It's always one of the first questions I get asked: What's your favorite country? It's a very tough question. All countries are different, each having its own unique characteristics.
I adore a number of amazing nations for a variety of reasons, but if I had to pick one, it would be Brazil. Here's why.
It's a bit of a cliché to say that "the people are friendly." People tend to be friendly to tourists everywhere. But there are some other things that I like about Brazilians.
They exude positive energy
The general happy and upbeat demeanor of Brazilians can be broken down in the following manner:
•Brazilians deal with problems and difficulties in a light hearted way, usually laughing or joking about them.
•When you meet a friend (or even an acquaintance whose name you hardly remember), they will greet you like you're a lost brother. A big smile, an abraço, and sometimes a few kisses.
•It's never boring around Brazilians. They are extroverted and expressive. They don't seem to have an off button. They are either talking, singing, dancing, or partaking in some combination of the three.
They are very hospitable
Brazilians are extremely hospitable. Me Casa, Su Casa applies. Granted, Brazil is not unique in this aspect. All of Latin America is famous for its hospitality. I've never felt more welcome than in countries like Brazil, Argentina, Chile, Mexico and El Salvador.
They look good
Let's be honest, the Brazilians are some of the best looking people in the world. This makes for good people watching at the beach. The men can admire the famous Brazilian bum, only covered by a small thong, while the women get to watch the local men showing of their muscles wearing a slightly larger version of a speedo.
Brazil beach scenery
I have a preference for warm climates. Life is more enjoyable when you can spend most of the day outside, wearing slippers and shorts. Not much explanation needed here I think.
This is another cliché that travelers always rave about. Brazilian culture is different from the Western European culture I grew up in. It's less individualistic and more centered around families. Music, food, and dance play a much bigger role in life. This is something I absolutely love.
Now, this is true for most countries outside the western world. But here's what makes Brazil unique. Despite the differences, Brazil's culture is still close enough to western culture for me to be able to relate to the Brazilians and to understand them. This enables me to build lasting relationships with the people I meet, which I consider one of the most important reasons to travel.
Very few countries can compete with Brazil's vast amount of natural beauty. Areas like the Amazons and the Pantanal are unique in terms of the diversity and quantity of wildlife and nature. Adding the countless number of tropical beaches, mountains, lakes and green hills makes it very obvious that Brazil stands out in this aspect.
Lagoa de Conceicao
So what about the third traveler's cliché: the food? Well, there is some really good food to be found in Brazil. I love the Churrascos, the Rodízios, the Pao con Queijo, and the Moquecas. However, the food isn't the main reason why Brazil is my favorite country. It's good, but for me it doesn't stand out compared to countries like Thailand, Spain, France, China, and Korea.
But isn't it dangerous?
I hear this a lot. Here is my take on safety in Brazil. Yes, there are areas where you probably shouldn't go as a tourist, or at least not by yourself. But this is true in the Western world as well. Every major city in the U.S. has neighborhoods where it's best to stay away. All you need to do is gather some information about what areas to avoid.
One thing to keep in mind is that although Brazil has been doing pretty well economically over the last decade, there is still a lot of poverty. This means it's not wise to flash expensive stuff. Your iPhone could be worth a half a year salary for someone. But again, most of the touristic areas in the western world are full of pickpockets, so again this isn't something specific to Brazil. The only time I've been pick pocketed is back home in Amsterdam.
Conclusion: when using your common sense (like you should in any area that you're not familiar with) I think Brazil is perfectly fine to visit as a tourist destination. You should not let safety worries stop you from visiting!