Effecting Change Alone – Observations

Danielle over at her blog recently posted on why she loves Brazil despite any particular reason an expat might find for eventually going back home. There’s a point she hits on that I think is the heart of the argument. Towards the end she says,

“…I’ve become a lot happier here after learning more and more about Brazilian history and laws and the reasons people have for doing things the way they do. It’s made me realize that I can only compare the countries to an extent, because the social and cultural context is just so, so different. This information also gave me the ability to realize which problems were true for all of Brazil, and which problems were specific to different places or social groups. Without that historical background or awareness, it’s easy to just blame every problem on Brazil in general.”

I think this is the real issue expats face and need to understand. Knowing why problems occur, what the reasons are behind it and just as important, how to approach such problems. Blindly going into a confusing situation, even the most basic one, will probably frustrate anyone, no matter where they are from. If you expect the problem, it is a little less stressful. If you understand the problem, again, you can see it for what it is and hopefully relax a bit more. All of that being said, neither of those solutions are complete. Something that sucks (ie, that even Brazilians complain about) will still suck if it can’t be fixed individually or as a group.

Brazil, when scaled-down to what the individual goes through on a daily basis , is still a country of certain basic processes that should never be complicated, yet they are. I refer to my ATM rant…I mean, observation for an example. Thinking back, I can safely say I expected lines at the ATM machine, though, I can’t say that I understood it as my understanding came in the solution (based on my experience in my own country, of course). It’s like, “well, I understand it’s a problem but I don’t understand why the way it’s done is on an infinite loop.” What I’m interested in is who will fix it and if it can only be fixed by an ‘important’ person, the type that would say, “do you realize who you are talking to?” (as some wealthy Brazilians are known to say to their less-well off fellow countrymen). In the meantime, I long for the day when the commoner in Brazil has power and can exercise it.


4 thoughts on “Effecting Change Alone – Observations

  1. I live in a country that has the challenges you describe, but they can be overcome without to much ado. First, realize that whatever the situation is, big or small, will not be as it was “back home”. Second: People you know, or maybe should know perhaps, can usually help solve the challenge. Three: Be patient, things do go in developing countries, and even though it may piss you off to no end, you’re frustrations are for you, and only you, to deal with.
    We are guests in our adopted countries for the time we are here (there). It is challenging, frustrating of course. Get to know some people with leverage, Latin America is all about who you know, not who you are.

    • I understand what you are saying, Stephan. Where we perhaps differ is on the point of having those frustrations be for the frustrated person only. I think there are certain frustrations that both foreigners and native-born share, not all, but they do exist. The old example is politics and how foreigners should never express much of an opinion on the matter being that they are ‘guests’ in their adopted country but I think that with some finesse, individual views by a foreigner can be successfully expressed. Of course, it helps if those one speaks to agree with those views.

      I’m reminded of a short episode in a bar in the middle of nowhere in Brazil when a ‘regular’ found out where I’m from, he started to attempt to argue his point about the war in Iraq and how it started. Of course, he spoke of the US a lot and I just thought he knew nothing and shouldn’t be talking about something he can’t speak clearly on. I’m all for discussing an array of topics with people but sometimes the divide is too large to cover in a simple discussion. If this one man’s opinion was more informed, it would never cross my mind that he shouldn’t speak of the politics of my country. Then again, not everyone share my willingness.

    • Thanks, Ray. I think I meant to send it in another direction, though. What I was trying to say with this post is that foreigners should think twice before complaining about this or that because there are many reasons for everything. While I started to say this, I redirected it to include how these kinds of complaints (those that both foreigners and Brazilians agree on) can be solved and how solving them requires knowing the ‘right’ people.

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