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In Brazil, it is considered rude to be on time to a party (bbc.com)
227 points by MiriamWeiner 6 months ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 364 comments

"My impression as to your cheap labour was soon disillusioned when I saw your people at work. No doubt they are lowly paid, but the return is equally so; to see your men at work made me feel that you are a very satisfied and easy-going race who reckon time is no object. When I spoke to some managers they informed me that it was impossible to change the habits of a national heritage."

This excerpt appears in Ha-Joon Chang's book "Bad Samaritans" and it was written by an Australian consultant with regards to Japan in August 1915. Chang also mentions Sidney Gulick's 1903 book "Evolution of the Japanese" which also stereotypes the Japanese as "'easy-going' and 'emotional' people who possessed qualities like 'lightness of heart, freedom from all anxiety for the future, living chiefly for the present.'"

I don't have details on Brazil, but I am almost certain that this "Brazilian time" is just a symptom of some completely reversible, systemic problem that is making it difficult to do business with high-technologies in Brazil.

>I don't have details on Brazil, but I am almost certain that this "Brazilian time" is just a symptom of some completely reversible, systemic problem that is making it difficult to do business with high-technologies in Brazil.

Or inversely, it's a western problem that makes it difficult to live humanely and stress-free and incurs great human toll -- and at the point when we're so technologically advanced to not need it as much (but are great at creating busywork for ourselves).

“Western problem” yikes.

To write off the economic successes of the west under the guise of “problem” with western culture is deeply problematic. If you were to use this tableau to jump into an argument against societies that are captilistic and encourage the chasing of material wealth over the informal, beautiful moments that make humanity interesting you would have a much stronger case. I think we would all benefit if you were to sharpen your position, as there is something deeply intriguing about your point.

With that said, I also find issue with content of your argument. Economic success requires efficiency in all aspects of a business. A lack of punctuality that permeates a society to the point that it effects business strategy is problematic.

>To write off the economic successes of the west under the guise of “problem” with western culture is deeply problematic.

Well, there is a problem with western culture in this area -- it can never be content, and its eating away the planet. It's own visionaries and thought leaders imagined a society of leisure and 3 hour workdays and such, but we have many times the efficiency per hour of previous ages, and people are overworked more than ever (not to mention increasingly in debt as well).

>Economic success requires efficiency in all aspects of a business.

Well, I'm against "economic success" beyond a certain point, and especially when it comes to the detriment of the society, and the environment. I'm for economic sustainability, and with utilizing the vast technological resources to improve life (as opposed to induce consumption).

If you put the price on the free time (as e.g. opportunity cost, or cost of saving resources), you can see leisure as a form of consumption.

The problem of many Western societies is that the cost of leisure is too damn high for many.

This is partly because the efficiency of work (its value for advancing a business project) is non-linear with time spent. Someone spending 100 hours a week maybe pretty inefficient due to overwork and thus lower (even negative) quality of things done. Someone spending 10 hours a week could be also inefficient because the project moves faster (when everyone else around works 40 hours), or the competition moves faster. So there is a range of maximum efficiency, which is hopefully far from 100 h/week, but also likely far from 10 h/week.

"Gig economy" can help: you work hard 2-4 months for a high rate, then coast 4-6 months at a nice place with low cost of living. The problem, of course, is that you must have saved a pretty thick cushion of assets for the case when a new gig is not coming when you planned.

>This is partly because the efficiency of work (its value for advancing a business project) is non-linear with time spent. Someone spending 100 hours a week maybe pretty inefficient due to overwork and thus lower (even negative) quality of things done. Someone spending 10 hours a week could be also inefficient because the project moves faster (when everyone else around works 40 hours), or the competition moves faster.

I'd go further. Most products and projects are BS busywork, if not actively harmful and they shouldn't be part of the economy in the first place.

We've created a huge society middlemen, procurers, and snake-oil salesmen, and turned increasingly more aspects of life into commercial endeavours, where ever more people are constantly hustling and peddling something (manufactured crap, of which there are untold tons [1], planned obsolesce replacement products, their image, and so on).

[1] https://www.monbiot.com/2012/12/10/the-gift-of-death/

If a product finds some customers (maybe ultimately unsatisfied, or disappointed, or gaslighted customers), there must be a need that the product is filling. It's only filling it poorly.

Finding such toxic-but-still-used product is a good opportunity to both make a living and improve life in general. I suppose the hardest part is to detect and understand the real need being filled.

Certainly enough, education, and other ways to change culture, is a more profound way to change the way people fill their needs, and especially what they even perceive as needs. E.g. the need to serve a bloody revenge is by now mostly absent from a typical Western society, while the need to one-up a neighbor is still pretty widespread.

>If a product finds some customers (maybe ultimately unsatisfied, or disappointed, or gaslighted customers), there must be a need that the product is filling.

Well, I'm a believer in an objective world in which not all needs are equal.

I can accept that which need is important or not can be difficult to ascertain. But I also hold that in many, if not most, cases, it's very easy.

Despite the cult of the individual and the reverence with which subjective taste is held, I'd go on record to say that some (most) people have buy products that fulfill irrelevant non-needs.

For an easy to agree with (but real) example, heroin addicts ands Milli Vanilli listeners both buy products that "fill a need". The question is more whether they should.

If you think about the list of "irrelevant non-needs" from e.g. 15th-century Europe (your choice of country), or from any sufficiently different contemporary culture (consider China or Saudi Arabia), maybe your idea of "objective" needs will... expand a little bit.

If for some reason you prefer today's Western culture to that of 15th century, be certain that it changed mainly because of some people pursuing their irrelevant non-needs, as seen by then-contemporary "normal people".

I hope we can finally make some new expansion going on with all that productivity.

> Economic success requires efficiency in all aspects of a business.

You hasten to generalizations. It's entirely possible that the economic success of the Western societies had historic roots in the industrial revolution and the mechanization of human life it entailed. But it's very hard to prove the same reasons hold today - it might be the case where the historical effect is confused with the alleged cause.

The strong economic growth of countries like Brazil or South Africa seems to indicate that, at least to a point, economics can blend with a relaxed attitude. Modern technology, offline communications like email, telecommuting and just in time fabrication could well usher in an era of high prosperity and low stress. Maybe these countries are laboratories of the future.

> Economic success requires efficiency in all aspects of a business.

Unfortunately, the people benefitting from the 'economic success' aren't the same people as those who are required to be efficient in everything.

It would be much better to look at quality of life than at profits. The only thing amounts of money have going for it is that you can easily put them in spreadsheets.

>Economic success requires efficiency in all aspects of a business. A lack of punctuality that permeates a society to the point that it effects business strategy is problematic.

punctuality doesn't necessarily means efficiency. Punctuality itself comes at a cost. Somewhat similar to low latency. Your argument reminds about those Scrum proponents who tout that decreasing the latency and increasing synchronicity - what the Scrum is really about - would miraculously lead to throughput increase. Which it never does, and usually it has quite the opposite effect (exactly as expected from the systems theory and experience)

Whilst there may not be a perfect correlation between punctuality and efficiency, I'd suggest that it seems likely punctuality in business is more likely to be efficient than not.

For example if you have 10 people attending a meeting and all must wait till they are present before starting (a very common occurrance) having all 10 people turn up promptly is more efficient than having 1-9 people waiting for the remainder of the attendees to arrive.

It's honestly blowing my mind that this point even needs to be argued. Of course being on time correlates with efficiency.

Have they ever looked up a store's hours before going there? Or gone to see a movie? Or met with someone else to do... anything? Or utilized public transit?

Of course it can be argued that, in a cosmic sense, maybe society is more "efficient" toward people relaxing and enjoying life if that train doesn't leave for another 45 minutes because the conductor felt like sleeping in this morning. But at that point, it's not a meaningful discussion.

Honestly it's difficult to imagine having the opposing view with any experience at all managing anything. Or even considering what it might be like to do so.

Indeed, it is a bit surprising to me that timeliness appears to be a debatable point in business.


Feel welcome to disagree--I just think you might feel differently with broader life experience or a more open mind.

I think with broader life experience and a more open mind you would think the exact opposite to what you are espousing.

Maybe you're right. What life experience(s) would help lead me to seeing it the other way?

Well, as you yourself admitted, your position is the default one, that few would disagree with.

That automatically implies that it doesn't take much experience or a very open mind. It would be the opposite position, the hard to accept one, that would require broader life experience and a more open mind.

Maybe you're right. What life experiences would you suggest that might help me better understand your perspective?

Even more efficient is: starting the meeting anyway; publishing minutes so people can choose to attend or not; inviting fewer attendees; not having meetings about things which can be resolved by the teams talking directly to each other in their day-to-day work.

Yeah, it's a mistake to think that a meeting is always the most efficient way of doing things. Every meeting held costs the company thousands of dollars as people are not able to do other things during it, and so many companies just don't even think twice about adding anyone and everyone and don't think of how much it's costing them in productivity lost to other things because they just always assume that meetings are the best way to get things done.

I think it would be better if meetings were seen as the expensive beasts they are and only the bare minimum of people that can attend it, should attend it, and it should be considered (especially with routine meetings) whether or not the meetings even need to be held in the first place.

Oh absolutely, I'm not suggesting that meetings are always well run or indeed necessary, but where they are held, time management is important to get people in and out as fast as possible, which improves efficiency.

