I am an inveterate optimist about my home country but I tend to be slightly offended if someone criticises it. Throughout my travels I’ve come to learn that I’m not alone in this complex feeling about Brazil. Many Brazilians are fiercely proud of their origins, yet harbour something of an inferiority complex when travelling abroad.
We tend to think that when it comes to Brazil's portrayal in the international media, the main subjects are our favelas, our inequality, our terrible bureaucracy or our lack of infrastructure. But to all those self doubting Brazilians out there, I have good news. A recent trip through continental Europe suggests the first words that spring to mind Europeans' minds when they think of Brazil are still sun, fashion, and a booming economy.
For the everyman in the shops of the Marais and boutique hotels of Berlin, there were only smiles and praise in reaction to that the fact we were Brazilians. In places like these everyone knows at least someone who is joining the hordes of entrepreneurs and pleasure seekers moving to Brazil. Not to mention that quite a few have even had a Brazilian fling or love affair.
Considering some of the serious political and economic problems we’ve had, it would be foolish to think this optimism about Brazil isn’t fragile. I could be cynical and say it's a product of Brazilians' reputation for being big spenders when they travel abroad. But that’s not my style: it can’t all be about the money. I’m sure the lovely cab driver I met in Paris, who ended up talking about how he would like to move to Brazil, meant what he said.
My father and I had a lengthy discussion on how he thought Brazil was not viewed seriously around the world. But at the end of the trip, he’d changed his mind. Maybe we benefit from something inherent: beautiful beaches and friendly people. Or perhaps it's the product of surprisingly effective PR.
Either way, Brazil should not rest on its laurels. To ensure we hold onto this positive and bubbly image, we need to take notice and fix some of our problems. Brazil is no Scandinavian paradise when it comes to inequality and recent news of delayed infrastructure projects for the World Cup are worrying.
But for all the Brazilians with an inferiority complex, those that think everybody is pointing the finger at us, all I have to say is relax, because that’s certainly not the case.
Fernando Augusto Pacheco is a Monocle 24 researcher