Brazilian Customs You May Not Understand

“The way to get started is to quit talking and begin doing.” Anon

Soccer is more than a game to many Brazilians. It takes a huge place in the papers, on TV and radio with the loyalty to a futebol team evoking great ferver. It is as if there were the citizens of a country during a time of war. I recall being at the São Paulo airport when the famous Pelé returned with his team after winning their 2nd. World cup. Police had to use truncheons to beat back the crowd that tried to invade the tarmac when the team’s plane landed. Too, businesses will even put TVs up so their workers will not stay home to watch an important game. Fans often show their support for a team’s win with fireworks. Much of that fervor carries over into following Christ and that is one reason for the strong growth by the evangelicals.

Holidays are long and frequent in Brazil. Many get 30 days paid holidays and 11 statutory days off. Vacations are very important to Brazilians and will be taken during their summer—that is during our Canadian winters. At the end of the year workers get an added month’s salary, their thirteenth. Businesses and government offices seem to adapt though I recall one of our church schools there asking for financial help to pay for the extra month.

Brazilian body language and gestures may be hard to understand. We were warned in language school never to touch the index finger to the thumb as we might here, saying that something was O.K. In Brazil that is an obscene gesture. Then there is the closed fist with the thumb poking up between the index and middle fingers but in this case it is a sign of good luck. When you visit Brazil you might even find this sign carved in wood and set behind the front door. It is calling for good luck to the home and those who come and go. A thumb-up sign is commonly used to say something is great.

Do you brush your teeth on the job? It is common in Brazil to do just that and it goes along with their penchant for cleanliness. They would not start their day without a shower and in warmer weather another one or more. But in their winters with no heat in their homes, a shower may be on the cool side though the shower head itself is wired to heat the water. Just turn on the tap and violá, warm water.

When you visit Brazil you will quickly understand that they are very emotional and affectionate. Families are important and close knit with gatherings for every anniversary or birthday. Hugs and kisses are the order of the day though most kisses are to the air when they touch cheeks. It took me a little getting used to for me to receive these tokens of affection from other men. There may also be a bit more touching during a conversation than we practice here. And it is not considered rude to interrupt during a conversation.

Women are generally expected to take care of the work around the house though in recent years men are helping out. I recall riding on a street car while I was in language school and a few fellows noting that I was a foreigner had a great laugh at my expense. They talked about me changing a diaper and washing the dishes.

I quickly found out in Brazil that when I made some blunder they were very forgiving. They understood the difficulty I faced in adapting to their language and ways . I cannot imagine any people more understanding of me when I was murdering their Portuguese. Within the fellowship of the church, Brazilians will do most anything to keep you from being offended. At times it is hard to get the truth for they consider it might hurt.

Though they do have some customs different than ours, there is nothing to scare you away from travelling there. We’ve taken a number of teams to visit our churches in Brazil and team members found that the folks there would love you to death. For example Stephanie who was part of our team had a birthday there. The young people put on a huge party with many gifts for they opened their arms to her as part of the family of crentes—believers. Who knows, if you travel to our church in Brazil they might throw that kind of a party for you.


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