>Whilst there may not be a perfect correlation between punctuality and efficiency, I'd suggest that it seems likely punctuality in business is more likely to be efficient than not.

Efficient towards what, and what for? Those are good questions seldom asked.

Efficiency in terms of not wasting people's time. The ability in business for people to complete tasks in-line with when they were expected allows for better scheduling.

I'm not suggesting that everything in business benefits from being regimented but that meeting expectations allows for others to plan their time effectively.

Time where people are waiting for others to do work which should have been completed can often be wasted.

>Efficiency in terms of not wasting people's time.

Then you must first consider the need to have the business or meeting in the first place.

In fact, people's time is only "wasted" because it has been made precious -- i.e. because it was stolen and/or sold. That's way more wasted time (they'll never get again) there, than in "wasting time" by not being punctual.

Societies studied by ethnologists had little care for punctuality. In fact the same was true for rural societies in Europe and the US as well (the US South was considered "lazy" and without a "sense of time" as well), and even urban life before the tyranny of the modern "always on" demands. For the upper classes, being fashionably late was a virtue.

Sure as I mentioned elsewhere I'm not arguing that meetings are an unalloyed good, what I am arguing is that where they are held, it is better that people are punctual, rather that non-punctual, and that there is improved efficiency relatively where participants are punctual.

Punctuality is a foundation of respect for other people's time.

Demand of punctuality is a demand on other people's time.

Punctuality is a virtue of slaves -- to other people and to the clock in general.

I understand your point, but you're wrong. Working with other people towards a common goal does not equal becoming a slave to them. It does mean however, that if you don't respect their time then your actions serve against that goal.

I think we are so deeply ingrained in thinking this way in some societies that we completely miss the forest for the trees. We forget what the overall goal is and instead focus mindlessly on efficiently doing little things that seem in that moment to be the goal at a drag on accomplishing the overall goal. We are not ants, we are thinking creatures who, given time and a relaxed attitude can come up with solutions that easily negate the need for the mindless ant-like efficiency that is more suited to ignorant creatures than thinking ones.

Do people often "work with other people towards a common goal" though, or only give the impression of doing so, by going through the motions, and being trapped into one of the default modes of making a living in modern society?

There is effectively zero cost to punctuality. If you have to spend 60 minutes in a meeting to get through the agenda items regardless of when it starts then there's no benefit to being late. Just show up on time.

It's amusing and in line with what my grand mother who grew up in the early 1900s Indochina told me about her (french) dad doing business there. The Chinese had the reputation to be super reliable and men of their word, while the Japanese had the reputation to be unreliable and ready to cross you at the first opportunity.

On a longer time scale, it is hard when you look at Italy or Greece today to think of how the same population was once Sparta, the army of Alexander the Great or the Roman Empire. Populations evolve.

While I think your point rings true, trying to use your historical examples to point it out dismisses human migration among other factors that may have contributed. For instance, there is a good chance that most "Spartans" have died off as a people, since their population problems are well documented. and both the army of Alexander the Great, and the Roman Empire are armies of much larger territory then current Italy/Greece in their peak. And much of Macedonia of Alexander's early reign isn't part of what's typical Greece today.

That's just nit-picking about the complexities of history, but I do agree that the point that people and cultures can change is very true!

  The Chinese had the reputation to be super reliable and
  men of their word, while the Japanese had the reputation
  to be unreliable and ready to cross you at the first 
What has been the observation off late of those very same peoples? Have the perceptions markedly changed? If so, how?

I suspect if you looked for statistics on corruption perception, and in local faith in locally produced products, you’d see a situation where the Japanese trust their compatriots and the Chinese severely mistrust theirs.

I’ve lived in China for six years. The consensus among Western businesspeople is that if you have a joint venture it’s not a matter of if you’ll be screwed but when. Once you find a good contact in a company, someone who will deliver you the goods you wanted, at the time and place you wanted, in the correct quality and at the agreed price, you hold on to that relationship. Once they leave you have to go back to fine tooth comb quality control, asking every day on the status of the delivery, and going ballistic when someone inevitably messes something up. It is very, very uncommon for a foreigner to make a great success of a business here without a Chinese business partner but that business partner is their wife a large majority of the time.

The Party is a large part of the difference in culture. Taiwanese and Singaporeans are Chinese but they didn’t have the Cultural Revolution or the Great Leap Forward to deal with. Communism does bad things to cultures. I’m sure things will get better in time but I doubt it will be the work of just one generation.

Taiwan was a Japanese colony for 50 years and Japan deliberately "westernized" the local political and industrial culture. Whereas elsewhere the Japanese didn't see the locals as fit for modernization and so didn't bother. The KMT were beneficiaries of this when they took over the island, even though they implemented a program of sinicization.

Lee Kuan Yew famously fashioned Singaporean culture almost out of whole cloth as he believed that without a radical transformation in the social and economic culture that Singapore would quickly disintegrate. I can't find good quotes at the moment, but he had some really harsh opinions about the local ethnic Chinese culture from which he emerged; that it was corrupt, chaotic, criminal and an existential threat to the new nation.

Communism does bad things to cultures

I read Paul Midler's "What's Wrong With China" recently, the followup to his "Poorly Made In China", and his research seems to indicate that communism and the Great Leap Forward are not the source of those aspects of Chinese culture, that those aspects go back much further.

Definitely a fascinating read.

The unreliableness of Chinese-made goods is usually due to incompetent Western firms cost-cutting and communication errors arising from cross-globe, cross-language collaborations. It's unfortunate nobody blames the CEOs for made-in-China, just the Chinese people for making it.

I'm not sure that swapping one incorrect sweeping generalisation for another is really the answer.

If you really believe that there are a lot of sourcing and quality control jobs here in China that would be happy to employ you if your Mandarin is as good as your English and you have manufacturing experience. All the people I’ve met in those businesses have a quality control everything attitude because if you stop checking they’ll start shipping you shit.

That’s fascinating! Does the book have any insight into how Japan made the complete 180° in I guess a few decades?

The Meiji Restoration was already incredible but I thought the work ethic was there throughout and helped make it possible. I had no idea there was also a revolution of work ethic.

There is a podcast episode by Dan Carlin which I'm listening to which goes into this issue in depth. Basically according to him the Japanese basically "imported" values of warfare from the Samurai class into the general population and created an expectation of going 'above and beyond' for even ordinary citizens.

It doesn't go into specifics on what Japan did right, but it does make a very good point that there are elements of every culture which can either help or hinder economic growth and that the economy has a much bigger influence on culture than culture has on the economy. People are lazy because they are poor. Not the other way around.

Education. The Japanese Empire was one of the first, if not first, nation in the world to have mandatory schooling that was accessible by a large majority of it's population.

They beat the Brits by about a decade.

Yep. Mass education (as opposed to high end elite education) can turn a nation of free people into slaves (or, as Japanese call it, 社畜: corporate livestock). After a century of that, they're losing their collective will to live, too [1].

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Aging_of_Japan

So the lesson you learned is that mass education is bad? ...

Not mass education as in the abstract concept of "educating the masses", but mass education as its actually practiced.

>The Japanese Empire was one of the first, if not first, nation in the world to have mandatory schooling

Are you sure about that? Compulsory education was introduced in Austria in 1774. Apparently Japan introduced it shortly after the Meiji Restoration in 1868. If anything the UK was particularly late to the game.

> that was accessible by a large majority of its population

Austria had major attendance and implementation issues (e.g., only a 50-60% attendance rate) which apparently weren't fixed until the Reich Public School Law of 1869.

That said, I remember that there was a lot of discussion at one point about how individual behavior in countries that overlapped ex-Austrian/Habsburg territory could be mapped against historical (19th century) boundaries.

Getting back to the original point, Japan was successful because it had high levels of urbanization, which made state directed education more accessible and easier to attain. Other countries/territories implemented compulsory education well before Japan (e.g., Massachusetts first required compulsory education in the 1640s), but efforts either had comparatively lower penetration or relied on non-state institutions (e.g., the church or private institutions) to enforce.

I think the larger question, which has haunted me for a long time, is: how do you change culture on mass scale? Singapore is an example where brute force top-down was used. Maybe that’s the only way?

Total war, ending with a couple nukes?

Ask the Russians, they've been illustrating it's pretty easy in the US for years now.

In what way? Organizing protests?

Supposed Russian "bots" were tweeting at Merkel parody accounts?

Wait, what ? What makes you think (and other commentators) that it's the Japaneses who changed and not the view held by post-colonialists ? (Managers complaining about their workers ? How weird)

It wasn't just the Japanese. "Korean time" was a thing back when Korea was one of the poorest countries in the world. Germans also used to be stereotyped as dishonest, thieving, dull and overly emotional before their country industrialized.

There is correlation between stereotypes and GDP.

The Brits used to be

> passionate, melancholy, romantic, and tearful


> overly emotional before their country industrialized.

After all some of the most famous Romantic artists came from Germany: Heine, Beethoven, Hölderlin and Goethe himself. The latter's Werther was the most emotional novel until at least Madam de Bovary, which was written about 80 years later.

Like the sterotypes common in (Western) Europe regarding Eastern Europe, like for the Polish people?

>Germans also used to be stereotyped as dishonest, thieving, dull and overly emotional before their country industrialized.

Any links on this?

>Any links on this?


