How the Youth of Brazil Fool Around

(…hoje é Carnaval sexta-feira)

I’ve written about ‘ficar‘ on my blog before (as well as related topics) and I’ve thought over its meaning many times. It’s one of those things that just keeps popping up, perhaps it’s because I’m still rather young and my understanding is that younger people ficar more than older people. Like everything I see and experience here, I first think about how it relates to my own culture and in that sense I’m taken back to high school. Coming into my adolescence in the 90’s, the name of the game was “fooling around” with different girls (which usually meant kissing and, yes, a little more). This activity has always been relegated to that time in my life and as such, I left it behind over a decade ago.

The difference with ‘ficar’ is not what it entails but rather the age range it encompasses here in Brazil. Anywhere from age 13 to one’s late 30’s (and I’m throwing out a wild guess that it ends by about 40), people ficar like it was some sort of product that’s on sale and quickly running out of stock. I can’t explain how many conversations I’ve overheard (mostly from women) gossiping over how they got with this person or that person. Guys participate in the same activity, only I don’t hear them talk about it but perhaps because I don’t participate in this ‘lifestyle’, I’m not privy to the whole story. Then again, this isn’t something I’m studying out of a book, it’s something I continuously see and overhear.

So why am I writing about this subject? It came about thanks to a conversation I had with another American I ran into, who also has lived in Brazil quite a long time. Our conversation resulted in the realization that love in Brazil is not any less important than lust, it just comes second in the process.

On a few particular occasions (drinking is involved), I’ve given in and done the ficar thing but ended it the next day because I consider myself more “old school” than not. To me, it’s more important and interesting to get a coffee and converse with a woman first than it is to get physical with her. In fact, in my little world, the former is pretty close to being a requirement if the latter is to happen. As a quick aside, the same American I spoke with about the subject suggested that being “old school” in the way that I am is more a sign of leading a homosexual lifestyle than, let’s say, being raised a church-going, women-respecting kind of guy. Needless to say, I had a laugh on behalf of his convoluted reasoning.

I guess I’m what one might call the “relationship type” and, in this day and age of hyper sexualization, I’ve made my peace with that. But in Brazil, I constantly find myself at a disadvantage. Why? Well, on one of those ficar experiences which I mentioned, I voiced my opinion on the whole matter and what the woman responded with left me a bit speechless. She said, “here we ficar simply to ficar but we also ficar to see if we like the other person as a potential mate.”

In other words, the physical, from first base to homebase, is a precursor to the emotional. Frankly, this gave me lots of pause. One thing that the American guy and I agreed on, as two outsiders looking in, is that this indeed is how things are among the Brazilian youth. However, it was his view that it’s not only different but it’s totally okay that it’s different. Of course, there are outliers and exceptions to the “rule” but, among the Brazilian youth, ficar seems very much like an everyday thing and I get the feeling that, much like the meaning of the verb itself, it’s here to stay.


17 thoughts on “How the Youth of Brazil Fool Around

  1. As an American that’s lived in Brazil, I’ve come to see that the Brazilian way is better because sexual attraction needs to happen before a relationship can develop. I agree with your friend that your thinking is convoluted but I don’t think it’s a sign of leading a homosexual lifestyle I think it has more to do with your social upbringing as American. As somebody who used to be like you I eventually came around to discovering that I was dating a lot of girls that I really wasn’t that attracted to because we didn’t click physically, and that I was actually just wasting her time and mine by trying to do the love thing before the lust thing. Não rolou química e pisei na bola.

    The thing I like about ficar is that I believe attraction isn’t a choice, I think you are attracted to people at a much more lizard level than people want to admit and that you either are attracted to someone or you aren’t. I think women are more in tune with this than men are and that’s why women say they can decide if they’ll sleep with you or not in the first ten seconds of meeting. The beauty of ficar is that sometimes you really are attracted to girls who you thought didn’t fit your type. Anyone who goes out and kisses a lot of people is going to find out that what they thought they are attracted to and who they end up being attracted to are two different things. It’s also hard to pick out the good kissers just by sight alone.

