Ten reasons why I love Brazil – and a tribute to Socrates

10th July 2011

Heading off for another author visit to Brazil. A reminder of some images, sounds and tastes from previous visits…

I’ve been to Brazil ten times but I’ve never lived there and all my visits have been cocooned by the careful support and attention of the very capable people from the British Council or the publishers who sponsored my visits, which have been almost entirely trouble-free – apart from the occasional missed plane, power failure or shark attack (see below – it wasn’t actually a shark).

So here is a collection of Brazilian images – people, places and things – that have dazzled me, and I hope that you, dear readers, will add your own thoughts, whether you’ve been to Brazil or not. Brazil seems to be one of those places, like California, that everyone has an image of or an opinion about.

1       The north east

Boa Viagem beach, near Recife

My first visit to Brazil was in 1984, as an actor with the English Teaching Theatre. In those days, you could fly British Caledonian Airways and land at Recife in the north east of the country. Nowadays, planes from London don’t stop in the north east – you have to go all the way to São Paulo, another three hours flying. It’s a mystery to me why no airline has a non-stop flight from London to somewhere in the north east.

So Recife was the first place I ever set foot on Brazilian soil, or rather Brazilian tarmac. The flight landed at about 2am one night in November. It was incredibly hot and humid as we walked down the steps from the plane and the first thing I saw of this colourful, amazing country was a line of immigration officers dressed in grey and white, sitting behind podia in the open air.

That they were working in the open air made sense from the point of view of the heat, but was also a bit mad, given that planes were arriving and leaving on a fairly regular basis, making ear-splitting noises when they did. When I got to the front of the queue and handed my passport to the immigration officer, the plane we had arrived on was turning away and heading off to the runway to continue its journey. I didn’t hear his questions and he didn’t hear me saying, “Sorry, I don’t speak Portuguese.”

That visit took us to about ten Brazilian cities and I was delighted when the British Council told us, as we were leaving, that they wanted us back as soon as possible. And they were as good as their word, inviting us back two years later.

The first shows of the 1986 tour were also in Recife. Two of us had been before and we told the others, Lizzie, Cath and Phil, about the fabulous beach at Boa Viagem, where we would be able to swim as soon as we arrived.

Unfortunately, by this time, British Caledonian had gone bust and we had to fly first to São Paulo, then fly three hours back to the north east. Our incoming flight from London was delayed and we missed the connection, so it was dark when we eventually arrived in Recife.

Lizzie, Cath and Phil were quite miffed about missing out on the swim they had been promised. Even though it was after 10pm, we decided to go for a walk on the beach anyway.

In the darkness, we walked across the road from the hotel and down the deserted beach to the water’s edge. Of course, we discovered that the water was bath warm, so everyone decided to go for a swim.

Almost as soon as all five of us had taken the plunge and were splashing about, a black sea creature made an appearance, leaping out of the water next to Lizzie.

My memory of the moment is that I was tremendously calm and said ‘I think there’s a shark over there.’ Others claimed that I ran out of the water yelling ‘SHAAAAAAAAAAAARK!!’ at the top of my voice.

Lizzie knew enough about sea creatures to know that sharks didn’t hurl themselves in the air so she actually swam off to look for whatever it was. As she disappeared into the night, I had visions of re-writing the show so that it could be done by four actors.

The creature was actually a kind of dolphin called a boto, a very sociable creature that lurks in the shallows close to the beach at night and apparently likes nothing better than to swim between people’s legs.

If it had swum between my legs, you wouldn’t be reading this now.

The north east of Brazil has hundreds of kilometres of fabulous beaches and other great places to visit. My personal recommendations would be Fortaleza for beaches and food, Olinda for architecture and art, and Salvador for music.

Beautiful piece of art on sale in a shop in Olinda, near Recife

Downtown Recife is a place you really need to visit with someone local to give you advice and what not to do and where not to go. And there ARE sharks near the beach now (there weren’t in the 80s, but they’ve arrived since).

A photo I took in 2008 to show my 1986 tour colleagues how things have changed in Boa Viagem

Be prepared for things to move a little slowly in the north east. One of my favourite memories of BrazTESOL 2008 in Fortaleza was going out for lunch with my OUP minder Sergio, who is from São Paulo (see #3 below). He sat at the table, drumming his fingers with impatience because of the slow service. It was amusing for me to have to tell a Brazilian to chill out, wait, it’s OK, the food’s coming…. 🙂

2       Brazilian Portuguese

I read in a British newspaper that, to an outsider, Brazilian Portuguese sounds like Sean Connery speaking Italian, which just goes to show how much the average British journalist knows about languages.