TL;DR (it's a 213 page grad thesis) Old Germany used to be basically Hufflepuff, a simple-minded, loyal, obedient rustic bumbler who's too stupid to really be a threat or even much of a partner. New Germany arose post-German unification and especially post WW1, where the stereotypes shifted to the modern more sinister concept of a nation of amoral mad scientists and clockwork soldiers - largely as an attempt to justify Germany being the great rival of England.

That’s just extending the already existing stereotype of Prussians to all of Germany.

I am not sure a racist account of 1915 Japan is the best source to explain Brazil's technology sector, to say the least.

I agree that a racist account of 1915 Japan doesn't really say very much about what's going on with Brazil's economy. But I do think it's important to notice that when the BBC is saying something like "Brazilians are always late" there might be more going on than just a lazy culture.

I was hoping someone whose started a business in Brazil would come along and tell me what it's like. I really know nothing about the country.

Brazil is a huge country, with 200M inhabitants, an area as big as the continental US and a diverse population composed of imigrants from all over the world. What we hear from outsiders is almost always based on local and limited experiences (like this one from the BBC, limited to Rio). There's no single "Brazilian culture".

The article is talking about a party. Its not in the bussiness context, which as a Brazilian myself i can say, it works with punctuality as expected.

There was a significant national effort to change the same "national character" in South Korea after the war. Massive initiatives to institute a "bali bali" (hurry hurry) culture in the workplace and was seen as a national strategic need.

Here's an interview with an industrialist that describes the transformation: http://blog.lucforsyth.com/2012/01/under-pressure-byun-ho-sa...

So how long does it take to change the mindset and behavior of a complete country? ~80 years?

Just a caveat, I am not an economist, and am quickly approaching the edge of my knowledge.

I think that time is not really a factor here. Institutions like the IMF and WTO passively suppress the economic development of poor countries by withholding incentives unless they behave like rich countries. I don't think this is done out of malice though, because I've met people who genuinely believe that forcing businesses in Mozambique to compete directly with the U.S. economies of scale "creates a level playing field" and doesn't inhibit their growth in certain key industries at all.

>I don't think this is done out of malice though, because I've met people who genuinely believe that forcing businesses in Mozambique to compete directly with the U.S. economies of scale "creates a level playing field" and doesn't inhibit their growth in certain key industries at all.

It's easy for someone to "genuinely believe" something when their career (as policy advisors, bankers, development "experts", etc) and perks is based upon promoting it and enforcing it upon others.

Without "skin in the game" everyone can be a good person with "great intentions".

Exactly, this is why extending scope of democracy (workplace democracy, more decentralization, liquid democracy, direct democracy etc) is important, intellectual/political/economic/corporate elites with power however much "enlightened" they are , without having skin in the game lead to disastrous policies.

One person, One vote is the least flawed way to gather signal from actual people who have skin in the game.

Direct democracy is still pretty awful though, especially for anyone who falls into any kind of true numerical minority category: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tyranny_of_the_majority .

>Direct democracy is still pretty awful though, especially for anyone who falls into any kind of true numerical minority category

That's a generalization its opponents make, but it isn't true.

In most places where it was practiced (ancient Athens, short-lived anarchist areas in Spain, egalitarian communities, etc.) it was shown to be more benevolent and inclusive to "true numerical minorities" than most representative democracies. Heck, the US had segregation in practice up to the 70s, with blacks being a 20% or so of the population (and more in some areas), and gays were persecuted throwout Europe representative democracy or not.

Even more, the most horrid persecutions of minorities have happened under elected representatives (like Hitler), or authoritarian regimes (e.g. Stalin), as opposed to any "direct democracy".

It's indicative that the arguments in the lemma ( https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tyranny_of_the_majority ) are contrived though experiments and not historical examples.

There's no "tyranny of the majority" that's inherent in direct democracy, any more so than it is in representative "democracy". The tyranny lies in an orthogonal axis (namely: the prevalent passions and ideologies of the era), and can be applied regardless of direct or representative democracy.

> it was shown to be more benevolent and inclusive to "true numerical minorities" than most representative democracies

Source? Athenian direct democracy was only for males, legally sanctioned slaves and allowed for a simple majority to ostracize people. Sparta's direct democratic elements oversaw a large Helot slave population.

>Source? Athenian direct democracy was only for males, legally sanctioned slaves and allowed for a simple majority to ostracize people

That's irrelevant to the discussion though, as that was simply the norm then across regimes, not a special characteristic of Athenian direct democracy.

Not to mention that the US representative democracy was only for males until the 1920s, had slaves until 1865 and segregation until the 1970s. And that's 2.5 millennia later than that pesky Athenian direct democracy.

> That's irrelevant to the discussion though

You claimed "in most places where [direct democracy] was practiced (ancient Athens... etc.) it was shown to be more benevolent and inclusive to 'true numerical minorities' than most representative democracies." I'm disagreeing with that claim. I'm asking for a source for the the general claim because I'm confused about what separates "true numerical minorities" from other kinds of minorities.

I'm pushing back on the assertion that is has been shown direct democracy works well for minorities. It hasn't. (It has been shown that representative democracy works, or at the very least can be stable.) The tyranny of the majority has not been conclusively proven (nor disproven). This is an open question, and one that evolves as technology (and the population's education) progresses.

>You claimed "in most places where [direct democracy] was practiced (ancient Athens... etc.) it was shown to be more benevolent and inclusive to 'true numerical minorities' than most representative democracies." I'm disagreeing with that claim.

You can disagree, but not because ancient Athens had slaves or women didn't vote. That were common places until millennia later across systems of government, and not some inherent product of direct democracy (as opposed to representative democracy).

If you want to disagree, let's stick to differences in how the citizenry included or excluded in both is treated.

By definition, something found in both types of democracy (such as slavery or women not voting) wont tells us anything about how they differ.

>I'm asking for a source for the the general claim because I'm confused about what separates "true numerical minorities" from other kinds of minorities.

Nothing. I didn't chose the term "true numerical minorities" -- I just used the grandparent's (ff317) term.

Honest question: why would being an economist allow you to competently answer that question? Is knowledge of how to change the mindset and behaviour of a complete country within the purview of economists?

If you ask an economist, he will define economics as the study of human action, making him an expert on nearly (or entirely, depending on the economist) all disciplines, questions, and problems.

"You must be at the frontier of what you know and what you don't to be able to say anything at all" said some wise man.

I think its done out of malice however they dress it up.

Ignoring history of how stolen wealth from colonialism and protectionist policies of the west during the colonial era etc when its convenient to do so is nothing but malice.


President Ulysses S. Grant stated:

    For centuries England has relied on protection, has carried it to extremes and has obtained satisfactory results from it. There is no doubt that it is to this system that it owes its present strength. After two centuries, England has found it convenient to adopt free trade because it thinks that protection can no longer offer it anything. Very well then, Gentlemen, my knowledge of our country leads me to believe that within 200 years, when America has gotten out of protection all that it can offer, it too will adopt free trade.
Now America and its lackeys in IMF and WTO want to do the same to the poorer countries.

If it is done with malice, it's the dumbest, waste of malice evil project ever because nobody really benefits.

It is not done with malice.

The IMF/WB believe that nations that have basic infrastructure, basic forms of democracy, low corruption and relatively open markets ... will be successfull. This is neither malicious nor entirely naive.

It's pragmatically naive when you consider the leader of some nation may take a 10% cut off the loan, hire his buddies to 'build the dam that never gets built' and then of course you have a nation in debt ... but those debts are not advantageous to the West at all, so the conspiracy theories are wrong.

Now - where there is actual malice is when a large, Western industrial conglomerate might win a big contract and so they influence, bribe, fake data - and then get the contract to 'totally overbuild' some kind of capacity leaving a nation with way more than they need. That's malice, but it's definitely not the IMF/WB or lending nations that win there.

Dogmas and ideologies of large organizations are almost as dangerous as their malice.

Many of EU & IMF bureaucrats genuinely believed that they were helping the Greek economy recover while they were actually engaged in destroying it.

Yes, I agree with that, however, their dogma is reasonable.

And no the Greeks destroyed their own economy though systematic hard and soft corruption, knowingly hiding irregularities, unwillingness to make any necessary reforms, etc. etc..

The IMF's 'dogma' operates under the assumption that there are conscientious, reasonable and rational actors on the other side of the loan.

One might argue that it is this assumption that needs to be revisited ... though what some lament as 'austerity' (required by lenders) to others simply is 'being responsible with the massive loan we are about to take'.

The fact that the Greek state is incompetent or corrupt was not unknown before the crisis. The banks granted loans to Greece knowing that the Greek state was incapable of paying back because they were certain that ECB (or EU) would guarantee their loans.

If you are assigning moral faults, then please do so for the banks too who made their loans knowing the facts & assuming that they would be bailed out by EU if things went bad.

A more rational thing to do would have been to force the banks to grant Greece a debt haircut, waiving off 50% of the loans, while helping Greece restructure its economy in a realistic manner.

Instead, many people especially at the EU saw the Greek economic problems as a moral failure of all the Greek people for which all of them, including pensioners, must be punished while safely bailing out the banks that originally lent. Somehow, it is unacceptable to blame the banks.

"because they were certain that ECB (or EU) would guarantee their loans."

I doubt this. The ECB and EU have not ever done this, and thinking through it just for a minute means that this is highly unlikely. I can't fathom why anyone would actually think this is going to happen with any degree of certainty. But I get the impetus that 'way back in the 2000's' that people might have 'felt this way'.