    Lust is the first step to love and it can’t go the other way around, doing it the other way is old fashioned because it’s the wrong way to do it.

    • Just a quick correction before I comment. It was I who said the American I met had convoluted thinking, not the other way around.

      Being here as long as I have (meaning not just for a week like most people), I’m not sure if I’ll say I’m slowly coming around to the Brazilian way of thinking but I’m a whole lot more accepting of it. Basically, I still think sleeping around is negative but if it’s just some kissing etc then no harm, no foul.

      Once I did a test that matched a photo with the personality of the person in the photo, based on a questionare. It was then that I realized the disparity between the two. Then, if you throw in chemistry, that’s a whole other level. Looks and chemistry help with the hook ups but personally I just can’t be with a stupid woman or even one whose personality I find unattractive. I fully understand that’s not a barrier for many people but it is for me.

      As for the last comment in your response, that can only be said by opinion, no way to call it factual. Right or wrong, to each his own.


  2. Very interesting post. I am brazilian, but, living in a foreign country for sometime, I just cannot act like they do, and still, sometimes I am confused about when a kiss is just a kiss, or means the person really is interested in you. Although sleeping together at the first night is common over there, it might seem confusing for some people as well, as in the end, again, you have no guarantees if it was just one night stand, or if the person was really interested in you. Nice to read your opinions! Have a nice week!

  3. One thing I’ve sort of come to realise, and you could say appreciate, about this whole part of Brazilian culture is that Brazilians seem to open themselves up emotionally a lot quicker than Americans and British people (I could add Spanish since I’ve also lived in Madrid but that one’s still up for debate in my mind). By emotionally I mean they’re a lot more forward in saying what they want. Like you know, they like to kiss, touch, say things they’re probably not entirely sure they mean (in regards to how much they like you etc…). Whereas western girls leave that stuff ’til much later. I once heard a Brazilian girl arguing with a western woman. She said something along the lines of: “You women think it’s slutty to kiss on a first date, or straight away…well we think it’s slutty to have sex straight after you’ve kissed. Brazilian women may kiss early, but kissing is harmless. Kissing doesn’t mean sex straight away for us but for you sex usually comes straight after kissing, no matter how long it takes to get there.”
    She kinda had a point. Like others have said, I’ve come to appreciate Brazilian culture for what it is. I guess in a sense I, too, can be quite old skool. So when I was with a Brazilian girl for a year (we just broke up a couple of months ago), I found it hard to come to terms with certain outlooks of hers. She was actually a really uptight person and had spent most of her teens and early 20s shunning male advances. But her friends eventually got her to loosen up and she became more Brazilian in that sense. She clearly didn’t represent the average Brasileira, but she did say to me that kissing is nothing, but that sex was a special thing that came later. And that even though Brazilian women like to flaunt their bodies, they also have respect for their bodies. A have a few friends who it would bother to know if their girlfriend had kissed half the guys under the sun. In Brazil that doesn’t seem like an issue.
    As you said though, this is definitely young Brazilians. I know that particular girl’s parents were crazy strict and hated her teenage period when she started going out at night.

    • I’ve personally had experiences that vary along the spectrum but it was from pure observation, I wrote this post. Some phrases also have different meanings than one would think. “Você me quer?” comes to mind. When I hear this, I think “well, yeah, that’s why I’m with you.” but the woman means “Do you want to have sex with me now?”

      I think the point you hit in the comment is that a kiss in the US kind of means, “I accept being physical with you.” whereas in Brazil it just means, “I like kissing, it’s nice.” A Brazilian friend in the US was at a club with me and this American girl was grinding with him on the dance floor. He went in for the kiss and she denied him. He was pissed.

