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December 10, 2008


Carin Rubenstein

A great post! You should absolutely sell this to the old-fashioned print media...


I've given a lot of thought to the whole inefficiency thing here and have come to the conclusion that it's not that things here are inefficient, it's just that Brazilians have a different way of thinking about efficiency than we do in the US. Sometimes it makes me want to throw a tantrum I get so frustrated, but then I tell myself to remember that this isn't the US and so I have to accept the way it is here.

The ambiguity does drive me crazy though. Everything is made up of extremes here. I just want some boring, middle of the road stuff sometimes!



Fantastic post!

It's nice to see us brazilians through your eyes... I lived abroad, but being back to Brazil I sometimes forget about these little details that makes us such an adorable people! ;)


Excellent post.

Ambiguity on #1 was perfect.


Congratulations for your blog!! This post is a very nice one!! I really like to read your opinion about us,brazilians... About the point-Meaning what you say:I think it's a tipical carioca thing!! I live in Rio and I have a boyfriend who is from the south, too. He says that there it doesn't happen: if you say you will call you actually have to call. It's the same for invitations...I 've heard from many brazilians from other parts of Brazil the same opinion. Maybe it deserves a poll...rsrsrs. I have to say that I would be the first one to admit this behavior...but, I try not to do this with "foreigners" - from abroad or from brazil !


I agree with you except for the item “sped of life”. I don’t know how things are in Rio but in Sao Paulo everything is crazy, fast. OK, traffic is something REALLY slow there.
When I arrived at Toronto I’ve got shocked how people are slow here. You go to Mc Donald’s and have to wait forever for a sandwich or just a juice. Not to mention customer service everywhere else.
Who lives in Sao Paulo gets used to rush all the time and maybe that’s why paulistas complains about cariocas thinking they (cariocas) are lazy. Well, you might know about that stupid “bairrismo” between Sao Paulo and Rio.
Regarding the other items, sometimes I don’t feel Brazilian myself because everything you’ve mentioned always bothered me while living in Brazil. A friend of mine used to tell me that I’m more “european”. LOL
But I’ve got tell you, I thought the things you mentioned were a “bad side” of being Brazilian, but after I’ve learnt more about China I just can’t believe how a human being can live like that.
The big cities are so crowd that privacy is something totally impossible in the streets or even at home.
As you can read Portuguese I can recommend a blog for you. It is about a Brazilian/Japanese lady who has been living in Beijing for more than 5 years: http://simonenachina.blog.terra.com.br
You know, Brazil is a wonderful country but there are a lot of things that must change.


This is correct when you´re talking about RIO DE JANEIRO, where you´re in, but if you travel to different parts of the country, specially going south, the reality can not be far different

Paula Pedrosa

Rachel, maybe you should change de subject to "Top ten things you better get used to in Rio", because many things you wrote about are very different here in São Paulo.
Some are just the same.

Paula Pedrosa

THE subject, sorry!!!


Let me correct you. Here in Brazil it is not polite to show up at someone's house without calling first. If someone is doing that to you, you should complain because it is not something we are used to do.

Rio Gringa

Hey Paula,
As far as I can tell, the only major difference in Sao Paulo is the speed of things, but I get the impression that the rest of the things apply.

From an American perspective, calling 10 minutes before, or even an hour before you come over is as good as showing up unannounced. I forgot to mention that tidbit.


Rachel, tem outra coisa com a qual se deve ter muita paciencia no Brasil (pelo menos em Sao Paulo, mas acredito que seja assim em todo o pais): escada rolante.
Aqui em Toronto a maioria das pessoas fica do lado direito, deixando o lado esquerdo livre para aqueles que estao com pressa, mas no Brasil isso nao acontece. As pessoas sempre ocupam os dois lados do degrau e nunca, nunca deixam voce passar.
Quanto a amigos aparecerem na sua casa sem avisar, ou avisar com pouca antecedencia, tambem nao via acontecer, pelo menos comigo.
Em Sao Paulo eu via que as pessoas sempre se programavam antes por causa do transito, entao fica dificil voce querer aparecer de surpresa na casa de alguem e dar com a porta na cara, como se diz.
Ja no interior eu via isso acontecer direto. A pessoa estava passando na rua e resolvia “dar uma passadinha” na casa de Fulano para uma visita.

Rio Gringa


Oh my goodness, I totally forgot about that one. People do frequently block both sides of the escalator, but this applies to other places as well, like stairways and sidewalks. It drives me nuts because I'm usually walking 3 times faster than everyone else and I'm forced to slow down and wait! Good one!


I will reinforce similar opinions already posted here and say that many things that you perceive as "Brazilian" are in fact peculiarities of Rio alone. For instance the personal space thing - it is completely different in my state, Minas Gerais, where people tend to seat far away from each other in restaurants/buses/whatever. Remember, Brazil is a huge country and making conclusions based on a single city sometimes will look like, say, a Brazilian going to Dallas and concluding that Americans in general are fond of using bull horns in front of their cars. :)

Anyway, nice blog, it is always interesting to see my own country through the eyes of a foreigner... Thanks for posting!


Rachel! Sorry I missed your birthday! Hope it was a good one :) 24 is not so bad, it means you're officially in your mid-20's, and people start taking you seriously. I remember when I was upset about my 22nd birthday, getting off the high of being 21 and frustrated that my boss had signed me up for a class from 6 to 9pm after a day of work on my birthday. Then they had a little cake for me and another guy at the office who was turning 64 on that same day. He was all smiles, excited, and proud of his age. How could I be upset after seeing that? Shame on me. On that note, my grandma turned 82 on the same day you turned 24, I just posted something about it :)



And I agree with Paula, that are a lot of things you say that applies only to Rio. Let me comment on all topics.

