Thursday, March 20, 2014

5 Brazilian Quirks

Today I'm going to talk about some Brazilian quirks.  When I use the word "quirk" I'm not talking about stereotypes.  Stereotypes are annoying and not often true (not everyone in California is a surfer dude and not everyone in Alabama is a redneck).  Quirks are just little things that might go unnoticed, but add to the flavor of the place.

Just as stereotypes can vary by region, so can quirks.  I am currently living in Rio, so I'm not going to assume that all of these things are applicable to the rest of Brazil, though some certainly are true of Sao Paulo, as affirmed by Peter.  So even though these might be "Rio only" things, I'm going to use the word "Brazilian," just because it's easier.

1.  Brazilians love the bum bum - Ah, the butt.  In the U.S. women try on clothes and ask each other, "Does this make my butt look big?  Yes?  Ok then I'm NOT buying it!"  In Brazil, women try on clothes and ask each other, "Does this make my butt look big?  Yes?  Great!  I'm getting it!"  It's false that the "Brazilian" wax was invented in Brazil (I believe it started in New York), but the bikinis here certainly require it.  The more behind you can show, the better.  Doesn't matter if you're thin and svelte or built like a whale - you will show off your g-string with pride.  Another random thing is that Brazilian women love tan lines.  Unlike women in the States who try to tan without getting tan lines, Brazilian ladies purposely try to get tan lines. 

2.  Brazilians honk about everything - Honking can me a variety of things in Brazil.  Some common interpretations of the honk:
- Thank you!
- Watch out!
- I'm coming toward you and I'm not slowing down
- Get out of my lane
- You're driving too slow
- I'm annoyed at being stuck in this traffic
- Hey girl, you're cute
- I agree with whatever sign you're holding
- etc. etc.

I'm used to honking pretty much only meaning "look out," so for probably the first month of living here, walking everywhere was a very nerve-wracking experience for me, just because of the fact that I was always jumping and looking around for "danger" whenever I heard a honk (which, of course, happened about every 2 seconds).

3.  Brazilians never give exact change - They always round to the nearest .5 or .10.  They don't even have a 1 cent coin.  And they get really mad if you pay with a R$50 (equivalent of a $20 bill in the States) or higher.

4.  Brazilians do not like to eat with their fingers - Peter assures me that I have not received any weird looks for eating my french fries with my fingers, but he says, "That definitely tells them you're American."  If you are at a barzinho and don't order anything else that requires silverware, they will give you toothpicks to use with the french fries.  Also, ketchup is not common, and I've been given many weird looks when asking for ketchup to go with my fries.  Also, just as they don't like to eat with their fingers, they don't like to drink out of cans or bottles without a cup, or at the very least, a straw.

5.  Thumbs up for everything and everyone - Like honking, thumbs up can mean many things here, but usually it is a form of "thanks:"
- Thanks for letting me cross the street
- Thanks for opening the gate for me
- Thanks for driving the boat that took me across the lagoa
- etc. etc.

Some people joke that they can get into any gated condominium by merely driving up confidently, smiling, and giving a thumbs up.

Some extras:
Most Brazilian expectant mothers have elective c-sections.  In fact, when my friend had her baby, the hospital nurses were so unaccustomed to natural births, that they forgot to deliver her placenta.  It was her first baby, so she had no idea, until 2 weeks later when she got really really sick and had to go to the emergency room!  Also, circumcision is not typically done here.

I'm sure there are plenty more "quirks" that I can think of, but this is all I'll post for now.  I love learning these unique things about each place I visit.  It makes me feel like I'm truly experiencing and living in the culture.

Just for fun, my favorite picture of us taken here

What are some quirks about where you live or places you've visited?

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