This is, by many measures, a fine time to be a single woman in Brazil. Some 600,000 tourists have come to Brazil for the World Cup, and an unofficial survey suggests that 90 per cent of them are men. Many arrived with preconceived (and sometimes problematic) ideas about the inherent sexiness of Brazilian women; most came determined to have a good time.
The net result, if you are a Brazilian woman tired of the machista culture of the men of your own nation, if you fancy an estrangeiro boyfriend who might treat you better, or just a foreign fling: The numbers are very much in your favour.
Ask, for example, Camilia Pedro, 23, and her two pals, who one recent evening were perched on tall stools in front of a bar in Lapa, the all-night-street-party neighbourhood that has been thrumming throughout the Cup. The three insisted they already had boyfriends, and innocently made plans to meet for a drink – never expecting they would be the only women visible for blocks, and enough of a lure to stop traffic in both directions on the sidewalk.
They drew the attention of Rafael Pismel, 29, and a friend, who stopped in front of them to exclaim in hearty but heavily Portuguese accented English, “Welcome to Brazil!”
Ms. Pedro and her friends squinted at them and the men then sheepishly confessed to being, in fact, Brazilian. “How else is a guy going to meet a girl around here? All the women just want gringos,” sighed Mr. Pismel. (In Brazil, the term gringo is used to describe a foreigner of any nationality.)
“They’re really, really nice, the gringos – they’re better behaved than Brazilians,” Ms. Pedro said, surveying the vast ring of men who were surveying her right back. “They’re all hoping we’ll talk to them. The Africans and the Italians and the Latins are the most open. The Americans and the Dutch and the Germans are a bit shy.”
The shyness factor, however, is being mitigated through Tinder, better known as the “hook-up app,” which uses GPS mapping to allow users to check out the pictures of anyone looking for company in their immediate vicinity.
“Tinder usage has increased in Brazil by nearly 50 per cent since the start of the World Cup,” said Rosette Pambakian, director of communications for Tinder, which is owned by IAC/InterActiveCorp. “The average time spent on Tinder is up by nearly 50 per cent as well. Brazil is our third largest market, just behind the U.S. and U.K.”
Khayna Costa, a 20-year-old esthetician, was out on the street in Lapa last week, drinking and smoking with friends. Her eyes flicked continually between the stream of men passing by and the screen of her phone, where Tinder messages popped up from men who had “matched” her.
“My friends have been stalking gringos like jaguars,” she said. “They don’t care what they look like, they just want a gringo.” She paused. “But a lot of them are really cute.” Her friends don’t speak English, and the gringos don’t speak Portuguese. “But they don’t mind that. They say it’s even better that way.”
Ms. Costa has so far been out with an American and a Frenchman she met on the app, and met an Argentine and an Italian in bars. The first two were nice enough – but the Frenchman shoved his face in her cleavage and the Argentine was only interested because she fulfills a stereotype of a curvaceous mixed-race Brazilian women, she said.
In the end, she’s not sure there is any point pursuing gringos. “They’re all men: They’re all the same below the waist, aren’t they?”
Carol Chang, a 28-year-old Sao Paulo designer, tried out Tinder earlier this year and wasn’t that interested, but got into it again before the Cup started, when she heard about the increased gringo activity. (Many men set their location to the Brazilian city where they were going to see games ahead of time, in order to get a jump on competition.) It became such a buzz in her circle that she set up a Tumblr blog of screenshots of gringos in Brazil – and was soon flooded with pictures from women across the country.
“I’ve had loads of e-mail from women who had installed Tinder a while ago, deleted it, and then decided to reinstall it when they saw the Tumblr and how many gringos there were,” she said. “Foreign people are always more interesting.”
Scott, a 29-year-old aviation analyst from Australia who declined to give his last name, made good use of Tinder in the southern Brazilian city of Curitiba, where he went to see his national team play. One night he found himself at a table in a bar where three women, all ostensibly strangers, turned out to be people who had already “matched” him on Tinder. “It was crazy,” said Scott, whose very blond hair and very blue eyes make him stand out in a Brazilian crowd. “You get the feeling you’re the first group of foreigners to really go through a place like that.”
His last night in Curitiba, after the game, his phone battery had died and he was left wondering how he would figure out the way back to his AirBnB crash pad. But then a young woman called his name out a car window: She recognized him as a “match” from Tinder, he said, and she got him home just fine.
This story has been corrected to show that Tinder is owned by IAC/InterActiveCorp and not Facebook