Also - there's a lot of fault still on the side of the Greeks in this case.

Not only that, but the average (Greek or not) person has no grasp of even basic economic policy, and can't see farther than "I have a job that pays well, so what if all the politicians are corrupt? It's not like I can do anything about that anyway".

The average Greek is in on the scam by not paying any taxes, or expecting to retire with full pension earlier than Germans do and voting out anyone who considers changing this. It's a problem from top to bottom.

Who exactly would force banks to grant Greece a debt haircut? And what would stop every other indebted nation from demanding the same deal?

A certain EU country exports it’s supposed tax revenue to Greece so they can use 90% of it to pay their multinational banks. They have to do it in a currency they don’t own and is overvalued relative to their economy. The country mostly pressing for this is meanwhile running an export surplus and apparently asking the same for every economy in the region. This is not sensible economics any way you slice it.

It’s happened before in history and even has a name: debt bondage.

And losing a world war? Something really shocking has to happen for the whole country to rethink ways of doing things.

WWII Japan is the result of its about face, not its cause.

To anyone who finds this interesting and wants to explore this further: i can recommend the book 'Modern Japan: A Very Short Introduction'.

Applied to other countries, what did the second one teach that the first didn’t?

It taught them that they're pacifists.

repetitio est mater studiorum

“Repetition is the mother of all learning”

This is not useful in the slightest. What was different after the war was a late 20th century boost in economy for Japan. Does Uganda learn as much every day because of a quote?

“in establishing the rule of law, the first five centuries are always the hardest.”

One generation. Hint: it involves women and birthrates.

High-jacking top comment to note that the original headline, under which most of any of the discussion was written was:

"Why Brazilians are always late"

Always being late, and always being late to parties are too very different accusations. If you just read the new headline ("In Brazil, it is considered rude to be on time to a party") and checked comments before reading TFA, you might be confused.

Similarly, I read Pachinko a novel about Koreans in Japan in the period 1910-1940 (mostly). Koreans were all lazy, unintelligent, untrustworthy thieves. A stereotype that few would still hold today.....

"Korean time" used to be a thing. Before the "Miracle on the Han river" (which was actually a carefully orchestrated economic development program run by the South Korean government and not a "miracle" at all) South Korea was one of the poorest countries on earth.

Likewise, Germans were used or being drunk, largely unproductive and simple people. Then Prussia conquered conquered a large number of the german principalities and forced the other ones to join in a new German Empire. A massive economic boom followed, during which Germany was thoroughly industrialized.

Did you read a book on this?

Being poor doesn't proof not being on time. It just means that they didn't have access to technologies that could have improved their efficiency.

Thanks for bringing up that book it was lost in my memories and now I just ordered it on kindle.

Richard Feynman on Brazil:

1. “That evening I went for a walk in town, and came upon a small crowd of people standing around a great big rectangular hole in the road—it had been “dug for sewer pipes, or something—and there, sitting exactly in the hole, was a car. It was marvelous: it fitted absolutely perfectly, with its roof level with the road. The workmen hadn’t bothered to put up any signs at the end of the day, and the guy had simply driven into it. I noticed a difference: When we’d dig a hole, there’d be all kinds of detour signs and flashing lights to protect us. There, they dig the hole, and when they’re finished for the day, they just leave.”

2. “When I got to the center, we had to decide when I would give my lectures—in the morning, or afternoon. Lattes said, “The students prefer the afternoon.” “So let’s have them in the afternoon.” “But the beach is nice in the afternoon, so why don’t you give the lectures in the morning, so you can enjoy the beach in the afternoon.” “But you said the students prefer to have them “in the afternoon.” “Don’t worry about that. Do what’s most convenient for you! Enjoy the beach in the afternoon.” So I learned how to look at life in a way that’s different from the way it is where I come from. First, they weren’t in the same hurry that I was. And second, if it’s better for you, never mind!”

Excerpt From: Richard Phillips Feynman. “Surely You’re Joking, Mr. Feynman”: Adventures of a Curious Character.”

As a brazilian who has had some education abroad, the most interesting thing Feynman wrote about Brazil was his critique of the education system [1]. I studied chemistry in high school without ever going into a lab. This holds for all classes, even maths: everything was abstract with no real-world applications. Even Portuguese Language classes had this disease: about a dozen rules for diacritics could be simplified as the usual case and the few exceptions, but they were taught as independent rules (making things a lot harder to retain).

[1] http://v.cx/2010/04/feynman-brazil-education

I too went through all of high school without ever stepping into a chemistry lab or performing any experiments of any kind.

Portuguese classes were agonisingly boring and devoid of practical use.

No choice of basic or advanced topics were allowed, everyone studies “advanced everything” and to fail one single subject meant you had to fail and re-do the entire year.

To point #1. That happens still to today. It is a matter of education and resources. Unfortunately, both are low in Brazil.

To point #2. Any guest in Brazil will be treated differently during their visit.

https://jornalistaheitormenezes.blogspot.com/2015/11/o-carna... has some interesting historical context about Feynman's trips to Brazil.

As to 1, no, it's neither 'education' nor 'lack of resources' really.

It's a matter of conscientiousness and responsibility. Even if there were no signs immediately available, nobody with an ounce of decency would leave a large hole unmarked. Signs are not expensive, if they're not available it's because of a lack of intelligent and responsible acting somewhere else in in the value chain.

As for #2, it's still a lack of conscientiousness. The students should (at least try) to go to their lecture, that the prof should try to give. Surely, a visit to Brazil warrants a quick hop to the beach at minimum but there's no reason people can't do what they are supposed to do all around.

99% of the world's problems would be solved if we all just acted with very basic levels of conscientiousness and responsibility: show up, do the basic work, think a little bit, be nice, don't be corrupt, try to do good work ... commensurate with increasing levels of responsibility obviously, but 'hole diggers' still need to do their jobs with responsibility and a little bit of pride.

As for #2, I don't think Feynman meant that the students won't show up for their lecture. It's just they would prefer to have their lectures in afternoon. In fact, from his writing in the later sections of that chapter, it seems that they did show up for their lectures.

I find explanation in the previous comment, that as a visitor Feynman may have been held to a different standard in order to make his stay more pleasant, quite reasonable.

I love your response because it's a great take-down of the "everything is relative and cultural" argument, which I have always thought comes from an overactive imagination.

When you start to reduce life down to simplistic concepts, everything is not relative and cultural. Sure, maybe on the fringes (.01%) there are situations that are heavily influenced by those. But for most things in life (near or on mazlowe's hierarchy) it is almost like math, or a logic puzzle.

Brazilians don't leave uncovered holes in the street because of something entirely logical within their own culture. They leave because they are lazy and do not care for the level of danger it represents to others. To imply otherwise is simply dressing a pig.

> They leave because they are lazy...

Probably sounds better in the original German.

These proofs by anecdotes are really fast food for the biased mind.

Just as a thought experiment, if Brazilians are inherently 'lazy' as you say and it has nothing to do with the environment that they are in and its incentives, then are they also lazy abroad? Do they also forget to put signs when they dig holes? Do they do a worse service in restaurants? Do they work less than their coworkers? Are they also consistently late? Is this not the case because they are from a biased sample of non-lazy Brazilians that leave the country? Or maybe Brazilians are not inherently lazy?

Just a few questions for the debate.

I don't care if they are Brazilians or Norwegian. If you leave an open hole for someone to fall down you are being negligent.

The whole crux of my argument is to remove the concept of culture from the discussion unless it is absolutely necessary.

Sorry to bow out but I think you are barking up the wrong tree trying to get me to say something unique about Brazil. Human laziness and general awfulness is universal.

> I don't care if they are Brazilians or Norwegian. If you leave an open hole for someone to fall down you are being negligent.

We agree then.

> _Brazilians_ don't leave uncovered holes in the street because of something entirely logical within their own culture. _They_ leave because they are lazy...

I guess it is fair to say that your point was quite hard to grasp based on your last sentence, seeing the other comments as well. If you say "Brazilians don't leave uncovered holes because of...", then it seems you are making a point about the whole population in a generalized sense. Therefore "they are lazy" also refer to this generalization.

Sorry, I was using Brazilians and "they" in the context of the thread. I was not attempting to make assertions, but carry them through the conversation.

Sorry that it came across that way, and for any offense!

When I first went to Rio in 2003 and saw the greater abundance of moderately dangerous situations compared to U.S. cities, I thought it was partly due to differences in legal systems and legal culture. In the U.S., an accident resulting in personal injury is very likely to lead to a lawsuit and there are a huge number of lawyers entirely specialized in personal injury cases. This is less so in Brazil.

I don't have a clear answer about where that difference comes from, but I thought it was a factor in people's differing behavior.

The justice system is really slow and expensive. It can take years to end a lawsuit. Judges have 2 months and a half of vacation and most of them work less than 8 daily hours.

"Brazilians don't leave uncovered holes in the street because of something entirely logical within their own culture"

To be fair, there is some cultural relativism here: leaving a hole is probably 'logical' on some level because a) maybe it's not an operational requirement of the workers, b) maybe there are no signs available and they can't do anything about it ... but more likely c) these behaviours are common and it's hard to get anyone to 'act above and beyond' the local climate.

Those same workers might be totally different people with 3 months 'on the job' in Germany, with German standards, laws and behavioural norms.

I think cultural relativism (to which you are referring) is a real thing, but we can't use it as an excuse either.

