I recently visited Rio de Janeiro, Brazil for the first time to checkout the Carnival. It was non stop action. I initially thought I could get around Brazil with broken Spanish. That didn’t quite work out. Portuguese doesn’t read like its written! Too many accents on words! Did my head in.
Despite all this I enjoyed making a fool of myself by attempting to learn the language. I realized I’m not going to retain this, but I just enjoyed trying to communicate. Especially with the Brazilians ladies.
Now apart from the beauties of Rio, I noticed a few peculiarities in how people pay for things at restaurants and bars. One of my favourite type of restaurants was the Comida a Kilo. You fill up your plate with all the food you want and the cost is then determined by the weight! Churassco and feijoada were my favourite dishes.
They also got these wicked juice/snack bars on almost every corner of Copacabana and Ipanema. This is where you just hang out and shoot the breeze with other locals. One night I was with a loud mouth New Yorker who decided to ask this young couple where the party was happening that night. They mentioned they were going to a favela party. The New Yorker just burst out laughing roughly saying “dude i would never send you to the Bronx if you asked me in New York, now really tell me where’s the party at? ” This couple laughed a bit, but seemed visibly offended. They then said in a monotone voice ” no were actually going to a favela party” . I smiled and really enjoyed the tension this created! Nice one on the cultural sensitivities Mr. Americano! Apparently its cool for locals to enjoy a local samba party in a favela. But if you’re a foreigner, even from outside the city, its not advised.
By the way safety wise I felt fine. Luckily in my case, many of the locals mistook me for Brazilian, which led me to nodding and laughing in agreement to pretend I knew exactly what they were saying! But yes, you do have to be careful as you do in any big city. The guys can be quite assertive, as are the girls which I didn’t mind obviously. So don’t keep too much cash on you, travel in groups, etc. But for the most part, Brazilians are extremely friendly and happy that you didn’t get scared off by movies such as City of God (watch it).
Anyways the fast food at these juice bars looked and tasted much better than what I expected. I especially enjoyed the Acai drink. They have a system where you pay first, and then take that stub to a 2nd person for the order to be made. I actually thought it resulted in faster service.
Then there was the bars, where the party really starts to begin at about 2 am. You’ve probably heard of bottle service in Vegas. They had a toned down version using a card system. The premise was they give you a card for 50 real for all your drink needs. I found this to be very smart.
Why? Because they got at least 50 bucks out of you. This requires you to chill out for a longer period of time to spend the 50.00 real! Unless of course you are able to slurp down 20 shots in 5 minutes. You don’t wanna leave spending less than 50, cos you feel you didn’t get your money’s worth! Right? So you order till your card runs out. Which is very easy to do. Using a card makes you feel like you’re not spending as much anymore, ie: why they use chips in casino’s. Also because you stay longer, this attracts more people to the joint, cos people wanna go where the party’s at!
Oddly the bar next to this place, Melt in Leblon, does the opposite. They gave you a card too initially, but you pay the damage at the end of the night. Again, when you have plastic, you spend more easily than cash…exactly what the bar owners want! At least you knew before it was just 50. Oh, but you will have a great time! They had a live samba band in the middle of the club.
Apart from the dancing, greeting each other by kissing on cheeks, beach activities, street parties, I didn’t feel too much of a culture shock, until I got back.
They dress the same as us, okay perhaps a little less clothing because of the humidity. But I feel the world is becoming homogenized. You can get the exact same things from any shop.
And yes you can get way with English, but its a shame to only know one language really well. You can’t relate to people the same way. Definitely need to learn more than one to enjoy this world.
ps: check out this nifty idea by the Brazilians. t-shirts that represent old bands and new bands inspired by them:
and here’s a video of me and my friend Kunal at the Samba Dome!! We had fun to say the least: