About life in Brazil – all that is interesting, tourists and migrants

I have been living in Brazil for 6 years and I will tell you about 10 curious things I encountered here

Hi there! I’m Tatiana, I’m 37 years old. Just 6 years ago I moved from St. Petersburg to sunny Brazil, Rio de Janeiro, where I live with my Brazilian husband and two children. I used to know little about the country, except that they love soccer and make TV series, and now I can tell you in detail about the everyday life and habits of local people and run my own blog about life in Brazil.

Especially for ADME I will take a little tour around the country and tell you how Brazilians live and breathe.

1. Brazilians have their own ideas about style and beauty.

The standard of female attractiveness in Brazil is a tanned beauty with shape and thin waist. Girls prefer minimalist clothing (of course: it’s so hot!): a short skirt or shorts, barely covering the buttocks, a top similar to a bikini top or with a completely open back, tight leggings. About the figure no one is complexed here, and even if a girl wears a plus size, it is unlikely she will refuse tight leggings. And, of course, Havaianas flip-flops – everyone wears them here, from small to large, and wear them in a restaurant, at work, on the beach, and for a walk.

But some of the beauty habits of the locals are quite peculiar. Perhaps the most stunning question I was asked here was, “Do you dye your hair on your arms?” It turns out that it is fashionable here not to remove, but to lighten the hair on the arms and legs.

Brazilians are very meticulous about taking care of their teeth. Not a single one has seen yellow teeth: they brush them literally after every meal, and you can often see floss, mouthwash and other hygiene products in restaurants.

2. Anyone can participate in the carnival

Carnival is one of Brazil’s calling cards. Some locals tend to take trips during it, especially since everyone is on vacation during the carnival. But most people (especially those from poorer neighborhoods) love carnival; they spend the whole year preparing and rehearsing for it.

The main action takes place in the sambodrome. On ordinary days, it’s an unremarkable street where cars drive, but on carnival days they close it off and it turns into a stadium. Many samba schools participate in the carnival, incredible costumes are prepared for it, everyone dances and sings: a real celebration of life and literally the event of the year in the country. Of course, when I saw it for the first time, I was very impressed. And soon I found out that almost anyone can take part in the carnival, all I had to do was buy a costume.

So, this winter my dream came true: I took part in the carnival procession on the sambodrome in Rio de Janeiro! We rode in a very cool car with decorations, holding on to the pole so as not to fall down, and still managed to dance. I paid $130 for the costume and the carnival, but I think the experience was priceless.

3. In Brazil, there is a very strong contrast in living standards

Most of Rio de Janeiro’s population lives in the slums (favelas) and poor neighborhoods. Members of the middle class and very wealthy people occupy expensive condominiums. It is like two different worlds, two planets. Absolutely everything is different: buildings and constructions, people and their way of life, values, appearance, manner of communication, habits and culture.

The favelas consist of 2-3-story chaotically built houses. It’s filthy, there are wires hanging over your head in the narrow streets, and the walls are covered in graffiti. Most of the residents of the favelas have not even finished school, and crime is rampant. The government tries to help the residents and pays allowances and benefits.

On the other side of the favelas are luxury and comfortable homes. Condominiums are several multi-story houses, united by a common fence with guards. Inside there is a swimming pool, playground, party room and various additional facilities such as a movie theater, beauty salon, gym, etc., depending on the cost of housing. The area is full of greenery and palm trees, many complexes have their own stores, pharmacies and supermarkets – you can not go out into the city. Educated people live here: engineers, lawyers, doctors, actors and other members of show business.

Getting out of the favelas is very, very difficult, but possible. It requires education and a lot of work. There are all kinds of people and destinies, some working several jobs and trying to educate their children. But, alas, not all residents of favelas are ready to change their lives. Many do not even want to work; they are used to this way of life and everything suits them.

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4. Almost all families with money have a housekeeper.

Almost all of the maintenance staff in condominiums are from poor neighborhoods. Many middle class families have their own housekeeper who comes in 1-2 times a week and helps with cleaning. If a girl works for a family more than 2 times a week, she must be officially employed. It is not easy to get a place with such a family, it is a great luck for people from the favelas. But here’s the paradox: finding a good nanny or housekeeper is also very difficult – many people are simply too lazy to work.

