in their underwear, get yourself over to Brazil....there are plenty of mothers over here, with a few bottles, and a few dance moves they would like to show you!