When I arrived in Sao Paulo, my Brazilian relatives implored me to never set foot outside our door wearing my (modest) wedding rings or my (modest) fancy watch and recanted horrifying tales of robberies to drive home the notion of the dangers of Sao Paulo. So I walked the streets dressed like a graduate student with a straw purse and what appeared to be an illegitimate child. But soon I began to notice the other women that walked the same streets. Big jewels, big purses, big heels covered in glitzy hardware… Women covered in bling! What? Did my blue eyes and pale Irish skin make me a more obvious victim? I never did get an answer to that question, but I did become intrigued with this aspect of the culture.
If you watch enough American reality television, you might be led to believe that it is commonplace for women in the States to walk around covered in bling (genuine or not). But I’ve lived in five of the six regions where Bravo TV hosts it Real Housewives franchise, and that is just not the “real” reality. Sure, there are neighborhoods in the U.S. where you might see more bling than others, but Brazilians are unique in both the size and style of their jewelry (maybe Italy is a contender), their love of brands (up there with Asia) and their attention to their appearance. For example, my mother-in-law would never, ever leave the house without color on her lips and a pair of earrings in place.
So where does that leave me with my more conservative style and my vulnerable position? Well, I think I need to go out and get myself some Brazilian bling… at least to wear around the house.
See the Brazilian Perspective, Bling Nation.