How alike are Brazil and US? Individualism (and guns) are big.

Brazil and US are alike in many ways -- think individualism and guns -- but not everyone gets it right. Consider the comments of one well known commentator.

I saw this quote in the Brazilian daily Folha de São Paulo that summed up how little Brazil knows and understands the US.

The quote is this (the translation is mine): “As everyone knows, many Americans, perhaps the majority, think that to like sex is to have some kind of disease.”

Those words came from José Geraldo Couto and were in a story he wrote for Mais, the weekly supplement that is supposed to be Folha’s forum for more thoughtful pieces.

I’ve spoken to Mr. Couto a few times and he always struck me as a fairly thoughtful kind of guy.

But this statement is a perfect illustration of how little even educated Brazilians know and understand the US.

Let me count the ways

Brazil is no different from many countries in that there is a love-hate relationship with the US. But the two nations are very similar.

Both are continental-sized nations, inhabited by Europeans who subdued the local indigenous populations and built colonial economies on the backs of African slaves. Large wilderness spaces still remain.

Both have citizens who are open and friendly, but not very worldly.

Both are societies in which individualism is more marked than collectivism. The people are creative. Consumerism is king, and owning a car is not just vital, but a status symbol.

Owning a gun is considered another inalienable right.

Paths diverge

When it comes to views on sex, though, differences begin to emerge.

Brazilians think they are the most liberal nation in the world and they might be right.

The country is well know for its tiny bikinis, its love affair with plastic surgery and the cult of the body, and for producing gorgeous models such as NFL star quarterback Tom Brady's wife, Gisele Bundchen.

Anyone who has been to Rio has seen how Brazilians, of all sizes and shapes, are at ease with their physiques.

Still, why do Brazilians such as Couto think Americans view liking sex as dirty or shameful?

Well, probably because Americans are more straight-laced than Brazilians. Most people are.

Any major figure caught having an affair is publicly hauled over the coals in the US. In Brazil (and large parts of Europe) affairs are mostly greeted with a shrug.

But Couto goes too far. His remarks were just plain silly.

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