Motherhood

17 Surprising Things About Parenting in Brazil

17 Surprising Things About Living in Brazil

As the host of the Olympics, Brazil has been in the spotlight all summer. So, for our Motherhood Around the World series, we headed north of Rio to the island city of Vitória, where Brynn lives with her husband and five-year-old daughter, Audrey. Here, Brynn talks about raising a bilingual child, the “no makeup” rule at preschool and the Brazilian cure for hiccups…

Parenting in Brazil

17 Surprising Things About Living in Brazil

Brynn’s background: Before moving to Rio in 2006, I worked as a graduate assistant in a Fulbright Program in Washington D.C. My husband was one of the Brazilian fellows. We fell in love and after spending his fellowship in D.C. together, I finished my graduate classes and moved to Rio with him. I knew right away that I could spend the rest of my life with him, but the first year was a test to see if I could live in Brazil for a big portion of my life. I didn’t speak any Portuguese, and I struggled with the crime, pollution and traffic in Rio. But once I let go of my initial expectations of the city (which took about a year, honestly), I realized what Rio lacks in infrastructure, it makes up for in culture and natural beauty. When my husband and I decided to start a family, we moved to the small island city of Vitória. We now live in a condo four blocks from the beach. Until last year, I taught economics at a high school but am now focusing on writing my first young adult novel.

Parenting in Brazil

On winter: Vitória is tropical, so it’s very warm year round. It’s winter right now, and today is actually considered quite cold for Vitória — at about 73 degrees. People are breaking out their coats! This morning, on the way to school, Audrey was wearing a hoodie with a bikini underneath because she had swim class. (Even in winter, she has swim class outside twice week.) There was a little breeze, so she zipped it up, and a woman stopped us and said to her, “It’s soooo cold today, isn’t it? I’ve got my jacket on, too, because it’s freezing.” Meanwhile, I’m wearing a T-shirt.

Parenting in Brazil

On being a dual citizen: Everyone was really excited about the Olympics being held in Rio. (We even went to see the Brazilian women’s soccer team.) Audrey’s school had their own Opening Ceremony, where the kids dressed up and played with streamers, toy medals and a paper torch. We’ve been talking with Audrey about how she has two teams to cheer for — Brazil and the U.S. She asked if other kids did, too, and was a little confused why she got two countries even though she was born in Brazil. She recently asked why her friends didn’t speak English and declared she was going to teach them all. We have a world map at home and point out the countries we read about. She can identify Rio and Atlanta (where we visit my family) and knows that she has relatives in both cities.

17 Surprising Things About Living in Brazil

On being bilingual: Vitória is not a tourist city, so you hear very, very little English here. We speak English at home, but Audrey’s school is taught entirely in Portuguese. At age three, the students start doing 30 minutes of English in the afternoon. It’s great for my daughter because her classmates now recognize the language that she speaks with me, so it doesn’t make her “weird.” The kids are quite curious and love to come over to me and use some of the words they’ve learned. They like to say “bye bye” and “hello.” They like to say “My name is…” even though I have known them all for several years.

My husband speaks fluent English, but he has been asked by friends if he feels as if speaking a second language filters his relationship with his daughter in any way. He says it doesn’t bother him. The majority of the time we all speak English, but it’s not a hard-and-fast rule. If Audrey is playing a game from school, she’ll switch into Portuguese and he’ll go into it with her. My Portuguese wasn’t so great when I lived in Rio since so many people spoke English, but it has gotten much better since I moved to Vitória. Also, dealing with my daughter’s dentists, doctors, teachers and such has really helped.

17 Surprising Things About Living in Brazil

On visiting America: When we visit my family in Atlanta, Audrey speaks English with them. On our last trip, however, we went to a playground, and I saw a little girl talking to Audrey and shaking her head, like she didn’t understand. At first I thought it was strange that Audrey was speaking to her in Portuguese because she knew we were in the U.S. But then I realized that all my relatives are adults, and she had only spoken English with adults. All the kids she knows are Brazilian, so in her mind she thought all kids spoke Portuguese!

17 Surprising Things About Living in Brazil

On reading: One of my favorite things about being a parent is reading with Audrey at night. There are a few famous Brazilian children’s authors, like Ana Maria Machado, but most of the kids books here have been translated from English. (Audrey’s favorite is A Sick Day for Amos McGee.) Although I’ve heard that things are changing, reading is just not as big of a part of the culture here. Recently, a Brazilian friend came back from a resort vacation in Florida and said that when she went to the pool every single person was reading a book. She said it blew her mind, and asked if that was normal. The beaches in Brazil are a lot more social; people aren’t reading by themselves, but talking and having fun with their neighbors.

17 Surprising Things About Living in Brazil

17 Surprising Things About Living in Brazil

Moqueca fish stew

On beach days: We go to the beach every weekend, year round. Growing up in America, we’d pack a picnic, fill up a cooler or bring sandwiches and stay all day. If you did that in Vitória, everyone would know you were a tourist. We go to the beach early in the morning but never bring anything to eat. There are tons of vendors selling boiled ears of corn, sticks of chicken or cheese, popsicles, and brigadeiros, a popular dessert made from chocolate and condensed milk. Audrey loves when we drink coconut water directly out of coconuts. We often have lunch at one of the restaurants right on the beach. We’ll sit at the plastic tables and share a bowl of moqueca, a fish stew made with onions and tomatoes. My favorite thing to get at the beach is the fresh passion fruit juice. It supposedly makes you sleepy, which is not at all why I order it for my daughter around naptime…

17 Surprising Things About Living in Brazil

On beach fashion: I’ve been to beaches all over Brazil, and teeny tiny bottoms seem to be a unifying national trend. Speedos for men and boys are the norm, although board shorts are getting more popular. I actually buy my bathing suits in the U.S. I’m just not comfortable without my entire bottom covered! I’ve also started wearing long-sleeved UV swim shirts to the beach for health reasons. We go to the beach a lot, and the sun here is intense.

