How Brazilian solitude changes your mind


On too much expectations in crowded western world, and how free and unique our identities actually are.


It was February 2014, that is about half a year ago, when I left the Berlin start-up scene, got a stable location-indepentent contract via oDesk and moved to Brazil.

Usually, I like to say I live in Rio, but in fact it’s a 2,5 hour bus ride and 30 mins on the boat to the city, the Latin America factor (any expected amount of time x 3.5) not included. I moved into a small village, alone. Nobody here understands any other language but the very specific local dialect of Brazilian Portuguese, which I don’t speak.

Hence I haven’t had a conversation since I moved. The only phrase I learned is to ask for my favourite local brand of cigarettes. Don’t get it wrong, I pick up languages quite fast. But I forced myself not to learn Portuguese as I found out how much information actually gets lost when you concentrate on the words and miss out face expressions and gestures. So that’s how I function here.

To sum up the experience into one word? Emptiness.

Western world is unbelievably crowded — with people and with expectations. A for instance: what really is in our mind when considering a really simple question -

Do you like Macs, iPhones… Apple in general?

A/ Yes.

  • Alright, there is a social group that likes Apple too.
  • You might also like these things, as the rest of the group members: [a list of suggestions]

B/ Nope!

  • Alright, there is a social group that doesn’t like Apple either.
  • You might also like these things, as the rest of the group members: [a list of suggestions]

The same for Moleskine. The same for Fashion Weeks. Fashion in general. Hipsters. Club Mate. Everything. You always get your serving of “Matching items available”. I didn’t mind, in fact I never realized how highly pre-customized lives we live in Europe.

But in Brazil social interactions go like this:

[Someone looking at you] Hm, Gringa. We don’t get you at all anyway. Hope you’re enjoying yourself though!

There is nothing beyond being Gringo/Gringa.

No pre-defined pattern to follow to build your allegedly free and unique identity.

Nobody mirrors you.

Nobody thinks they know what to expect.

You are not able to adjust your behaviour to the behaviour of the people that surround you as much as in western world, because you don’t have anything in common with them.

You have to do as you like without knowing what you should like.

Then all the pre-defined western patterns vanish and you’re left with…Empty space, that quickly becomes flooded with the chaos of your own past.

If you don’t learn how to handle your thoughts, your brain will turn into tuna in brine.

No joke.

But if you make it — congratulations. You’re one step further from the crowd and one step closer to being an independent thinker.

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