By Ricky Skelton
June 5, 2007

One more cultural difference that I have found difficult to get used to in Brazil is the behaviour of the kids that I have come across. I’m talking more of the awkward 13-16 age bracket than any others. That age when kids start to develop an attitude and believe that their parents don’t understand them, perhaps stop talking to them, or maybe even stop talking at all. When they start to hide inside their hoods and caps and go out with their friends to hang around the streets as they’re too young to go to bars, but they want to prove to you and their friends that they’re grown up by challenging someone older. Reacting is impossible because that is when they act like a little shoal of piranhas. What I don’t understand is – what happened to them in Brazil? I mentally prepare myself for trouble as I approach them, blocking up the pavement. ‘Here we go, I’ll have to barge somebody out of the way and carry on walking very fast, ignoring what they shout after me.’ As I walk up, one girl gently pulls her male friend out of the way, he looks around briefly and moves and I sail straight through, wondering what happened. I lived near schools and colleges in downtown São Paulo, with kids milling around the area, fighting, running, laughing, flirting. Nobody got in my way, nobody said a word to me. And they never have. Sometimes I even get completely ignored. This isn’t right! Having grown up in the kind of place where kids I didn’t know would abuse me, jostle me, even throw bottles at me for no reason at all (and to be fair, I wasn’t too much better with my friends when I was a kid), I find it very strange to walk past a group on the streets of Brazilian cities. I feel like the beautiful girl who walks past a building site and nobody whistles at her. I want to stop, turn around and ask them what’s wrong with me. Why don’t you give me any hassle?

Perhaps with Brazilian families still being closer knit, in general, than those at home, it means that the children get brought up with closer relationships to adults, maybe even counting each other as friends! Maybe in Brazilian culture, adults don’t look down on the kids so much, and don’t treat them as… kids. The two groups seem to have more respect for each other, and it comes across as such to my gringo eyes. It isn’t only on the streets, it can be in shops and supermarkets, cinemas and shopping centres, any public place really. You don’t get the temper tantrums from younger kids, and the acting like idiots from the older ones. Perhaps it’s because Brazilian kids aren’t spoiled as much as ours, with exceptions everywhere obviously, but I’m quite sure they behave far better in general. Perhaps somebody might want to correct me, especially as there is more chance of getting mugged at knife-point by Rio street kids in Copacabana, but I prefer to put that down to economic necessity rather than a cultural pattern. Because you know what I’ve found strangest of all? There are actually children in Brazil (and Bolivia and Argentina too) that I’ve LIKED. Weird.

Readers comments:

Great article!!!

A comment to the author…

Careful when using the term piranhas”!

When Brazilian teens use this term, they are not comparing the way these fish bite or attack…. it’s actually used to refer to a girl who is promiscuous!!!

Just a little Brazilian culture…

— Patricia

You can visit Ricky’s blog at

Previous articles by Ricky:

Brazil v Argentina: Buying Beer
Understanding Brazil: Mosquitoes
Around Brazil: São Luis
Teaching English in Brazil
Around Brazil: Lenois Maranhenses
Understanding Brazil: The National Anthem
Around Brazil: Barreirinhas
Around Brazil: Jericoacoara to Barreirinhas
Understanding Brazil: Shopping Centres
Around Brazil: Jericoacoara
Around Brazil: Chapada da Diamantina/Lenois
Brazil vs. Argentina: Statues of Christ
Around Brazil: Salvador
Brazil vs. Argentina: The Buses
Around Brazil: Morro de São Paulo (& Itabuna)
Understanding Brazil: The Workmen
Around Brazil: Praa Pateo do Colegio
Around Brazil: Porto Seguro
Around Brazil: Rio de Janeiro to Porto Seguro
Around Brazil: Cristo Redentor
Understanding Brazil: The Sellers
Around Brazil: Ilha de Gigoia
Brazil Journeys: São Paulo to Rio de Janeiro
Understanding Brazil: Dogs Part 2
Brazil: A Lie-In in Downtown São Paulo?
The Best Job in Brazil: Ankle Specialist?
Understanding Brazil: Dogs
Brazilian Places: Ilha do Santa Catarina (Floripa)
Classic Brazilian Journeys: South to Florianopolis
Understanding Brazil – The Shower
Brazil: Boats on the Amazon
Brazil: Understanding Novelas
Brazil: Bus fires in São Paulo – always a bad thing?

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