As someone who speaks Spanish reasonably well, I find Portuguese tantalisingly difficult to understand, but easy to pretend to speak. I spend all my time making sentences in portunhol/portuñol, a lazy mix of the two languages. One day, I will get round to learning it properly, if only to understand the fabulous poetry and song lyrics.

3       São Paulo

Sao Paulo cityscape at night

As I said earlier, nowadays if you fly to Brazil from London, you arrive at São Paulo Guarulhos International Airport. If you are then driven into the city, you pass along highways full of trucks belching smoke, car drivers who appear to be getting ready for a rally by practising dangerous manoeuvres, and sudden, unexpected traffic jams. It is as near to hell as I have ever experienced.

I think I’ve made this trip into the city about five times in the last ten years, and every time I think the same thing. What was it about Brazil that I like so much? However, after a few hours of sleep and a caipirinha (see #8), you are ready to explore this most fascinating of Latin American cities.

The statistic that is most often trotted out about São Paulo is that it’s the biggest Japanese city outside Japan, the biggest Italian city outside Italy and the biggest German city outside Germany. Probably the biggest Polish, Lithuanian, Irish etc etc as well – no idea.

The point is you feel this tremendous sense of vibrant multi-culturalism the minute you step on the streets in the centre of the city. It’s a bit like being in Manhattan, except that there’s a chance that people might actually smile at you in São Paulo. 🙂

São Paulo is vast – the official population of the city is eleven million and the metropolitan area has twenty million inhabitants in total. Who knows how many more millions depend on this economic powerhouse for their livelihoods?

For the sake of balance, one should add that, like many other major cities of the world, São Paulo is surrounded by dense and depressing favelas, shanty towns, which have not been reached or positively affected by the economic activity of the main city. All I can do is report that the city itself sparkles with life, day and night. I’ve also seen some great performances by actors, musicians … and it was where I saw Denise Stoklos.

4       Denise Stoklos

Denise Stoklos is the most amazing performance artist I have ever seen. I was lucky enough to see her at the British Council in São Paulo in the spring of 1994, a few months before she appeared at the Edinburgh Festival in a one-woman show about Mary Queen of Scots.

This is what The Independent newspaper wrote about that show:

With a body like a hieroglyph and a voice like a taxi hooter, the Brazilian actress Denise Stoklos storms her way through a political and personal meditation on the life and death of Mary Queen of Scots. Her tender story-telling will tug spectators to the edge of their seats, and her grotesque characterisations of Mary Stuart and Queen Elizabeth would have Fluck and Law reaching for their sketchbooks. Between sharp historical anecdotes and bold polemic, Stoklos could (and at one point does) captivate an entire audience just by wiggling her foot. Only fools will miss this.

Fluck and Law were the creators of the grotesque puppets of famous people that were used in the British TV series Spitting Image in the 80s and 90s.

The Denise Stoklos performance I saw in São Paulo was a more personal, rather chaotic but equally memorable trip through some key incidents in her life. To illustrate a particularly dramatic (but also hilarious) series of events, she switched on a popcorn-making machine and hugged it to her body as she began to tell us the story. As it developed, the popcorn began to pop. As the story reached its exciting finale, the popcorn was banging against the top of the machine like hailstone.

When the applause for this terrific coup de theatre had died down, Denise explained that this part of the show didn’t work in Florianopolis (see #5) because the voltage is different there. When she finished telling the story, the popcorn had hardly started to pop!

I met Denise backstage and was even more amazed to discover that she was able to do the show in Spanish, French and German and well as in English and Portuguese.


5       Florianopolis

Having lunch with US TESOL president Neil Anderson (and Paulette Dale, who took the photo) on a beach near Florianopolis, 2002

I thought about Denise as I flew into Florianopolis for the first time in July 2002 for the Braz-TESOL conference. The first thing I can remember was being in a restaurant a little out of town when there was a power cut and we all finished our meal by candle-light. Electrical issues dominate my early memories of the place.

Subsequently, I decided that Florianopolis is the perfect Brazilian city, at least for a European. It’s hot without being humid and unpleasant, has great beaches nearby and is (despite the electricity stories) a well-organised and safe place full of nice, helpful people.

I’ve written too much already, so just a few notes about the other five items in my list.

6       Santos Dumont Airport, Rio

The runway at Santos Dumont airport, Rio, pointing almost directly at Sugar Loaf Mountain, which is not THAT far away...

Fabulous building, at least in the 80s, where you could catch quaint little prop planes for the shuttle flight to Sao Paulo. With the added excitement when you take off of knowing that the runway is pointing straight at Sugar Loaf Mountain.