I think a better approach than calling them lazy, would be to look into how easy it is to sue, who can be sued and what the difference is between the limit on liquidated damages allowable between the “lazy” countries and a place like the US.

that's what I meant by education, not formal education per se but social responsibility and conscientiousness. It is easy to take that for granted in first world countries.

As for signs are not expensive. You gotta go to Brazil and see with your own eyes then.

Brazilians are hard worker, just go and check with your own eyes. The problem is a bit deeper in my opinion and experience.

You mean social norms, not "education". In in some cultures a disregard for these norms is sometimes referred to as a "lack of education", implying the individual's behavior is the result of bad parenting. This assumption is usually a coping mechanism, a simplistic attempt at a resolution of cultural conflict by asserting that one set of norms are better than those of their cultural antagonist. In cases of cultural conflict, where cultures with sets of incompatible norms attempt to coexist, the result is usually conflict followed by the establishment of new refined sets of norms shared cultures.

Road work signage is an issue of liability in the US, not courtesy.

Why so adamant that the two are mutually exclusive? The reason road work signage has been legislated (or socially defined) into an issue of liability is, again, due to education.

It's true that not putting up road signs doesn't tie clearly to education and resources.

It's also true that societal education and resources over time correlates strongly with putting up road signs, as the Japan anecdote suggests.

They are all correlated and I'm not pointing fingers. A society in which nobody give a crap ... it's hard to find people that will consistently rise above.

Indeed, it's also dangerous to be so passe about everything. Especially construction. Just because it's a cultural phenomenon doesn't make it an admirable one or one that should just be accepted as 'how it is'. Plenty of cultures have evolved and changed for the better.

A subset of Scots from an area near the border on England used to be known for having a culture where fist fighting over disputes was common and education was looked down upon. Many of these groups migrated to the American south and eventually moved on from violence and education rates have since drastically improved.

You can be critical or concerned about a culture phenomenon without dismissing the culture outright like some racist book in the 1920s about Japanese...

Completely agreed. Didn't mean to imply otherwise!

Conscientiousness is taught and learned. You weren't born with your current conception of what it means to be a conscientious member of society, you learned it explicitly and through osmosis. "Nobody with an ounce of decency" is an unnecessarily loaded way to refer to people who, frankly, are who they are through no real fault of their own.

I agree with most of that but this:

"are who they are through no real fault of their own"

This is the ultimate cultural relativism rubbish, no offence, but people make their own decisions in life. It's this kind of reasoning that some try to use to absolve murderers and thugs for their actions.

Surely on some level we're all the result of our upbringing, but we also have to take responsibility for what we are at some point.

>99% of the world's problems would be solved if we all just acted with very basic levels of conscientiousness and responsibility

Your expectations and the expectations in most parts of the west are that everyone take care to protect others from being harmed by their actions. Brazil, Indonesia, India, etc, expect people to be vigilant and steer clear of things that may do them harm. The only reason you see that as wrong is because it is foreign to you. If you grew up and lived in a different culture you'd almost certainly see that as right and anything opposite to that as wrong.

In the west we get everything in writing when we do business and rely on the ability of courts to enforce a contract to protect us when things go wrong (and this adds a lot of overhead, yes this has increased a lot in the past few generations). In China they rely less on contracts and legal solutions and rely more on the effects of a good/bad reputation to protect them from business dealings that go wrong. In the west we don't take people to court if we don't have to but it's the power of the court and ability to take things to court if needed that keeps things running smoothly, in other places the value of one's reputation performs that function.

Expectations of timeliness is another aspect by which cultures vary (as discussed at length in TFA). A meeting that starts on on time in Brazil would probably not be much appreciated. If meeting started late in Japan an apology would be in order at the very least.

These are just three examples of aspects of society that vary from culture to culture. Which is wrong and right depends on what you're used to. Personal physical safety is more likely to bring out people's inner puritanical crusader than the latter two which is why it tends to evoke such strong emotions.

Edit: changed the timing and contract law examples per comments.

In many societies they mutilate the genitals of female children. In many others they carry out honor killings when a member of the family acts, as they see it, incorrectly. These are two examples of aspect of society that vary from culture to culture.

Cultural relativism is largely nonsense. Leaving a giant pit in the road for people to drive into is objectively a dangerous and selfish thing to do. Whether the expectation in the country is that people will do dangerous and selfish things doesn't change that fact, it just means the society has some huge problems.

> Cultural relativism is largely nonsense

There are multiple optima on the cultural space. Americans' individualistic and Scandinavians' committee-loving systems both work well, and optimize for a complimentary set of problems. Saying "ignore the students–go to the beach," on the other hand, is an objectively worse cultural tenet than "balance everyone's needs."

Absolutely. In no way would I argue "It's what the West does, therefore it's right", and being aware of the "it's how we do it, so it's right" bias is worthwhile. There are definitely equally viable alternatives to many cultural norms. Unmarked pits in the road is not one, and I find the desire to treat all alternatives as equal, and a matter of culture, unsettling.

If you want to lure Feynman back to give more lectures, you roll out the red carpet the first time he comes. That's sales, not culture.

Is balancing needs really the best, though?

Balancing everyone's needs tends to result in something that doesn't make anyone really happy.

This leads to a least common denominator result (you can have any color you want, as long as it's black) which is objectively worse in aggregate than "optimize for some, and let someone else optimize for the others".

This is exactly the "where I draw the line (as a result of the culture in which I was raised and live) is right and everyone else is wrong" way of thinking that I was complaining about.

The point I'm trying to illustrate is that where people draw the line on personal responsibility to do things to protect other people vs people's responsibility to look out for themselves varies greatly based on their culture and right and wrong is a matter of perspective and consensus.

Am I being dangerous or selfish if I don't pay a licensed plumber to connect my new gas stove or water heater? What about if I do my own electricity (the Aus vs US split on this one should be interesting)? What if I keep firearms in my home? Is it my fault if someone coming to knock on my door and annoy me trips over some kid's toys on my porch? What if my stairs are icy and they slip?

Reconciling differing opinions on public safety vs individual freedom to act (or not act) as we please is something society must do. As much as I'd love to push everyone I don't agree with off a cliff that's not an option.

Fair enough, that is a much more nuanced point than I originally took you to be making. I apologize for the misreading.

I think most of us would agree that the line is "when your negligence could likely and predictably lead to severe harm to others". As you've pointed out, there are a lot of details to decide there, and different cultures will figure those differently.

I do think that it is fair to say that leaving an unmarked pit in a road is, objectively, over the line though (as are my extreme examples). It could easily, predictably, lead to someone's death through no fault of their own, and is easily prevented. That balance between burden imposed to prevent harm and ability for individuals to protect themselves from that harm is important, I think.

I wish I had more time to mull this over and discuss with you, as I think there are a lot of interesting questions there.

"In the west we get everything in writing when we do business and rely on the ability of courts to enforce a contract to protect us "

No way.

The courts are a last resort both in business and for personal functions.

My grandfather ran a hardware store and lumberyard back in 'the olden days' and would make windows for a farmer who promised to pay with '1/2 a cow' during slaughter season. The farmer would bring the cow to the butcher 6 months later. Conscientiousness, trust, community.

Note that Brazil has quite a high rate of petty crime, whilst in Japan it's really quite low. Obviously so many factors ... but a fundamental one is culture.

This is probably a better example of how cultures are not a fixed thing and can evolve and change over time. Western culture, especially in rural areas and in smaller communities where you can know everyone (a more common phenomenon in the past), a contract would not have been needed. Or even have been insulting.

The "Gentleman's handshake" is a famous "old way" of doing things in America/the West. So this is not unique to foreign cultures.

But as we've industrialized, urbanized, globalized, etc, etc the use of contracts became a necessity and culture patterns began to reflect this. Partially as a reaction to need: it was harder to trust random people in a city with a few million people than a guy you know from town and see at Church. But also because it just made everything simpler and more efficient to just write it down. It makes any future disputes far less destructive, because what it says in the agreement is what matters, not what you think was the arrangement, which is a lot more personal and potentially destructive to relationships.

So therefore the cultures evolved largely out of need and rationality. And I expect many of the examples listed in China, Indonesia, etc to evolve in a similar way as the culture moves away from farming and rural areas to a globalized urban economy.

> A train that leaves the station on time in Brazil would probably not be much appreciated.

Oh, it would be, as a train (or plane) is expected to depart at the right time. People get up and queue for their plane 15 minutes before boarding time, even though they have marked seats and boarding groups.

A meeting starting at the right time? Inconceivable.

> A meeting starting at the right time? Inconceivable

I found a solution to this problem which is as effective as it is potentially insulting, and so is best left for later in one's career. Schedule a few more days than you think you'll need. Show up for meetings 15 minutes early and then, after waiting 15 minutes, leave. When asked about it, play dumb and imply you thought you got the time or location wrong. Reschedule, rinse, repeat. (It helps to have an aloof or distractible personality.)

By the end of the trip, you'll have isolated the most ambitious people (who will show up to things on time and thereby be able to interface with ambitious people outside their country), forged a solid and mutually-respectful working relationship with them, and found time to enjoy the place. Works well in Brazil, the Middle East and India.

> .. you'll have isolated the most ambitious people ... forged a solid and mutually-respectful working relationship with them

You'll have found people who are willing to play petty games instead of having frank conversations about expectations. Those sorts of things are anything but mutually-respectful and encourage future childish behavior. There is nothing wrong with explaining "The meeting starts at noon. I expect everyone attending to be there at noon, and the meeting will be canceled if you're not there on time", there is a problem with expecting people to read your mind when their default mode of operation is to act differently than you expect.

