I SAY Mexico, you say tequila. I say Jamaica, you say reggae. I say Australia, you say kangaroo. I say Iceland, you say brrr. I say Brazil, you say…

It’s funny how a country’s cultural diversity can be reduced to a simple word. I have been in South Africa for a month now and every time I meet someone new and tell them I’m Brazilian I get the same stereotypical reaction: “Aww! Brazil?! Soccer, Carnival, beaches!”

It’s even worse when I get the “checking-you-out stare” because most people expect Brazilian women to be drop-dead gorgeous, to say the least.

Well I’m more of a countryside person, I don’t like the Carnival fuss, I actually cried when Brazil was knocked out of the World Cup and I’m definitely no Adriana Lima. But I guess 1 out of 4 doesn’t make me less Brazilian.

I’m not saying nationality stereotypes are always very far from the truth. Most Brazilians are indeed crazy about Carnival. A week ago, after Carnival, my Facebook news feed page was flooded with “hangover after partying like crazy 4 days straight” status updates.

Carnival is a festival traditionally held in Catholic countries that takes place 40 days before Easter, marking the beginning of Lent. Every year, four days before Ash Wednesday, Brazil nearly stops to hold its most popular – after the World Cup, of course – event.

But to make things clear, what you see on TV is the Samba Parade, which is a competition among samba schools, so people literally dress to impress.

As absurd as it may sound, I have had to explain to a few South Africans that I don’t dance around wearing nothing but feathers and heels. Cape Town’s Carnival is tomorrow, and I doubt I will see any varsity students parading along Long Street wearing a tiny bikini and body paint.

I suppose South Africans feel the same about misleading stereotypes when foreigners think they will come here and find monkeys running around the streets of Joburg.

What I like the most about South Africa is this mixture of people with such different backgrounds, and I refuse to shorten this richness into one word.

Now if I say Ireland, you will hopefully tell me a long story about how you spent St. Patrick’s Day yesterday.