When I was looking for a housekeeper for us, I faced this problem myself. One girl could just not go to work, and if she cleaned, it was very bad. Another didn’t like cleaning in my presence, and she came up with a thousand reasons why she couldn’t work. A third was offended when I asked her to postpone cleaning until another day because she came in with a fever while there was a newborn baby in the house. It wasn’t until several months later that I finally found a responsible woman who does her job well and doesn’t go anywhere.

5. At +20 °C, hats and jackets are worn here

The coldest month in Brazil is July. In Rio the temperature ranges from +17°C at night to +20°C during the day, and it’s also cloudy and rainy. I once met a neighbor in the elevator, lamenting the terrible cold, wearing a jacket, boots, and a warm scarf. The thermometer had shown +18°C in the morning: they are so hothouse, these Brazilians!

The funny thing is that even if the temperature rises to +30 °C, the beach will still be empty: winter is winter. There are fewer people on the streets, warm jackets, coats and even hats are sold in the stores. I even like the local winter, I look forward to it: the suffocating heat disappears, you can wear makeup without the risk of immediately “losing face”, enjoy the nature and walks.

It is worth noting that in the south of the country, closer to Argentina, winter can indeed be quite cold: temperatures can drop to -5 °C and there is even snow.

6. You can go to some cinemas with small children

This opportunity came about a few years ago, when young mothers in São Paulo agreed on an Internet forum to go to the movies together with their infants in an organized way during the afternoon session. Soon there was an organization that began showing movies in some cinemas for moms and dads with babies up to 18 months. They show a variety of films from the current repertoire, and these screenings are usually sponsored by manufacturers of baby products.

It looks like this: a theater full of moms with babies, the adults are watching a movie, and the babies can cry, run around the theater, crawling, screaming, playing. Often it happens that one baby cries – and the rest catch up. There is a children’s mat with toys on the floor in front of the screen and a changing table with diapers and wet wipes on the side.

7. There are no trains in Brazil.

It’s strange, but in such a large country like Brazil, there are no intercity trains . The distances between cities are quite large, but you can only move around the country by car, bus or plane. The most convenient (and not cheap at all) is to fly by plane, which few can afford.

And there is a lot to see: many national parks, waterfalls Iguazu, canyons of Cambara do Sul and much more. If you’re going to travel around the country, keep in mind that you need at least a minimal knowledge of the Portuguese language: most Brazilians don’t speak English.

8. A warm embrace for friends and strangers alike

Brazilians have one habit which I can’t get used to: they always kiss both cheeks when they meet and say goodbye. And this ritual is repeated both with friends and with those whom you see for the first time. Both men and women kiss: for them it’s just a warm greeting, no one sees anything wrong with it. Brazilians love this ceremony, which can last a few minutes until 20-30 people kiss each other, saying: Prazer, that is, “nice to meet you.

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9. About some peculiarities of everyday life

  • Residents of Rio are used to a relaxed pace of life. For example, you buy a washing machine and have it delivered. You might not have it delivered and not even be told about it – and that’s par for the course here. If you decide to make repairs at home, then the agreed terms with the workers need to increase by 2-3 times, and the quality is likely to limp. In the south of the country the situation is different: here people are much more responsible.
  • In Brazil, it is virtually impossible to return goods back to the store. When you buy something in a store (clothes, shoes, bags, appliances, etc.) later to give it back and get money is very difficult, many stores refuse to do it. But it is easy to exchange goods for a similar one in the same store within a month.
  • There is no hot water in the kitchen. The water here, of course, is not icy like in Russia, but the feeling of underwashing still remains. The dishwasher comes to the rescue.
  • Expensive and unstable Internet. It happens that several days in a row the home Internet does not work, especially if there is a thunderstorm or rain outside.
  • They put huge amounts of ice in drinks. Always! All drinks here are not just drank cold, but iced. Filters are installed with two taps: room temperature water and ice water.

10. Everyone really loves soccer. And surfing.

Soccer is loved by all residents without exception: they watch all matches, are proud of their team, and soccer players here – the national heroes. Life during major competitions is out of its usual course, all the attention is focused on soccer. A couple of hours before the national team game, Brazilians put on their yellow shirts and their children, pull out their paraphernalia and stick to their screens, and it doesn’t matter where exactly it happens: in a hospital, a cab, a snack bar or just in a stall on the street.

