Now I’m not a particularly patriotic, and certainly not nationalistic, kind of guy. However, sometimes you experience things, often when you are outside the country of your origin, that remind you exactly who you are and where you are from. And it is then that you are reminded where you are from does in so many ways influence who you are and how you think and act – and also how you come across to other people.
Well, in Brazil I guess this happened to me for the first time when last week I went for a short break with my wife’s family to Mata de São João in Bahia. Mata de São João is a beautiful little town on the coast of Bahia (about 80km north of Salvador) and it has some stunning beaches, landscape and wildlife (see In Pictures – Brazil). To the eyes of this Englishman it is probably what I imagine Paradise, if it existed, would look like – though so many locations in Brazil do.
Anyway, the first reminder was a very sudden one.
When my wife and her family so much as peek at the sun they seemingly go brown almost instantaneously. Then black. In fact, when I first met my wife she had just come back from a trip where she had been on the beach for a month and my initial impression was that perhaps she was of Asian heritage. No, it was just her tan.
What about me you ask? Hmm.
Yes, this is what happens when you go for a midday stroll and forget to put on sun cream. And if you’re thinking: “Midday stroll? No sun cream? That’s not being British that is being stupid!”. Well, you’d be correct.
Nevertheless, I do get the impression that my wife and her family think that it is a given that if a Brit sits in the sun then he will inevitably come to resemble a lobster1. And, it seems, they’d be right.
I also guess my physique does not help dispel this stereotype in any way. Clearly, as the photo evidences, I am pasty (with a hint of red), short and thin. Effectively, though I am nearly 30 I still have the physique of a 15 year old. In many ways I was a real catch for my beautiful, tanned Brazilian wife.
Anyway, talking of physiques, this leads me nicely on to the next thing that reminded me of being British. It was observing bloke after bloke wearing what I can only describe as the ‘bikini bottom for men’. Do not confuse this with the Mankini, what I am talking about is the y-front/tight boxer-esque lycra item of swimwear that almost ALL (little AND large) men in Brazil seem to adorn around the pool or at the beach. They look something like this:
CLEARLY I’m not in a position to be critical of other people’s physiques. And it’s not even a criticism of the people who wear them2 3 – though it is very disturbing to walk towards a bloke who is wearing them and for it to be clearly visible which way his fella is swinging that day.
I just think that they are so terribly un-British and I honestly cannot think of anyone I know from the UK who would wear them. Perhaps it’s the scars from doing PE in them at school in an outdoor swimming pool in October. IN LONDON.
But, it is more more likely just the fact that I don’t think many Brits would have the physique or the balls (boom boom) to carry them off. Brazilians on the other hand have the confidence, tan and, more often than not, the physique. The whole weekend was a constant reminder of that to this pasty, white, self-conscious Brit.