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A bar in Sao Paulo
A bar in Sao Paulo
Monica Bergamo

SAO PAULO — Asking “How are you?” in English was the way Igor Mendes, a 26-year-old car dealer, approached Marcela Paes one night in Vila Madalena, the “in” district for Brazilians and foreigners enjoying La Copa in Sao Paulo.

Unaware that Marcela is a reporter and fluent in English, he presented himself as a Scot. Soon, though, his cover was blown when he mentioned that he “spoke English more or less,” just a bit surprising for someone from Scotland. Mendes had no choice but to admit that he pretends to be a foreigner to have a head start with girls. Of course, he insisted that he did it only with special girls.

Phrases in broken English and portunhola mix of Spanish and Portuguese, as well as basic expressions in French and Italian are the secret weapons of Brazilian men in their quest to conquer the hearts of their fellow countrywomen. “Brazilians don’t really have problems with picking up girls,” says Daniel Tavares de Araujo, a 29-year old sales rep. “But speaking English gives a 90% success rate.”

The explanation they give is very simple: Women like money, and foreigners have it.

The loud music that comes from the trunk of Daniel’s car is meant to trick the ears of the more distracted ladies. Together with two friends, Reno Bellizzia and Matheus Petroni, both 26, they sit in wait with their shirts off, trying to seduce young girls wandering through the neighborhood.

“Speaking another language gives you the surprise factor,” says Leonardo, a 19-year-old engineering student. He confirms that the strategy worked for him at least once.

To remain in disguise for a longer time is a challenge, especially that nowadays many young people know foreign languages. But according to Leonardo, the potential result of the trickery is worth running the risk.

Root for home team?

Thais Iwanow, 21, was one of those who fell for a story of a false gringo. “I did not kiss him but we spent a lot of time chatting.” Only a detail made her realize he was faking. “I felt so stupid ... I told him to go f*** himself.” Ever since, she avoids anyone who approaches her speaking English. Although, she does make exceptions: “If he’s hot, I’ll stay even if I know he’s pretending to be someone else.”

Just in the time we were talking, Thais and her friend were addressed twice, this time by men speaking in Portuguese. “They try to approach us because they think we’re drunk.”

Indeed, after hours of drinking vodka and beer from the bottle and smoking water pipes, many of the World Cup revelers end their night not feeling at their best. Girls are doing fine though and feel sorry for the casual admirers: “They’re really not well. The guy turns up saying he’s from England, and we know he’s from Pinheiros," southwest of Sao Paulo.

In the middle of pushing and shoving, an administrative assistant, Joaquim Souza, 22, says that mimicking foreigners is “ridiculous and clueless.” He deplores that some of his own friends have been using the trick long before the World Cup kicked off. “What about patriotism? It’s Brazil here guys!,” he says indignantly.

With the Brazilian flag on her shoulders, Camila Marinho, 27, is very clear about her preferences: “I prefer Brazilians”, she says. “Even when I lived in Australia, I stayed only among Brazilians.”

There are also those who aim to fully enjoy the climate of the global fraternalization. Inessa Pasquini, 30, and Thais Moraes, 27, say that they like foreigners and regret that “after the Mundial there will be only Brazilians left.” Regardless of nationality, Inessa prefers men who are educated and able to have a real conversation. To which Thais says: “We know the only thing a Brazilian man wants...”

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