7       Astrud Gilberto

The woman with the velvet voice...

The first Brazilian singer I ever heard, and still my favourite for that liquid, perfect voice.

8       Caipirinha

A drink made with cachaça, sugar cane alcohol and squeezed lime (NOT lemon! Thanks for correcting my mistake, Willy!). Just try it when you’re sitting on a Brazilian beach looking at a sunset over the sea. (I know the sun sets away from the beach in Brazil, but you know what I mean).

9       Sócrates

Like true soccer fans worldwide, I was devastated to hear of the death of Socrates, an amazing sportsman and political activist. I just feel proud to have included him here in my list of 10 things….

The 1986 English Teaching Theatre tour took place just before the soccer World Cup in Mexico. Early one morning, I was standing at the check-in desk at Rio International Airport (not Santos Dumont) with the tickets and passports of all five members of the group.

It was the days when you had multiple air tickets in the same booklet, and a page had to be torn out at check-in. I was so busy dealing with this, I wasn’t aware of a looming presence behind me. I turned round and saw that the man behind me was the captain of the Brazil soccer team. I uttered one of my favourite exclamations ever: “Blimey! You’re Sócrates, aren’t you???”

The gentle giant behind me smiled and moved to take his place at the counter. I looked around and saw other members of that team, Zico, Júlio César, Branco and Falcão. For the Brazilians waiting for planes at the airport, it seemed like the most normal thing in the world

Phil York, the other football-mad member of the ETT, came up and asked me what I thought they would do if he asked them to sign his baseball cap. I suggested waiting until we could accost them in the departure lounge. Big mistake. Although they were checking in like normal passengers, once through security, they were whisked off to the Business Lounge and we didn’t see them again.

But why have I singled out Sócrates? Not only was he the captain of the greatest soccer team on the planet, he was also a qualified doctor and he played guitar to professional standard. He could also take great satisfaction in his role in bringing in the new democracy that has served Brazil pretty well during the thirty years since the country was under the draconian rule of the military.

OK, he smoked and drank too much. A Brazilian student once said: “When Sócrates chests the ball, there is a fog in the stadium.” No one is perfect.

He’s my ultimate Brazilian hero.

10     Foot volley

The brilliant sport you can see on the beach – basically volleyball played with soccer skills. A joy to watch, and a sport invented for and by Brazilians, probably the only people who can play it properly.


* Well, NEARLY no mention of football 🙂

79 thoughts on “Ten reasons why I love Brazil – and a tribute to Socrates

  1. I love Brazil! I love the beaches, the language, I love Portuguese! I love Brazilian people, I love the food, I love Brazilian breakfast (café da manhá).
    Adoro Brazil!

    1. Thanks, Sandra – written with passion. Why can’t I write with such economy of expression???

    2. Brasiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiillllllllleirooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo says:

      Oi,eu Sou Brasileiro, Hello Im am Brazillian;How Do You Like Both Brazil …. I’ll talk a little bit of my hometown Rio. Surrounded by water and beaches with sand and hot sun A look at the Christ the Redeemer, Whenever I speak I’m Paraiba say ….. -You and CarioRiba” A” (Laughs) Good So I always wanted to Know How and New York … La Sera that have Fotbal Dogs From U.S. Players? Well back to the Asunto The Rio De Janeiro …. Surely you must have heard of the Rio Carnival and the best carnival in the world so that we have with Beija-Flor and Portela Much more, You say americans Rio de Janeiro But you would say river of January you may have heard the full Drama World Tour? Well here in brazsil Moves You In Good tv Adults do not like cartoon right Vamos la Eu amo você brasil e Mais Rioo

  2. Brilliant!
    I’m always very happy when someone can describe Brazil like you did, by really paying attention to the small things that make it a great place to visit, and also to appreciate our culture without treating it as simply exotic-primitive-carnivalesque tourist attraction.
    In case you haven’t, I suggest you visit the north shore of Sao Paulo State, amazing beaches + mountains. Also the capital city, Brasília is a great place to visit. I have pics of both places uploaded on beltfree.ning.com

    Caipirinha – everytime I go to London I make sure to take with me a bottle of a good cachaça, so I can offer my local friends a taste of the real thing. Maybe next time I can take one for you : ). One thing that is worth mentioning is that we do it with lime, not lemon.

    Great post Ken! So I guess you’ll be supporting Brazil after England is beaten by Ghana on the first playoff.

    1. omgggg – I can’t believe i wrote lemon!! I’ll go back and change it immediately.

      I will be supporting Brazil from day 1. If they play England (in the final?) – well, may the better team ON THE DAY win.

