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Opinion – José Manuel Diogo: Portugal and Brazil need to resolve cultural differences


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When I’m asked to talk about my experience between “here and there”, I always start the “lecture” by quoting an ancient classic, the Greek philosopher Socrates: “Worse than ignorance is the illusion of knowledge”.

One of the first things I say to Portuguese people moving to Brazil and Brazilians moving to Portugal is to be careful not to make assumptions based on the fact that the two countries speak the same language.

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In fact, the language is not “the same”. Although many words are the same (they are read and spelled most of the time) and the official language of both countries is Portuguese, it is often assumed that in Lisbon and São Paulo everyone understands each other, regardless of who is here or there, it’s a paddle error.

This “illusion” is at the origin of the biggest problems that this new era of migration between Brazil and Portugal is causing. They hide in apparent proximity, but represent distance and become evident only when they hatch, usually with public virulence.

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A vaccine has not yet been created for these problems, and the only remedy that addresses them would be the creation of a bilateral program aimed at resolving the cultural differences between the two countries that are becoming more noticeable as coexistence includes more people.

Portugal does not hide that it needs people, that it prefers Brazilians, but it has to seriously prepare for this in terms of policies and communication.

It should invest in a cultural program designed to guarantee a systematic and in-depth knowledge of Portuguese culture and arts, which in Brazil are practically unknown. This would be recommended, even to reduce the feeling of imbalance that generates distrust.

The reverse also applies. It is true that the colonizer and the colonized are natural antagonists, but when the situation is reversed, as it is now, with the exponential growth of emigration to the Portuguese country, it is equally necessary for Portugal and the Portuguese to know better the habits and culture of their brothers on the side of here.

The distance of the ocean that separates the two countries —immense and unknown in the time of the caravels; distant but safe haven for fugitive royalty at the dawn of independence; challenge of technological innovation and overcoming at the time of the aerial crossing of Sacadura Cabral and Gago Coutinho — it did not disappear just because bilingual youtubers, celebrity instagrams or sections in Portuguese media vehicles began to exist to explain the opportunities or amplify the differences according to interest of each occasion.

This new reality is indeed changing people’s lives, but it is also creating, especially for the Lisbon government, new problems for which there is still no solution.

Many of the episodes of conflict that we hear about – problems at airports, the slowness of granting visas or even (very sporadic) cases of racism and violence – are always less relevant than the sensationalism that sells newspapers and gains likes on social networks. .

In these cases, too, the illusion of knowledge must be thwarted. Precisely making known the differences in language and culture, from “here and from there”, so that, together, Portuguese and Brazilians can find the greatest common denominator in their wonderful similarities.

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