Having graced the Brazilian shores a number of times and being half Brazilian myself, you would have thought that I’d know the Brazilian way of living pretty well. Even though I am already familiar with the fact (thanks to my beautiful mother) that Brazilians love a good boogie, a big meat-filled churrasco (bbq) and have no problem letting people know what they think, meu deus, was there more to learn about this stunning place.
Since this is the first time I have graced this culture rich and ever so vibrant country all on my own, I’ve been able to observe the very unique specimen that Brazilian culture is with a fresh perspective.
As many of my nearest and dearest would already assume, I had no hesitation in diving straight into the world of Brazilian gastronomy. To be honest with you, I was always happy with the arroz, feijão and farofa (rice, black beans and toasted cassava flour) that I grew up eating, but that was before I discovered Brazil’s obsession with sweet food. Even if you are more of a savoury tooth like myself, you will be converted. Just make sure your health insurance covers dental work.
You will never see a padaria (bakery) without an extensive section of bolos (cakes). The irresistible smorgasbord of Bolo de Fubá, Bolo de Cenoura and Bolo de Milho to name a few, does not end as that’s just skimming the surface.
Don’t even get me started on my grandmother’s homemade cuscuz (a sweet tapioca dessert originating from the Brazilian state of Bahia) because it is actually that much better than Christmas and Birthday parties put together. Anyway, if I came to realise anything about Brazilian food culture, it is that the immense diversity of the Brazilian food reflects the immense diversity of the Brazilian culture – almost every region has it’s own gastronomy.
When I walk around the streets of Rio everyday, a saying that my mother used to tell us, “A happy belly makes a happy soul” constantly runs through my head as I see the abundance of big smiles plastered on Brazilian faces.
So why is that? Why do Brazilians have such great personalities?
It’s not very often that you’d be able to bump up casual conversation with fellow commuters on your daily commute to work in Australia, so why does it happen to me so often here? Perhaps there’s a lot to talk about or maybe they just feel sorry for me, but for whatever reason, chatty people in mundane places is a great way to measure happiness levels.
In saying that, when I have been happily caught up in these mid-metro ride conversations, I couldn’t help but notice the abundance of “Meu deus!”, “Nossa!”, “Meu pai amado!” and “Poxa!”. You’d be blind to not see that Brazilians are probably one of the most emotive and passionate cultural groups. This however, is nothing new to my ears, as I am very much used to my mother’s choices of Portuguese vocabulary when she gets cut-off at a roundabout.
This is what makes Brazilians Brazilian. Even though these displays of passion don’t normally mesh well with more conservative cultures, at the end of the day, being fiery and outrageous is the Brazilian’s mechanism of survival.
Here’s a bit of (totally not fake) dialogue to give you an idea of the Brazilian sass levels that I have encountered:
Bruna: Hey Nathalia, I’m really sorry that I’m telling you 5 minutes before the movie, but I can’t go anymore. I forgot to wash my dog.
Beijão (big kiss), Bruna
Nathalia: “Que isso Bruna! Meu pai amado! Pelo amor de deus! Meu deus, de novo hein?! Esquenta não, até logo.” (Oh my god Bruna, you’re seriously doing this to me again! Don’t worry about it, see you soon!
Beijinhos (kisses), Nathalia
So as you can see, they might not make much sense and may give you a serious grilling, but at the end of the day they are lovers not fighters. It doesn’t matter how flaky a friend you are who bails on all your friends at the last minute and then has to face an earful, because that’s just the Brazilian way. Also, as I’ve learned the hard way, don’t take it to heart if your Brazilian mate can’t make your coffee-date last minute due to some “unforseen” circumstance. They still love you, it’s probably just because they are feeling a little preguiçoso (lazy).
Another thing that I still quite can’t get my head around is the Brazilian obsession of always looking immaculate. I’ve actually lost count of the amount of times I have been told off for leaving the house with unironed board shorts you better not even think about wearing those converse sneakers due to that dirt smudge on your shoelace.
It’s not only the Brazilian fashion police making my life hard, but my neck is also in a world of hurt from the amount of whipping around it has had to do in order to keep up with the perfect bodies that invade my field of vision on a daily bases on the beachside calçadas (footpath). As picante (spicy) as it may seem, It’s something that unsurprisingly catches a lot of gringos off-guard. Where else in the world would you go on your morning run on the beachside calçada, alongside bronzed and chiselled gods/goddesses dressed in nothing but a bikini/sunga and running shoes. It’s a tough life.
Anyway, before things get a little too quente (hot), the one characteristic that will never cease to impress is the Brazilian ability to “dar um jeito” or “jeitinho” (find their way around an issue).
Say, if you are struggling to pay for your electricity bills, get yourself into contact with a sneaky Brazilian, fazer gato and you’ll never have to stress again. Just a little bit of a nipping and tucking of the wiring and voila, free electricity! One of the most Brazilian and hilariously intelligent cases of dando um jeito (finding a way) that I came across was in relation to Brazil’s “lei seca” (a Brazilian piece of legislation that aims to reduce the amount of alcohol and drug related car accidents). You would think that this law would deter any kind of law bending after a night out in Lapa hitting the caipirinhas, but whom are we kidding when we are talking about the Brazilians?
Instead, Brazilians have banded together in resilience to the “Brazilian Fun Police” and are giving each other a heads-up via Twitter about whereabouts the “lei seca” or breathalysing checkpoints are.
So after discovering that Brazil is not just all about samba and beaches, there is only one more thing to say to my beautiful Brazil from my half gringo heart,
If you would love to learn more interesting things about Brazilian culture or would simply just like to learn the language, visit us at: http://caminhoslanguages.com/.