Differences of lifestyles in Latin America

Puerto Iguazu Travel Blog

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JB Boonstra

Florianopolis, Brazil
    On Monday in Florianopolis, a group of us walked to a beach called Mole. It took us a while to get there, but it was well worth it. We came around a corner and found ourselves looking at blue water with mountains on one side and picturesque rocks on the other. To put it in words that have almost been made cliché by this amazing island, it was a breathtaking view. There were numerous surfers out on the waves and a few couples and families lying on the beach.  While we were walking, one of the guys with us realized he had forgotten his sunscreen. So we made a quick stop at a grocery store so he could purchase a small bottle. I accompanied him into the store and started browsing through the various sunscreen selections and their respective prices. To my bewilderment, the cheapest bottle that I saw was almost fifteen dollars! It was a pretty small bottle and was a brand that could be found in the states. I thought maybe it was expensive because it was an American brand, but even the brands I didn’t recognize were outrageously expensive. After we bought a small bottle for the $15, we headed started again for the beach. When we got there, I started watching the people on the beach to see if any of them were using sunscreen. I could not believe that Brazilians would pay such exorbitant prices for something I thought was so commonplace. After walking about half a mile on the beach and seeing probably close to a hundred sunbathers on their towels, I had yet to see even one bottle of sunscreen, let alone someone actually using some. I thought back and realized I hadn’t seen anyone using it on the last beach outing last week either. This started me thinking about other differences I had seen between our US culture and the Brazilian and Argentine cultures I have had the privilege of experiencing the past few weeks. I realized something quite interesting.
           Americans are thought of as the most obese nation on earth. Indeed, new studies come out all the time revealing more of the problem of obesity in the US and how it’s only growing. Although this is a serious problem and much needs to be done to try and curb the explosion of overweight people, my various travels have suggested that the United States are not quite as unhealthy as I had once believed. Along with the example of the sunscreen mentioned above, there are other things that I’ve noticed that we believe to be healthy and necessary in the US that aren’t present in other countries. Take exercising, for example. My entire time in Buenos Aires I never saw anyone outside jogging, something you see quite often in my opinion in Atlanta. American’s love of exercising was demonstrated by the large majority of our group that had a regular running schedule each morning or joined the local gym for the month we were in Argentina. Though I’ve only been here for a limited amount of time, Latin American’s seem less worried about maintaining such a workout schedule. Another difference between the US and other countries is the widespread popularity of smoking. I’ve visited numerous Latin American countries and a couple in Europe, and everywhere I’ve been, I have been bothered by the smoke. It has been the worst in Buenos Aires and in Paris, but it’s definitely been worse than the US in almost every country I’ve visited. So, looking at the lack of sunscreen usage, the lesser emphasis on exercising, and the public acceptance of cigarettes, it seems that the US isn’t quite as low on the health scale as we have been led to believe. This does not excuse our love for huge portions of food or other unhealthy areas of our culture. I simply thought it was interesting that though the US is always stereotyped as an obese, unhealthy nation, we have a number of healthy habits that are absent in other countries. There are still many things that we could do better, however.

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Puerto Iguazu
photo by: jeffy