South America, Things to do

What NOT to do in Brazil as a tourist

Since the World Cup in Brazil is soon to be starting, there are lots of things that the hundreds of thousands of people heading there should take into consideration. It would be silly to think that you can know all of a nation’s secrects and cultural idiosyncrasies, but it would also be a shame not to take some advice into account. And even if the Brazilians are quite a nice friendly bunch, is always welcome when it comes to different cultures. Ruining an awesome experience because of the smallest least important things would be a shame.

Don’t lose your patience. And forget punctuality

The first and most important thing is to accept that these differences don’t necessarily mean that Brazilians are inferior to other civilizations, rather that they’ve just got their own ways and mechanisms of coping with things. And if you want your trip to Brazil to be fun and not a chore of a holiday, you’d better have it their way. For instance, being extremely patient helps. A lot. Getting past the cliché of the devil in the little things, we all know there are some social situations when it works. For instance, if you mind the huge queues from the supermarket to the ATM to the museum or basically wherever you want to go that’s not in the middle of nowhere, you’d better make an effort.

The local way of dealing with queues is constantly checking the email and the social media; it’s perfectly understandable to complain on Facebook or Twitter, but don’t get angry or leave the queue – the reality of waiting whenever they wish to get somewhere or do something’s so common, that’s almost internalized in their nature. Getting mad would only show them a lack of respect for their organization. Also, when a local tells you he’s on his way, don’t hurry too much, the translation for this is ‘I’m still deciding what to wear on our meeting’. Arriving on time here’s quite a performance for the locals, so don’t get your expectations too high on this one. Instead, charge your phone before leaving the room, you may need some distractions!

Beware of their national feelings

You see, living under the impression that the Brazilian people speak Spanish instead of Portuguese is not only false and disturbing for their social reality, but it’s also very degrading and offensive. And under no circumstance should you think that because Spanish and Portuguese are similar languages, using one instead of the other would be the best choice. It’s not, on the international scale of offending foreigners it’s like assuming that someone’s from China and they’re Korean – just the same level of frustration. Also, mocking the local’s English is of no help whatsoever, don’t expect to find the diction of David Frost on the Brazilian streets because it’s not gonna happen, and I’d rather hope to understand what they’re saying.

But you should also understand that they’re not absurd! On the contrary, the Brazilians would be very happy to practice the little English they know and more than content to see you understand what they’re saying and feeling comfortable enough to have a decent conversation with them. Speaking of common linguistic roots, it would probably be a great idea not to mention anything about your allegiances with Argentina, given that they’re fierce competitors, pretty resentful one against the other in terms of sports.

Now don’t imagine they’re the most nationalist people you’ve ever been in contact with. Quite the opposite, you’ll find them very friendly and easy-going, just as long as you don’t insult their country. But when you come to think of it, it’s not even that much of a request, it’s under the incidence of being polite with your hosts. Other than this, they’ll be happy to show you the surroundings and tell you a whole lot of stories about their culture, history and you’ll get to find out pretty interesting facts.

Comparing Brazil with Argentina is also wrong, given their long-time rivalry – and not only in terms of sports. Not even about geographical associations that your brain decides to make, nothing! You’re just not allowed to if you don’t want the locals to think you’re a superficial jerk. And speaking of what you shouldn’t do, confusing and mistaking some places for other places is just another huge mistake – and it’s only natural. When you go and visit someone you never expect the king size bed to be in the bathroom, do you? Some basic things such as knowing the capital city aren’t that hard to be remembered, and for the Brazilians it means a lot to know you’re not completely oblivious to their country.

Don’t forget you’re not at home

Bottled water is the only water you want to drink if you’re not planning on catching God-knows-what disease because the sanitary conditions Brazilians live in. On the other hand, assuming that they’re not clean of being a mess it’s not going to help your image – Brazilians are very clean, they care a lot about not throwing litter out of the car window, washing the teeth after every meal, having two showers a day – so don’t be dirty and messy, they’re clearly not going to like this. Also, if you’re going to stay at a hostel, you’d better clean after yourself – it’s only fair and polite. Plus, if you respect all these little things that really don’t require that much of an effort from your side, you should expect them to be very friendly – in such manner that if you don’t like pictures and answering all kinds of personal questions (that are not taboo for them), you’d better keep the distance from the beginning.

If you’re eating out, don’t make experiments on the food just because it’s Brazilian and you should try it. It’s not only a faulty thinking, but the odds are that you’ll hate some of the national dishes. For instance, quite a known fact in Brazil is not trying to eat barbecue on the restaurant. In fact, you’ll only be doing this if you’re a tourist – the Brazilians only eat barbecue at a barbecue, with some friends. Feijoada, which you’ll probably be tempted to try (and chances are you’ll like it) is best served in the cheaper places – go at a fancy restaurant and ask for it and you’ll never give it another try again.


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