In some companies, employees are given a day off if an important match falls during working hours. Everyone plays soccer: both residents of favelas (incidentally, many famous soccer players grew up there) and members of the middle class.

Another favorite sport is surfing. I would even say that it is no less popular than soccer: on the beach you can find a lot of people conquering the waves. Such a sporty nation!

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AdMe / Travel / I’ve been living in Brazil for 6 years and I’ll tell you about 10 curious things I’ve encountered here

“Only introverts would have a hard time in Brazil.”

Four years ago I started traveling abroad. Since then I periodically change my place of residence, “diluting” the moves with short tourist trips (a couple of weeks in nearby countries). I have lived in Spain, Cambodia, Iceland, Thailand and Bali. About a year ago I moved to Rio de Janeiro.

I rent a quitinete in the center of Rio, in the Copacabana area. The word quinete in Brazil means a small studio. Despite the fact that the area of the studio is small, it is quite comfortable. There is a workspace, a big bed, a small kitchen, a refrigerator and a washing machine.

Last year I rented a two-story apartment (during the Olympics there was simply no alternative: conventional housing was long gone). Apart from the large living area, I didn’t notice any particular advantages. But I had to pay almost twice as much.

If you are smart, book well in advance, speak Portuguese and bargain, then you can find a decent place for one or two people in a good area (in Russian rubles) for 35-45 thousand rubles per month (one real is about 18 rubles). In the absence of rental experience, it is better to focus on 60 thousand rubles for normal living conditions.

In addition to rent may charge an additional fee for “utilities” (light, water and gas), city tax (usually an insignificant amount) and the work of the management company (which may be up to 20% of the cost of rent). I pay only rent (about 36 thousand rubles). All other costs are borne by the landlady of my apartment.

Russians officially employed in Brazil, having CPF (analogue of Russian TIN) are charged IRPF (analogue of the Russian personal income tax) in the amount from seven and a half to 27.5% (depending on the level of income).

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Housing prices in Brazil skyrocket twice a year: at Christmas and during Carnival. Package price for these holidays (five to seven days) is about equal to a month’s worth of housing during normal times. The option of buying an apartment in good (that is, relatively safe) neighborhoods looks very questionable. For example, my 30-square-meter apartment costs about seven million rubles.

I spend 35% of my income on food, another 35% on housing, and 20% on sports. Ten per cent on everything else.

In Brazil it is more profitable not to cook at home, but to buy street food or go to cafes. There are many different eating establishments: bars (they are called here barzinho, that is “bar”), lanshanetas (snack bars), rodizio (buffet, only with waiters) and all kinds of fast food.

Popular in local restaurants is comida por kilo, a meal by weight where you can choose many different dishes and then pay by their weight. One meal costs an average of 40 reais (about 720 rubles). Classic restaurants serve three side dishes at a time. They are usually rice, beans and potatoes.

Accommodation I always try to choose within walking distance of the objects of interest to me (beaches, parks, gyms, etc), so the cost of transportation is more of an occasional nature (if it is not a matter of renting a car or motorcycle).

The cost of renting a car is about 100 reais per day (2,000 rubles). However, I would think twice before renting a car – Brazilians drive very sloppy. And the public transport (bus and metro) is not bad either, it works 24 hours a day. Bus fare is three and a half reals (63 rubles), metro – 4,3 reals (77 rubles).

Sports expenses include training (I do Brazilian jiu-jitsu and dance), the gym, and buying sports nutrition and equipment. Jiu-jitsu costs me 200 reais (3,600 rubles) per month, the gym 100 reais (1,800 rubles), and dancing 220 reais (3,960 rubles).

The possibility of long-term residence in the country give a working and educational (student) visa. When applying for a study visa is not necessarily to go to university. You can enroll in courses of study of the Portuguese language and submit the relevant documents to the visa center. Learning Portuguese in a school, even in a good area is not a cheap pleasure.

An alternative option – courses at public universities. They are cheaper. Minus of educational visa is that to obtain it you need to fly to Brazil.

The tourist visa is issued for three months. If you want to stay longer, you can extend it for the same period. You can do this at a federal police station, providing a passport, questionnaire, entry card into the country (given at the airport on arrival), the printout of a bank account (preferably foreign currency), return tickets and a receipt for payment of duty (it costs 110 reais, about 2000 rubles).

