Last week I saw this article on the Guardian website – for those of you who don’t do links, the title is Want to be happy? Don’t live in the UK. It goes on to list various statistics which demonstrate that people in the UK and Ireland pay more tax, enjoy fewer holidays, shorter life expectancy and fewer hours sunshine than France, Spain and various other countries in Europe.
The title of the article made me smirk and feel a little smug (I certainly see more sunshine and enjoy more holidays than I did in London), but as a couple of friends pointed out, the UK is a great place to live! Amongst other things, we (or should I say they?) have a free health service for all, great education, low crime rates, low poverty and politicians who are publicly accountable. And yet people in the UK have been subjected to a steady stream of doom and gloom for years:
This contrasts starkly with Brazil, recently dubbed the ‘Country of Optimism’.
As part of my ongoing efforts to improve my Portuguese, this week I have been slowly working my way through a really interesting article in last month’s Época magazine. They recently repeated a survey originally carried out back in 1998, asking Brazilians about their lives, circumstances and their hopes for the future.
|Brazil, the country of optimism. What a contrast!|
As you might guess from the picture above (it was the cover story), the research suggests that Brazilians are very optimistic. In fact there was more to it than that. The research suggests that there has been a massive jump in optimism in Brazil in the period between 1998 and 2011. Check out this graph:
It’s too long an article for me to summarise everything, but I think there are some interesting points raised that are worth highlighting. The more recent jump in Brazilian optimism is explained (at least partially) through the continued economic growth that Brazil has enjoyed while Europe and the US have suffered.
The article also suggests that Brazilians have been optimistic in general since the 1930s when the country was given a sense of unity through the boosting of industry and urbanisation and a feeling of nationalism was supported and spread through the radio.
This issue around nationalism and national pride is an interesting one for me. Most Brazilians are puzzled when I tell them that an English flag has very sinister, fascistic connotations – to hang one outside your house would suggest to most people that you are a racist xenophobe. Many British people feel uncomfortable with displays of national pride and as with Brazil, this is related to our nation’s history over the last hundred years or so.
Well I have to say, I love living in this positive atmosphere. Brazilians have a phrase, Gentileza gera gentileza (kindness generates kindness) and I think this could be expanded to include optimism: Otimismo gera otimismo! But although I live here in Brazil, ‘my country’ will always be Britain – I’m saddened and depressed by how negative things seem to be back home and I don’t think it’s just because of the economy. How do you feel about your country?