17 Surprising Things About Living in Brazil

On friendliness: One of my favorite things about Brazil is how talkative and friendly everyone is, even to strangers. It’s so easy to strike up a conversation anywhere. You would never go into an elevator without saying “bom dia” (good morning) when you enter and “tchau” (bye) when you left. On our walk to school, when we pass the bakery, there’s always an older woman sitting outside selling newspapers. She and Audrey always say good morning to each other and have a little chat. When we’re running late, the woman will say, “I was wondering where you were, Princesa!” Just last night, when we stopped by on the way home from school, the cashier asked her how old she is now. Audrey said five, and the woman told her she remembered when she was a baby and my husband would bring her to the bakery in a front carrier. We were the only family around with a front carrier, and also dads don’t often take kids out alone. So, my husband and daughter were quite the local celebrities walking around the neighborhood!

On loving children: Brazilians adore kids! In Rio, I’ve seen waiters at a fancy restaurant lift and carry a stroller with a sleeping baby across an entire restaurant to the one free table in the corner. Recently when I was at the gym, one of the trainers brought in his new baby, and there was a group of super burly guys were cooing and clucking over a baby. It was adorable. Pregnant women and parents with a baby are often given special lines or allowed to come to the front of the line at banks or when boarding planes; I would get called to the front of the line at the movie theater while pregnant. There’s also no problem with breastfeeding in Brazil. I did it anywhere and everywhere, and I never used a modesty blanket. It’s too damn hot for that! Plus, my husband told me early on breastfeeding is protected under federal law — the child has a right to eat.

17 Surprising Things About Living in Brazil

On piercing babies’ ears: After I gave birth, in the hospital, the nurse asked if we wanted to pierce Audrey’s ears. We decided not to, but soon learned that, without earrings, everyone thought she was a boy! When people on the street would walk up to coo over her, my husband would have to correct them (“ela,” not “ele”). We also got lots of beautiful stud earrings at our baby shower — I feel bad that they’re still sitting in our closet. When Audrey was a year old, we were walking down the street, and a Brazilian woman stopped us and said, “Your daughter doesn’t have pierced ears, I can’t believe it!” She freaked out because she had also decided to not pierce her daughter’s ears. She was thrilled and incredulous to see another baby girl without earrings!

17 Surprising Things About Living in Brazil

On female beauty: When it comes to girls, there is a huge emphasis on appearance and being “calm.” All little girls are referred to as “princesa.” As a feminist and as a mom of a little girl in a city that really pushes girls to be pretty, it’s been tricky. When a little girl is crying, parents or grandparents will often say “Don’t cry, it’s ugly.” When I first heard that, I thought it was just awful — you’re conveying that the problem is her looks, not what she’s really upset about. Audrey had a girl from class over for a playdate, and during one of her more agitated moments the friend said, “Princes make a mess. Princesses are calm and polite.” My mouth dropped open. She was clearly repeating a phrase she had been told. Audrey has also started to come home from school and ask, “Who’s the cutest?” “Am I cuter than this person?” I try to tell her that everyone is cute, but that is not the most important thing.

On makeup: The women I know wear lots of makeup and jewelry, and I think I’m the only mom at my daughter’s school who doesn’t get regular manicures. Audrey’s preschool actually enforces a “no makeup” rule, because four-year-olds were coming to school with nail polish and lipstick! When girls come over for playdates, they’ll be dressed to the nines in fancy jeans, a jacket, boots, a bow in their hair and even a matching purse — and their hair will be perfect. (I don’t know how these moms do it; I can’t get my daughter to hold still for a ponytail.) On the days Audrey has swim lessons at school, the teachers will do the girls’ hair afterward. She’ll come home with the most amazing braids!

17 Surprising Things About Living in Brazil

On not being critical: There are obviously very clear norms in Brazil, but you will never be criticized for not following them. Even though most parents dress their daughters very prettily, while my daughter is the one in spider socks, a dinosaur shirt and Barbie sunglasses, no one has ever said anything to me about it. People we know here are very accepting. Audrey is one of the only girls in her judo class at school and the only girl on her soccer team, but nobody has ever criticized my husband or me. We haven’t faced any negative feedback.

Daddy & Daugher posing at Pão de Acúcar

On household help: In Rio and Vitória, since the minimum wage is so low, even middle class families have housekeepers, which was hard for me to get used to. We’ve had our housekeeper, Teresa, for six years. We pay her more than minimum wage and give her a raise every year to keep up with inflation. She comes Monday through Friday; she cleans and cooks lunch, too. It took me a few years before I could give her tasks or ask her to run to the store without feeling guilty. But we don’t have any family in Vitória, and Teresa has been such a huge help.

17 Surprising Things About Living in Brazil

The annual fall festival, Festa Junina, at school.

On hiccups: In Brazil, it’s said that you can cure a baby’s hiccups by sticking a tiny wad of paper in the middle of his or her forehead. I have no idea how this superstition got started. I first noticed it on my nephew. I went to wipe away this piece of paper stuck to his forehead and my husband stopped me saying it was for the hiccups. Then I came home from work while my mother-in-law was visiting and found my baby with a spitball on her forehead. I haven’t noticed it working, but people still do it!

17 Surprising Things About Living in Brazil

On traveling: My favorite trip we’ve taken in Brazil was to the Amazon, before we had Audrey. (We’re waiting to take Audrey until she can remember it because it was just so amazing.) We took a boat out into the river and it was so big it felt like the ocean – you can’t see the shores on either side. Our guide pointed out a tiny speck of land on the horizon and said, “That’s an island.” The rainforest itself was incredibly dense. We took a guided tour around our eco-lodge and within ten steps the forest had closed in and you couldn’t see any trace of the hotel. That’s why there are signs everywhere around the lodge saying, “Do NOT wander into the forest!”

On creating a future: After ten years here, I really love Brazil. The enthusiasm and creativity of the people, the natural resources, the climate. We plan to move back to the U.S. in five years for Audrey’s education. But Brazil is my second home and two-thirds of my family. We’re a Brazilian-American family no matter where we live and will be for the rest of our lives.

17 Surprising Things About Living in Brazil

Thank you so much, Brynn!

P.S. Our Motherhood Around the World series, including India and Germany.

(Photos courtesy of Brynn. Interview by Megan Cahn.)

  1. Normal Guy not some Dumb American says...

    The pierced ears thing (which can heal) isn’t half as disturbing as the penis mutilation ritual that goes in against baby boys in the USA. Foreskin is not a disease, freaks.

