I want to start by saying that I really love Brazil and Brazilians. Brazil is a beautiful and diverse country and if I had to characterise Brazilians, I would say that they were kind, warm, hard-working and thoughtful people. Of course Brazil has its fair share of problems, and not every Brazilian is kind, warm, thoughtful, but I think Brazilians have plenty to be proud of.
I wanted to make that clear because I don’t want the rest of this post to be mistaken for being somehow anti-Brazilian. With that out of the way, let’s continue!
A few weeks ago I finally received my official Brazilian ID card for foreigners (RNE - Registro Nacional de Estrangeiros). It was a great moment, the culmination of 2 years of filling in forms, making visits to the Federal Police and waiting – with the arrival of my ID card I was finally an official resident of Brazil! When I mentioned this to friends and colleagues, several people asked if I would now go on to seek Brazilian citizenship. This got me thinking – do I actually want to become Brazilian?
To be honest, I haven’t done much research into the benefits of citizenship over permanent residency, but I guess there must be a few (voting, various other rights and governmental safeguards, etc). But with my current status (resident) I can work and I can come and go without needing to apply for additional visas – life seems pretty good!
As well as thinking about this question in practical terms, I started thinking about it in more personal terms. I find Brazil fascinating and stimulating, but every day I see and hear things that remind me that I am very different to most Brazilians. I’m not just talking about the language when I say that Brazilians communicate in a very different way to me (loudly!), they have different eating habits (long lunches) and different working styles (those long lunches and extra breaks mean that they work really long hours).
I certainly don’t feel superior to Brazilians, but I do feel different. Compared to the average Brazilian I’m fairly reserved, I stress about things and I’m a terrible dancer (these three go together naturally don’t you think?). But despite my many failings (false modesty among them) the bottom line is that I’m happy being English.
On the football pitch (that arena of national pride so important to both countries), the English hold Brazilians in high esteem. If an English club team are playing amazingly well, English supporters sing “It’s just like watching Brazil” to the tune of ‘Blue Moon’. To my delight, England beat Brazil when the two teams met on Wednesday and Frank Lampard scored the kind of goal that could have Brazilians singing “It’s just like watching England” (calm down, just kidding…).
I’m very much in favour of integration and would love it if some ‘Brazilianness’ rubbed off on me, but as I went home after the game on Wednesday I realised I was quietly content with my own nationality, just as I expect Brazilians are with theirs.
Do you think ex-pats have a responsibility to ‘go native’? Would you consider taking citizenship of a country you had moved to?