      I’ve been to Brasilia and I love it – but I had to drop some of the 2,349 things I love about your country to get it down to 10 😛

  3. Hi Ken!
    Always a fantastic post.
    Wow – this one is also written with great enthusiasm – you have made us all fall in love with Brazil and want to go there!
    Beautiful pictures first of all – and all your reasons for loving Brazil are super!
    I absolutely love Astrud Gilberto. I discovered her many years ago and I am happy for that.
    I had not heard of Denise Stoklos but it was great of you to mention her and her acting. Very interesting theatrical persona. (And the popcorn machine – never heard anything like it!)
    I must admit I am not a big drinker (apart from the occasional glass of wine or beer) so I have never had a Caipirinha, but will definitely try one, given the opportunity!
    Thanks for travelling us to magical places and for sharing your love of them with us, Ken. I have not travelled much but hope to in the future – and I will start with the places you mention!
    Thanks for another great post,
    P.S. Speaking of travelling, you should come to Switzerland some day! I will be happy to show you and Dede around.

    1. It’s a long way to go, Vicky, but it’s worth it. And by the time you go, you’ll have an armload of twitter friends to meet there. 🙂

  4. Ken, PLEASE, don’t go for economics…

    We, Brazilian people, love this drama, lol.

    I’m Brazilian and I’ve met some people from USA, England, Denmark, Italy… What they told me they most like here is our hospitality.

    As a brasileira, my favourite part of São Paulo is Avenida Paulista.
    It was love at first sight and it’s lasting 🙂

    (And your #8 is just…… ooooohhhhh! ♥)


    1. Avenida Paulista? Interesting. What I like about the centre of SP is that whichever way you turn OFF Avenida Paulista leads you to some pretty interesting places – I remember a cafe called Sauselito in Rua Augusta, where we spent all our time drawing pictures on the tablecloths – crayons provided by the management!

  5. Hi Ken,

    Great post about Brazil! To be fair, I guess most Brazilians would choose Zico instead of Socrates, but the reasons for your choice are quite good. 🙂

    I didn’t know Sócrates smoked that much… well, I guess I’m not that big a fan, huh?!

    Next time you’re in Brazil, drop by Brasília. I’d be more than glad to show you around. There might not be a beach here, but there certainly are some nice places to visit – and great restaurants to eat food from all parts of the country. How does a feijoada while listening to some good quality samba sound to you?

    And if by any chance you come with time to spare, you should definitely pay a visit to the some of the many wonderful waterfalls near Brasília.

    Um grande abraço direto do Brasil! O post me deu até vontade de tomar uma caipirinha!


      1. Maravilha! 🙂

        Its funny how we can always change everything into an excuse for a good old caipirinha, huh?! 🙂

    1. Hi Rick – well, Zico was God, but Socrates just seemed like such a diverse guy (and when he’s standing right in front of you, he’s a man mountain! And of COURSE I love the food and the music and the football and all those things – I just didn’t want to just write about the things that most people already know about. I love feijoada and much prefer it to the meatfests at churrascarias (spelling?). I can’t handle 40 different types of meat at the same meal!

      1. Yup! You got it right – churrascarias. Wow… I guess you’re the first foreigner who isn’t a vegetarian who would rather go to a feijoada than to a churrascaria. Well, in case you don’t know and for all those who still don’t know Brazil, Saturday is *the* day for you to eat feijoada and enjoy yourself the whole afternoon with live performance of a samba group in many Brazilian bars – at least in Brasília. Just yesterday I made a 12 second video of such a place.

        I’ve never really had the chance to see Sócrates live, so I’ll just take your word for it! 🙂

        Both the 1986 and the 1982 teams were fantastic! Too bad they never got to win the world cup.

        As usual, a very sensible choice of not writing about the things most people already hear so much about.

  6. You know, I have the same feeling about churrascarias.

    So we’re supposed to eat 30 types of meat???

    I pretty much prefer a “churrasco” with family ^^

    We choose the meat and we get to make our own caipirinhas!

    1. Nicky, that’s definitely the best option, and one of my favourite weekend activities for the past couple of years!

      Next time there’s a big event in Brasília I’ll invite you “all” (er… more than 1000 came to the last national Braz-TESOL in Brasília so “all” would only be possible if I were Bill Gates) for a homemade barbecue and some different kinds of caipirinhas and caipiroskas (for those who are not acquainted with the term, it’s the same as a caipirinha, but with vodka instead of cachaça).

