Brazilians are very warm, friendly people. If you are staying with a local, within days the whole neighborhood will know everything about you.
Don't be alarmed, Brazilians love meeting new people, and having a visitor is a novelty for them, especially if you visit a small town. It's inevitable that a party will be thrown in your honor – any excuse to make a batch of feijoada (stew of beans with beef and pork).
There are hundreds of festivals celebrated throughout the year in Brazil. The best known is Carnaval, but there are so many more. During the month of June, Festa Junina celebrates the European Midsummer saints, and was introduced by the Portuguese during colonial times. Locals dress up in traditional country clothing, and there's lots of dancing, music, and of course, food.
Whatever you do, don't show up to a party on time – guests are usually between an hour to three hours late. If you arrive on time, you might be waiting alone for a long while.
Want to feel like a Carioca (resident of Rio)? Drink coconut water or coffee. Along the beach vendors use machetes to cut the top off coconuts. Enjoy sipping on a coconut while you sit on the beach to blend in.
Most Brazilians brew coffee first thing in the morning and keep a flask with them all day. If you're out, you might start to notice local shops and banks always have a thermos on hand for customers.
Drinking Coca Cola is not so popular in Brazil, but if you like soft drinks, try Guarana Antarctica, which gives you a nice little pick-me-up.
In Brazil, people work hard to make a few dollars in any way they can. For many years flanelinhas (unofficial parking attendants) would help guide drivers into parking spots, and then request the equivalent of US $0.50 as protection money, as they promise to make sure your car doesn't get keyed in your absence. These men no longer operate in larger cities of Brazil because parking meters have since been introduced, but in a country with a struggling economy, it's easy to see why there are so many hustlers.
Other hustling examples include impressive sand castles in all shapes and sizes along the beaches, but if you stop to take a photo, a man or woman will approach you and ask for a tip. While it is polite to tip the person who built the sand sculptures, this can be an inconvenience because at the time you took the photo, you were unaware of the fee.
People sell all sorts of items on the beaches and streets of Brazil, from lollies and prawns to household items like toothbrushes and shoes. Even jugglers run between cars in traffic jams and juggle balls to make a coin. If you're impressed, help them out.
Unlike tipping culture in the USA and Canada, tipping at bars and restaurants is not a thing in Brazil (though a 10% service charge is often added to the bill). But, visitors often do pay a little more than locals would for items sold on the streets. There's an unofficial "tax" that applies to travelers everywhere around the world, and I guess that's just a fee that comes with the privilege of traveling.
Cheese is such a popular menu item in Brazil that they get a little lazy writing it down, and because X sounds kind of like the word cheese it's written as X instead of queijo. One of the most popular foods in Brazil happens to be the X-TUDO, which is a cheeseburger with the works.
While most South American countries speak Spanish, in Brazil they speak Portuguese. Don't make the mistake of crossing the border from Argentina to Brazil and continuing to speak Spanish – learn how to speak a bit of Portuguese.
Here are a few words of local slang to help you get by:
Most Brazilians love the sound of English, so be prepared for locals to practice their English on you.
Brazilians are known to wear skimpy bathing suits. But don't let their revealing swim wear confuse you. Many Brazilians are strictly Catholic, and quite conservative. Mind your manners in Brazil – a foul mouth or using sexual innuendo might lead to trouble or come across as a sign of disrespect.
Across South America music is a huge part of culture. In Brazil, they love the melody and dancing to the beats, and you will definitely be familiar with music pumping through the speakers every now and again – popular music in English-speaking countries is popular in Brazil, too. Even if they don't understand the English lyrics, they sing along anyway.
In Rio, Funk parties were once thrown in the favelas, but have since been shut down by police who are trying to dismantle the power structure of Rio's armed drug gangs. If you do get invited, only travel there in a group, as they are known to get out of control very fast. The safest option is to politely decline the offer.
If you make a new acquaintance and want to take it to the next level, don’t ask “shall we go back to your place?”
With a large majority of young people living at home well into their late twenties and early thirties, it remains taboo to bring home any lovers. So, when a special occasion like this arises, they go to a motel. You can book any time frame, whether it be three hours or the entire night with your new flame.
When you travel around, especially in Rio, be careful with your posessions. Keep it in a secure place, tucked away where nobody can see. Keep some cash in your shoes, underpants, bra – but not your pockets.
When getting money out of an ATM, limit how much you get out at each time, and only use ATMs during the day.
Avoid walking around crowded areas with your phone, camera, wallet or any flashy jewelry on display. Talented pickpockets operate in gangs around crowded areas. One person distracts, one steals, one stashes stolen items, and the other keeps watch.
Don't dismiss advice from locals if they tell you that it's unsafe to be out after dark. In places such as Ipanema and Copacabana, it's best to go inside after 7pm.
A big mistake many travelers make is wearing outrageous t-shirts, hats and brightly colored clothing. With a bit of sunburn, you can pretty much guarantee you will end up a target for pickpockets. In cities such as Rio and São Paulo there are many people who will take advantage of travelers.
Football is king in Brazil, so unless you know a lot about the sport, don't go wearing a club shirt or you might find yourself involved in a very heated conversation you don't really understand.
Plumbing is pretty basic in Brazil, so place your used toilet paper in the bin provided beside the toilet.
When you take a shower, keep your mouth closed and don't use tap water to brush your teeth. Never drink the tap water, always boil it first. Try to avoid buying a stack of plastic water bottles – instead, purify your own water when you are at your accommodation.
Bryn Bailer had her drink spiked in Prague. Now she shares her advice so you can keep yourself and your drinks safe on a night out.
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