  2. Daniela says...

    So nice to read about my country. I’ve been living in the US for the last 2 years and it’s really interesting to see the difference between both cultures. I couldn’t agree more with Brynn :D Brazil, despite all the issues, is very interesting country. It’s crazy to live there but I miss it.

  3. Luiza says...

    I’m really happy to see this episode of one of my favorite series and also to see so many compatriots commenting! I’m also from Brazil, born and raised, and living in France for the past 6 years. Some habits as piercing baby girls ears in the maternity are also a shock for French people!
    About wearing make up and nail polish, as long as it’s seen as a fun activity other than a beauty ritual, I really don’t see any problem about it. One of my fondest childhood memories was getting my nails done (in red) whit my grandma at her house by the manicure that would come once a week!
    Seeing all the movies and tv shows about American high school I have the impression those girls wear way more make up than I can remember from my friends in high school in Brazil.
    Anyways, love the article, love the blog and would by the book the minute this serie is published!! Hope you and your family enjoy the next years in Brazil, Brynn!

  4. I loved reading this. Thanks so much for posting it. I’m Australian and lived in Brazil, in Minas Gerais, for 7 years. I’m also married to a Brazilian and both our daughters were born in Brazil.

  5. Priscila Cacola says...

    I’m from the south of Brazil, but I thought her description of the country was pretty accurate! I’ve been living in the US for 10 years and was pregnant this past year here – and I was shocked I didn’t have any priority anywhere. Even now with a small baby sometimes I miss Brazil for that – people watch me struggle to do everything or the baby screaming but won’t let me go first (and I live in Texas, a very friendly state).

    Also, I wish mani/pedis were as cheap and good in the US as they are in Brazil!!!

  6. This was such an interesting read! I especially loved that breastfeeding is acceptable, and that moms are given priority. How awesome! Makes me want to visit Brazil even more!

  7. Roberta says...

    Amazing! I thought funny the nail thing in Brazil. You right about that(I’m a Brazilian)! And one thing that I always catch myself wondering, is why Americans in NYC, where I live, use nail polish on their feet( usually vibrant colors) and not the hands?! 😀

  8. Fernanda says...

    I was born and raised in Brazil, and the saying, “Don’t cry; it’s ugly” is not related to one’s physical appearance. It’s related
    to the person’s behavior. This is interesting because when I say in in Portuguese, it doesn’t sound as heavy as when I say it in English. I guess because I grew up hearing it, it doesn’t bear the same weight.

    • Roberta says...

      Totally agree! I’m thinking maybe is because I’m from Rio, but is funny how different is her perspective ( not being Brazilian) from my. But I disagreed with some aspects. Or maybe Victoria is really totally different from Rio. I couldn’t relate with the “princess thing”. But the article was very nice to ready, very interesting. But by the way, Vitória is dangerous than Rio. The numbers say that. 😉

    • Roberta says...

      Another thing is, daddies regularly went out alone with kids in Rio, so I couldn’t relate too.

    • Simone says...

      I’m Brazilian, too, and it’s true about the “it’s ugly”: It’s not about how the child looks. I’m from Rio but I’ve been to Vitória and there are some remarkable differences between the two places and how people live… The “girly thing” is peculiar in Vitória, I believe. In Rio, the girls are not seen in this way. The people’s carefree spirit, warmth are the same, though. I guess it’s a Brazilian trait.

    • Fernanda says...

      Right. If parents wanted to refer to their daughter’s appearance, then they would say “feia” – which agrees with the third person “she”. Also, parents only say that when they notice their kids are being whiny. They would never say that if their kids were really hurting.

  9. Sara says...

    It’s awesome because I also live in Vitoria.
    And I never “met” someone that was from US living here. I lived in the US, so I kind saw the other half of the coin… I was not marriaged at the time btw, I took care of 3 girls as an Au Pair. And now, I moved back to Vitoria, god a husband and I’m expecting my first girl. It’s awesome to see how people from other countries see us, and our city. If you want to, you can always contact me: sarasouzagarcia@gmail.com

  10. I’m thrilled so many people have enjoyed the article! Thanks so much everyone for sharing your thoughts and encouragement here! There have been several comments asking why we’re planning to move back to the U.S. in the future, so I thought I’d explain. The five year timeline is when my husband will be able to retire with pension. Once that happens we’re free to live wherever one of us can find a job, so our plan is to look in the United States.

    The primary reason is education. One of Brazil’s greatest challenges is repairing the public education system. Families budget and save to send their kids to private schools because pubic really are an option of last resort. If we stay in Vitoria, we’ll have paid for more than a Harvard education before she graduates high school. Also, we’d like Audrey to have a more diverse education in terms of peers and curriculum. Vitoria is a very homogeneous city in terms of culture, and I want Audrey to have peers from a variety of cultural and religious backgrounds. Also, the private schools in Vitoria are very homogeneous in terms of race which is a concern for me. They also place little to no emphasis on arts and athletics at the high school level. Two things my daughter adores. I want her to have the option of theater or AP Physics or the swim team or all of them depending on her interests.

    The second major reason is that we’d like Audrey to experience some years of her childhood near family. Even if we’re not in the same city, we’d like for it to possible for grandparents to come for her school play or soccer game or birthday party. My husband and I have both ruled out ever living in Rio again (that’s where my husband’s family is), so that means moving to the U.S. if we want to be close to family.

    Also, I personally would like for to have some childhood in the U.S. I really want her to go Trick or Treating. I loved Halloween as a kid! Loved it! And I have a very irrational, totally emotional, drive to get her in the U.S. to Trick or Treat. We can decorate a pillow case with puffy paint for her to take around! Do they still make glow-in-dark puffy paint? God, I hope so.

    • Hello, Brynn! It was very interesting to read your story. I was born in Rio but was raised in Vitória. And got married and had babies in NY! The total opposite of your experience. It was very interesting to read your comments and your impression of the city where I grew up but didn’t raise my kids in. I visit often as my parents still live there but never forced myself to see how my life would be if we would live there now, with kids. Um beijo e aproveite!

    • Andrea Smith says...

