Wednesday, May 16, 2012

"Jeitinho Brasileiro" or "Lei de Gerson"!!!

Dear friends, I really missed writing posts here. I have been thru a roller coaster of emotions in the past month, happy, sad, busy, busy, busy. Not an excuse for my absence, I could have found a little time to write, but honestly, I lacked inspiration to write anything.
I will write more about this crazy freaking MAY of 2012, later.
Now, the reason for this post, is to try and clarify a concept, or rather, a couple of concepts often misunderstood by foreigners in Brazil and sometimes even by some Brazilians.
The famous or infamous "JEITINHO BRASILEIRO".
Let me explain to you, the trail of comments and post that inspired this post.
First I read THE COMMENTS AT THIS POST WRITTEN BY DANIELLE, then I found out about THIS BLOG POST, and couldn't sit here and watch without having any response.
This is the comment I wrote at Brazil Phenomenon's Blog, her blog is moderated, so the comment probably hasn't been posted just yet, but you can read it here first hand:  :)

Ray says: Your comment is awaiting moderation.

Dear Cipriana,
I read your post about “jeitinho” and have to say, unfortunately, even after all these years in Brazil, you have been misinformed about “jeitinho”.
What you are describing above, we “Brazilians” call “Lei de Gerson” which means “to take advantage” over every one else. I don’t know where you got the idea that it is tolerated, it is not, it is hated by most Brazilians I ever knew. And the cutting in front of the line issue, I never saw people putting up with it, anywhere, in Brazil, in a Developed country or any developing country, this is a human being issue, nobody is an idiot to watch someone cut in front of them and sit idle without any reaction.
The case of the corporations described by you, happens EVERYWHERE, including in the good ol’ US of A, where I have lived for the past 15 years.
Jeitinho Brasileiro is a creative way to solve a problem. It is the creative way Brazilians find to overcome difficulties, not a way to take advantage of others, that is NOT what jeitinho Brasileiro is, not at all. What you are talking about, we call it LEI DE GERSON, “Gerson’s Law”, which is taking advantage of others.
Please don’t take my comment the wrong way, I just can’t sit here and read such a wrong conception of such an important part of Brazilian culture.
“Jeitinho Brasileiro” is supposed to describe a positive treat of the Brazilian culture, the creativity of the people to overcome adversity, not at all the bad habit of many, to take advantage over every one else.


So, friends, here it is, JEITINHO BRASILEIRO is NOT a negative treat of the Brazilian culture, it is a very much the opposite, it is positive way, a creative, innovative way Brazilians find to overcome their problems.
Whatever they may be, from a problem that arises at a factory, to a group of friends trying to built a place to barbecue, using blocks, sticks and stones found at the beach.
Jeitinho Brasileiro is a creative solution for a common problem, not otherwise thought before by other people.

Shopping cart and random bricks turned into a perfect improvised grill!

Barbecue in the flood! Nothing will stop us from having fun!! :)

The piece of foil placed your TV rabbit ears antenna to improve reception ( Jeitinho Brasileiro), the guy who used a plastic string extracted from a random package to repair his Volkswagen Bug's engine, so he could drive to the mechanic and save money for the Tow Truck.

You are out of Gas, problem, you still have electricity!! :) 

