You know how your money goes further in some countries? Well, so does your ability to attract the opposite sex. I knew this intuitively, but had never actually experienced it.
And then, I went to South America.
Prior to Argentina, my only true international experience was four months in New Zealand. While I’d had an amazing time there, I never met a Kiwi woman that I wanted to bring home to introduce to my family and friends. (No offense, Kiwis. I still love you.)
The dynamic was completely different in Buenos Aires, where I met tons of women from all over South America: Peru, Colombia, Paraguay, Argentina, and my personal favorite… Brazil. I’m only going to talk about the latter, as I spent significantly more time with them than all the others.
The first thing you should know about Brazilian women is that, if you are in a bar or club, they are very quick to jump down your throat. I’ve seen guys walk up to them and passionately make out within 20 seconds of meeting, to the extent that it looks like they’re going to rip each other’s clothes off right in front of you. This is not an exaggeration.
I say this wearily now, almost jaded by the fact. But there was a brief period when I could barely comprehend it. Here’s how I first made the discovery:
About a week after arriving in Buenos Aires, I went to Crobar with two Brazilian women I’d met earlier that night. We were walking through the crowd towards the bar, when I noticed a random Argentine woman making eye contact with me from about 10 feet away. Because I’m a weirdo, I always have to lock eye contact with people who do this to me until they look down (submission, baby!) But as I walked past, this woman did not break. She just kept staring.
Filled with shame for having been bested by a Porteña, I broke eye contact and continued to walk with my Brazilian amigas (normally I would have stopped and talked to her, but my Spanish was nonexistent). One of the Brazilians turned back to me:Her: “She liked you.”Me: “I think so. That was kind of intense.”Her: “You should have walked up and kissed her.”Me: “… Uhh, I think you’re forgetting that I don’t speak Spanish.”Her: “That does not matter.”Me: “… As much as I enjoy the taste of pepper spray, I’m pretty sure I’d need to lead up a bit before kissing a complete stranger.”Her: [Confused look, shrug]
We stepped up to the bar, got in line, and another random Brazilian woman walked up to us a minute later. What followed was our EXACT interaction, verbatim:Random: “Hola! De donde eres?”Me: “Soy de Colorado.”Random: “Ah, Colorado!” [Smile, lunge to make out]
Apparently, that’s all the lead up you need.
It was the first time I had experienced this social norm of making-out-before-talking. I was so taken aback by it that I couldn’t help but start laughing after a few seconds. Naturally, she swiftly ran off, as she thought I was laughing at her.
When I asked my Brazilian guy friend the next day what the deal was, he explained it as such: “Why would they want to make small talk in a club? There’s plenty of time for that later on… It’s not uncommon in Brazil to kiss five women in one night.”
Brilliant. The Brazilian women operated with the American guys’ mentality! I remember thinking that if Neil Strauss had grown up in Brazil, his best-selling book “The Game” would have never been written.
This “Cut to the chase” mentality was not reserved to the women; Brazilian guys were just as bad, if not worse, in many instances. This one time, I was sitting in a hostel lobby working on my computer, when a Brazilian guy approached a couple of blond Aussie women. Immediately after introducing himself, he pleaded them to kiss each other. I found this amusing, as he made no segue into the request. He also said it with a playful yet insistent delivery, clearly expecting them to comply. When they resisted, he purposefully moved in to kiss the taller one. She turned him down as he was reaching to grab her face. He tried and failed two more times, then finally accepted defeat. I looked down at my cell phone. It was 1:00pm. Good lord.
Witnessing this aggressive behavior from Brazilians was entertaining, but what made it such a thrill were three other ingredients, the first being a well-known stereotype.
- Brazilian women are, in many cases, extremely good-looking. My attraction to nearly all of them ranged between “Aww she’s adorable” to “Stunning… gorgeous… most attractive woman I’ve ever seen.”
- They’re really sweet and friendly. This was what made it lethal for me; a beautiful woman who’s also genuinely kind is my Achille’s heel. In the six weeks I was down there, I never had an interaction with a Brazilian woman where I thought she was rude or standoffish (comparatively speaking, there were plenty of Argentine, Aussie, American and English women who repeatedly triggered that judgment). Perhaps I was wearing rose-colored lenses around Brazilians, but they were all (even the guys) very warm, happy, and fun to be around.
- Brazilian women REALLY like guys with non-brown eyes and non-black hair. Having green eyes has never helped me in the States. Ever. It’s just not a big deal – they’re common. But for Brazilians, green and blue eyes are very rare, and therefore remarkable. They often commented on the color of my eyes, and it never ceased to surprise me.
The beauty of this equation can’t be fully appreciated until it’s compared with where I grew up.
