After 5 incredible months of traveling around Brazil so far, I am staying in Florianopolis for a little while and have found time to start a blog about this amazing country. During my 5 months of traveling I have encountered many surprising things here that are very different compared to the Western Culture. Here are 10 differences that surprised me these past few months:
1 function – 2 people
Organizations in Brazil can be a bit overstuffed. Some people say:
“For every function in Europe, you have it double in Brazil”
And to be honest, I can imagine that. In the supermarkets, there is one extra cashier to put your grocery in a plastic bag; gas stations have people who fill up your car instead of yourself; and in the bus, there is one driver and one person who sells the tickets, even though that makes sense so the bus can move forward faster.
Is it bad? I don’t think so. It is less efficient, but these establishments have better service. Besides, if organizations would work more efficiently, less people would be needed, which, in turn, means employees will get fired therefore creating more unemployment. This country is already in a crisis; it doesn’t need any more problems. It’s not better or worse, it is just different.
If there is something Brazil runs for compared to the Western culture it´s tattoos. For example, in the Netherlands (it is rare to find tattoos outside of certain societal groups, while in Brazil, it is more accepted and more common, especially among young people. I would estimate that more than 40% of people between the ages of 20-30 have a tattoo, regardless of their background. Only the older more conservative people still don’t like it. I personally have nothing with or against it, its everybody’s own decision what you are doing with your body and in my opinion for girls it can make them look sexier. I think it’s one of the remarkable things which shows that you can express yourself in more than one way in this country.
Of course, I would write something about my favourite fast-food restaurant. McDonalds is originally a fast-food restaurant, but in Brazil that word doesn’t even apply. It’s not cheap and not fast at all. You must wait in two lines to get your food. McDonalds is more of a luxury burger restaurant in Brazil. They offer a way better and wider menu of burgers, but it’s more expensive as well. A Big Mac menu is R$25, converted around 7,5 euro. The self-service restaurants are more of the fast-food restaurants in Brazil. In these places, you walk in a buffet, choose some food, the cashier weighs it, you pay, and it´s done. Simple and good as that.
Yeah, the politics in Brazil, as most people know, is not in the best situation right now. It knows a few strange remarks. For example, the government requires you to vote for every kind of election, otherwise you receive a fine. And the way they make sure you are going to vote is to close the bars and clubs the day before election day at midnight, so you are sober enough to vote the next day. Supermarkets don’t sell alcohol a few days before the election either. Is it too controlled though? I believe people should make their own decision to vote or not, but you might think differently.
The way political parties make their campaign is very different as well. During the weeks before the election people drive around in cars and play loud music, party on the street with banners or walk through traffic handing out flyers, mostly in the North of Brazil. If it helps to get people vote for them? I don’t know, it annoys a lot of people and can result in a candidate losing votes, but for me it was funny to see. Got invited by one of the groups partying on the street and they gave me free beers. And yeah, Dutch people love everything what is free.
Another observation of Brazil is the huge metropolitan cities with the countless high buildings like Belo Horizonte below. This is because in Brazil the middle/high class people live in apartments instead of houses. The apartments are safe, protected by walls and very well maintained. In general, the people with less income live in old small houses or even more poor in the favelas in and outside the city centres. Only the very rich people live outside the city in villa’s. The only cities (I have been so far) where it is different are Curitiba, Florianopolis, Brasilia and the centre of Sao Paulo, which more look likes European cities.
Most of the cities in Brazil have no bus schedules, or maybe they have them, but they are not shown at the bus stations. “The bus comes when it comes” is what locals tell me about it. So far, only in Belo Horizonte and Florianopolis were times shown, even though he busses weren’t driving on time..
Brazilians are very polite people, but when it comes to traveling by metro they are quite the opposite. As soon the door goes open, people from outside directly storm inside without waiting for the passengers who are leaving the metro. Also in some cities like Rio the government keeps some parts of the metro apart for woman during rush hours. This because of the sexual assult of woman in the crowd in the past. A positive difference is that there are more braille marks for blind people than in for example the Netherlands and also all the metros and busses in Brazil have seats saved for pregnant, disabled and old people.
Do you need some grocery in Brazil? No need to go to the supermarket. Just go by metro on the way home in big cities like Rio, Sao Paulo or Recife below. Brazilians sell almost every consumer product you can imagine. Not only food and drinks, but also batteries, headphones, cd’s, fruits, shampoo, sponges, toothpaste, toothbrushes and many more.
Some Brazilians who are selling food on the streets could use a few marketing lessons. It amazed me that every time I went to a different place, sellers used the same marketing promotion instead of doing something different. In Sao Luis for example it was 3 Skollbeer for 10R$, in Rio it was 2 Caipirinha for 10R$ and in Brasilia they all had Acai for R$2.
Parties at gasstations
Most of the gasstations in the cities have a place next to the lunchroom where you have a terrace where you can drink beers. It’s a place where people drink before and after going out, or sometimes they spend the whole night there. You also find there the Heineken caves, which remind me of the awesome Heineken commercial a few years ago, check the commercial here https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QghICtdvNH4
Facebook & Instagram
Facebook, you hate or love it. I like it myself and use it a lot to keep people up to date about my travels. In Brazil in general people use it more, but for some girls between 16 to 25 years old, it can be insane. For example, when I visited an old gold mine in Ouro Preto, an old historic town in Minas Gerais, during the day I was accompanied by a group of students from Curitiba. They had been studying architecture and urban spaces and were going to the old gold mine for their class. Some of the girls brought some wine bottles and glasses with them. This of course surprised me, so I asked why. One of their fellow students told me it was for their Instagram account. One of them had more than 2000 followers and they wanted to show their classy style. The rest of the students and the teacher were pretty annoyed by it, but they just let it go for what it was.
The people. For me this is the most important part of what makes a country likeable or not. 90% of the people in Brazil are super, super friendly, trustable and helpful. Some people do it because it’s normal, others really want to help a ‘gringo’ to improve the image of the country. When you ask someone on the street for directions, people don’t only put you in the right direction, but most of them walk with you at least a few meters to make sure you will find it.
They are very bounteous too, even the poor people who sell things on the streets. It happened me multiple times that I ordered a cake or water for 1 or 2 R$ on the street (what is like 30 – 60 eurocent). I had only 50 R$ in my pocket and because the seller didn’t have change, he gave the coffee or cake for free even though he knew I could afford the items.
Another great experience, my best and last story of this blog, was one of my first days in Rio de Janeiro during the Olympic Games. I entered a bar in Lapa, the centre of Rio. In some bars and clubs in Brazil you receive a payment card when you enter. Every time you order a drink the bartender put the drinks on your card and you pay at the end when you leave. Very smart, because you will not realize how much money you spend, which is what happened to me;(. I ordered a few Jägermeister shots whereby I had a bill of R$200. I could pay R$150 cash and the other R$50 by credit card. However, the machine didn’t accept my type of credit card, so I was screwed until the moment I heard someone saying: “No worries bro, I will pay your bill and you can pay me back later”. I didn’t know this guy and didn’t talk to him that night, but out of nowhere, he trusted a strange traveller that he would pay him back. The next day he would go back to Curitiba (South) and me to Fortaleza (North), what made it even more a risk for him that he would not receive his money back. In Fortaleza, I payed him back by a bank transfer and everything was fine. I was amazed. What a guy.
So far my first blog about Brazil, there are way more things to write about, which will follow soon! Please leave a comment if you like, don’t like, agree or disagree with the subjects I have written about.