> There is nothing wrong with explaining

I do--and did--this. And then for about half the meetings nobody showed up for thirty minutes. My point is that setting the expectation by example--in addition to explicitly communicating it in advance--works.

I don't know about #1. When I lived in Hong Kong, major road/sidewalk repair often seemed, by western style, unsafe. I never really figured out why, but it seemed more of you can lead a horse to water ...

Having spent the first half of my life in Canada, and the second in Asia, I've quickly realized that Canadians (and, I assume most of the west) are overprotected (insurance, medicine, health schemes, regulations, big brother, and, most obviously, food safety).

(While it isn't unique to Hong Kong, Hong Kong is the most affluent place I've seen this widespread).

It seems to me that #1 is a matter of lack of responsibility. In the US if you dig a hole and someone falls in it because there were no signs, I think you'd get sued to hell. The company, if it survices, would find who's responsible for the bad decision of not putting any signs, and punish that person accordingly for their lack of foresight. Next time that or another person, if they learned from the mistake, will be more careful.

Why is there no such focus towards responsibility in Brazil? That's the question imo.

But what where is the line between your responsibility to put up signs and warnings and futile exercises in protecting stupid people from themselves? A sufficiency clever fool will find their way into the hole you'd dug past the most foolproof barrier you could possibly erect.

Societal exceptions of where that line is vary greatly even from state to state even in the US, say nothing of the differences between expectations in say, wealthy city in the US and Brazil.

Sued to hell in a country with 1/10 the money of the western world doesn't mean a lot.

because it is your responsibility not to walk blindly into a hole.

Why the US is so blame happy, rather than personal responsibility, that is the question.


Just different cultures

They are many reasons why people fall into a hole if it is not clearly marked. Some people have bad sight and may not be able to see a hole but are able to see flashy signs. Should people who have bad sight not be able to navigate freely?

Furthermore, this is about driving and not walking, and during the night. It shouldn't come as a surprise that people are not able to see a black hole on black cement at 'high' speeds (50kph/30mph). Add a little bit of rain or fog, and it's just a recipe for disaster. Maybe if people are aware that workers do stuff like that, they are a little bit more careful but it's probably too late when you finally see it.

The problem here is that there is a culture that does not care very much about their action towards others and think it's not their responsibility and nothing is going to happen to them. While I liked my stay in Brazil a lot (although it was only for a few days), the difference is quite obvious.

There definitely needs to be some kind of balance. For example, when I was in Asia, one city had random holes in the sidewalk at least every 100ft. They looked similar to the below and went into the sewer.



If you accidentally stepped in one of the holes, you could be seriously injured, or potentially have a life threatening injury if you're elderly.

At night time the street lights are very dim, and I only walked on the road, because I didn't have a flashlight and the sidewalk was too unsafe.

Well, it's actually both. We get a decent buffer of safety only if all parties take precautions.

Humans are very good at optimizing their behavior for close to constant risk. If one party does stuff to increase safety to compensate for other parties not being alert as they should be then the other parties will decrease their alertness to keep risk constant. You give them blind spot detection that works most of the time and they merge onto a motorcycle because they've learned to stop looking. You put orange barrels up at 99% of the road hazards and they'll drive right into the one that doesn't have them because they expect there to be orange barrels. You remove the little holder tab from gas pumps and people just shove the gas cap in (it fits perfectly). You put emergency stops, fail-safes and limit switches on power tools and they become part of normally operating the tool (why disengage the blade on a riding lawnmower when you can just take your butt off the seat and it will do it for you, no reason to not overload the trash compactor when it's got a relief valve).

Once you get beyond the bare minimum of warnings that alert people to some hazard returns diminish quickly, better to spend your resources on minimizing the damage of people being dumb than preventing them from being dumb in the first place.

That’s interesting - you are actually blaming the one who walked into the hole.

This is a pretty dangerous way of looking at the world - it’s victim blaming and means nobody has to take responsibility.

Negligence is definitely a problem. Some time ago the Brazilian Samarco iron ore mine collapsed due to negligence. That had dire consequences. Did they blame the victims for not being careful enough? Of course not.


"It is a matter of education and resources"

Education? Sure, but resources are in no way low in Brazil unless you mean very specific resource(s).

GDP per capita is $8600 compared to USA $57000. It's all relative.

It’s closer to 15,000 in terms of PPP. https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_countries_by_GDP_(PP...

But even 8,600 is high relative to the US in 1920’s when the economy was seen as booming. In many ways it’s the perception of wealth and a poor social safty net that’s at issue not resources.

It's relative all the way down: the resources to mark the hole are cheaper, too.

I've also seen this in Mexico. Sometimes, roads just end, into holes and large rocks and equipment.

However, this is mainly an issue in rural areas. And even though there may be no signs, there's typically a line of small rocks, maybe 0.5 meter from the edge.

Yeah, sounds like Africa too. I don't think this has anything to do with Brazil, rather undeveloped countries. The usual story of first-worlders thinking they know how the rest of the world works.

I don't think you get to claim cultural relativism on not putting up hazard signs. I'd also recommend against claiming cultural relativism on things like wheelchair accessibility, hard hats, fire and earthquake codes, or really 95% of the things covered by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, the ADA, or similar entities. These are not things you should be proud of not having.

Not sure why you're shooting the messenger. I didn't applaud the hole in the road, or the lack of warning signs. I wasn't even commenting on those things, only that this is not exclusively Brazil. You can be as philosophical, logical, ideological as you like, in reality there is Africa time, etc, and you'll just have to get over it. ( https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/African_time )

So this one time, friends and I were driving through mountains, on a decent ~2 lane road. With even some guard rails. And then we came around a switchback, and the road was basically just gone. No signs, or other warnings. There had been a huge landslide. And there were many workers, from nearby towns, but all with just hand implements. So we had to backtrack ~200 km.

As a Middle class Brazilian who has lived in Australia half his life and grew up in Rio with a vocal Australian dad I may have something to add.

The case of the car in the hole has a socioeconomic explanation.

There is huge wealth and education disparity within Brazil and specially Rio.

The divide between a blue collar worker fixing the road in Rio and a white collar worker is extreme enough that they are actually from separate cities and I’d suggest different cultures.

The road worker would possibly live in a favela with close to no involvement from the government.

His only interactions with the “rich”, anyone who doesn’t live in a favela, also called “asphalt people” would be in the form of his superiors who pay him little, treat him like a replaceable resource, don’t provide him with adequate training or tools.

There is very little incentive for him to excel at his job or go out of his way to find clever solutions to work problems. There is no career plan here.

Once the clock ticks to 5pm he goes back to his universe. The rich can sort it out themselves.

This is a funny and entertaining text snippet. I would however not have a problem (except maybe, that it wouldn't be written by a native speaker) to write a similar text about the US, from a German perspective. And think of what a swiss person could write. I could write about interstates that looked like tarred roads. About train stations in chicago that were closed and falling apart and locals explained that it was built with federal money so if they would tear them down they would have to repay that money, about light switches and other building features that remind me of socialism in Germany's east because they are so low-quality and not built to last. People spending overtime hours in the office, yet constantly surfing on facebook, while on the other hand not having time for a shared coffee break, etc, etc.

I would read that. Reminds me of the Bill Bryson books he wrote about coming back to America after living in England for 20 years.

The most memorable part for me was the vast amounts of cupholders in American cars that aren't found in vehicles anywhere else in the world.

I just remember this feeling "over the big pond" that I was standing in houses of people that I assumed to have a good income looking at things and thinking to myself "if I would buy this now, it wouldn't last me till retirement"...

Another memorable event was learning about the true American religion: Tide. I still cannot believe people seem to be addicted to a detergent that costs a small fortune per bottle. I kind of assume that the typical top loader washing machines aren't much more expensive than the detergent (here I have never seen one of these fake washing machines).

Another thing I remember is design. My father is a hobbyist wood carver and painter with an admiration for the romantic epoch up to the art of the 20ies I would say. I was raised in the firm belief, that a certain aestheticism was lost when artistic and design styles moved ahead. When I was in the US I had at one point an almost enlightenment. I - like many other exchange students - recognised how many things in the us are designed with ornaments, I am not speaking about old stuff things that are produced today. This starts with pens, book covers and furniture, over Greek style columns at family homes and hospitals, and I can only describe this weird feeling with what I assume to an American is the feeling when looking at stuff of Donald trunp. No clear lines but ornaments everywhere. Then I realised that the US has never completely said goodbye to art deco and related styles. Since I know now what the logical continuation of art deco in the 21st century is, j am much less inclined to join my father in mourning the arrival of modern design.

Huh, Feynman's host was César Lattes, one of the most famous Brazilian scientists:


I noticed how this created some tension between Japanese and Brazilians & Peruvians, when I lived in Japan. One Japanese friend, who was a really impressive guy and really "outside the box" for a Japanese person, was even shaken by the difference after a while. It was unsettling to be seated in a meeting and watch people walk in late with HUGE smiles on their faces, greeting everyone. He told me one day, "in the US, like if you're in high school, walking into class late is kind of _kakkoii_, right? But here in Japan, arriving just a little bit early--that is _kakkoii_."