Now, Colorado women are very down-to-earth and genuinely good people, and I say this with 100% sincerity. I don’t dislike them at all. It’s just very rare to come across a woman in my home state that I’m super attracted to AND who’s also attracted to me. It’s literally happened just a few times in my entire life, and that scarcity was very deflating.
Compared with six weeks around Brazilians: High concentration of stunning women with warm/friendly personalities, and when there was a mutual attraction, they were frequently the aggressors.
To top it off, they never once held it against me for showing affection early, as they often did it themselves without batting an eye.
This was an immensely refreshing change.
So, Americans or Brazilians?
The Tran-Spotting Story
Argentina was not all rainbows and kittens for me. I had countless failures with females, including a disastrous blind date with a psychotic Porteña, among others. But one particular incident is burned into my memory…
One day, a New Yorker checked in to the hostel I was staying in. He was a good guy who wanted to experience the infamous nightlife and cut loose from the drudgery of his Wall Street job. When we went to the club, he brought along a Brazilian woman whom he’d met earlier that night.
As he was dancing with her, I looked across the room and saw an incomprehensibly stunning Argentine woman, dressed in very provocative clothing. The most beautiful woman I’d seen in months was a mere 40 feet away, talking and drinking with her girl friend. I walked over, took note of her fake breasts, said ‘hola’ to them (the women, not the breasts), and the three of us started dancing together. I danced close to her, we exchanged seductive looks with one another, and I quickly became intoxicated by her beauty.
Ten minutes later, I felt a tap on my shoulder. I turned around to see ol’ New York, grinning from ear-to-ear, with the Brazilian under his arm. “She’s got something to tell you, bud.” I looked to the Brazilian, who leaned towards me and nervously mumbled a line I’ll never forget:
“I don’t know how to say… Not all girls are girls.”
It took about 10 seconds for me to register what she was implying. New York cracked up as the look on my face shifted from confusion to pure terror.
I didn’t have the sense of humor or presence of mind to calmly turn around and give her the Dundee test. So in a drunken haze, I made a mad dash for the exit. If I couldn’t tell guys from girls – nay, if I was actively trying to seduce transsexuals – it was time to call it a night. I went back to the hostel, took a cold shower, then lay awake for an hour, wondering how “This chick might be a dude” never once crossed my mind. What an amazingly convincing surgery.
Thankfully, I did not kiss her/him, but I came close enough to rethink the value of drinking.
The Open-Mic Story
I stayed in Milhouse hostel for a while, which typically had about 150-200 residents, ages 18 to 27, on any given night. Every Sunday, they’d have a “jam session” where a local band would come in and play from 11pm to 1am. Everyone would sit around, drink a few beers, and listen to the band before going out to the clubs. It was pretty fun, and they allowed anyone to get up and play.
I’ve been playing guitar for about four years now, but I’d never played in front of strangers. Guitar has always been something I did by myself, for my own amusement. So on jam night, I had no intention of performing… until I heard the Indian.
He ran up and grabbed the guitar, sat down with a smile, then looked around and realized how big the group actually was. You could see his confidence drain within seconds. He was so nervous and awkward when he started playing that people had to restrain their laughter.
I felt kind of bad for the guy, but even more than that, I felt a need to dominate. No matter how poorly I played, I would sound ten times better than I actually was if I immediately followed this embarrassing performance. So, courtesy of impulsivity, alcohol, and a nervous Indian man, I found myself playing and singing Tom Petty’s “Running Down a Dream” in front of 60 drunken travelers.
When the song was over, I barely had a chance to blink before the band’s lead singer ran up to me: “Keep playing man, but you have to sing into the mic. You’re too far away. Sing right into it.” Ah. No wonder I couldn’t hear my own voice. “You’re also strumming WAY too hard. The guitar is amped, so everyone can hear you fine. Strum quieter, sing louder.” Got it.
The next song I played was an abridged version of Don McLean’s “American Pie.” The abridgement was to spare the crowd’s ears: I needed to cut 8-minutes of singing time down to 4-minutes.
Now, I know I’m not a good singer. Nor am I a very good guitar player. And I’m not saying this with a false sense of modesty; I am very mediocre by American standards. But there I was in Argentina, completely taken aback by the response I was receiving. The crowd clapped and sang along, and then applauded in such a way that made me think, “Wow, maybe I could pursue this down here.”
Of course, I have no plans to pursue music seriously, ever, but the experience I had was a blast (and a fantastic adrenaline rush). It would not surprise me at all if I found myself at another open-mic in the near future.
Short-term travel is both a tease and a fantasy. You meet amazing people, hope to reconnect at some point and go on more adventures together, but you both know deep down that you might never see each other again. In a way, that’s heartbreaking.