      Oh, and we could also go on a sampling of different kinds of cachaça. I’m not really a big connoisseur (can I use this word for cachaças?), but I’ve been more and more into that. Last time we had such an event we could try and rate more than 18 kinds of cachaça – and in order to really savour it and not get drunk in the process, it’s an event that lasts the whole afternoon. Sounds like a great way to spend an afternoon, huh?!

      1. I can’t believe you would let me come all the way to Brasilia and then serve me a caipiroska! I can get vodka at home. Only caipirinha for me, please. 🙂

  7. Great post, Ken, written with obvious enthusiasm and love for a fabulous country. I was lucky enough to have visited Fortaleza and Recife when I was in the North East for BRAZ-TESOL in 2008 but didn’t meet you there – it was the first time I actively tweeted through a conference!

    What struck me then was just how wonderful the people were – welcoming and friendly, and the conference was an excellent event, with so much happening and so many enthusiastic teachers.

    Really looking forward to going again in July, this time to Rio for ABCI, then BRAZ-TESOL in São Paulo. Are you going to be there?

    1. Sadly won’t see you in Brazil this year – and corrected your spelling of São Paulo so the friendly people you meet don’t tease you about it. 🙂

  8. This message was posted on my Facebook page by Renata Cardoso –
    Recife, Fortaleza, São Paulo, Rio, Floripa … Denise and much more. Amazing portrait.
    It’s a pity your visit to Brasilia was quick and I wasn’t with you to show how fascinating it is – and you could get a taste of another Brazil apart from the beaches, lively as well. After a trip to the north and places in the west, especially Pantanal, you will have to write ‘more ten reasons’ I’m sure.
    Your photo in Floripa (our dearest Florianópolis, the capital of our European state, where once more I met you) is with José Bantim, Macmillan commercial director at that time, now co-owner of Disal Publishers. In case coursebooks don’t sell anymore, that’s an interesting publisher of support material for the classroom! BTW, I’ve met hundreds of teachers who ask me about those ELT sketches of yours. Sketches with classroom activities connected should be in your list of projects for the near future.
    Elegant in your new suit!

  9. Thanks for that, Renata –

    I’m pretty sure the man in the Floripa pic is Neil Anderson, not José Bantim. Maybe I’d had one caipirinha too many, but I think so, anyway!

  10. Great list. I’m a bit of a sucker for the more laid back Carioca vibe than the Paulista one, but I recognise the vibrant multiculturalism you mention. I’d add Jorge Ben and Joao Gilberto to the music (well to be honest we could do a 20 fantastic Brazilian musicians post). I loved Florianopolis too at the same conference.

    As for football – well I watched Flamengo win the Rio State Championship with a last minute goal against Vasco in the Maracana, which pretty much ticked all the boxes for cliched yet perfect football experience. Being hugged by old men and young women in the stadium, city exploding into life (well apart from those who support Vasco). The perfect footballing experience (especially attending with my ‘Mengo supporting friend)

    As a vegetarian the churrascaria is not for me, but as a vegetarian who occasionally when travelling experiments with fish there is a restaurant in Leme (in Rio) which is modelled on the churrascaria thing but with fish and seafood. Amazing place.

    1. Andy, if you were at Braz-TESOL Floripa, how come we didn’t meet there???

      One reason for not including Rio was a desire to avoid the obvious, so I was very pleased with this twitter note from Cecilia Nobre (who IS carioca) – the key expression in brackets at the end (‘and without stereotypes, wow!’)
      “Ten razões pq gringos como o @kenwilsonlondon adoram o Brasil (em inglês, claro!) http://tinyurl.com/2cfbxyr (e sem esteriótipos, uau!).”

      I love Rio, but in the 2000s, it seems to have become yet another port of call for boozed-up English stag-nights, one of the most depressing things that can happen to a city.

      And if I was offered a job in Rio or SP, I think I would choose SP, but I’d choose Floripa over both of them.

      Adoro Brasil!

  11. As I mentioned before, I was truly amazed on how you highlighted some special reasons why you love Brazil without repeating the same old “bundalelê” we always read about Brazil: carnival, women and football. It was time to change that!

    Because Brazil is so amazingly big I haven´t had the opportunity to visit either Floripa or the northeast…which is a real shame, I know. ( taking of amazing beaches next time go to Ilha Grande, a nice cosy island in Rio near Angra dos Reis… it´s like a paradise!)

    But I have to agree with you about our accents and words, we were extremely fortunate to inherit this from Camões and his gang 😉 I particularly love the Portuguese spoken in Minas Gerais and Bahia.

    I take my hat off to you, Ken =)

    1. I’d also like to take my hat off to Cecilia for tweeting about this blog in both English and Portuguese. Obrigado, Cecilia!