10. Driving. - I don't quite agree. IMHO, driving in São Paulo is as hard as in Manhattan, maybe Manhattan is worse.
9. Privacy. - Again, I don't think it polite to show up at someone's house with being invited unless you are a really close person.
8. Lines. - True
7. Meaning what you say. - Only in Rio. In Rio de Janeiro, if you ask someone for directions, actually for anything, they will never answer "I don't know". It's not like that in other parts of the country.
7b. Spontaneity. - Only in Rio
6. Change. - True. Don't worry about the cashier getting annouyed with you. I prefer to use a Debit Card.
5. Personal space. - Exagerated, but true. I would quote Wikitravel - " While talking, they may stand closer to each other than the regular American or Northern European, and also tend to touch each other more. It’s not uncommon to touch each other on the shoulder or arm occasionally while speaking and visitors should not take this as impolite or as a violation of personal space."
4. Duration of social events. - True. Don't ever throw a party or any kind of event at your house if you have to get up early on the next day.
3. Speed of life. - Only in Rio. Actually, it's very different from place to place.
2. Efficiency. - I don't know if efficiency is the correct name for this. A lot of people, specially in Rio, value the Malandragem Culture (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Malandragem) and because of that there are a lot of people here trying to be a smart-ass. Also, labor costs here are lower here, so business tend to hire people for stupid tasks as the one you mentioned (double checking the tickets to prevent smart-asses to exist without paying).
1. Ambiguity. - True. But we don't understand the USA's electoral process as well and why blue is the color of the left wing party and red is the color of the right wing party.

I suggest you take a look at Wikitravel (http://wikitravel.org/en/Brazil). It has a very precise description of Brazil.



haha - great list rachel!!

i do agree with the other comments though - having been raised by mineiros and living in são paulo, there are a lot of differences between people who live in the two states, and i can imagine rio being even more different! overall though, there is a lot of truth in what you wrote. and the title is the most important - - better get used to it bc you're not changing anyone here!" haha

i read a great blog post the other day about a girl who just recently moved to são paulo so you can get a better idea as to what we mean when we say são paulo is VERY different from rio - http://eugostodeumacoisaerrada.wordpress.com/2008/11/26/o-que-os-6-meses-de-sao-paulo-me-ensinaram/

maybe you should come visit sometime to get a feel :-)


Rio Gringa

Note for all: this list is not only based on my experience in Rio, but in my experience all over Brazil, as well as my American friends' experiences throughout Brazil. It's important to keep in mind that this is all based on an outsider perspective--things may seem different to people who have lived here all their lives. There certainly are regional differences, but the list is based on universal issues I've found all over the country.


To summarize, what you are trying to say is that Brazilians don't know how to drive safe, don't have any sense of privacy, love lines, say anything just to please you, are wildly spontanous like monkies, slow and unefficient. And that's an opinion from an outsider, which is usually better.

Rio Gringa

Nope, I'm saying that what is weird, annoying, or frustrating to me may be things that Brazilians are accustomed to. Unfortunately, not all cultural differences are viewed as positive.

PS. It's "monkeys," and you were the one to use that word, not me. Also, as far as I know, monkeys aren't spontaneous.


Oh my god, i just have to comment it number by number, ok? My point of view, as a brazilian:

10. Driving.
Though its not that easy to get involved in and accident (I never ever did, with anyone, except minor car crashs, but probably because i and my family are very careful drivers), yeah, the traffic is awful and drivers are usually very unpolite.

9. Privacy.
Abolutely true, though I consider it not to be 'normal' but very, very unpolite. I dont do these stuff and people around me dondt do it, also.But its common

8. Lines.

7. Meaning what you say.

7b. Spontaneity.

6. Change.

5. Personal space.
True, true and true, and GOD how I hate it.

4. Duration of social events.
True. Id prefer them to have a time for starting and ending, but thats not how it works.

3. Speed of life.
Well, that may be real in Rio or Bahia, but here in Sao Paulo people are totally freaked out about time and abut hurrying up. But I dont have an opinion about it being good or bad...

2. Efficiency.
True and it makes me crazy everyday. I just dont get used to it ok, I was born in this and I just cant accepet how thing (doenst) work here.

1. Ambiguity.
That one is so true, also, and as you, Im not able to explain it.

Brilliant post, lucid analysis. Lots of people will be born, raise and die here and won't notive most of these stuff.



The monkey was my word and it was added just to sound aggressive. It servers as a reminder that is very difficult to talk about culture, especially one that you are trying to understand now.

Also, I don't have any problems with negative views and I share many of them with you. But that are two things that annoy me 1-Misconceptions, which is what we are discussing here and trying to fix; 2 - You are not willing to change your opinion, that is a problem. You should not consider your opinion right just because you are an outsider. Please be open to discussion or close the damn comments.

Fernando Mafra

My second time here. And what a treat. Excelent views: The Good the Bad and The ugly. Although it's complicated to narrow everything down considering how big Brazil is in general terms (and I would dare to say that your impressions are very much based on Rio and adjacent states), I think you got it down just right. Brazil is bittersweet for those who live here, native or not. And I always appreciate gringos that take their time to understand it and come to terms with it instead of just plundering and shrugging.

Rio Gringa

A discussion requires more than one point of view, and the chance for rebuttal. It seems you're the one not willing to see from another point of view, especially an outsider one.



Come on. You are post doesn't precisely reflect our culture, ie, it has misconceptions. And frankly, it is a little offensive. I defend many aspects of the american culture in an almost daily basis because there are many things that we, brazilians, don't understand about the USA. I am pretty sure you know what I mean. So, let's not spread misconceptions. And again, it is pretty hard to make the generalizations that you are making when you talk about Brazil.

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