When I meet people I really enjoy, I want to keep them in my life and bring them closer. That’s extremely difficult to do when you’re traveling. You know that your return to the real world is inevitable, and that usually means saying goodbye for a long, long time. It’s quite sad to meet someone, get emotionally attached, and have to part ways indefinitely after a few days. But it’s mind-numbingly exhausting when you have to do it a half dozen times in a week.
Of course, that’s not to say that it isn’t worth it. Travel is the only time where you can meet tons of folks who are completely relaxed and open-minded, and you frequently come across individuals whose love for life and people just pours out of them. These are my favorite types of travelers, because they fill you with energy and happiness, and effortlessly bring out the best in others.
I don’t know why it’s so rare to encounter this type of person back home. Perhaps it’s because all travelers share a mutual thrill for experiencing something new together (everything around them is exciting!) They also seem less prone to being judgmental, simply because everyone around them is in a perpetual state of analysis and they’re all learning about each other. If someone does something strange, you tend to dismiss it more readily (“Maybe that’s normal where they’re from”).
Whatever the case, the random people you meet is what makes travel worthwhile. If you’re anti-social, traveling will bring out your inner extrovert.
What you also notice after awhile is that travelers – whether they like it or not – are ambassadors for their cities, states, and countries. Your interactions with others will almost always shape what they think of “your people.”
This became very clear to a friend of mine while he was traveling around Asia. He noticed that people in North Vietnam looked down on Americans for many reasons, but were particularly unforgiving because they had never had any American friends when they were growing up. Many of the people in South Vietnam, however, had developed close relationships with Americans more than 30 years prior.
The memories of their old friends remained fresh, and their attitudes towards Americans were passed along to their children. This cycle, if strong enough, can facilitate an entire culture’s hatred or adoration for foreigners.
Do your duty as an American, and don’t be a douchebag overseas.
I would be remiss if I didn’t mention what you’re getting into with Brazil. Almost every American I spoke with about Brazil, including people who grew up there, said something to this effect: “Brazil is f-ing dangerous. If you look the way you do (light hair, green eyes) and clearly don’t speak Portuguese, you are a sitting duck.” A friend of mine told me he had 3-4 near death experiences while he was there. Another said his family was robbed a minimum of six times per year growing up, a la gun to the face. But then again, I’ve heard several others say things like “I backpacked there for 12 weeks and didn’t have any problems.” Obviously, people have varying degrees of luck during their travels, but based on everything I’ve heard, planning a trip to Rio is not something to take lightly.
I’ve never been to Brazil, of course, but I’d imagine there’s a lot of truth to this statement: “You can either have expensive and safe, or cheap and dangerous.”
The book I’ve been helping with for nearly two years is available for pre-order. It’s already hit #1 on Amazon’s Health and Fitness category and #1 overall on Barnes & Noble. You’ll be hearing a lot more about it in the coming weeks.
UPDATE: There’s a fun post on Brazilian models that Tim put up on Thanksgiving. There are two quick things I want to mention: the introduction, and the response.
The intro Tim wrote is a funnier (and more concise) story than how I actually discovered Jeremiah. Here’s what happened…
One night in Buenos Aires, I met an Australian guy at a restaurant who had been living in Brazil for three years with his girlfriend. I told him how much I wanted to visit, and he said, “The first place you have to go to is Florianopolis. I’m going to give you my email address so you can thank me when you’re there.” The next day, I searched for ‘Florianopolis’ on Flickr. I looked at pictures of the beaches, which were nice (but not quite as beautiful as Thailand’s). In the bottom-right corner, I saw related images of women in swimsuits. Naturally, I clicked through to check them out.
The beauty of the women was no big surprise, but I was genuinely impressed with the quality of the photos. Under each one was a paragraph outlining Jeremiah’s story — a regular guy with a camera who decided to pursue his dream of becoming a swimsuit photographer in Brazil. Very cool. After returning to the States, I went to work at Tim’s house and mentioned how I’d stumbled across a great 4HWW story. We both thought it would make a cool blog post, and that was that. Not quite as humorous as me ogling Brazilian chicks at 2am when I should have been working (seriously, who uses Flickr to search for pictures of hot girls?), but so it goes.
The response to the post has been fairly predictable. 98% of the readers love it, and 2% are completely disgusted. This was both expected and intended. I’ve read all the comments, and have seen the word ‘misogyny’ thrown out a few times. While this is amusing to me, as it’s clearly a gross misunderstanding of the word, I would like to come to Jeremiah’s defense. I’ve spoken with the guy, and he has nothing but love and respect for Brazilian people and the women he works with. If you missed this, then you brought your own interpretation to the table before you even read what he had to say.