Brazil 2014

World Cup Pick-Up Scene, Where Brazilians Pretend They're Foreigners

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 portunhol a 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...”

Keep up with the world. Break out of the bubble.
Sign up to our expressly international daily newsletter!

What It Means When The Jews Of Germany No Longer Feel Safe

A neo-Nazi has been buried in the former grave of a Jewish musicologist Max Friedlaender – not an oversight, but a deliberate provocation. This is just one more example of antisemitism on the rise in Germany, and society's inability to respond.

At a protest against antisemitism in Berlin

Eva Marie Kogel


BERLIN — If you want to check the state of your society, there's a simple test: as the U.S. High Commissioner for Germany, John Jay McCloy, said in 1949, the touchstone for a democracy is the well-being of Jews. This litmus test is still relevant today. And it seems Germany would not pass.

Incidents are piling up. Most recently, groups of neo-Nazis from across the country traveled to a church near Berlin for the funeral of a well-known far-right figure. He was buried in the former grave of Jewish musicologist Max Friedlaender, a gravesite chosen deliberately by the right-wing extremists.

The incident at the cemetery

They intentionally chose a Jewish grave as an act of provocation, trying to gain maximum publicity for this act of desecration. And the cemetery authorities at the graveyard in Stahnsdorf fell for it. The church issued an immediate apology, calling it a "terrible mistake" and saying they "must immediately see whether and what we can undo."

There are so many incidents that get little to no media attention.

It's unfathomable that this burial was allowed to take place at all, but now the cemetery authorities need to make a decision quickly about how to put things right. Otherwise, the grave may well become a pilgrimage site for Holocaust deniers and antisemites.

The incident has garnered attention in the international press and it will live long in the memory. Like the case of singer-songwriter Gil Ofarim, who recently claimed he was subjected to antisemitic abuse at a hotel in Leipzig. Details of the crime are still being investigated. But there are so many other incidents that get little to no media attention.

Photo of the grave of Jewish musicologist Max Friedlaender

The grave of Jewish musicologist Max Friedlaender

Jens Kalaene/dpa/ZUMA

Crimes against Jews are rising

Across all parts of society, antisemitism is on the rise. Until a few years ago, Jewish life was seen as an accepted part of German society. Since the attack on the synagogue in Halle in 2019, the picture has changed: it was a bitter reminder that right-wing terror against Jewish people has a long, unbroken history in Germany.

Stories have abounded about the coronavirus crisis being a Jewish conspiracy; meanwhile, Muslim antisemitism is becoming louder and more forceful. The anti-Israel boycott movement BDS rears its head in every debate on antisemitism, just as left-wing or post-colonial thinking are part of every discussion.

Jewish life needs to be allowed to step out of the shadows.

Since 2015, the number of antisemitic crimes recorded has risen by about a third, to 2,350. But victims only report around 20% of cases. Some choose not to because they've had bad experiences with the police, others because they're afraid of the perpetrators, and still others because they just want to put it behind them. Victims clearly hold out little hope of useful reaction from the state – so crimes go unreported.

And the reality of Jewish life in Germany is a dark one. Sociologists say that Jewish children are living out their "identity under siege." What impact does it have on them when they can only go to nursery under police protection? Or when they hear Holocaust jokes at school?

Germany needs to take its antisemitism seriously

This shows that the country of commemorative services and "stumbling blocks" placed in sidewalks as a memorial to victims of the Nazis has lost its moral compass. To make it point true north again, antisemitism needs to be documented from the perspective of those affected, making it visible to the non-Jewish population. And Jewish life needs to be allowed to step out of the shadows.

That is the first thing. The second is that we need to talk about specifically German forms of antisemitism. For example, the fact that in no other EU country are Jewish people so often confronted about the Israeli government's policies (according to a survey, 41% of German Jews have experienced this, while the EU average is 28%). Projecting the old antisemitism onto the state of Israel offers people a more comfortable target for their arguments.

Our society needs to have more conversations about antisemitism. The test of German democracy, as McCloy called it, starts with taking these concerns seriously and talking about them. We need to have these conversations because it affects all of us. It's about saving our democracy. Before it's too late.

Keep up with the world. Break out of the bubble.
Sign up to our expressly international daily newsletter!