The biggest "Jeitinho Brasileiro" I know was the invention, or implementation of the Alcohol project in Brazil in the 1970's. After the crisis of 1973, the Brazilian generals of the time ( yes, the country lived under a dictatorship), realized that if they tried to fight the system ( Shell, Exxon, Texaco) they would loose, and would not be able to implement Alcohol fueled cars as a viable option.
So their "Jeitinho Brasileiro" solution was: "Se nao pode vencer, junte-se a eles", translation: "If we can't win, let's join them."
And they did, and that is why the Brazilian Alcohol project was so successful. The government gave the existing owners of the distribution infrastructure the privilege to distribute the new alternative fuel. Shell, Exxon, Texaco and others joined the Brazilian government in the efforts to implement the new alternative fuel. They financed renovations in every gas station in the country to accommodate the new option for fuel. New fuel tanks in every gas station in the country. We watched the long process thru most of the 70's and 80's. Today, if you own an Alcohol fueled car, you can find both fuels in EVERY gas station in Brazil.
The "Jeitinho Brasileiro" didn't stop there, years later, they realized that with fuel prices fluctuations, people who had Alcohol powered cars could be in a disadvantage. So once again, the Brazilian creativity and innovation "JEITINHO BRASILEIRO" came up with a great solution: FLEX FUEL cars.
Yes, my friends, the FLEX FUEL technology that you see in cars all over the place nowadays, was invented in Brazil. This way, Brazilians could take advantage of whatever fuel had the best price on any given day.
To add to this wonderful tread of great alternative fuel solutions, Brazil started implementing NATURAL GAS for cars, from factory. Yes, my brother drives a FORD ESCAPE, in Brazil called FORD ECO SPORT, and his car can be powered by GASOLINE, ALCOHOL or NATURAL GAS.
On the opposite side of this example, you can witness the difficulties the ETHANOL industry in the United States is having to implement distribution of their alternative fuel. In my opinion, they have a hell of an uphill battle, see, they are trying to create a whole new distribution network for ETHANOL powered cars. They didn't partner with the companies that already have a heck of a great distribution network around the country such as SHELL, CHEVRON, EXXON, TEXACO, and in my opinion, if they had, they would probably be far ahead on offering the American public with alternatives for fuel.
Wow! I can get side tracked like nobody's business.
Ok, back to our main topic, JEITINHO BRASILEIRO is often misclassified and misunderstood. If you read Brazilian Literature and learn a little deeper about the culture, you will see what I am talking about.
JEITINHO BRASILEIRO is not breaking the law, finding a way around the law, cutting in front of the line, or anything anyone might do to gain advantage over others.
That is what we call "LEI DE GERSON", "GERSON'S LAW". A "Lei de Gerson" is what us Brazilians HATE more than the devil itself. The notion that Brazilians tolerate poor service or long lines is wrong, we HATE people who take advantage of others, come on, we are NOT IDIOTS.
If someone in Brazil is putting up with poor service is most likely because they have no reference of anything better or worse yet, they have no option, and have to put up with whatever crappy product or serviced offered to them.
I have to say one thing, Cariocas and Paulistas do not put up with crappy service or products. We are usually known as BIG MOUTHS around Brazil!
We are the ones complaining at restaurants if the service is not impeccable, we are the ones with high standards for food and many other products.
So, just to be crystal clear, TAKING ADVANTAGE of others is NOT JEITINHO BRASILEIRO, this is what we call LEI DE GERSON.
Please forgive me, I am a little edgy today, I know. Gilson has been in Brazil for the past 3 weeks, and I am not having the best of times. And just for the record, I am not yelling at anyone in particular, it's just my dramatic "Brazilian" way to put emphasis on a certain point. ;)
So, as soon as I get a little more inspiration. I will describe the roller coaster of emotions, adventures and hard and good times we have faced in this unforgettable MAY of 2012.

PS: I also recommend this great post written by our friend and Brazilianist Alex: "LEI DE GERSON IN THE USA"

Forte abraco a todos



Danielle said...

Hi Ray,

I liked your optimistic take on jeitinho. I recently read (and posted online) an interesting academic article that analyzes the Brazilian jeitinho (in English). It talks about the good uses and the bad uses, why people do it (pointing out that Brazilians aren't necessarily bad people, but sometimes it's necessary), and the good and bad effects on the country. You can read it here if you're interested:

Ray and Gil said...


Thanks for sharing!
It was quite an interesting text to read... ;)
I have to say, long story short, Keith S. Rosenn's opinion is that "Jeito" is a term to define "Corruption" and the "Breaking of laws or social norms". This is how his text is defined: "The Jeito: Brazil's Institutional Bypass of the Formal Legal System and Its Developmental
And with all the respect, and from a Brazilian perspective, not only an optimistic one, but the point of view of someone who was born in Brazil, and has studied about Brazil all his life. I couldn't disagree more with Mr. Rosenn's definition of "Jeito".
Just to be clear, I totally see everything he is describing as valid, but he is calling JEITO what WE call CORRUPTION, BRIBES, BREAKING THE LAW.
We have words to define all that in Brazilian Portuguese, and back to my original point, the word we use is NOT "Jeito" or "Jeitinho".
Thanks for your great contribution to the discussion. I did enjoy reading his text very much. And it just make me realize how big the misconception is surrounding the term "Jeitinho"...



Alex said...

Wow, I honestly have been influenced by a lot of the things people write out there and DID think that Jeito/Jeitinho were the negative things that happened (aka bureaucracy and things like that, plus being taken advantage of.)

Good to know that Jeitinho is actually kind of translatable as 'creativity/resourcefulness.'

Now, about the Lei de Gerson...more than a few like to complain non stop about bureaucracy. I always give everyone the benefit of the doubt no matter what the case may be, and honestly, I think this keeps me sane. I still live in the US (as most of you know), and although many thing things are 100% smooth here all the time, this is just not true. The University I attend is one of the most ridiculous places for things like this. I'm going to write a post about it after I post this comment because there are just too many things to point out, even only dealing with the place for 9 or so months.

