I’ve Lived in Brazil for 6 Years, and Here Are 10 Curious Things That Surprised Me
Hi everyone! My name is Tatiana, and I’m 37 years old. 6 years ago, I moved from Saint Petersburg to Rio de Janeiro where I live with my Brazilian husband and 2 children. I didn’t know much about this country before I moved besides that fact that everyone here loves soccer and that they’re famous for their Telenovelas. But now, I’m familiar with the lifestyle here and the habits of local people and I even have my own blog about my life in Brazil.
Especially for Bright Side, I will take the readers of this article on a small tour around the country and tell you about the everyday life of Brazilians.
1. Brazilians understand style and fashion in their own way.
Tanned women who are not very skinny are considered to be extremely attractive in Brazil. Women prefer minimalism in terms of clothing, because it’s really hot here! It’s not unusual to see a short skirt or shorts, a top with an open back, or very tight leggings. Nobody here worries about their physical shape. So, even if a woman wears plus size, she can still confidently put on tight leggings. And everyone here also wears the Havaianas flip-flops. They are worn to work, to restaurants, to the beach, and when walking around.
And some beauty habits of the locals continue to amaze me. The most stunning question I’ve probably been asked was, “How do you dye the hair on your arms?” As it turns out, here, they don’t remove the hair on arms and legs, but instead they lighten it.
Brazilians take very good care of their teeth. I’ve never seen anyone here with yellow teeth: they brush them after every meal and in restaurants, you can even find dental floss, mouthwash, and other hygiene products.
2. Anyone can take part in Carnival.
Carnival is the calling card of Brazil. Some locals try to leave town during Carnival because nobody works during this period. But most people love Carnival: they prepare for it over the whole year.
The main event happens at Sambadrome. On regular days, this is an ordinary street with cars and other things, but during Carnival it is blocked and it turns into a stadium. There are many samba schools that take part in Carnival, everyone wears amazing costumes, and they sing and dance. This is a real holiday! Of course, when I saw it for the first time, I was incredibly impressed. And soon I found out that literally anyone who wants can take part in Carnival: all you have to do is buy a costume.
So, last winter my dream came true. I took part in Carnival in Rio de Janeiro. We were driving a really cool decorated car and we were dancing! I paid $130 for the costume and participation but the memories I got were priceless.
3. There is a huge contrast in the quality of life of different people in Brazil.
The biggest part of the population of Rio de Janeiro lives in slums (favelas). Middle-class people and very wealthy people live in extremely expensive condominiums. It’s like there are 2 worlds or 2 planets there. Everything is different: all the buildings, the people and their lifestyle, the appearance, the way they talk, their habits, and their culture.
Favelas are 2-3 story buildings located in a very unorganized and chaotic manner. It’s dirty there. There are power lines right above your head and there is graffiti everywhere. Most people who live in favelas never finished school and there is a lot of crime. The government tries to help the people who live there by paying them an allowance, kind of like welfare.
And on the other side, there are the elite and comfortable houses. A condominium is a group of tall buildings which have one fence and a guard post. There are swimming pools, playgrounds, rooms for huge events, and other nice things like movie theaters, beauty salons, and gyms — it all depends on the price of the apartment. There are a lot of palm trees, stores, pharmacies, and supermarkets — you don’t even need to go into town. Well-educated people live here like engineers, lawyers, doctors, and actors.
It is really hard to get away from favelas, but it is possible. You have to work hard and get an education. There are different people with different lives, some of them have several jobs just to earn enough money for their children. But not all the people in favelas are ready to change their lives. Many of them don’t even want to work and they are used to living like this.
4. Almost all middle-class families have a housekeeper.
Almost all of the staff at the condominiums are people who live in the poor districts. In many families, there is a housekeeper who comes once or twice a week and helps them with the cleaning. If a girl comes more than 2 times a week, she needs to work legally. It is pretty hard to get this type of job and you are really lucky if you do. But there is a paradox: it’s hard to find a housekeeper too — many people are just too lazy to work.
