August 28, 2008

This is our regular column called Ask a Brazilian”, the idea being that you can quite literally ask a question of a Brazilian – for those issues you aren’t sure about but perhaps dare not ask someone else. It is meant as a bit of fun and answers should not be construed as expert opinion or the definitive reply on the matter. For that reason we ask you to please send comments and experiences in order to add to our replies.

This has bothered me as long as I have been in Brazil. It is something I have seen in other countries, and was even given as an example of a “damaged culture” in an article about the Philippines years ago: throwing trash on the street. I don’t mean just where there is no trash can available. I have seen people of all classes casually throw litter from their cars, and as they walk, in almost every location imagineable. When I noticed a well-dressed middle-aged woman throw some paper on the ground outside an upscale shopping mall, I said “Vergonha” and she looked at me like I was nuts. Yet Brazil has a reputation as environmentally conscious. It’s a matter of public health, not just ashetics, I would think.

– Steve


I couldn’t agree more with you.

I see people throwing trash on the street all the time. I even saw a McDonald’s bag flying out of a very nice car last week!

It’s hard to believe, isn’t it? When you think this might be a problem of education, some wealthy and very well educated people hit ignorance when it comes to environment.

I’ve been criticized by Brazilians for pointing out some of our faults here, and probably this will be another one, but the truth is most Brazilians couldn’t care less about the environment, acting like they weren’t responsible at all.

Of course that doesn’t apply to everyone, such as many things, so why it hurts to acknowledge?

Hopefully it works if we can call up people attention, such as you did with that woman, such as I did with that man on the car: “Porco!”.

“Vergonha” is not enough.

Thanks for coming,


Readers comments:

This is a comment about the Brazilian Trash. This tends to be a cultural thing in Brazil, as many countries that are not of Anglo-Saxon origin take pride in the family and home environment. If you observe, as in Brazil, many homes have walls, fences, etc around them, for security. They also, sort of protect the family from associating with the outside world. That which is behind the wall, family, etc, is more valuable than what is outside the wall… the world which has to be shared with everyone else. Most families in these countries are usually friendly, warm, welcoming, etc. On the flip side is the culture of the Anglo-Saxons, who pride themselves on the appearance of their home, the well-kept streets, lawns, etc. though they may be friendly, they lack the warmth and closeness of the family.

I also have very well educated Brazilian friends who complain about people who throw trash from their cars AND, they also do the same thing. When I remind them, they kind of retreat to that cultural thing that we usually catergorize as, “it’s in the blood” and they reply with; “oh, yes, I wasn’t thinking” or “oh, well,everyone else does it”. So many of them have visited, lived or studied abroad but they always seem to fall into the same attitude of apathy the minute they step off the plane. It’s almost as if they are wired that way.

– Robert Marco

Are there any burning questions you have about Brazil, or other issues that you’re curious about, such as Brazilian culture? If so, send your questions to with “Ask a Brazilian” in the subject. We will forward to our Brazilian experts, and publish the best questions (and replies) on the site.

Previous questions in this article series:

Ask a Brazilian: Tiles
Ask a Brazilian: Headlights
Ask a Brazilian: Differences and Love
Ask a Brazilian: What Do the Police Do?
Ask a Brazilian: Contractor Frustrations
Ask a Brazilian: English Books and Brazilian Boys
Ask a Brazilian: Cold Cahaca
Ask a Brazilian: Interruptions
Ask a Brazilian: Travel and Security Concerns
Ask a Brazilian: Gestures and Toys
Ask a Brazilian: Hispanics or Latinos, and Duvets
Ask a Brazilian: Overbearing Sogros
Ask a Brazilian: Hotels and Bank Transfers
Ask a Brazilian: Swimming, Showers and New Year’s
Ask a Brazilian: Making Friends
Ask a Brazilian: Female Etiquette
Ask a Brazilian: Washing Machines
Ask a Brazilian: Picking Teeth
Ask a Brazilian: Lozenge or Candy?
Ask a Brazilian: Liberal or Jealous?
Ask a Brazilian: Truck Wheels
Ask a Brazilian: Tolerance
Ask a Brazilian: Screens
Ask a Brazilian: Brazilian Wax
Ask a Brazilian: Flashing Lights
Ask a Brazilian: Lemon and Limes
Ask a Brazilian: Shocking Showers

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