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Blog criado por Bruno Coriolano de Almeida Costa, professor de Língua Inglesa desde 2002. Esse espaço surgiu em 2007 com o objetivo de unir alguns estudiosos e professores desse idioma. Abordamos, de forma rápida e simples, vários aspectos da Língua Inglesa e suas culturas. Agradeço a sua visita.

"Se tivesse perguntado ao cliente o que ele queria, ele teria dito: 'Um cavalo mais rápido!"

terça-feira, 18 de fevereiro de 2014

Brazil and US – Alike or Different?

By B. Michael Rubin

Like most animals on the Earth, human beings are social animals. Animals and people not only prefer to live in groups, but they rarely survive on their own. Think, for example, of bees or ants who live in groups of hundreds or thousands. They all work in unison toward a common goal.
While there are some people who prefer life alone, known in English as “hermits”, they are the exceptions. Long ago, there were examples of respected hermits, spiritual men who left society to live in caves in ancient Greece and Rome. There were Christian hermits who fled Italy in the 5th century after the fall of the Roman Empire to live in caves in the Cappadochia region of central Turkey. A modern-day American hermit, Ted Kaczynski, known as the Unabomber, was arrested for the crime of sending bombs in the mail.

Today, not only are hermits rare, but the trend is for people to move away from less populated, rural areas to live in or near big cities. This trend started in the 1700s in countries like the US and England at the time of the Industrial Revolution and continues today all over the world.
As developing countries like Brazil grow more wealthy, they often follow the trends of developed countries like the US. In Brazil, the movement of people away from the interior and closer to the Atlantic Ocean is happening quickly. This change, known as urbanization, alters the daily lives and the social structure of a culture. Today, 87 percent of Brazilians live in or around urban areas.
With the world’s population becoming centered around cities, an interesting contradiction arises. While cities force people to live physically closer to each other, they have the opposite effect on people emotionally. Living in cities is more anonymous, less friendly, and more stressful than living in a rural area. In a small town, people know all their neighbors, but not in a big city.

In a Brazilian or American small town with a population of 10,000 people, everyone knows everyone else. Most of the people have lived in the town all their lives, and many of them have intermarried and are related to each other. On the other hand, in a big city like Curitiba, the population has grown 300 percent in only thirty years. Today, as many as half the residents of Curitiba were not born here.
Relationships with neighbors are not the only differences that arise when people move to cities. Crime is higher in more populated areas, so there is less trust. In small towns in the US and Brazil, people don’t lock their cars or their homes because they know and trust their neighbors; there are no strangers. Here’s an example: My sister lives in a small town in the north of the US near the border of Canada. There, it’s extremely cold in the winter, so it’s common for people to leave the engine turned on in their cars in the street while they go into a store to buy something. Because of the extreme cold weather, people need to keep the oil circulating in the car engines. With the keys in the car to keep it running, the car isn’t locked, and someone could steal it. However, this is not a problem because there is very little crime in small towns.
Along with cities being more dangerous and less friendly, the displacement of people from small towns to big cities forces a complete change of lifestyle. Everyday existence is altered. In the first stage of urbanization, men leave to work outside the home while the women care for the children. Later in the urbanization process, women also leave for work. Today in Brazil for the first time, a majority of women are working outside the home. In the US in 2013, for the first time, the majority of people in the workforce were women.
With urbanization, and women working and being educated, one consequence is family size decreases. When women are working, they have less time to raise large families. Most couples in Brazil today are choosing to have only one or two children, and thus the average family size in Brazil is the same as it is in developed countries like the US and Japan.
Another consequence of urbanization, of living in a less safe and less friendly environment, is a shift toward greater privacy and individualism. Living in the more anonymous environment of a big city, people become less community oriented and more focused on themselves. Because humans are social beings, with greater individualism and less sense of community people feel more isolated or lonely. Instead of knowing everyone in the town, a city resident may not even know the name of her closest neighbor.
In the US today, more than 30 million people live alone. In the largest city in the US, New York, almost 800 languages are spoken. Sadly, this everyday living environment encourages loneliness and isolation, which are major causes of depression, anxiety, and mental instability. At least 20 percent of Americans use medications prescribed by doctors to treat anxiety and depression. While Brazilians are known for envying life in the US, in the race for mental health and a stable, well-adjusted society, Brazil is winning.
Often in richer countries, cultural trends unfold that later arrive in developing countries, like Brazil. For example, the move from small towns to big cities, along with the reduction in average family size, occurred first in the US and is now happening in Brazil. The rapid increase of girls going to universities and starting careers before they have children happened first in the US and is occurring now in Brazil. Similarly, the growth in Brazil’s economy, stimulating greater wealth and a larger middle class, has allowed Brazilians to buy bigger homes and bigger cars like Americans. Like the US, owning a computer is common in Brazil, as are cable TV and having home Internet access.
However, Brazil is still a very different country from the US. It is important to remember this when making comparisons between the US and Brazil — no two countries are exactly alike.
Cultural trends that illustrate changes in a society, like the spread of the Internet, always continue to change and influence people’s lives. In the US, on a positive note, media researchers believe that the isolation and loneliness suffered by Americans is improving. Americans are finding it easier to maintain connections to family and friends thanks to cellphones with texting and Facebook and Skype. In 1986, about half of US parents said that they had spoken with one of their adult children in the past week. In 2008, that number had climbed to 87 percent.
Brazilians now have access to computers, and cellphones with texting, and smartphones with Internet access. Brazil ranks second in the world to the United States in Facebook users and Twitter accounts. Therefore, while Brazilians grow richer and move to big cities like Americans, hopefully they will use the Internet to stay connected with their families and friends and avoid the mental health problems that affect Americans.

Michael Rubin is an American living in Curitiba.

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