  12. Passei um tempo no Brasil em 2003… And I’ve spent the time since trying to find a way to get back… Reality when we’ve had the resources to cross the Atlantic, it’s been to Argentina, for family reasons…

    Only really did the tourist stuff and fell in love with Rio, Floripa and Ilha do Mel (Paraguay had already introduced me to churrascarias)… But there’s clearly so much more to see and understand in this culturally, historically and socially complex nation.

    Gosto muito:)

    1. Ah – the cost of getting back – therein lies the reason why I thought long and hard before writing this post – I didn’t want it to come across as the musings of a cosseted conference-hopper. I have been SOOO lucky to be sponsored on all of my visits to Brazil. Having said that, I wanted to enthuse about part of the experience – avoiding ‘the same old “bundalelê”, as Cecilia called them.

      There’s no denying that if you’re paying your own way from Europe or beyond, it is very expensive. But we all need a once-in-a-lifetime trip, eh? 😛

  13. Hi Ken,

    What a great post! Yes, I think you can be officially recognised as a “true Brazilian”!

    As a Brazilian who only moved back to Brazil when I was aged 24 and have lived here ever since, some of your references were slightly nostalgic for me! I was brought up on a fine musical diet of Astrud, João Gilberto and Sergio Mendes (my dad´s cousin in fact)! But there are some wonderful musicians today I think you would love. Have you heard of Marisa Monte? Marisa singing “chorinho” and traditional samba songs is spectacular!

    Football, yes, love Socrates and Zico, but really think Romário (affectionately known as “baixinho”) is quite a player! (Yes, Rick, Socrates was a chain smoker and did you know he is a practising doctor nowadays?)

    I live in Niterói, a haven 30 minutes from Rio and with the best views of Rio! Although “Cariocas” have this fame for being ever so cool and trendy, the city can get a bit too much at times. But wouldn´t swap Rio for any city during the World Cup – best street/beach parties ever! (when we win, of course!)

    So, do hope you get a chance to come over again soon and we can show you round the new wonders of our country!
    Who knows, World Cup in 2014 perhaps?



    1. I think someone has to do a “100 Brazilian musicians and singers you must listen to before you die” blog. I was blown away when I heard Marisa Monte.

      Is it just me, or is it really true that Brazilian women have to have amazing voices to get recorded and … um… men don’t? I don’t get so blown away by men singing…

      Oops… I may be in trouble now.

      I certainly hope to be in Brazil before 2014, but if not, then it sounds like a good time to be there! 🙂

      1. I must say that #8 convinced me to stay in Brazil after just one visit.

  14. I’d say Brazil is one of those places you just can’t resist falling in love with; it’s a land of contrast and so, so beautiful, I’m very, very happy to have been born here.

    1. We can’t all be lucky enough to be born there, Luci, but it sure is good to get a chance to visit paradise 🙂

  15. Hi Ken

    Totally agree about Florianopolis… the rest I have my own Brazilian reservations 🙂

  16. An immensely enjoyable read, Ken, and very much worthy of a direct link from the front page of Brazil’s official national tourism site!

    I have a bit of a bone to pick with you, however…

    When I read this:
    “The creature was actually a kind of dolphin called a boto, a very sociable creature that lurks in the shallows close to the beach at night and apparently likes nothing better than to swim between people’s legs.
    If it had swum between my legs, you wouldn’t be reading this now.”

    I burst out in a fit of laughter that sprayed coffee all over my computer monitor and recently wiped desk, and in the process woke up our little daughter Hannah from her (our!) hard-earned afternoon nap!

    Still chuckling,
    – Jason

    1. Thanks for the back-handed compliment, Jason. The boto story is my way of exorcising the feeling of ridicule I get whenever any members of the 1986 cast get together. But, I mean, what would YOU have done?

      Sorry about disturbing Hannah’s nap 🙂

  17. And finally me 🙂 As you gave me a wonderful idea for my next post, I won’t enter into many details now. However, I must say – after living here in Brazil for 9 long years I still look at this place with a foreign eye. I mentioned some Brazilian pecularities already in my last 3 posts, but few escaped my attention and | will surely write about them:-) Our first impressions of Brazil are so similar…

    1. Looking forward to your next post as always, Agata – but remember to tweet about it, otherwise no one will know!

  18. This list is all very well, Ken, but what about the carnival, the women and the football?

    Great post! Loved the chain-smoking Dr. Socrates anecdote.