      Thank you so much for posting this! While I was reading this I noticed in all the pictures I didn’t see any students or people of color. I thought to myself, if Brazil is 50% black, where are all the black people in pictures on the beach, at her school, in the pool, etc. So happy to read that exposing your daughter to real life is important. I hope you soak up all the years you have left in Brazil.

    • Janet says...

      Thank you for sharing your story, Brynn! You and your family seem wonderful x

    • Fernanda says...

      Oh it’s so hard, isn’t it? I’m at the other end- it kills me that my kids are growing up without celebrating Carnival and Children’s Day! They do love Halloween!

  11. Spyridoula says...

    Am I the only one who thinks that Joanna’s daughter would look like Audrey? Audrey looks a lot like Joanna specially at the first picture!

    • I thought the same thing!

    • Jenn says...

      I totally agree!

    • Juliana says...

      I though the same!

  12. MurrayVirginia says...

    Love this series very much! It would be amazing if you turned these into a book. I would use it as my go to gift for all my mom friends. Reading about how families live all over the world really drives home the fact that there is no one right way to be a parent – which is such an important reminder.

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      thank you so much! and i felt the same way about the documentary Babies. I saw it when I was 8 months pregnant with toby, and it reminded me that there are so many ways to raise a happy baby and be a good parent.

  13. Glaucia says...

    I love this series, and your blog Joanna!!!! I’m Brazilian living in the US for the past 16 years. It was a great suprise to see my Beutiful Brazil in this series. I Love Vitoria and muqueca ;-)
    xoxo

    • Moqueca is sooooo delicious! We get it every time we go to the beach. So basically every weekend. We eat a lot of moqueca.

  14. Really nice post .. Loved every bit of it..was very informative too.. For me,” princesses are calm and quite” is something new: My eight year old princess is energetic, loud and confident :D.. Parenting in different cultures comes with both plus points and challenges. Being a pakistani parent, we also have a lot of household help due to which we get more time to spend with our kids :) .
    Looking forward to read more of the series. Well done!

  15. Molly S says...

    This was so much fun to read! I just got back to the US after living in Brazil for three years. Our older son was born in the US and our younger son was born in Brazil. I also noticed that children are generally adored in Brazil. Most people really dote on kids. It surprised me how much I liked that.

    • Roberta says...

      It’s so interesting to read that! Things that we never notice, being a Brazilian. Now, living in NYC for 3 years, I’m starting to see those differences.

  16. Sharon says...

    Do you guys listen to the “Mom and Dad are Fighting” podcast from Slate? One of the hosts, Dan, just got a book leave for a year to explore parenting around the world. Here’s the overview: “On January 1 Dan is heading off with his family for a year on the road to research his book HOW TO BE A FAMILY. They’re staying in Wellington, New Zealand; Leiden, Holland; City To Be Determined in Costa Rica; and Hays, Kansas.” If you live in any of these places, or if you know families in these places, please let Dan know in the comments — the Smith-Koises are gonna need friends. https://www.facebook.com/momanddadarefighting/

    Would be great if you could interview this family when they’re done, since it’s so compatible with this series!

  17. Hi Joanna,
    I’m a reader from Brazil. It’s interesting for me to see Brynn’s insight about my country.
    I loved all the perspectives that Brynn has about Brazil and specially how she described, because it’s very different how people usually think it is. I loved this post!
    Xx,
    Jessica.

  18. I really enjoy the parenting around the world series. I always feel inspired to travel.

  19. love this post! So fun to read about an american raising her daughter in Brazil and her perspective! I am Brazilian but moved to Germany (have lived in Spain, Sudan and Dubai too!) 16 years ago. My kids were not born and raised in Brazil and I really get a full cultural shock when we are there for vacation! we raise the kids without any help here in Germany. In fact, kids are a mother thing here. In Brazil everyone seems to have a babysitter or a housekeeper and can’t stop saying how much work the household and the kids are !?! I wonder how have I been surviving the past 11 years with 3 kids, no family to help, and absolutely no babysitter / housekeeper LOL

  20. Love this! I wonder if Brynn and her family are moving back to the US in five years so Audrey can get more of an American education? My parents are Brazilian and that’s what they did with my brothers’ and I since they wanted us to have an American education. I’m glad they did it for several reasons, but now, at almost 25, I wish they kept us there when we were younger as I don’t “feel” as Brazilian as my parents do. Great series! x

  21. Still loving this series – so much so that I keep going back and re-reading the old ones again and again!

  22. Maria says...

    I was amazed when I saw this week’s Motherhood Around the World was in Brazil. Being a long time reader from Cup of Jo and originally from Brazil, I have been waiting for this for a long time! I am yet to have children, and have always wondered about the pierced ears issue (if we can call it so), as well as the housekeeper one. However, I have to say I am disappointed with the way my country was portrayed, and more so with how the writer infantilises women in Brazil. Perhaps she is not aware that women make up the majority of students in university, or have a higher participation in the labour force than in countries such as the US (in fact, am I yet to meet a woman in Brazil who decided to put aside their careers after having children). Secondly, it appears to me that the writer is ignoring the issues that arise from social stratification, and taking one sample of country as she knows and considering it as the whole. In groups with access to higher education, reading for leisure is as much an activity as it is in the US. However, reading in Brazil is considered a private activity (as the readers’ choice of books says a lot about them), which is why the writer haven’t seen people reading at the beach. Speaking of which, I often get surprised by foreigners discussing the bikini bottoms of Brazilians (so much else could be discussed in that time…), but I have honestly not witnessed anything as shocking in Brazilian shores as I have in Miami. Yes, the average bikini bottom in Brazil is smaller than the average bikini bottom in America, but very rarely will Brazilian women wear thongs at the beach – we are, after all, a very religious population. In relation to sports for girls and boys, I don’t see differences from the US either: not a lot of girls play basketball there, or American football, or baseball. But don’t worry about Audrey being marginalised for doing judo or soccer: the Olympic Champion in judo is a Brazilian woman, and the best women’s soccer player in the world in Brazilian too. I hope you enjoy your last five years in Brazil, it is a wonderful, wonderful place!

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      thank you so much, maria. i really appreciate your thoughtful points and perspective.

    • Daniela says...

      Thanks, Maria, for what you said :)
      Eu ainda moro aqui (sou do Rio Grande do Sul) e queria te deixar um abraço pelo que você escreveu.

    • Emily DePaula says...

      I loved your commentary, Maria! As an American woman with Brazilian parents, so much of what you said resonated with me. Here’s a few of my own takeaways and reflections (having spent a lot of time in both Rio and Sao Paolo).

      A lot of Brynn’s experience is reminiscent of a small town and not a thriving metropolis. Most of the Brazilian millenials I know, including cousins, are all English speaking and have gone on to pursue higher education. They have careers in journalism, law, and architecture. Some have traveled extensively and even worked here in America (like Brynn’s husband). And they’re all middle class and the by product of public schooling.

      I noticed that unlike a lot of the previous mothers, Brynn doesn’t have an in beauty or fashion (which is fine) but I’d have to agree that there’s almost a condescending tone in regards to it. Brazil is one of the plastic surgery capitals of the world, and rio is a huge source of inspiration in the fashion world. Every time I come back to the states, I show up with a bunch of outfits and shoes that become popular a few seasons later. I find it fascinating that in Rio, women are so open about cosmetic surgery. American woman are so coy about plastic surgery – but in Brazil women are so open about it. And because the costs are so low, a large segment of the population has had some type of cosmetic procedure. In Brazil, there are all those darling blow dry bars and a blow out is so cheap! So most woman get their hair blown out weekly. Beauty is a part of the climate there, it always has been – but I don’t think that’s something to necessarily put down. After all, Brazilians are much more comfortable with the female form and have a great appreciation for the female body than a lot of developed nations (ie. breastfeeding). The cheeky bikinis aren’t unique to Brazil. Rather, it’s something you find in various coastal beach towns. My sister lives in Hawaii and the bikinis are cut the exact same. The same can be said of Australia and Miami even.

      I also was raised being told that crying makes you ugly, but the implication was different – at least for me. My mom would tell me that if I cried too much, I would get wrinkles and before I knew it I would be a little old lady. She never said it when I had an actual cause to be upset, but rather when I was being petty or throwing a tantrum. And my takeaway growing up was that you shouldn’t waste time crying!

    • Claire Venables says...

      Lots of respect for Maria for contributing some positive advances that have been made recently in Brazil. However, as a mother and preschool teacher who is actually living in Brazil, I can only applaud Brynn for addressing a really serious issue in such a sensitive way. Sexism is a terrible problem in this country and it is expressed in small, seemingly harmless ways such as bikini-bottoms and children wearing make-up and in tradgic statistics such as the number of women killed every year because of domestic violence. The state where Brynn lives has one of the highest rates in the country! Sexism is a problem in many, if not every country in the world. How could anyone possibly argue that it’s not the case in Brazil? The country has come a long way but still has a long way to go. Denying the problems won’t help future generations of women.

    • Samantha says...

      I’m glad you commented. I’m from Dominican Republic, and being a Latin/Catholic(/corrupted) country, we share many similarities. I feel like Americans want to be way too liberal about one thing and then way too conservative about another. If a woman wants to wear thong to the beach, that’s her decision, it’s a matter of feminism even, to chose what she feels comfortable wearing. Why put her down for that?

      I don’t understand what’s the big deal with putting earrings on a baby, either. No one remembers that (I certainly don’t), it’s not like the pain will traumatize the baby or anything. Girls who get their ears pierced later, are usually terrified of it because of the pain.

      And like other women replied before me, some women simply chose to look good. Americans usually let themselves go after having a child and just dedicate to being “mom” (not all American women obviously, but it does happen a lot), and then criticize other women who chose to do the opposite. Beauty salons and services are also much cheaper here, like in Brazil, so more women go to these places. If you could frequently get a blow out, you would get one too. No need to criticize it.

      People in Latin America don’t make enough money for mothers to stay home (they don’t get a year of maternity leave either like they do in some European countries either), but maids and nanny’s are affordable enough for many middle class family to be able to pay for one, so mother’s are able to work and care for themselves while their kids and home are being taken care of. But that doesn’t mean they never see their children either, you know? Weekend nanny’s are too expensive for most.

      Many times this blog and its readers have called themselves feminists, but when a woman chooses to do something they don’t agree with, that woman is a victim of sexism. Umm, no. Latina women are pretty freaking strong and independent, and opinionated and will speak their mind, and will wear whatever they chose to, and do their hair and makeup however they like. If they want plastic surgery, then they’ll get it too. We’ve been feminists since before you started throwing the word around for everything, believe it or not.

      [BTW, domestic violence around here, just like delinquency, doesn’t come from sexism, doesn’t come from women being weak and surrendering to men, it comes from poverty and lack of education. Men are usually violent to their SO, while women are usually violent to their kids, but it can go different ways. That doesn’t define all Latina women.]

    • Sammie says...

      Hi Samantha,

      This is a pretty harsh and I think, unfair statement! “Americans usually let themselves go after having a child and just dedicate to being “mom” (not all American women obviously, but it does happen a lot), and then criticize other women who chose to do the opposite.”

  23. I grew up in Brasil until I was 18 (mother’s family is from there) and definitely agree with most of this. I remember when I first read breastfeeding was an issue in some countries it really shocked me! I mean, a baby’s gotta eat, how can that be a bad thing?
    Haha I had my ears pierced as a baby, and actually love it as it means I don’t remember the pain ;)

  24. Ruth says...

    I saw the response above that the plan to move back to the US is for education reasons (I also was curious to hear why after reading the post). I think it would be interesting to hear about this question from other families in this series – do they plan to move back, or not, and why? I know it sometimes comes up anyway but I’d be so interested to hear responses about this consistently. We just moved overseas (with our two young children) and I’m so curious about how people think about that, as I’ve noticed that a lot of the people I know who have moved overseas often move back when they have kids/when their kids reach a certain age.

    • Nicole K. says...

      Hi Ruth,

      I also grew up in Brazil with an American mother and Brazilian father, and we moved back to the United States from São Paulo when I was 11. Even though I attended a British school and then an American school, my parents wanted to give me the best chance of attending college in the US because the university systems are so different. In Brazil (and most of the world, I think) you need to decide what you want your career to be at age 17/18 and apply to school for that, but the Liberal Arts that are so common in the US allow you to have a little more creative exploration. That’s at least one perspective on a reason to come back to the US!

