Chapter 8. Do You Know Who You Are Talking To?

It's surprising how frequently colonialismcomes up when you're talking about modern entrepreneurship. Consider Brazil and the United States: Both are huge landmasses with abundant natural resources and large populations. Both were originally inhabited by tribes of Native Americans. Both were explored, conquered, and colonized by Europeans, and both got independence around the same time. Both brought slaves from Africa, and both freed them around the same time, too.

Both are isolationist, and both think they are the most important country on earth, or at least on their respective continents. Each can talk smack about itself, but neither let anyone else. There's a cultural cliché that when affronted, an entitled Brazilian will say "Do you know who you are talking to?" By contrast, the cliché of an affronted entitled American is "Who do you think you are?"[32] One implies a society where status buys favors, the other implies a society where everyone feels entitled to favors, but it's a subtle difference. It's as if America is Brazil's bizarro world and Brazil is America's.

With so much shared history and swagger, how is it that America is a modern-yet-aging superpower and Brazil is still an emerging market? The common answer Brazilians give has to do with the differences between being colonized by the English and the Portuguese. The United States inherited the hard-driving Protestant work ethic, compared to the more contented, veil-of-tears ...

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