First impressions of Brazil and cultural differences
- Wednesday April 12th, 2017
- Posted by: Nnamdi Okezie
- Category: Student/Volunteer Point of View
by Demi Lammers
Oi, Bom Dia! For everyone who hasn’t met me yet, my name is Demi Lammers. I am the lucky girl who got the opportunity to do an internship at Caminhos and become a member of the amazing Caminhos team! Let’s first introduce myself a little bit: I am 20 years old and I am from the Netherlands. I used to live in a really small town called Budel,- it’s in the south, close to Eindhoven, which some of you might know from the world’s best soccer team, PSV.
The contrast between my town and Rio de Janeiro could not have been any bigger. I am in the second year of the study of Latin American Business Studies at Avans University of Applied Sciences in Breda. During the week I live in Breda with my friends because it is easier for me to be at school on time and because it is just a lot of fun. During the weekends, I always go back to Budel to work at a bakery on Saturday, to party with my friends and to play soccer on Sunday. I have 2 sisters and 1 brother and I am used to always be around with people, therefore I really like to socialize in general. I am interested in meeting people from other cultures and to learn from our differences. Furthermore I love animals, shopping, partying and travelling.
When we had to choose an internship destination I found it very difficult, because there are so many beautiful places in Latin America, and since I never went on holidays outside Europe I felt so curious about so many countries/places. I was really doubting between Cancun (Mexico), Medellin (Colombia) and Rio de Janeiro, so I started asking myself what I was actually looking for. The answer was nice beaches, sun, culture and, of course, nice people. It became clear for me, Rio de Janeiro was the place to be!
I arrived here the 10th of February and it would be a lie to say I did not fall in love with Rio. Actually, I am starting to feel like a carioca more and more and I found out it is true what they say about “Time flies when you’re having fun”. I found out about Caminhos by searching on Google and I am very happy that I chose this as my internship company. The atmosphere is so relaxed and everyone is so friendly and welcoming. I love my colleagues here and the students are also really cool. It is nice that there are so many activities – when I arrived here I joined the welcome lunch for the new students on Monday and in the night I went to the volleyball. When you go to the activities you meet so many people very easily and when you come back to school you just want to talk with everyone.
A lot of people from my small town were so surprised of me going to Brazil all alone. In 2014, I did an internship in Malta for 4-5 months as well so I knew what’s it like going on internship abroad. But of course Malta and Brazil are two very different places. Before coming to Brazil I did not really know what to expect. When you go searching on the internet, you can find a lot of good reviews but also a lot of bad reviews. Either though, I knew I would have a great time, because I always think life is what you make of it yourself. I have been in Brazil for over 5 weeks now and I have to tell you that I did not regret my decision of going here any moment.
Even though I really love the city and the people here, there are some things that surprised me. One of these things is the amount of homeless people. As I grew up in Holland, I am not used to seeing homeless people. In Brazil there is a big difference between poor and rich and there is no way to not see this while you are here. Before coming here, I read a lot about this difference but I did not expect it to be this big. For example, it is very normal to see homeless people with babies just living on the streets. Even though they are very poor, they do not try to steal from you. I did not have any bad experiences with any of them. The situation is very difficult because when you see them you feel like helping them, but because there are so many you don’t know what you can do and a few reais is not going to change their lives. Also, I often think what are they going to buy from this money. Maybe they will buy food, maybe they will buy drugs, you don’t know… Luckily there are a lot of people volunteering, trying to help them out and change their lives.
This was a culture shock for me. Another negative thing could be the cost of living. Before coming to Rio de Janeiro I knew it was going to be expensive, so I was prepared for it. The thing is that a lot of things that I did not expect to be expensive actually are very expensive. For example, rasped cheese can be around 16 reais (more or less 5 euros) or Nutella for the smallest package around 20 reais (more or less 7 euro). I would therefore recommend everyone to really save some money before coming to Rio de Janeiro. It is a world city and because there are so many tourists, the prices are high.
Also there are so many nice things to do, that you just can´t say no to yourself and you will want to do them, so you need money.