  25. Elpida says...

    You should also include a “Parenting in Greece” article in this fantastic column – and I would be more than eager to offer tips, as a full time working mama of three boys :-) Btw, a big thanks to all the team out there for Cup of Jo. Boy, you are an inspiration!

  26. happyamper74 says...

    Further to the comment above, wanting content about families with more children, I would be interested in a series about parenting cultures WITHIN the US. We moved from Los Angeles to Salt Lake City this past year. It has made me realize that a lot about parenting which I thought was inherent to the the project of parenting (high levels of anxiety, etc.) were to some extent specific to geography. It is super different here, in both ways challenging as well AMAZING.

  27. Daynna says...

    I’m always insanely curious as to whether the children being raised in the foreign countries have accents to match the countries or accents to match the parent(s). Brynn, care to weigh in?

    • Hi Daynna,

      I am certainly not qualified to speak about my daughter’s accent in Portuguese given my own incredibly thick American accent. (When I was teaching, my students couldn’t get enough of hearing me speak in Portuguese.) However, I can say there are sounds in English she struggles with that I wonder would be a problem if she had more exposure to the language. “Th” sound of course and a hard “r”. Saying the number 33 is a real challenge! I noticed just the other day she doesn’t make any distinction between fur and four. So I’d say for Audrey, my concern isn’t her accent (she sounds American when she speaks English) but her being able to make specific sounds. I’m not too worried though. Many American kids have to go to speech therapy for some of the more difficult sounds. We’ll keep working on it and master 33 yet!

    • Nicole K. says...

      Just wanted to say that I also grew up speaking English and Portuguese at the same time (English at home with my parents, Portuguese with everyone else in Brazil!), and I don’t have an accent in either language. My mom says when I attended a British school when I was 4-5 years old that I started to get a bit of a British accent, but as soon as I switched to an American school that went away. My father (Brazilian) speaks English with a thick accent, and my mother (American) speaks Portuguese with a thick accent, but somehow my brothers and I managed to get both languages to sound natural… I’m not sure how it all works, but figured I’d share my experience since you asked! It’s amazing how kids can figure it out. My parents say that from age 3 on I knew who to speak which language with, but between my friends who also grew up bilingual (mostly Brazilians attending an American school) we (still) speak a hilarious mix of English and Portuguese all jumbled and it just makes sense. There are some things that just make more sense or capture meaning better in one language over the other!

  28. mado says...

    I always love these! So many similarities to my experience living in Quito, Ecuador, especially this: “But once I let go of my initial expectations of the city (which took about a year, honestly), I realized what Rio lacks in infrastructure, it makes up for in culture and natural beauty.” Honestly, I’m still working on it after three years!

    I’d also love to hear more from families about how they decide where to live and make the transition back and forth – I sometimes worry that our careers (and standard of living! those housekeepers!) will become locked in to one place after a few (more) years.

  29. Liz says...

    I love this series, and your blog Joanna, especially with a cup of tea, it’s great company! I’m an Irish girl living in America with four kids from 19 down to six, I would also love to hear how mothers with more children manage. Thanks for organizing such a lovely community

  30. Angela says...

    I love these posts so much! The only bad part is that it makes me want to move to each one of these locations! I love how courageous these women are to go abroad and raise a family. We travel a lot through the US for my husband’s job but abroad is such a different story. Another fantastic read!

  31. carrie says...

    Great addition to the series, Brynn! I almost couldn’t get past the first photo though. I’ve just started growing my gray out too and I feel like your picture is another sign from the universe that I’m making a good (though daunting) hair decision. Gray looks great on you!

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      i agree!!

    • Thank you so much! I’ve been going gray since my early twenties, and I only decided to stop coloring it this year. The response has been entirely positive. My stylist said I’ll look like an X-Man when it finally grows out.

    • Tilly says...

      Ha, I had the exact same thought!! I have also been toying with the idea of going grey for a while now and I love when I see other women going for it. That’s the inspiration I need. Joanna, that would make a good post!

      Loved reading about your life in Brazil, Brynn. Thanks for sharing.

  32. Katie K. says...

    I love this series so much! Would love to read about mamas with more than one or two children…just to hear a different perspective from the one usually given in these posts. Where I live, it’s quite common to have 4-6 kids, and it’s so helpful and interesting to hear how the moms manage it all!

    • Katie K. says...

      Mississippi!

  33. Jennifer says...

    One thing that has stood out to me in reading this series is how child/baby/pregnancy-friendly many of the countries are. I have not had that experience on the whole, while raising children in the US. Sad.

    • Christine says...

      I agree! I had three babies while living in Abu Dhabi and have only recently moved back to the US. I miss how baby/kid friendly it was in the Middle East (and also the many places we traveled). Sad indeed :-(

    • Cecilia says...

      I love this! I am from Uruguay, Small country next to Brasil, and raising kids here is pretty similar. My daughter got her earings before her first month. Breastfeeding is a Big deal here, ALL the women do ir for at least the first six months, you can “give the boob” everywhere without covering because is a normal thing, there are many laws for working moms who breastfeed. I think that this side of the American continent is more open and protective to mothers and babies. The biggest diference between Brasil and Uruguay is that we don’t wear make up on our daily lifes, not even for work! We Just live our lives bare faced!

  34. I am from the Philippines and when a baby has hiccups we put a thread or paper on the forehead and I dont know why haha.

    • That’s amazing you all have the same remedy in the Phillipines! Where on Earth did it come from? I haven’t been able find anyone here who can explain how it started or how exactly it’s supposed to work. I asked my mother-in-law how it works and she just shrugged and said that it does. I’ll have to disagree with her on that based on my personal experience. : )

  35. Cynthia says...

    One of my favorites of this series so far. Thank you for sharing!

  36. Loved the delicious food, Joanna you must have a food around the world series too.

    Shruthi
    http://nyambura.co

  37. Michelle says...

    Love this post and Brynn’s insight on Brazilian and Brazilian-American living. It’s wonderful to hear her address the infrastructure and crime as well as the beauty and friendliness of Brazil. Not everything that’s culturally different is seen as endearing or cute, which I appreciate so so much – Brynn doesn’t downplay the reality of living rather than just being a tourist or expat in Brazil. I also loved hearing about the balance of adapting and integrating into the culture vs. choosing to differ. Bravo.

