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Brazilians love and hate relationship with Brazil

There are so many Brazilians with so much pride for their country and others with so much shame. For a lot it's a mix of the two. It’s one of the contradictions I’ve noticed over here because Brazilians truly love their culture and people more than just about any other country I can think of, but in nearly equal measure many hate their culture and people too.

By that I mean they love the good parts, like their warm social and sunny lifestyle, but hate the bad parts, like the crime and corruption. For all their complaints though few ever leave, but the ones who do are often those they can least afford to lose.

I usually see this in Facebook comments on stories about Brazilians living overseas and travelling the world, where Brazilians who have lived abroad speak of the enlightenment they felt in safe, developed countries like Australia, New Zealand, America, Canada, England and Germany.

“I love the feeling that I can walk down the street and use my phone without worrying about it,” is a pretty common remark.

And when you’ve dealt with Brazil’s issues for a lifetime then I can’t really blame them for the jaded criticisms they make after having this epiphany that life doesn’t have to be so dangerous or corrupt. Many say it with compassion for their home country, but some say it with disdain and in response to them many ask “well, what are you doing to help Brazil?”

It’s a good question because it shows two things, the first is instead of complaining why don’t you help in some positive way, and secondly, how many apparent bright minds are leaving Brazil because they’re sick of its problems. This brain drain sees many of its smartest and most able to help jetting away to live a higher quality of life overseas where they can see the problems even more glaringly and dish out complaints on social media to those left to deal with them in Brazil.

But as quick as there is a Brazilian to slag their country there will be one to defend it. Probably for many it just depends on the mood they're in which side of this love/hate relationship they choose to battle for that day. If anything the ability to criticise and love one's own country at the same time is the sign of a smart person and society moving in the right direction.

Brazilians rarely used to emigrate but over the past few decades this has changed. Economic uncertainty and corruption scandals since the military dictatorship unravelled in the late 1980s have seen upwards of 3 million Brazilians moving away. Still it is just a tiny fraction of its over 200 million population, a clear indication for most Brazilians that home is where the heart is and that is in the warmth of their family and friends and tropical Brazilian lifestyle.

The 2010 census revealed that nearly 60% of Brazilians living abroad are aged between 20 and 34, 53% are women and half used to live in the country's southeast where cities like Rio and Sao Paulo are. Their top destination has been the USA with about 336,000 living there as of 2014 but it could be as high as half a million.

The article says that compared to other foreigners in the USA, Brazilian immigrants are more likely to be good at English, have a higher level of education and income and have lower poverty rates.

"Many well-educated young Brazilians can see no professional opportunities in their homeland in the immediate future and are leaving the country for the USA, Japan and Europe," the report says.

"In 1995 the number of Brazilians living legally in the USA, Japan, Portugal, Italy, Spain, Germany, Canada and other countries was estimated to be over a million; ten years later this figure had already more than doubled.

"A disproportionate number of Brazilian emigrants to Japan, Europe and the USA are qualified workers. They are predominantly young and originate from the educated middle classes with urban backgrounds. Despite being employed in poorly paid sectors in their destination country, they often earn many times as much as they would in their country of origin."

An Economist article from 2015 said the trend seemed to be growing: "Alarmingly, recession, corruption and political deadlock may be pushing brainy people out of the country. Its diaspora is tiny: just 1.8m Brazilians, 0.9% of the population, live abroad, the smallest share among all countries of the Americas. But it may be growing. The consulate in Miami, the most popular destination for Brazil’s wealthy and worldly, is busier than ever."

Brazilians are now the highest source of foreign students in Australia outside of Asia with over 27,000 filling classrooms - the Australian Embassy in Brasilia said it's swamped with visa applications. The Brazilian government's Science Without Borders program has given over 100,000 of its brightest students scholarships to the world's best universities with 4,000 of them studying in Australia.

The aim is for them to bring expertise back and help Brazil's development by launching "the seeds of what could revolutionise the educational system in Brazil, exposing students to an environment of high competitiveness and entrepreneurship." For Brazilians that return home undoubtedly the experience makes them strive to change their country for the better, so that society becomes more equal with more opportunity and less corruption.

Maybe it’s with this generation of more globally travelled and educated Brazilians that this wave of change will come. But just sitting at a keyboard in another country complaining won’t help much.

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