Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Dame Doze (give me dozen) Brazilians and Pobrezinho (poor) me

When the Brazilians go for shopping in Miami and Buenos Aires, they do not ask for the price of clothes or other consumer items costing around hundred dollars a piece. They simply choose something and tell the salesperson nonchalantly, "Dame Doze" ( give me a dozen ).  " Dame Doze" has become the nickname of Brazilians.
Guess the name of the city in the world in which the maximum number of US visas  were issued in 2011. Not Mexico City, nor Monterry, Shanghai, Beijing or Chennai.
It was Sao Paulo.  398,000 visas were issued there as against 331,000 in Beijing, 305,000 in Mexico City, 292,000 in Shanghai, 270,000 in Monterry and 159,000 in Chennai.
The Paulistas (as the inhabitants of the city of Sao Paulo are called) do not go for jobs or to earn money in USA. They go there to spend money; on sightseeing and shopping. The Miami real estate agents and Florida Street shopkeepers of Buenos Aires speak more Portuguese than English and Spanish these days to attract the Brazilians loaded with money for investment and shopping. 
There were a total of 792,000 Brazilians who were issued US visa in 2011. According to a survey, Brazilian tourists are the highest per capita spenders in US. The reason for this are (a) the rapid increase in wealth thanks to the booming economy (b) the strong currency Real ( right now 2 Reals = 1 US$ . It was at one time almost 1.5 Real for a dollar) and (c) the cost of things and living in Brazil have become very high due to the exorbitant local cost of production and services. 
Sao Paulo is the most expensive city in Latin America as well as in the whole of Americas and one of the most expensive cities in the world, ranking 12th globally. It is more expensive than London (rank 25th) , New York (33rd), Paris (37th) and Rome (42nd) , according to the March 2012 cost of living survey by Mercer, a reputed human resources consultancy firm whose survey is the reference for multinational corporations. The Paulistas find it cheaper to fly to Miami or Buenos Aires for shopping than buying in Brazil itself. Sao Paulo has the largest fleet of private helicopters and jets among the cities of  the world. It is the only city in the world which has 4 Tiffany shops and 3 Bulgari outlets. Santos port near Sao Paulo has become the new Miami for cruise liners. 
Although Brazil has hundreds of beautiful beaches along its 7400 kms of the Atlantic coast, the Brazilians seek beach holidays in other Latin American beaches such as Punta del Este and Cancun. The Brazilians have overtaken the Argentines to the top spot in Punta del Este, the beach resort in Uruguay known as the summer playground of the rich and famous Latin Americans. Many Brazilians own permanent villas and apartments in Punta just to spend a couple of months in a year.
You might think that the Brazilians are beach creatures used to lying down on the sand in bikinis and shorts. Hold on.. The largest number of skiers in the ski slopes of the famous Bariloche in Argentina are Brazilians. They have direct charter flights to Bariloche from Sao Paulo, Rio and Belo Horizonte during the ski season.
I hope the Indian tourism Ministry and travel agencies focus on this under-explored Brazilian market seriously and systematically. The Brazilians have admiration for Indian spiritualism, yoga, meditation,culture and IT skills. Their interest in India have been stimulated further by the Brazilian soap opera " Camino das Indias" ( passage to India ) which drew record audience from January to September 2009. Bindi, saree, kurta  and Bollywood dancing have become fashions in Brazil since then.
While the Brazilians go abroad to spend money, foreigners are coming to earn money in Brazil attracted by the high salaries and huge business growth opportunities. Engineers and technicians from Portugal, the former colonial master, are now seeking jobs in the country of the colonised. 
Faced with shortage of professionals, the Brazilian government is sending out on scholarship over hundred thousand Brazilians for higher studies abroad. India has also made a bid for a small share of this pie. A Brazilian delegation was invited to visit Indian Universities, IITs and IIMs last year.
The Brazilian companies have leveraged the strength of their strong currency and cash surplus to acquire assets abroad. JBS, the meat processing company of Brazil has acquired US , Latin American and European firms to become the largest in the world. Vale, the mining giant has bought the Canadian nickel mining company for an astounding sum of 17 Billion US Dollars.The Brazilian industrial development bank BNDES is actively extending credits and encouragement to Brazilan companies to acquire foreign assets and become global champions. Petrobras raised 70 billion dollars in the largest- ever IPO in the world in 2010. President Lula celebrated this proud achievement saying, "It was not in Frankfurt, it wasn’t in New York, it was in our Sao Paulo exchange that we carried out the biggest capitalization in the history of capitalism".
In the past, Brazilian football players used to go to Europe to become Euro millionaires. These days some European players have come to play in Brazilian clubs to save in the strong Brazilian currency. Earlier the best Brazilian players were playing in Europe while the Brazilian clubs were stuck with only the left-overs, those waiting to go to Europe and those who had to returned from Europe on retirement. Now the number one player Neymar plays in Santos club of Brazil despite the multimillion Euro offers from many European clubs. Neymar earned 18 million dollars in the last season in salary and endorsements ranking  as the 13th best paid player in the world.
The Brazilian-Argentine football rivalry is much more intense than the India-Pakistan cricket emotions. Who is greater? Maradona or Pele? is the eternal debate over endless glasses of Caipirinhas and Malbecs. But now the Argentine shop keepers swallow their pride and sell Brazilian football jerseys to the Brazilian shoppers. Obviously they are cheaper in Argentina than in Brazil. 
The wine-drinking snobbish Argentines used to look down on the beer-guzzling Brazilians. During my golf game in Buenos Aires in 2003, the Argentine threesome in my group lamented, " we have become so poor after the 2002 crisis that we have to drink beer now ".  Now the Argentines bartenders eagerly open the most expensive wine bottles to  the Brazilian tourists.  The Argentine wine exporters are betting on Brazil as one of their largest markets. 

The prestige of Brasilian shoppers gave me an advantage during my stay in Buenos Aires in the last four years. Whenever I wanted the special attention of shopping assistants in Buenos Aires I would speak in Portuguese, making use of the Brazilian accent I had acquired during my four year stay in Sao Paulo. My café con lait ( coffee with milk ) skin color also helped in making the Argentines mistaking me for a Brazilian.
Hmmm…While my Brazilian accent and skin color fooled the sales persons, my Indian purse exposed me at the billing counter when I bought 1 or 2 pieces instead of 12. The billing clerk would  murmur " Pobrezinho " and " Pobrecito" . These are non-pejorative words and sweet way of saying "poor guy" in portuguese and spanish.

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