On the other hand, I found a lot of things funny and positive. What I find funny here is for example drinking Caipirinhas, one of the national drinks of Brazil, which everyone drinks. The Caipirinha consists of Cachaça or vodka, lime, sugar and ice. They are often served in big cups and after two you already start to feel tipsy. I find it funny how it can be so normal to just drink a full glass of pure alcohol. When I was living in Holland I also liked to drink and mostly mix drinks, but my friends always used to tell me: “you are putting so much alcohol inside”. So for my friends in Holland who are reading this, come to Brazil and see how they drink here! One other drink that I really love is the the fresh coconut from a beach bar. In Holland I never really liked coconuts but here I am drinking them every day, somehow they taste so different.
For Dutch people it is very common to eat a sandwich in the morning and eat a next sandwich in the afternoon. Then, at night, eat dinner, normally consisting of boiled potatoes, vegetables and meat. This is so different from the food in Brazil! The Brazilians really love rice and beans! When I am working at Caminhos and eating my beloved sandwich, my Brazilian colleagues always tell me that this is not real food and that I have to start cooking. Brazilians love rice and beans so much that it is very common to eat it for lunch and dinner every day of the week. During the welcome lunch on Mondays and during the teacher’s lunch on Wednesday we always get food from Tia Maria. This also consists out of rice, beans, vegetables and meat -mostly chicken – and I have to say that I really like it very much. Maybe I will end up following this habit and become a rice and beans addict like the Brazilians. What I also find funny is how much the Brazilians love popcorn. When walking through the streets you find little stands with people selling popcorn on every corner. This popcorn habit is something I got use to very quickly, eating popcorn actually is very addictive.
Before I go on talking about food and drinks the whole time, I would like to share some other differences between Brazil and Holland. The people in Brazil are very open and you can see this in everything they do. For example, when walking through the streets, a lot of people just start talking to you and most times they start with asking where are you from. They really like to be social and like to talk. I think Dutch people in general also like to talk, but they are more reserved/shy. Once we Dutchies get to know someone, or once we start drinking, we become more lose. This is not only for talking, it is also like this with dancing. Here the people really dance and they are all very good in it. In Holland this is not the case, and unfortunately I am also not blessed with the dancing qualities. Last Wednesday I did my first samba class and now I am planning to go every week to gain some skills to show when I am going out in case I find a nice Brazilian boy and maybe when I am back in Holland to surprise my friends.
Brazilian guys are very different from the Dutch guys. When you walk through the streets here in Rio, it is not uncommon to hear more than 5 guys telling how beautiful you are. The thing is they do this to a lot of people but still it’s always a good start of your day! Also they would not hesitate to take action. When going out they just try to kiss you if they like you even when they don’t know your name yet. I would describe the Brazilian guys as “machos”. They care about their looks and they want to act like a real dominant man when they are accompanied by a girl. I am not sure whether I prefer the Dutch or the Brazilian guys yet, but they definitely both have their things.
I was lucky enough to be here during the carnival, which is a very big thing here. I arrived two weeks before carnival and everyone was already in the mood – it makes all the people here so happy. During carnival, the school was closed for one week, so everyone could really enjoy carnival to the fullest. There are a lot of “blocos” – this is like a street party and it is normal to go here instead of going to a club. Everyone gets dressed – it doesn’t matter how you look, but at least you must have some glitters on your body.
For people who have not been to Rio yet and are planning to go here, I have some recommendations. Some things you definitely should do are: go to Búzios! The beach is amazing there. I went there last Sunday with some friends and we all loved it. Some other thing you should really do when in Brazil is a churrasco (Brazilian BBQ). It’s a way of living here and it’s really nice. And last but not least learn how to dance samba.
I am looking forward to meeting all of you and I am sure you will fall in love with Brazil! If you need help with anything you can always contact me.
If you want to come to Brazil to study portuguese, Caminhos Language Centre is the right place. You’ll learn the language while experiencing the Brazilian culture in a fun and relaxed environment.