  38. Fascinating! I never tire of this series of articles, the women’s eye view on a particular country is fascinating and I always end up thinking “we are more alike than we are unalike” (Maya Angelou)

  39. jen says...

    Love this. Is there a reason this series always includes an American ex-pat? Or often does?

    • Mindy says...

      Because if they hadn’t come from the US they would not be able to identify what is unique about the culture in which they live now as contrasted to American culture.

    • Lauren says...

      I’ve thought the same thing! Would love to see more variety.

    • I think Joanna addressed this when they first started the series a few years ago. She specifically wanted American mothers so that they could compare the differences. If Joanna only interviewed mothers from the other parts of the world, though it would be interesting, I’m not sure they would be able to comment on the little details that really make motherhood different and the same around the world because they would have nothing to compare it to. This way, the mothers are comparing what they see in other cultures to American culture, which I assume is Joanna’s largest audience.

  40. These never get old to me! Interesting to hear about raising a daughter in an appearance-based culture…we recently moved back to Los Angeles, where I’m from, and that’s been a concern I’ve had. I know it affected me growing up and I want to be aware of how the culture affects my daughter, too.

    Also I’m more and more interested in families with only one child, because I don’t know if I want any more, so it was fun to see this family with just one daughter! Maybe a Motherhood Monday post about only children??

    • Hi Joy! I wish you all the best and lots of success raising your daughter!

      My husband and I have decided to have only one child. I love my daughter with my heart and soul but parenting, especially with no family nearby, has been a challenge for me. One child is enough. I wrote about why I don’t want a second child. http://www.brynninbrazil.com/why-i-dont-want-another-child

      It’s a very personal decision, and I don’t think the default should be “have another one”. No kids, one child, or multiple kids. They’re all equally valid life choices and families have to pick what works for them.

    • Angela says...

      Yes please!

    • Cay says...

      Only child here. I second the only child post!

      Also, I’m the only daughter, for basically the same reasons that Brynn mentions in her blog. It was awesome, and I have such a special relationship with my parents because of it.

    • Annabelle says...

      Would love to see this as well. And Brynn, appreciated your post about tjis

    • Ruth says...

      Thanks for posting this candid reflection on parenting difficulties, Brynn. I have two kids, but I resonated with a lot of what you wrote here.

  41. Luciana Clark says...

    So nice to see my country portrayed in a post! I’m a regular reader (in fact a HUGE fan) of the blog and it is fun to see how people perceive Brazil! My company was bought by an American one and at first some of the folks were a little put off by the hugging mania (yes, we love to hug people). But now, 2 years later, I find myself getting lots of hugs whenever we meet our American co-workers!

    • haha yes I completely agree! When I first moved to London I would always say hello with a kiss on the cheek like back home, and found it so weird how people would extend their hand (of course in professional situations I’ll shake the hand ) and now everyone loves the warmer greeting approach! x

    • Lauren says...

      It’s so true, physicality is quite different in the US and Brazil! I’ve worked in Brazil for a few six-month stints and I remember meeting everyone in my office with a kiss and warm greeting (maybe 75 people). I had been there before and didn’t think anything of it until one of my expat colleagues mentioned how taken aback our New York office would have been by this initial greeting!

  42. This was so much fun to read! My family just moved to Florianopolis, Brazil 2 months ago. We love it here! It was so fun to read my mirrored experience expressed by Brynn. Living in a new culture and country has been such a gift. I highly recommend it. We have four children and they are attending an all Portuguese speaking school now. Hearing them speak another language is the sweetest sound.

  43. Hi! I’m a reader from Brazil and I found it nice to see my country being featured over here. Brazil’s image at people’s mind are not trully related of what the reality is in fact. Besides everything, Brazil is such a lovely and welcoming place to be.

    Love the COJ and this topic!

    xx

  44. Diana says...

    I absolutely love this series and in particular this article. I’m Portuguese and I can relate with Brazilian culture at so many levels!
    I’d like to comment on the word “ugly” being used when kids, both girls and boys, are not behaving well. The original word “feio” not only means absence of beauty, but also describes unseemly behavior, which I believe is more close to the real Portuguese meaning in this context.
    This word can also be used to describe the weather when it’s stormy or to say that something bad happenned. It has a wide range of meanings in fact :)

    • Yes I can second that. My mother applied “feio” (ugly) to both me and my brothers as in it was ugly behaviour, not to do with looks.

      But there definitely is a double standard in regards to how girls should behave, though that it less and less nowadays and I’m sure it can be applied to almost anywhere in the world.

    • Paula says...

      Hi Diana!
      I am Brazilian and I agree that “feio”, in this context, doesn’t mean absence of beauty, you’re completely right :)

    • Megan says...

      This use of “ugly” is also common in some US regions. I’m from the south, and it’s not unusual to hear someone being reprimanded for “being ugly,” and they’re not talking about looks!

  45. Every time I read another one in this series, I think, “THIS is my favorite one!” I love this post. My family is Colombian and there are so many similarities! In particular, the idea of how important beauty is. Growing up in the US, we’re always taught it’s what’s on the inside that counts and who you are. When I visit my family in Colombia, there is always an emphasis to look your best, because they shows others who you are. I try to just brush it off. I was also once at a pool with a cousin, talking about how I could never wear a g-string type bathing suit bottom. At the end of the conversation, she gets out and what was she wearing? The TINIEST suit bottom I have ever seen! Foot. In. Mouth.

  46. Elga says...

    I don’t know if anybody explained it yet, but the point of the wet cotton/paper, is that the child can’t tell what the hell is happening in their body, so they pay attention to that, and it brings back the rhythm. Like being scared for adults, but without the trauma. Hahaha

  47. Sarah D. says...

    What a beautiful place! I love the beach pics of the table and chairs in the water. How fun to play cards or board games and have the water at your feet!

  48. Julie says...

    Yes, Audrey looks so much like you and your sister when you were children! Loved this, especially the part about the paper on the forehead. What on earth.

    • Genius! So simple and smart.