I think the best way to deal with stress and disappointment in these situations is to remember what your goals are and what the big picture is. A little money lost will not kill you for the rest of your life, and a little time waiting will also not kill you. These things are facts of life. If you are unable to accept this, wherever you live, you are never going to be happy.

In short, sometimes it's easier to chose your battles and remember that life is not supposed to be so serious all the time. He have to roll with the punches!!!

Great post!!!


Anonymous said...

I disagree with Ray. jeitinho it is translated as corruption in a sense where brazilians will take advantage of a situation for individual gain even if that causes a coletively loss. They way people drive in Brazil it barberic, as if life had no value. Not only it is a social norm, as one would be considered smart, clever to that point to brag about it. I have lived my entire life in Brazil, in several regions.
Mario Silva

Ray and Gil said...

Thanks Alex, loved your comment, you get it buddy!
The translation of the "word" Jeito in itself says it all, jeito is a "SOLUTION" to a problem.
Breaking the law is not a solution, is a confrontation to a rule, it is a way to go around the rule, not a solution.

Thanks again for your clever comment Alex


Ray and Gil said...

Mario Silva,

Thanks for your comment.
You are describing the "Lei de Gerson" which is to take advantage of others.
I respect your opinion, this is not a point everyone agrees on.
Ha! By the way, you think Brazilians drive like barbarians!! Have you ever had your car "PUSHED" out of the way by a New York city Crown Victoria Yellow Cab? I didn't think so!
Miami is also insane, way worse than Brazil, because the cars are heavy, have powerful engines and are driven by perfect idiots who used to ride a mule in the hills of Haiti just a couple months ago, and now they are behind the wheels of a (you guessed it) HUGE V8 Crown Vic!!

Obrigado por seu comentario!



Brasilicana said...

I LOVE the photos, they are so perfect! Brazilians never cease to amaze me with the creativity of their "jeitinho," and what's more, I think this trait of Brazilian culture also contributes to Brazilian optimism, because rather than get upset/depressed when facing a problem, they know they can "figure something out" and if not solve it, at least turn the situation more positive!

I wonder if the misconception around "jeitinho" being associated with corruption and illegal activities comes from the politicians themselves using that term to describe what they're doing... in order to give it a more "positive" spin, you know?

Politician: "Hey, I really need to win the election this year, but it's looking like the polls aren't in my favor."

Crony: "Don't worry, a gente da um jeito..."

By saying "dar um jeito" instead of "let's rig this election," it's a way of using language to obscure the fact that something illegal is going on. So perhaps that misappropriation of the term has contributed to the misconceptions. Not sure, just theorizing here!

Ray and Gil said...

Dear Brasilicana,

Thank you for your great comment. And I think you are on to something...I love your theory, it makes total sense!! :)


Renato S. Alves said...

Nice to hear from you again. I was wondering what happened. This is a very big subject. And maybe you already know my opinion about it. I think that maybe you're right. Some people use the "Lei of Gerson" to conduct their lives and name it as "jeitinho" But there is a lot of people that do bad things and refer to it as "jeitinho". Even on the TV you say people refering to bad things as "jeitinho". Or "jeitinho"is a bad and a good thing or "jeitinho" is only what you've said. In my personal opinion I think is both bad and good. "lei de Gerson" are associate with "levar vantagem" which, unfortunately is spread to much in our culture. But sometimes people do a "jeitinho" not to get "vantagem" but to not suffer some consequences. That's why I have to agree with Danielle and Cipriana. It can be good and bad.
Wellcome back!

Ray and Gil said...


Thank you for your comment!
I think it is sort of like seeing the glass half full or half empty...
I go with the "meaning" of the word "Jeito", which translates to "Solution", "Way to do it"...

Good to see you here



Tom Le Mesurier said...

Hi Ray,

Hmmm, now you've got me wondering, I remember I mentioned Jeitinho in a comment on a post about the exasperations with red tape in Brazil. Can't seem to find it now, but I guess my understanding of this term was that it is a way of bending the rules to find a way. Like you can be creative with a shopping cart (that is *brilliant* by the way!) or you can be a little creative with the rules a little.

I guess I thought there was a slight negative aspect to jeitinho from what I read about it in Fernando Henrique Cardoso's memoirs (The Accidental President of Brazil). He describes it as something that has been historically necessary for Brazilians because of the trying circumstances of the past 50+ years, but he also hints that there is a negative aspect to it and that he wanted to get Brazil to a place where they didn't need to do things that way anymore.

I guess there are several different interpretations of the word (but FHC certainly didn't describe it as outright corruption/cheating). Just thought I'd throw my 2 centavos in

p.s. next time we run out of gas, I'm sacrificing the iron!! I may even boil hotdogs in the kettle!