  19. I Loved your post. I am a Brazilian teacher in Brazil… not your favorite, right? kk I have a group of advanced students who love reading about how foreigners see our country, we had two lessons using a material I adapted from The Guardian named spotted by locals.
    As I read your post I had both… a foreigner view with the grace and caring of a local. I hope you don’t mind my using your post as a conversation sparkler as to name some places they would recommend you visiting and what they learned from a foreigner about our country, I certainly did!
    Cheeres from Brazil

    1. Hi Dani – thank you for the positive comments and I’d be delighted for you to use the post with your students.

      But what do you mean – ‘not my favorite’? I hope that was a joke! 😛

  20. Hi Ken,

    Great post as usual. So far you’ve blogged about the country where I used to live (Brazil) and the country I’m moving to (Belgium). If you write a post about my current country (South Korea), I’m going to start thinking that you’re writing this blog for my benefit!


    1. Well, I’ve only been to South Korea twice, in 1997 and again in 2008, so I can’t claim to be an expert, but if I was to write ’10 things’, the first thing would be the 2002 World Cup, when those millions of people stood in the square outside the Seoul Plaza Hotel (Taipyung-Ro?) watching the soccer on big screens. When they left, not so much as a paper cup on the ground. Why can’t we Brits have that attitude to public places?

      1. Absolutely. I was there on Thursday for the match against Argentina and, despite the result, had a lovely time. it’s not just the cleanliness, there’s also something to be said for watching the game in a public place without the tangible feeling of possible violence if things go wrong. We have much to learn.

  21. Each country has its charm, its problems and wonderful things. And meeting people is always a gift. And I met you, Ken, by the wonderful Mr Monday LP.
    Sorry for the mistakes I probably made but I’ve forgotten much about the English that one day I learned.
    But your songs? I will never forget them.
    Hugs and Kisses.
    Gisele, from Brazil.

    1. Thank you Gisele,

      I still have very strong memories of writing and using those songs with my students in London, and particularly recording them with my band, which of course included my wife, Dede (the one who sings – ‘He’s Mister Monday’ – the most memorable musical moment of the whole album. 🙂

  22. Dearest Ken – wonderful post. A tribute to Brazil and to those who have been with you on the road for years. I have just returned from the ABCI Conference in Rio where, amongst other keynote speakers, your friend Jeremy Harmer has mentioned you to an audience of over 800.
    Saudades de Fortaleza (Laly sends you kisses) !

  23. Well, my first time on the blog!! Good post, only a bit sad over brazil ( i am argentinian), but i agree it’s a amazing country, culture and quality of life. Argentinian people all times said “If i have a chance to quit the job, i go to brazil and open a bar on the beach.” What better life is there? Play soccer, drink a “SKOL” COLD and the most important be happy whit all what they have. Nice Post!!

  24. I loved the way you described Brasil (yes now it writes with “S” ^^)
    I´m Brasilian as well but I didn´t had much chances to visit São Paulo…
    Sorry about my english, I am stil learning

    1. Vitoria

      you’re brave enough to write in English – I’ve been to Brazil ten times and I’m not brave enough to write in Portuguese. Who’s the better language learner? 😛

  25. Thanks for saying such beautiful things about my country, I’ve travelled to many places around the world, each country has its beauty, but I haven’t found any place like mine.
    Believe me, you’re a Brazilian more than I am.


  26. Hello Ken,
    It’s my first time to your blog and you are saying goodbye. Have a nice holiday… Taking a tour here, I got to this great post about my country and couldn’t be less than delighted, Although it ‘s been months since you wrote it, I had to leave my comment. Coincidence or not, I have just had feijoada and caipirinha(with cachaça, of course) for lunch. I would invite you if it were possible. Anyway, next time you are here, let me know.

    1. Hi Luciana!

      so glad you found this ancient post! 🙂

      I’ll be in Brazil in July, so hope I can try one of your caipirinhas!



  27. hi,man!I’m 10000% Brazilian,and from Recife,in Pernambuco,but Carioca(Rio de Janeiro)’-‘.I want see you at world cup here!i love the brazil!i like england too!!!thank you bye
    ooooh!Um desafio para você:
    Se você ama o Brasil,vai gostar mais ainda nossa língua,pois somos um povo sorridente e simpático,você vai aprender muito rápido,com certeza amigo!Thau. e quero caipirinha!

  28. Olá Wilson Ken,

    Senti a necessidade de te agradecer por essa maravilhosa matéria.

    Sou brasileira, de Alagoas,
    Um estado que fica no nordeste.

    Temos belas praias aqui!
    Quando voltar para cá, não deixe de visitar Alagoas!
    Quer uma sugestão?
    Visite a cidade de Maragogi e nossa capital, Maceió.