      Hiccups are the worst.

  49. Gorgeous eyes on mom and daughter. Is that bad I notice physical characteristics? I love to see how children resemble parents and notice eyes the most. I have always painted little kids (ages 2-4) nails…boys and girls. sometimes its the only way to get them to sit still! I never thought of it as “make up.” My child has always and will always carry lipbalm too. We get terribly chapped lips and can’t be without it. I think that’s funny its so important. When I was a child my lips would chap and people would accuse me of having on lipstick…I was like “no, I am not a clown who has colored my skin up to my nose, this is painful.” The Amazon sounds amazing. Why in 5 years?

  50. Thays says...

    Hi, Joanna,
    I’m a reader from Brazil and I loved this post. It’s very interesting to read about what other people find surprising in your own culture! It’s so insightful.

    p.s.: If you’re interested, here’s the correct spelling of a couple of Portuguese words:
    ciao = tchau
    princessa = princesa

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      thank you!

  51. So interesting! Brazil is on my bucket list (saving it for after the Zika scare). I would love to have a full-time housekeeper–I’m barely home and have no time to clean–and I don’t even have a kid yet …

  52. I too thought that was a baby Jo. I would be interested to hear more about your birth story as I know many many Brazilian women choose elective c sections.

    • Hi Kipin! You’re absolutely right that Brazil has a very high rate of voluntary c-sections. However, my doctor in Vitoria specializes in natural births and that was my plan until I had a placental abruption at 33 weeks. I ended up having an emergency c-section. I wrote about my the whole intense and scary experience. http://www.brynninbrazil.com/7-weeks-early

  53. Lisa says...

    I LOVE this series. It always interests me WHY the families move back to the States. Is it because of schooling? Was it a temporary job (here it doesn’t seem like that because they were there for 15 years!)? I would love to have that info tagged to future posts if applicable and possible!

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      thank you for your note! good suggestion! she told us that, for their family, one major reason was education.

    • Marisa says...

      Yes! As someone part of a two nationality relationship, I’d love to hear about the decisions of where to live!

    • I can say that, for us (for our future children, who are yet to be), we chose to move back to the U.S. for education. Although education would have been cheaper in Spain, we ultimately felt that it would not have been what we wanted. That is especially true in high school and college. Honestly, I wonder if it would have been better to wait until high school to move back, but I missed home too much.

    • Louise says...

      Loved this insight into Brazillian/US living. Such a coincidence, I was going to ask about a discussion on how families choose where to live. We are a London/NY family, after moving back to the England for 5 years, we – the parents are wanting to move back, the 2 kids are not. I guess there is no right or wrong answer. Thanks again for a thought provoking article!

  54. Lauren says...

    I’m American and my boyfriend is from Mexico, so I especially enjoyed this piece. Dating/marrying someone from a different country broadens up your worldview a hundred fold! Thank you for sharing! :)

  55. Michelle says...

    That beautiful little girl looks like you, Joanna!!

    • I thought so, too!

    • Erin says...

      I thought the same!

    • Ellen says...

      I thought it was her! Actually she looks even more like a young Lucy! Mind = blown.

  56. Oh my goodness, her life is beautiful. I lived in Brazil briefly in 2012 and – like Brynn and so many others – I fell in love with the country, big time. Hard and fast. I’ve since wondered what life would have been like if I had stayed, and this post is like a beautiful parallel looking glass. Thanks for sharing. :)

  57. Emma says...

    It’s so sweet that she thought all children speak Portuguese. It’s lovely to see the world through the perspective of a child!

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      yes, so so sweet!

  58. I love this one because we are a Brazilian-America family, too. We’ve chosen to live in the U.S. but spend a month with family in Brazil every year. There are many things in this that I found myself nodding my head to (yes, they’re so loving w/ children!)…including the bikini size! Even very large women in Brazil will wear a tiny bikini bottom. I love how open people are about their bodies and that women of all shapes, sizes, and ages don’t seem shy about being in their own skin.

    • Lauren says...

      I was going to mention this as well! While there can be an emphasis on looks, especially for women, there is also a level of comfort with bodies of all shapes, colors, sizes and ages that we definitely don’t see in the US, that I found really great and maybe balances out some of the ‘girl’ stereotypes mentioned. Just a lack of self-consciousness. I went on an office retreat while living in Brazil and everyone – men, women, trainees, bosses – were all in tiny suits. I got gently teased because my bikini bottom actually covered my bum!

    • Megan Cahn says...

      That’s so true! I felt the same way when I was there!

  59. I can relate to this on so many levels! I just moved from Chicago to Antigua, Guatemala with my husband. One of the hardest things to get used to besides the language was having a housekeeper- my guatemalan husband doesn’t understand why I think it’s strange, but I don’t know any Americans who have a regular housekeeper/cook!

  60. I’m so happy to see this! I’m from Brazil and I’ve lived in Vitoria for 9 years.. I’m now in Argentina, I have no kids yet but it was great to see Brazil and Vitoria in here!

  61. Erin W says...

    So cool! Also, Audrey looks so much like Bindi Irwin!

    • Jill says...

      Oh gosh, yes! I was trying to figure out why she looked familiar. She looks just like Bindi Irwin.

  62. I just started reading this series. It’s fascinating to read about parenting in other cultures. It gives me a bit a perspective on ways to engage my own child in new ways!

  63. Korin says...

    Great post! This series is one of my favorites. But I have to admit, I initially clicked the link to see if the photo was of you as a child! Such an uncanny resemblance.

  64. I love this series and even more so today because it’s about my Brazil. Thanks Joanna and Brynn for sharing! <3

  65. yasemin says...

    A great post again! l love speaking porteuguese to children and speaking english to adults part most.

  66. Alice Quin says...

    Fascinating! Thank you to brynn for sharing the pros and cons of living here. I would love to visit!

  67. molly says...

    As always, so interesting! I love this series.

  68. Great post! (and oh, wow…Audrey could be YOUR daughter, Joanna!)

    • Katie says...

      I thought the same thing!

    • Sofia says...

      I thought the same: Audrey is a little Joanna, so cute!
      Love the series.

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      i’m flattered, ha! she’s adorable!

    • Tracy says...

      I thought so too!