From samba to flip-flops - Brazilian imports that Germans love | Lifestyle | DW | 03.08.2016
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From samba to flip-flops - Brazilian imports that Germans love

Caipirinhas, samba, Havaianas and a host of other Brazilian traditions and products are popular in Germany - and not just during the Olympic Games. Here are a few of our favorite Brazilian exports.

"A caipirinha, please!" Thirty years ago, a server would have shaken her head and asked, "What's a caipirinha?" But now, you can find one in nearly every bar in Germany. Here, though it's served with brown cane sugar and crushed ice, though the authentic Brazilian version is made with plain white sugar and conventional ice cubes.

And while the Germans refer to caipirinhas as simply "Caipis," from the Amazon to Rio Grande do Sul, you'll have to say the whole word.

Positive clichés

The Germans, and not only the Germans, love Brazil in spite of all the negative headlines that seem to have dominated pre-Olympics coverage, concerning corruption, poverty and violence in the favelas. Here, clichés about the Brazilians are almost always positive.

One of those is that Brazilians have a positive attitude all the time. It's almost infectious, and has become closely associated with Brazilian culture - or rather cultures. Brazil, 24 times the size of Germany and populated by more than 200 million people, has very diverse ethnic roots, including the Indios, the descendents of Portuguese and Dutch colonialists, various West African ethnic groups who were brought to South America as slaves, and new immigrants from Europe and Asia.

Many cultural traditions have been mixed together, and what came out was a rich cultural tradition that's certainly not limited to soccer, samba and carnival.

From Samba to redneck music

There are two typically Brazilian things, however, that don't need to be imported to Germany by Brazil fans, namely soccer and carnival. They've already been around in Germany for ages. But there are other things that were totally foreign to Germany before they came here - like samba, which made its debut here in the 1950s with gentlemen clad in suits and ladies in flared skirts.

Neither their dancing attire nor their performances or dancing steps bore little resemblance to real Brazilian samba. The 1950s European version of samba adopted the rhythm, but not really much more than that. In 1959, samba was first included in ballroom dance contests as one of the standard Latin American styles.

That same era also saw the introduction of the dance "bossa nova" and a growing fascination for Brazilian music. Superstars like Gilberto Gil and, later, Daniela Mercury, who were representatives of the so-called "música popular brasileira" (MPB), filled German concert halls in the 1990s.

From 2010 onwards, other types of Brazilian music followed suit, among them "música sertaneja," which originated in the rural northeastern part of the country. One of the hits in the genre was "Eu te pego!" by Michel Teló. By that time, even more Brazilian music genres were readily available, such as "forró," "axé" and "pagode." Not to forget in this list are the "batucada" drum groups that can sometimes be seen accompanying large events in German cities.

Pig ears, flip-flops and G-strings

Yet another Brazilian word that Germans don't know how to pronounce is "feijoada" referring to a Brazilian national dish consisting of beans and pigs' ears and feet. In almost all big German cities you can find a Brazilian restaurant that offers the stew - even if it's not cooked according to the original recipe, which includes hairy claws and pointed ears. But those are ingredients that probably don't go over so well among German customers.

Even without hairy pig claws, feijoada is not everyone's cup of tea. Neither is the martial dance "capoeira." However, there are numerous everyday items that most Germans probably don't even know come from Brazil. The popular "Havaianas" flip-flops, for example, originated in the Latin American country, even though their name alludes to the US island of Hawaii.

And then there is the G-string bikini, which was first worn on the Copacabana in the 1970s. Only few German women dare to follow their example, preferring just a tiny bit more cloth in the form of thongs. Maybe that's due to the fact that most beach beauties nowadays - on both sides of the Atlantic - are on average a few pounds heavier than they were 20 years ago.

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