Culture Shock?

My husband and I went to a school sponsored open forum the other night in which a renowned author, teacher, and child psychologist spoke on the challenges that arise in raising children in such a diverse area.  She mentioned that we all come with the idea that although we may come from different places, we all have the same values... and then the day comes when we realize that that may not be the case after all.  What a rough day that can be!  Ideas on sex, alcohol, and drug use, can be especially sensitive and controversial topics for parents.  It is not uncommon for many members of upper class society here to have alcohol accessible for the youth (14-15yrs old+) at birthday parties, etc.  (Yes, I am aware this happens in the US as well.)  I know personally a young man the age of 12 who was harassed for being a virgin, and then mock humped by another boy while others spread rumors that he is gay.  It is a brutal world we live in.  No matter where you live - particularly for our youth - but it can also be quite difficult for us as adults.  At times, I feel more pressure from my "peers" (fellow parents) now, than I ever did while in high school.  Everyone is trying to determine the best way to raise their children, and everyone has different opinions.  That is really the only fact we can all agree on.

More and more as my children age I am urged to step up to the plate of advocacy, and my oldest is only 6! These past few months I have been busy planning and preparing a booth to represent the United States of America at a Celebration of the World PTA fundraising event to be held at the school for the students and their families. Yesterday was the big day, and BIG it was!!! It was such an amazing event filled with incredible culture! From food, to decor, to entertainment (I will be posting about it all soon), it was a wonderful event! The "crowning jewel" was the Samba group the PTA paid good money to bring in. Being previously warned by people who have attended in years past, we opted to send the kids home with my husband prior to their arrival. As I heard the drums start to play, I couldn't help but sneak away from my booth to see what all the fuss was about. This is what I saw:
I love the Bourne Identity movie series, but using parental judgment, I would never feel it appropriate to watch those videos during our family movie night with my young children.We cannot afford to gamble with the psychological (not to mention moral), well being of our children by underestimating the impact that such violent or sexual behaviors may have on them.  It is my strong opinion that school environments should do everything in their power to provide a safe guard for that well being by striving to uphold the highest of standards through more acceptable methods of teaching. If it is exposure to culture we are seeking, after being in Brazil for just 7 months, I can absolutely vouch for the culture of this nation, and the fact that it has far more to offer than half naked women shaking their bodies in the faces of our youth.But that's just me.

So here's my question: Does being culturally accepting mean that I just sit back and keep my mouth shut, or am I justified in my concerns? I know in this particular issue, the school has received several complaints each year, but it is usually chalked up to the "newbies" having culture shock and nothing is done to change it. Let me make myself clear: It is not the Samba that I am disagreeing with here - the culture of dance in Brazil is something that I myself have been able to partake in (I go to an amazing dance class every Monday), and absolutely LOVE it! But does Samba, coupled with the traditional Samba costumes, have place in a school environment? To Samba with kindergartners, or not to Samba with kindergartners.. THAT is the question!


  1. actually you are correct. Semi-naked women are not needed in a school environment, the problem is not the samba, the problem is semi-naked women.

  2. I really wasn't offended by the samba dancing. When I walked in I saw happy kids, laughing, dancing and celebrating. I felt super blessed to be living in a place where they celebrate life. I love Brazil, and even though I'm shocked at times, for the most part I'm shocked by the kindness and inviting attitudes of Brazilians. Bring on the Samba!

  3. I've been torn on this whole issue since you brought it up a few weeks ago. And since we left before the big show I can't really speak to the performance itself... But I will say that there IS quite a lot of bum visible...

  4. Having experienced the culture shock of Brazil myself in Belem, here's my take: You have every right to raise your children as you wish and to remove them from situations you feel are/would be inappropriate. If I were in your position, I would have acted in the same way you did.

    That said, you are a guest in their country and in their school. What they feel is appropriate for their children may differ with what you feel is appropriate for your children. Maybe next year you can suggest an entertainment option that would allow all those participating in the event to feel comfortable. Say Samba with clothing that covers one's tushy. ;) And if they still opt to go with their traditional tushy-flaunting Samba routine, opt out.

  5. I am a Brazilian/American/Dominican... yes, it's a big mess and perhaps I should be used to the naked ladies. As a student I don't recall these samba shows or being shocked by it, but as a parent I must admit the almost naked women was a little too much. I am glad my four year old wasn't there since she was busy out in the field playing with her friends. I have to agree with you guys, they can samba but with clothes that at least cover their tushy. On the other hand, there was a sambista called the porta bandeira that had a beautiful dress on. There were also beautiful presentations from the Mexican mariachis, an Indian lady dancing and the students. I understand you may feel like "a guest here" but we have to remember that this is an international school, not a brazilian school and therefore, the school should also be a little more sensitive towards other cultures. As a parent you have every right to bring up your concern (I'll support you 100% on this), and it wouldn't in any way take away from the samba presentation. bjsss

  6. A HUGE thank you to everyone for the comments!!! :) I have had an overwhelming response of support on this which has given me the confidence to speak up on the topic in next weeks meeting reviewing the event. @Claudia - I agree! There were so many amazing performances.. I think it would be incredible if we could get a Capoeira group out (or other folk type representations), to showcase Brasil - there are SO many incredible options to represent this amazing culture! :)