      • Haha not surprised she denied him, man!
        One thing you must have experienced in Brazil though is, if you’re really attracted to a girl, physically or because her personality, you need to be a little more aggressive about the way you try and “get” her. Things are so much more subtle here in Europe it’s almost like psychological warfare. I noticed Brazilian girls assume you’re not interested if you’re not being quite aggressive (some might say even asshole-ish) in your approach. Guess it’s a result of them being so used to extremely forward Brazilian guys.
        By the way, I know this is probably a bad place to ask, but what is it you actually do in Brazil? Are you working?

      • Yup, right on the money. I’ve been told by several women that so-and-so was giving me signals (“dando mole”) but I just don’t notice it. It’s like the women give signals that are way too passive and men give signals that are way too aggressive. There’s no middle ground. That’s just not my approach so as you can imagine, getting attention is tough for me. I really don’t see myself becoming aggressive in order to change this, which sucks, but I know myself pretty well.

        Well, I write articles about Brazil and work as an analyst for a few US companies, looking over operational data, writing reports based on it, doing calculations. Sort of fell in my lap and, since it’s in dollars, I don’t complain.

      • Interesting to read so many different experiences… Following this article and laughing a lot abt it all!

        And you get a point. As a brazilian, no matter where I am, if I go out with a guy, I always expect that in the end of the night he kisses me. I would not have sex, but definitely I expect to be kissed.

        I remember that with my last boyfriend, the first time we went out, he just kissed me when we said goodbye, so, when he was driving me home, I really thought to myself he was not interested at all, and I had given up the hope he would kiss me…

        We do not like to wait so much to kiss, and if it takes long, we assume it is just friendship and move on…

        And living overseas, I might say it is quite confusing to read the signs, and seriously, I never know if someone is interested or not. I am a completely dumb. :P

      • If it makes you feel any better, many people are dumb (myself included). I’m average or above-average at noticing when an American woman is interested in me. In Brazil, with Brazilian women? Unless she’s forward (very unlikely), I haven’t got a clue.

        As an American, when in the US, I’d hope the woman doesn’t expect to be kissed. For me that depends on the chemistry. ; )

      • indeed depends on the chemistry, but some people fool around and we just cannot get. So I always wait…. I never move forward…. and maybe most girls. I would feel very bad if I was reading the wrong signs, and I would be afraid of thinking he wants when truly he did not.
        The good about this is to learn a guy’s point of view.

      • Nice, are those US companies based in Brazil or do you just work at home from Brazil? Just wondering because I’m still currently a student and I’m STILL struggling to work out what my “passion” is, or at least what path in life I should follow. Complicated story but I became disillusioned with professional football (soccer), which, considering the earnings of some friends of mine now, might have been a mistake, but I’ve have always been fairly academic.
        Have travelled a lot and am really up for living abroad full-time at some point in the near future. Brazil and Spain are firmly on the cards (although anywhere is an option). It’s refreshing/inspiring to see someone like yourself making it work abroad. I just need to work out what areas of work I can pursue to make that dream into a reality. Oh and of course get fluent in Spanish and Portuguese!

        Totally get what you mean about the girls. When I met my ex, I was supposed to have known that her offering me some of her drink was a clear sign that she was interested :/

      • I’m just working long distance. I like learning (as you can read in the comments on my latest post) and by arranging work that pays in dollars then spending it in a currency (reals) that essentially doubles my paycheck, I don’t have to work a lot, meaning I have more time available to learn subjects that interest me. Also, I have willingly substituted the rat race for quality of lifestyle, meaning I live in one of the best cities in the world, can go to one of a myriad of beaches at any time, go hiking, get beers with friends, take advantage of the free events and activities that can be found in any major city and I end up enjoying myself much more than if I was back in the US working a 9-5, trying to do the whole ‘buy a house, have a nice car, be a slave to work’ type thing. To be clear, though, with what I get paid, I couldn’t live in the US, but money has never been the driving force behind what I do. Of course, I could just look for more work and earn more, but I have yet to do that.

  4. Pingback: The IPEA Study & Sexualized Spaces | Eyes On Recife

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