If there is a good education, desire to work in a profession and live in Brazil, then find a place pretty easy. There are many agreements between Brazil and Russia, which greatly facilitate the life of foreign specialists.

Our compatriots live in different cities: Salvador, Curichibe, Belo Horizonte, Porto Alegre (it is called the IT capital of Brazil), Brasilia, Florianopolis. But overall, there are not many of them here. Brazil is not Thailand. Few people come here just for a holiday. Usually Russians live here because they work under contract.

In Brazil, foreign employees from the IT sphere are most in demand. Another common activity is cultural projects (dance, theater, ballet, music). It is quite easy to get a job as a foreign language teacher or interpreter (if you have specialized education). In Rio, for example, there are many schools where Russian is taught. There is even a Slavic Culture Centre where several of my Brazilian friends study.

There are also less popular fields of study. For example, related to science: the study of flora and fauna of Latin America, ethnic population (my acquaintances research Indian life in the Amazon jungle).

My main source of income is freelancing. I am a developer, collaborating with large companies. Additionally, I have several travel-related projects of my own. For example, a service for finding cheap travel options, and several online stores.

In the near future I plan to launch a large-scale language learning project. I do everything I am interested in and want to share with others.

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My working hours are when I am not busy with other things. For example, if it’s raining outside (which is often accompanied by thick fog), I can spend the whole day at the computer, interrupting only for training and food. Another day, if I don’t feel like sitting at home, I can put everything aside and have a rest.

There is the same unspoken rivalry between São Paulo and Rio in Brazil as there is between Moscow and St. Petersburg in Russia. The two cities seem to be constantly figuring out who is cooler.

São Paulo is primarily about work and career. If you look at the city from a high point, up to the horizon on all sides you will see a forest of identical white and gray buildings.

Despite the huge size of the city (it is twice the size of Moscow), interesting places in it you can count on the fingers of one hand. The main attractions are: Ibirapuera Park, Avenida Paulista (one of the city’s thoroughfares, the business center) and the Japanese Quarter. You can see them in a couple of days. I’m bored in São Paulo.

Rio is a very different city. It’s ocean, mountains, parks, greenery and endless entertainment and places of interest.

There are more differences than coincidences between Rio and São Paulo. From the accent, which has become a separate point of contention between the cities residents (who speaks normally and who speaks strangely) to the different patterns on the road tiles.

Many Brazilians live in two cities. They go to São Paulo for conferences, speeches, meetings. And they take a break from work by lying on the beach in Rio.

My neighborhood belongs to the so-called Zona Sul (Southern Zone). By Brazilian standards, the standard of living here is pretty high. The range of goods and services in local stores is pretty much the same as in Europe, with a slight shift towards the local culture.

There are brand stores, quality products, hospitals, kindergartens, gyms, schools. But in Zona Sul you can find a lot of homeless people.

On the outskirts and in the favelas (slums), the picture is very different. There are no shopping malls, no expensive restaurants, no good real estate. Armed police and the military are on duty in many places. From time to time there are gang shootings.

But there are also very quiet and peaceful favelas, where any tourist can come for a tour in complete peace. And there are some that are so poor and feral that even the cariocas (indigenous people of Rio) are afraid to go out there.

The social situation in all neighborhoods of Rio de Janeiro and other cities is different. There are huge, well-appointed favelas (like Rocinha) that are more like a separate state with its own laws, rules, and infrastructure.

These places usually have their own schools, hospitals, stores, and so on. In poor favelas, the only attraction may be a store with a huge padlock and tightly closed windows.

Fortunately, in Brazil I didn’t have to seek medical attention very often. The couple of occasions when it happened were quite positive. In Brazil, there is a free form of medical care, the so-called UPA (Unidade de pronto atendimento, urgent care centers) located in almost every neighborhood within walking distance.

I happened to visit one of these UPAs after I was poisoned. The word “urgent” in the name is not accidental. Despite the long line, the doctor took me in just a few minutes after I checked in.

However, my joy was short-lived. After a superficial examination and pressure measurement, the doctor concluded that I was in a normal condition and sent me to another line, where I spent about four hours.

