So I'm convinced that every country in the whole world has its share of ridiculous products and procedures that people believe will help them lose weight or be attractive or stay healthy / prevent illness. Most of these things have some kind of vaguely connected scientific basis, but this scientific benefit gets totally distorted in the interest of profit, and companies market them (and people believe them to be) miracle products.
In the United States, we have....
*The Shake Weight and the Power Plate. Basically people think that machines that shake and vibrate will do the work for them and give their muscles definition."ONLY 15 MINUTES A DAY! Vibration technology! Used by the stars!"
*Aloe Vera. So many Americans think it's a skin cure-all. It's not.
* Airborne. People think that if you take this medicine it can boost your immune system and prevent you from catching colds in public places, like airplanes. This company has been sued under class-action lawsuits for lying in their marketing.
In Brazil, these are some fads that I've never seen in the US. People treat the following things like miracle products and procedures:
*Drenagem linfático: The literal translation is "lymphatic draining." All right. Alexandre had to explain this to me. It's basically a really aggressive massage that can help with swelling. Some swelling is caused by excess liquid in the lymph vessels throughout the body. This "drenagem linfático" can temporarily (as in... for 12-24 hours) relieve swelling for like, people with diabetes or pregnant women. But tons of salons in Brazil market this procedure to lose weight and remove toxins from your body. Here's a ridiculously ridiculous video that gives you an idea. If you don't speak Portuguese, you're losing out on what this woman is claiming. She says this "drenagem" can remove all impurities from your body; it should be done once a week or at least once a month, and your body becomes perfect and healthy! I just don't understand how it removes toxins if there is not even any puncturing of the skin. A little toilet plunger isn't gonna do the trick; it's just gonna give you a big red welt.
*Própolis: The translation of this is apparently just "propolis." It's essentially plant residue that bees collect and use in ways that are similar to the ways they use their own beeswax. But it's a cure-all remedy in Brazil. A lot of people think it can relieve all kinds of ailments.
*Fazer escova: This just means... pay someone to blow-dry and straighten your hair. That's the best translation I know. But a lot of women go to salons JUST to have their hair washed, blow-dried, and temporarily straightened by the hair stylist. My student told me that she was going after class to fazer escova and asked me how to say it in English. I was confused. "Brush your hair?" I asked.
"No no," she said. "At the salon." I was still confused, so I tried to be flexible in my understanding of the word escova.
"Like... to get your hair chemically straightened?"
"No no, just to fazer escova! The hair stylist washes my hair, then he dries it and straightens it. Then it's nice for the weekend."
I was still confused. "But what happens when YOU wash it at home? Does it just go back to normal?"
"So.... fazer escova... is like, after you cut your hair and the hair stylist styles it for you?"
"No no! You don't have to cut your hair first."
"Ok, so is it like getting your hair done before you go to a formal event? Are you going somewhere tonight?" I asked her.
She laughed, amused that I was so confused. "No, I just do this every few days! It's better than when I wash it."
"But how long does it last?" I asked. Her hair was thicker than mine, but not that much thicker.
"About 2 days," she responded.
"I don't think we have a word for this in English," I responded. "I"d just say like, "dry and straighten my hair at the salon."
After class, I looked up fazer escova on YouTube. It seems to be exactly what I understood. I mean, I understand people going to the salon to get their hair permanently straightened, or to get their hair done for a party, but this popular (and witty) video of fazer escova is basically what I do at home in my own bathroom. So I don't understand why women go to the salon to do it, unless they have really thick hair that can go a long time without washing (and even then, it's not a difficult process, so....?). I mean, salons are cheaper than in the US sometimes, but not that much cheaper. And hair straighteners are more expensive, but not that much more expensive. Like 5 visits to the salon would pay for your hair dryer and hair straightener in Brazil. Does anyone have any insight into this? I'm white and have baby thin hair, so maybe there are some ethnicities and hair types that require this treatment???
There are also diseases and ailments that so many people seem to have in Brazil: They are gastrite (gastritis) and labirintite (labyrinthitis, or inner ear infection). What confuses me is that Wikipedia explains "labirintite" as usually being caused by a virus or bacteria, yet so many Brazilians (esp. Brazilian women) say they suffer from it chronically.
So these widespread ailments beg the question: Are they genetic? Environmental? Or is it just the idea that you've heard about so many other people that have the problem that you start to read your symptoms as this problem, too? Are these problems akin to like, restless leg syndrome in the US? (I know it's real, Patty, just like gastritis and inner ear infections!). I'm suggesting that they're problems that are commonly discussed and publicized, and this causes people to attribute other symptoms to these problems.
So.... discuss! Every society is guilty of these miracle products and all-too-common but culturally-specific diseases. What other examples have you thought of, from any country? Can you explain any of my mysterious observations in Brazil? Do share!