    Você ficará encantado com a beleza de nossas praias!

    Seja bem-vindo ao Brasil!
    E tenha uma ótima viajem!

    1. Olá Amanda,

      Nao falo portugues but I understand your message.

      Ho estado em Alagoas e Maceió en 1984 😛


  29. Hi Ken!
    Brazil is a place where people feel happy to receive visitors like you. A green country, with people passionate about life, happy people who love to have fun and face problems with a smile. Is always welcome … only those who know Brazil understands the meaning of the word Saudade!
    Ler foneticamente
    Novo! Clique nas palavras acima para ver traduções alternativas. Dispensar
    Dicionário – Ver dicionário detalhado

  30. Hi, I’m from Brazil and just loved what you wrote about my country, you are to be congratulated

  31. Olá Ken! Como vi que entende um pouco o Português, escreverei em português mesmo. É bom que você pratica. =)

    Ao acaso procurando informações sobre outro assunto qualquer no google, acabei entrando “sem querer” no seu artigo, e me senti na necessidade de compartilhar o mesmo vídeo que estou assistindo agora.

    Fizeram algo muito bonito esses dias na Avenida Paulista que não me canso de ver. O efeito 3D ficou incrível.

    Espero que goste tanto quanto eu =)

    Abraços de São Paulo,
    Kauê Jones.

  32. Olá Ken! Como vi que entende um pouco o Português, escreverei em português mesmo. É bom que você o pratica. =)

    Ao acaso procurando informações sobre outro assunto qualquer no google, acabei entrando “sem querer” no seu artigo, e me senti na necessidade de compartilhar o mesmo vídeo que estou assistindo agora.

    Fizeram algo muito bonito esses dias na Avenida Paulista que não me canso de ver. O efeito 3D ficou incrível!

    Espero que goste tanto quanto eu =)

    Abraços de São Paulo,
    Kauê Jones.

  33. Hi Ken !

    I like Sócrates too, he was an amazing soccer player

    but what about our King?? PELÉ !!

    have ever visited Santos ?

    It’s a beautiful beach city in the cosat of Sao Paulo

    then you can visit Vila Belmiro stadium, where Pelé

    scored many goals for Santos F.C

    um abraço, Bruno !

    1. Hi Bruno,

      sorry for the late reply – yes, I’ve been to Santos many times and love it – a mini Sao Paulo by the sea. 🙂 And I NEARLY met Pele – I met the architect who was re-building his house in Santos, and she said he had been there until the week before I met her.

      Choosing Socrates doesn’t mean that many, many other Brazilian soccer players have brightened my life! 🙂

  34. Hello, I loved the post. Meu nome é Daniel e moro no RJ, sou carioca e realmente é muito bom viver no Brasil. Um país fantástico e muito bonito. Nossas estações são sempre bem definidas variando de região pra região. ^^ Às vezes até cai neve lá no RS ou SC. Eu nunca vi a neve porque aqui no Rio o máximo de frio que chegamos é até uns 10ºC O frio começa no outono e termina no início da primavera, quando o sol começa a sair com tudo. Nesta época o claor supera os 40ºC. Tem até uma música muito famosa que diz RIO 40 GRAUS, CIDADE MARAVILHA… queria ver vocês aqui um dia. Beijão para todos. Fui. =D

  35. bedankt voor Brazilië aan de mensen van Brazilië fora.obrigado João Guiherme

  36. Wow, Ken, your post is really, really lovely – and real!
    As a Brazilian, all I can say is THANK YOU for sharing so good impressions about my country… Maybe because most of Braziians can’t afford trips abroad, we LOVE receiving foreigners, we LOVE to chat with them, to show them our most beautiful places and to make sure they are enjoying our land. This way, we have the precious opportunity of an interchange program backwards!!! Isn’t it great?
    All the best, Renata Gardiano

  37. I am Brazilian and I just loved how you described my country! I love when I am traveling and someone tells me, as soon as they find out I’m from Brazil: ”Everyone in Brazil is so nice and welcoming!”
    I think it’s true, but mostly because of people like you, who visit but also try to understand who we are and why we are that way, our essence. It’s an honor to welcome people into our country!
    Thanks for the post!


  38. I´m so glad you like and enjoyed Brazil and the brazilians so much. I hope we can meet and have that caipirinha next time you come here!

  39. i am a brazilian guy and i come here to see what the “strangers” think about here.The most part of the strangers think here just have jungles, animals,thefts(all country have thefts, but they think : Brazil its were all born people are theft).but thats blog made me fell i was wrong,because have some part of stranger(you all) hoo think her its one great place. thank you for love my country.
    God bless u all

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