In Brazil, the plano de saúde, which is a cross between a health policy and insurance, is quite common. By taking it out, you can determine in advance which services and hospitals you can use. The cost of the insurance depends on the range of services and the period of validity. For example, a consultation with a doctor costs about 200 reals (3,600 rubles).

Special mention should be made of dentistry. In Brazil, a beautiful smile is practically a national idea. Most Brazilians are very concerned about the appearance of their teeth: they brush them after each meal (there is a joke that Brazilians constantly carry toothbrushes), floss and rinse, wear braces. That’s why there are a lot of dental offices here.

What I love about Rio is that this city never seems to get boring. There are always dozens of ways to spend your free time.

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The Rio de Janeiro administration regularly organizes cultural events: the Japanese Culture Festival, Russian Film Week, Gastronomy Week, and exhibitions. Last year, for example, I stumbled upon a huge free exhibition of works by Picasso.

There is a rich cultural and entertainment program for tourists and locals alike. Climb Mount Corcovado and see the statue of Christ the Redeemer, go to a soccer game, watch the sunset on the rocky promontory of Arpoadore, go hang gliding, go to the favelas, fly in a helicopter, ride the cable car, climb Mount Pedra Bonita. You can go to the beach, after all.

You can immediately make a plan for the month, never once repeat and leave here with a feeling that not all had time to see. By the way, in Brazil offering to go see the sunset or meet the sunrise is as natural and popular as going to the movies.

The typical holiday of the locals can be described in two words: festa and praia (parties and beach). Every day my Instagram feed is filled first with pictures from the beaches and then, towards nightfall, with pictures from the bars.

Besides beaches and beer, Brazilians love sports, especially soccer: the outdoor trainers, horizontal bars, and treadmills are never empty. A popular leisure activity (which is to my liking) is the so-called trilhas. Hiking long distances or climbing mountains.

In Brazil, they speak Portuguese. English is very difficult to understand (even for young people). Brazilians have a peculiarity: even if they see that you can hardly find the words to express a simple request, they will answer you as cheerfully as they would to a local.

One gets the impression that Brazilians don’t even think that anyone in the world might not know Portuguese. Therefore, to live comfortably in this country, it is necessary to know Portuguese. For anyone visiting Brazil (even for two weeks as a tourist), I advise to use at least the minimum amount of words. Even a simple obrigado (thank you) in a conversation with a Brazilian will arouse their favor.

The cost of learning Portuguese in Brazil is quite high. I found the rates on the website of a school: a week of group training – 695 reals (14 thousand rubles), ten hours of personal training – 850 reals (17 thousand rubles), ten hours of business Portuguese group – 950 reals (19 thousand rubles). To compare: three capoeira lessons cost 140 reais (3,000 rubles), surfing 300 reais (6,000 rubles).

I already knew some Portuguese before I went to Brazil: I studied it with native speakers via Skype. It took me about two years to start speaking it fluently.

In Brazil, there’s no special attitude towards gringos (foreigners) like in India or Thailand. Here no one makes a discount that you are a tourist, no one tries to adjust to you. The locals treat foreigners like fellow countrymen. If you want to live here and become part of society, you’ll be welcomed.

Brazilians are surprisingly open and friendly people. For example, it’s quite normal when you ask a policeman for directions, and he pat you on the shoulder in a brotherly manner with the words “Fala amigo! Or the bank clerk says goodbye, “Beijo, querido!” (“Kisses, darling!”).

The only problem in Brazil is for introverts. It’s hard to get lost in Latin America: Latin Americans are very sociable and always expect a response.

The legacy of the Olympic Games (held in Rio de Janeiro in 2016) began to fade away while they were still being held. One day I wanted to take a picture with the Olympic rings on the beach. But they disappeared before the closing ceremony.

Many facilities, such as the beach volleyball stadium or the official Olympic store at Copacabana, despite their monumentality, were dismantled immediately after the Paralympics ended.

Now, despite the pictures on the Internet of abandoned stadiums, which supposedly are not used, some arenas host competitions and concerts (not so long ago the Parque Olimpico hosted one of the world’s largest festivals, Rock in Rio). But on the whole, the only reminders of the Olympics are the toys with symbols of the Games sold by street vendors.

I’ve paid my rent in Brazil until spring (Russian). But I may stay for a longer period. Brazil is no longer just a tourist trip for me. It’s my second home. I know that returning here is as inevitable as coming to Russia again.

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