When I was looking for a housekeeper, I had the same problem. One girl simply could not show up when she was supposed to, and if she did some cleaning, she did a poor job. Another one didn’t like cleaning when I was around, and she could come up with thousands of reasons why she couldn’t work. The third girl didn’t like it when I asked her to reschedule the cleaning because she tried to come when she was sick and I had just had a baby. After several months I finally found a responsible woman who does her job really well and doesn’t disappear.
5. Everyone wears hats and jackets when it’s 70°F.
The coldest month in Brazil is July. Well, it’s not really cold: in Rio, the temperature hovers from 62°F at night to 70°F during the day. It’s also pretty rainy. Once I was in the elevator when I met my neighbor who was really worried about the terrible cold outside: she was wearing a parka, a scarf, and boots. The temperature was 64°F!
It’s funny that even if the temperature is around 86°F, the beach will still be empty: it’s winter after all. There are fewer people in the streets, and in stores you can buy warm coats and even hats. I actually like the local winter and I look forward to it: I can enjoy nature and I can walk outside without being extremely hot.
But in the southern part of the country, closer to Argentina, winters are sometimes quite cold: the temperature can be as low as 23°F, and there is even some snow.
6. Some movie theaters cater to very small children.
This became possible several years ago when young mothers from São Paulo agreed in an online forum to go to the movies with their babies. Now, you can come to the movie theater with a child that is younger the age of 18 months. They show different movies and usually these events are sponsored by companies that make products for children.
This is what it looks like: the theater is full of mothers with children, the adults watch the movie, and children can cry, run around, crawl, scream, and play. Often, when one child starts crying, all the other children do the same. On the floor, next to the screen, there are children’s toys and a special table where you can change your child’s diaper.
7. There are no trains in Brazil.
It is strange that a country as large as Brazil doesn’t have trains. The distances between the cities are quite far, but you can only use cars, planes, or buses. The best way to travel is by plane, but it is really expensive so few people can afford it.
And there are a lot of places you can see: national parks, canyons, waterfalls, and many other things. If you want to travel, you will want to be able to speak Portuguese at least somehow because most Brazilians don’t speak English.
8. Warm hugs are for friends and for strangers.
Brazilians have one habit I can’t get used to: when they meet you or say goodbye, they kiss each other on both cheeks. More than that, they do it with friends and with people they meet for the first time. Both men and women kiss, and it’s just a way of greeting people, there is nothing bad about it. Brazilians love this tradition that can sometimes take several minutes while they kiss 20-30 people.
9. Some unusual things about everyday life
- People in Rio have a relaxed lifestyle. For example, if you bought a washing machine and want to have it delivered, you might not get it in time and nobody will even warn you. If you decided to redecorate your house, be ready that it will take 2-3 times longer and the quality will probably be worse than you expect. In the South, the situation is different: there the people are way more responsible.
- In Brazil, it’s almost impossible to return a product to a store. If you buy something (clothing, shoes, devices, bags, and so on), it will be really hard to return it and get a refund. Many stores just won’t do it. However, you can exchange it for a new product instead of yours within a month.
- There is no hot water in the kitchen. Because of this there is always a feeling that you didn’t wash the dishes perfectly. Get a dishwasher.
- Expensive and poor internet connection. Sometimes there is no internet connection for several days, especially if it is rainy outside.
- They add a lot of ice to beverages. Always! The drinks here are not just cold, they are freezing!
10. People here really do love soccer and surfing.
Everyone here loves soccer. They watch all the games, they are proud of their team, and soccer players here are national heroes. When there is some big tournament, everyday life stops and all the attention is focused on the game. Several hours before the game of the national team, Brazilians dress in yellow T-shirts and start watching TV. It doesn’t matter where they are: at a hospital, in a taxi, at a diner, or just out in the street.
Some companies even give their employees the day off if there is an important game. And, everyone plays soccer: the people who live in favelas (by the way, many famous players grew up there) and the middle-class people.
Another sport they love is surfing. I would even say that it is just as popular as soccer and you can see a lot of people surfing in the sea.
Bonus: These things could only happen in Brazil
Can’t break this breaker.
What an angle!
Would you like to go to Brazil? Tell us in the comment section below.