Quite a few of my other Japanese friends made nervous comments when we were waiting for Brazilian friends, or after they'd arrive. "sasugani [so-and-so, the Brazilian] hahahahaha" they'd say, and it was clear that they were annoyed.

After traveling a bit more and studying psychology a bit more, it's clear that the preference really does vary by the individual, even though patterns like those in the article exist within a populace. Some Japanese really don't care when you arrive, and some Brazilians are really timely people. Their personal strengths come from some position along the robotically-scheduled/free-floating continuum. Culturally, maybe they make arrangements to fit in a little better, or maybe they don't and they're just the weirdo. No matter what the preference is, if we can be flexible or tactical about how we use it, we gain some advantages.

São Paulo is a city of over 12 million people, the largest city in the southern hemisphere of our planet, and is almost 10% of the Brazilian population. Almost everyone I meet with in SP is on time for work related meetings. I haven't noticed a difference between SP, the UK, the USA, or many of the other places I've worked. Generalizing about an entire country when that generalization is wrong for its biggest city makes for a good headline, but it's not responsible journalism.

I am born and raised in Rio de Janeiro, and am very punctual. For business meetings most people don't come up late, but for social gatherings they almost always do. It's frustrating because it seems like I will never learn my lesson and always arrive punctually even if I don't intend to

This. People are conflating social mores with business practices.

São Paulo is a much more globalized city than Rio, which is really navel-gazing. (Most families in Rio can trace their ancestry centuries back, while São Paulo is usually the largest $(nationality-descent) population outside $(homecountry). This makes for cultural differences.)

But: it's not like carioca customs bleed over to the workplace any more than, say, West Texan customs do. I mean, at my workplace we wear suits but not ties; whenever in São Paulo we tie up. That's most of it.

> Almost everyone I meet with in SP is on time for work related meetings.

Is 'almost everyone you met' a representative sample of the population of SP? Of Brazil?

To say that Brazilians are late is a generalisation. To say they are on time is also a generalisation.

Can you show me I where said all Brazilians are on time? Or that even all people in SP are on time or that what I said was anything more than an opposing anecdote to the one presented in the article? I'm not a journalist and if I was I would certainly be looking for studies as opposed to anecdote. I'm simply pointing out bad journalism, and it doesn't require a representative sample in order to do that.

As you've written it, your desire to point out bad journalism is undermined by a lack of rigor on your part. You'd possibly be more effective if you didn't cite your personal experience.

The article is more about Rio than the rest of Brasil, and more about social rather than business gatherings. When I first started dating my (Carioca) wife, and was planning a birthday party for her at a restaurant, she warned me to send out a start time of 6:00 if I wanted people to actually start rolling in around 7-7:30. Sure enough, first guest arrived around 8:00. Not hard to get used to, just treat it like a different time zone.

Montreal is exactly the same way only you invite them for 10pm and the party only really starts at midnight.

also anecdotal claims are pretty irresponsible too: it's well documented that people are less punctual in warmer climates and in developing countries https://deepblue.lib.umich.edu/handle/2027.42/67419

The article itself was anecdotal so refuting it only required an opposing anecdote. While I appreciate an actual study, I'd have to see something specific to São Paulo for it to be interesting or useful to me. I'm not going to come to any conclusions about a specific city based on a study so broad.

Also, the article summary you cited says nothing about punctuallity. It talks about pace of life. Where can I see the full study?

Thank you for the link. The study includes Rio, but not São Paulo, Brazil. I'm not sure why they would skip the largest city in the world that is both in a developing country and a warmer climate, but without including it, it's certainly not a very comprehensive study is it?

In the UK as a native Englishman I would be totally ok with people turning up late to a party/BBQ/whatever. No problem (although not for a dinner party where you need to prepare etc)

But if you agree to meet people at a certain time, then being more than 10-15 minutes late without letting the person know is just rude, selfish and inconsiderate. Sure problems come up - these days there is zero excuse to not let the people know you are going to be late and give them an estimated ETA.

By being deliberately/incompetently late in those scenarios where you've agreed on a time, you're telling the person whose time you are wasting that you value your time more than you value theirs - i.e. that you consider yourself and your time as more important than them, and so fuck you - I'll get there when I want and you can wait for me since I am the most important one in this meeting and you and your time is worthless...

Are you late because you are just a bit disorganised? Please get a grip make an effort because you're a grown up and the people you are meeting had to make an effort to get there too.

Are you late because you are just an arsehole? Take a long look at yourself in the mirror.

tl;dr - depends on context.

I am African and I can say that it depends on your culture.

> it depends on your culture

It does, and if you're trying to co-ordinate anything with a material number of people, one must recognize it's not a useful cultural aspect to carry forward. Timeliness allows for complex coordination. (It also allows for economic interfacing with the world's advanced economies.)

It depends on context. But yeah, I can say the same thing; get a grip on being already aggressive about this even though no-one here probably insulted you. It is the most insane sight when Brits come to live in southern Spain and are spending a lot of energy the first year(s) on coping (red heads, shouting, picking fights with people who are just having a chat blocking the road etc) with the fact that no-one will ever come on time. Or at all. And without warning. The fact that you have such obsessions doesn't mean everyone has or needs to have, even though you might call that whatever you call it in your post.

I hope you all remember that Brazil is too big to assume that everyone is the same, thus everyone will be late to all appointments. It happens a lot, yes. But be careful to label people in advance. Many (!) Brazilians work overseas, including in Germany, and I'm sure those are not late as the article suggests for example :)

Also, what would be crazy for many people that live in small countries compared to Brazil, is that many workers live far away from their job or school. Up to 3 hours for a single way. It is also expected to have something not working in their way to their destination.

It's not a black and white thing. Writing a generic bold statement tends always to be harmful. Damn human brain that loves to find patterns to simplify information processing :)

People act based on the standards of the places around them.

My example: I'm Portuguese but have lived in Denmark for quite a few years now, in Denmark I'm about as punctual as everyone else around here (which is mostly punctual, not as much as Germans though, who tend to show up before the agreed time) but when I'm visiting down south, I go back to the standard of showing up a little after the agreed time.

In other words: when in Rome do as the Romans do.

You can’t negate cultural traits. A population is a distribution of characters and one individual may be anywhere on the distribution, but there are still noticable differences on average. And it is not wrong to describe a typical character, keeping in mind that the individual you are facing may be at odds with national traits.

Yes "cultural differences" have sometimes their roots in the infrastructure or economy of the country.

I remember some years ago that my (french) boss was often frustrated with our indian colleagues being late or having delays in their work. Then I spent an internship with them and I understand. It was much harder for them to go from their home to the office and the conditions were far worse for them.

But it's hard for a lot of people to realize these differences and empathize without having to live under the same circumstances.

I don't think this is just a Brazilian thing. When I throw parties in the US nobody shows up until 30 mins after the start time, and the peak of people showing up is between 60 and 90 minutes after start time.

The exception to this is dinner parties, where people are much more punctual because they know you're planning the meal timeline.

If there's 20 people going to a party, does anyone think the "start time" is really when you're supposed to be there? I think of it more as "don't come before this time".

Depends on the culture. Historically if you told a German 5:00, that meant 5:00 - nor 4:59, not 5:01. "Fashionably late" is an American thing.

I arrived at about 16:55 to a party in Denmark, having overdone my effort not to be late. The hosts didn't mind, they were amused that I'd made the effort to not be 15 minutes late.

I was then amused to see all the other (Danish) guests arrive within 2 minutes of each other.

I just don't understand how this works at a house party.

You invite 20 people over for a BBQ at 2pm. Here's possible conversations I can envision in America:

"Thanks for the invite! I actually have a haircut appointment at 2, but I'll come right after"


"Thanks for the invite, but I have a a haircut appointment at 2..." "what? No worries! Come join whenever you can; we want to see you!" "Great. I will thanks!"

So how would it go in Germany?

"Sorry, I am busy and can't make it"

This doesn't happen. People are just applying stereotypes to every possible context and situation. Germans are perfectly capable of coming to a BBQ later than the scheduled start time, although it's true that unless it's impossible for them to make their schedule fit with yours, if you tell them 5, then 5 it is.

Because of this, I would say it's even more important to schedule things sufficiently ahead of time. Making up plans only 2 or 3 days in advance, when weekend plans are mostly settled and they can't properly schedule around your event, will just stress people out.

> So how would it go in Germany?

1. the first one can occur, if they can't be on time they will ask if they can arrive later and as the host you get to decide whether they should still come or not, either way the guest will arrive on the pre-determined time

2. if the start time is flexible, this is stated clearly as part of the invitation e.g. you invite people for a bbq "starting around" 2PM (rather than at 2PM) and make it clear that they can arrive and leave at any point in the afternoon, just that they should not arrive before 2PM

A more interesting metric would be: You are meeting a buddy for dinner at some pizza place at 18:00. You are there punctual for whatever reasons, at what time would you ask yourself whether you would text your buddy? I think in Germany, the first text message might run 18:05 or 18:10 with lose ("I am sitting inside already") kind of a thing.

The haircut example would just mean you tell your friend in advance that you will arrive later.

> "Fashionably late" is an American thing.

I wouldn't say it's an American thing. Any party that's starting at 10PM isn't gonna get a good crowd till 12-1AM in Europe as well. Cause you don't want to show up when there are barely any people and have to awkwardly dance to the music in an empty place.

