Usual Brazilian Customs

“Happiness is not a station you arrive at but a manner of travelling.” Margaret Lee Runbeck

Every culture is different. When in another country, orientation is needed or a person may do strange or offensive things. The language school we attended when first in Brazil was the school of “Portuguese e Orientação.” To Illustrate a difference—In a work related environment it is not acceptable to wear jeans—that applies to being part of a church worship service. Since I’d like to hope that some of my readers will visit my “terra” I’ll clue you in on few situations to help you fit in.

Brazilians show their friendliness by being more “touchy feeling” than most of us cool North Americans. They will give a hug while touching cheeks, not a handshake unless you are somewhat threatening. Even when you arrive at the airport, since you are a friend of a friend, you’ll be hugged. I have mentioned this in a blog—a church where I received hundreds of kisses along with many just plain hugs. They don’t mind getting close though we might consider it invading our space.

There are few finger food in Brazil. It is quite ordinary for us North Americans to pick up a leg of fried chicken with the fingers. But generally even sandwiches, hamburgers and pizzas are cut up and taken with a fork—it makes no difference if you’ve just washed your hands. You may use a serviette to pick up finger food and it often is rude to do otherwise. Remember their paper serviettes tend to be smooth.

Brazilian streets are interesting. Many small shops will put a few tables and chairs on the street so that it can be a place to stop for a sandwich and a drink. Those streets are crowded and are noisy partly because Brazilians have Latin blood that makes them gregarious. Don’t mind the noise but enjoy it. You will also run into small carts on the street that sell a variety of foods. Yes, I used to buy food from those carts but I was never sick as a result. On a warm day there is nothing better than a slice of pineapple for it would be sweeter and juicier than those shipped long distances to us here.

One of their fruits is the avocado. Of course when freshly picked they are meatier and taste better than what we buy here. For Brazilians the taste is best when in a smoothie or a mousse. Me? I like them best when I can drink one from a glass or eat it from a desert dish with a spoon. In both cases I add some vanilla and sugar. However when I prepare one for Doris I serve it up in its shell with a dollop of mayonnaise. Every taste is so different.

While on the topic of food it is a truism that Brazilians love their meats. They don’t barbecue tofu sausages or burgers. No it is steaks and ribs and chicken–anything that is meat. The word for barbecue is churrasco and their specialty restaurants are called churrascarias. When you visit Brazil, a meal there is a must.

Even small Brazilian homes will have a couple of bathrooms and larger homes will have several. In them there will be a bidet next to the toilet and they are used to wash up though perhaps they work best as a laundry basket. Oh yes, and paper does not go down the toilet but into a handy waste basket. You will need to be careful for paper might back up the system.

Brazil has the reputation of being a dangerous place though in our years there we never had a problem. I recall one young Brazilian woman saying she had been robbed three times, once on a bus. In any case it is important not to go wandering alone in any big city or to be squeezed together in a crowd on a busy street. If you are going to speak English—keep it low. And though you may be a tourist do not be flamboyant in your clothing. Be conservative and be part of the crowd where your friends take you.

Inserting the thumb between your middle and index finger in some countries would be rude but in Brazil it is a sign of good luck. You may see carvings of that signal in homes; I’ve seen it hidden behind the front door.

Something similar—rubbing two index fingers together indicates a close friendship

The issue in visiting another country is to fit in as well as you can for you are not there to change their customs but to enjoy their way of life. There is another side to that. When you read your New Testament you find that the follower of Jesus does not fit in 100% with the predominate culture of any country. The Christian’s home country is beyond this world’s final shore. Be ready then for those situations where you really do not fit. With that in mind enjoy yourself in Brazil.



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