Well, not everywhere. I move to Cal from Minnesota. Ethnically, Minnesota is heavily German and Scandanavian. Germanic puctuality is more the norm (or at least was when I was a kid).

Central PA has a strong Germanic/PA Dutch influence and most of the time folks are still very punctual, the two notable exceptions having already been mentioned - informal get-togethers like BBQs and late night parties.

In France it works the same as in the US or Brazil then in my experience, if the party is said to start at, say, 7pm it means that you can start showing up by that time but definitely not that you have to be here at 7 sharp. If it's a dinner I'd expect most people to arrive within the hour or so, if it's just some kind of party then I wouldn't be surprised to see people arriving a few hours "late". I would be quite surprised and probably not fully ready if I told a bunch of people to come to my party at 7 and they all showed up exactly on time.

In France/Belgium parties are starting really late now. A 20:00 party will now see people coming in around 23:00.

Is it a broad change of culture, or maybe your friends became parents recently?

No, it's a cultural thing among 20-35. In the same vein you now have to set up really complex birthday parties: renting a room or a cafe, setting up a theme (80's fashion, cinema, etc.) and have a band or a DJ. Starts at 20:00, people coming in around 23:00.

If the party started at 22:00, would everyone arrive at 1:00? If not, this may indicate when people like to party more than how late people like to be.

Good question, I can't answer. The 22:00 party are supposed to be a different kind from the 20:00 party. Also, anecdata.

The DJ is important too; often (in clubs / cafes / etc), there will be music and such at 20:00, but the main act will only start at 22:00 or later.

I'll always remember our international parties here (in Germany). Party starts, some of us show 5 minutes early, some up to 10 minutes late. Then there is about a 50-60 minute break and the Italians and Spanish would start arriving.

I don’t know about fashionably late but at a large party I feel like it serves a purpose of spreading out when guests arrive so you greet them in turn and don’t have to deal wit a logjam right at 5pm if they all showed up simultaneously. Smaller parties are obviously different though especially if waiting to be seated at a restaurant or serving dinner on a schedule.

In Germany it's the same for parties or meeting with friends. If it is work-related most people tend to be on time.

Just curious if the German trait you mentioned you have witnessed first hand or hearsay?

Well, as a German, I can tell you that we take timing seriously and for business meetings, there is just one time the meeting starts.

Party timing is still something many of us struggle with as not every host does it the same. Some like the guests to arrive on time, others have adopted the more international habit of not expecting anybody during the first hour.

Yes, but there is also a difference between using um and ab regarding punctuality, so better take care when writing invitations. :)

Having lived in both countries, I would say our Swiss neighbors are even more stringent regarding punctuality.

"Mother Fucking Swiss" is a legendary post, and very reflective of experiencing swiss-german people: https://www.reddit.com/r/AskReddit/comments/11pcs1/while_i_l...

That was quite an entertaining post. My grandma used to say that the difference between a Swiss and a German is that if we'd forget to cut the lawn, the neighbor would be annoyed after a week. In Switzerland they'd call the Police on day 2.

Trains are also late in Germany. A lot. I blame DB.

They come up with the silliest excuses too, like that one time were they claimed that the track bed had caught fire. I would have believed it if it wasn't -10°C in the dead winter while it snowed like crazy.

On the other hand I do have a punctuality tick, I have counted out the exact amount of time it takes to get to the train station and I wake up at 0600 with or without alarm clock, regardless of when I fell asleep. I also make sure that my clocks are set as exact as possible (I used to run a GPS powered NTP server just for my devices).

> They come up with the silliest excuses too, like that one time were they claimed that the track bed had caught fire. I would have believed it if it wasn't -10°C in the dead winter while it snowed like crazy.

Here in Chicago, the tracks are intentionally lit on fire in the winter (so they don't develop an ice sheet, I think). Maybe the same thing, but whoever explained it was unfamiliar with the practice?

No I don't think they do that here, not that I observed it. The switches are heated though, since they need to move for the train.

There is also a lot of different snow clearing vehicles that go around in the worst areas.

We do have trainbed fires during dry summers at times (like currently) but not winter, it was just some excuse for lack of trains or otherwise produced delays.

The tracks are lit on fire only in areas where they don't have the right of way to install heaters. It's not to keep the tracks from icing up - it's to prevent the switches from freezing up. Rode the UPW Metra line for about 12 years.

I had a laugh. Naturally a bit stereotyped, but still.

There is a relatively old Swiss movie that plays with them. Available only in French and German versions.


As someone of Swiss ancestry, thank you for this! My sides hurt from laughter.

I experienced it first-hand, thought I admit it has been many years since I've spent any time in Germany and I fully recognize that culture changes over time so I have no idea if this is still how it's done. That's why I used the word "historically" in my original statement.

German here. Punctuality is still valued highly. In a business context it is considered very rude not to be there exactly on time. You are seen as untrustworthy, if you can't honor a simple agreed upon time.

"Fashionably Late" is really reserved for high school and college and people who never grew out of that mindset.

The majority of America just doesn't care about appearance in this way.

Not german, but my father always taught us that you must always be early so you can be on-time, and that unless the host has made it clear arrival time was flexible one must be on-time.

We have relatives who usually leave their home at the declared start-time (so they're at best half an hour late, usually an hour or two), they're by far the most disliked members of my extended family for this an other reasons. Arriving late is disrespectful of both host and other guests, and is emblematic of and perfectly in line with their character.

We used to tell my mother a different time than everyone else for events (an hour early). She'd come right on time!

Yes, depending on where you're from. I was raised to show up at the start time for events, this is pretty common in the Midwest. If the host is someone you know, you'll often ask if you can show up early and help prepare.

When I was in California a few years ago I showed up to a party a few minutes before the invite time. Not only was I the only guest there for the first ~30 minutes, but the host clearly wasn't expecting anyone to show up at the given time.

Exactly. It's a party! people should feel good and not under the artificial pressure of time.

For one anecdote, my extended family usually comes on the dot to things.

There is some etiquette involved. You don't want to be the first person there, just as you should avoid being the 'lingerer' who stays too long or even worse needs to be asked to leave explicitly.

Why don't you want to be the first person?

I've heard of "fashionably late", never anything about "early".

IME early bird gets all the good nachos. And you can leave earlier.

I think early bird is best reserved for close friends of the host. I invite close friends, somewhat-close friends, and maybe tangential friends (that neighbor who seems nice but I don't really know well) to parties, and if it's the last group who shows up first conversation flows less smoothly.

Also if you're first, be ready to help set up!

Are you thinking only of parties with friends? Arriving early can be an awkward and intense social situation; it's just you and the hosts.

Provided I know the host well I consider those early arrival situations much easier to handle than arriving late when the gathering is already in full swing. I know it's absurd, but it almost feels like interrupting.

I prefer too ease into these events by starting early and with a small group instead of making an entrance to a full room.

"Why don't you want to be the first person?"

In some cultures appearing a busy person can be important. Showing early to a party could send the message you had nothing to do before. Not that i like or do that, but some people could pay attention to such details.

It has nothing to do with looking busy. It's simply awkward when you go to a party and you're the only guest present and you don't know the hosts very well.

Even more so if the hosts are still frantically finishing preparations. As an acquaintance, do you offer help? Go for a walk around the block? Best to just avoid that altogether by showing up a little “late”.

I've been to parties where a few friends--the same people each time--would show up 2-3 hours late to a party and their house was only a 10 minute walk away.

When I'd ask why they were late, it was the same reason each time. "Oh, we were watching a movie." A typical movie is 90 minutes long, so they would've been putting it on just around the time the party started.

In general though, everyone was a good 20-30 minutes late, but a few people and myself would show up early to help the host prepare last minute food/drinks.

Kids? Because that requires 30-60m extra with a large probability unless the parents are very punctual and have little else going on that day.

This has a different reason, because everyone is afraid to arrive early and be awkwardly alone with the host.

I think in a social gathering, people take things casually and thus turning up late.

Cultural norms are different for different kind of events.

In the US and most of the West, it's expected to be okay to be around one hour late for big house parties. However, Americans wouldn't normally be late for job interviews or other important events in a set time, which is completely normal in Latin America.

> However, Americans wouldn't normally be late for job interviews or other important events in a set time, which is completely normal in Latin America.

Nope. Sorry, but you are completely wrong. If you are late in job interviews for instance, you will probably not grant the job, if its in bussiness meetings, it will hurt your credentials in the company and it can even lead one to be fired.

Bussiness mentality is different than party mentality. Other things you must have to take into account is local culture. Rio is more laidback, while Sao Paulo is much, much less because it has more of a bussiness culture. (And i bet its the same in the US between different cities).

Thats one of the reasons why i try to teach some people, that for some contexts, thinking in terms of 'Latin America' its just wrong and too broad of a generalization.

You cant hardly generalize the whole of Brazil, and doing so in terms of Latin America is even worse.

Not really, no one would be one hour late for a job interview in Brazil. There is rush hour in Brazil just like any other big city because people need to be on time for work, dropping kids on school, etc.

> When I throw parties in the US nobody shows up until 30 mins after the start time

But if you expect people to show up 30 mins. late structurally, why not just give a time 30 minutes later and have them be on time ?

All this does is cause unnecessary ambiguity.

I arrived on time, my hostess was already dressed up, and I made myself useful helping with preparing the food. We had a long time to talk while waiting for the other guests.

A month later, we were dating. A couple years later, we married.

Sometimes being too early is good. :-)


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