1. The most important meal of the day is lunch.
Lunch; ‘Almoço’ is the biggest meal of the day here. I have noticed it’s common to have dessert as well. Eat lunch in a food court mall, or anywhere really, and chances are it will come with French fries. White rice, black beans, steak or chicken, farofa (a powdery bread crumb clump with onions), salad, and fries. Good for them. I get this basic meal combo at any mall food court or lunch spot, and everyone is eating this huge meal with fork and knife in hand like its Thanksgiving. But it is so good, and it is the same exact storefront as ordering at a McDonald’s. Lunch should be a bigger deal in other countries as well, we need to take note.
However, when it comes to dinner it’s typically overlooked in the same manner we treat our lunch breaks in the states. Something small, quick, and meaningless. For dinner a basic ham and cheese sandwich is common. I noticed many restaurants which were booming during the lunch hours are actually closed for dinner.
Nothing else to say about it, almost every native if their not dressed up in business attire for work is instead wearing flip flops. Those skinny, unsupportive and flimsy ones. It seems normal to see them near the beach, but then I see guys doing landscaping, I’ve seen mechanics working on cars, guys building houses, using heavy duty tools, climbing hills with cement bags on their backs all wearing a pair of these worn out unsupportive old flip flops.
One tip is to not listen to most exaggerated blogs out there that will forbid you to wear anything besides Havaianas. That you may look like a tourist and be laughed at. It’s not true, they do not care if you aren’t wearing them. It’s just simply that locals wear these, and they basically live in them.
3. You can rent bikes in Rio de Janeiro using the BikeRio app from your cell phone.
Like NYC and DC, Rio also has a very similar system where you can rent a public bike from a cell phone app. There are over 600 stations across the rio coastline and near surrounding neighborhoods, each holding 12 bikes.
Once you download BikeRio, you need to create an account using a Brazil phone number. A monthly unlimited usage pass is R$10. Using your phone, you can select which station you are at, then select which number stall your preferred bike is in, and click release. In a few seconds the bike unlocks and you own it for 1 hour, any time over is I believe R$2 per 30 minutes. This is one of my favorite things about Rio, because the bike path here follows the coast for miles and it has great views the entire way.
It is way better here. I never liked the overpriced and flavorless coconut water in the healthy section in US groceries. They brilliantly disguise in seductively appealing sleek bottles and display the juice near the fruits and vegetables. They claim no additives of any sort, yet the taste is completely different in Brazil.
Maybe it’s the freshness. The time from coconut to consumer. At the beach kiosks spanning the shorelines, when you say agua de coco they grab a coconut, grab a machete, and chop an angle into the top then give you a straw to drink. In my opinion that is as fresh as it gets.
Maybe the green coconuts in Brazil are different from the ones used for US retail consumption; I don’t know. I do know that the green coconuts in Brazil are naturally sweeter, and surprisingly contain a good amount of liquid. It is also common to rip open the coconut after drinking, and using a shard of the outside shell as a spoon, scrape the inside walls which are lined with a layer of fresh coconut.
5. Native English speakers rarely can correctly pronounce the words ‘trilhas’ and ‘estrela’ in Portuguese.
Likewise, Brazilians have a tough time with “th” words like thirteenth, theatre, thorough etc. They are great at rolling Rs, and learning to make your tongue and mouth move in a new way for the first time is basically learning to speak for the first time.
Also, just like most other countries the accent changes between regions. I went to São Paulo last week and certain words with an “s” are pronounced noticeably different. In Rio the accent is “sh” and in SP it’s a hard “s”. FYI, Paulistas (SP natives) & Cariocas (Rio natives) sometimes butt heads. You can picture the vibe in Rio as California and the SP vibe as New York. One is perceived as all business, one is seen as beach life.
By far, the number 1 most common way to communicate is using Whatsapp. Storefronts advertise their Whatsapp number. Back of public busses show their Whatsapp number. Every local uses it, it’s the main platform to talk and text. It’s simple, efficient, and in my opinion has more abilities than SMS.
This is because cell phone plans in Brazil aren’t offered like the unlimited plans in some other countries. You have to pay for each text you send, and you have a limited number of minutes to make calls. Whatsapp uses wifi/data, so you don’t rack up a bunch of 25 cent text costs, instead you add to your data usage.
In Whatsapp you can see if someone is online and if they have read a message already. Also you can’t go in settings and change this feature. So, you can finally call someone out when they read your text but ignore you. The calls also are in HD, which sounds noticeably better than regular phone calls. I wish this caught on in the US as it has in Brazil.
7. Almost everyone I have met here has been robbed at some point.
When I tell local friends that I haven’t been robbed yet they are very surprised. It’s apparently a common thing to have been robbed at least once in life. Especially if you’re a tourist.
Some people I know have been robbed once, and some 3 times. The stories vary a bit, but mostly go something like: I was walking down the street alone, and as soon as I passed around a corner 3 guys surrounded me before I even knew what was happening. One held a knife to my stomach and said don’t move, just give us all your money and your phone and we won’t hurt you.
My friend gave up his cellphone and money. His phone started to ring, he said it was his girlfriend and the guys let him answer it. He was able to tell his girlfriend what happened, which was surprisingly cool by the group of guys. My friend said they told him they have to rob people or they don’t eat. So overall it seems like normal procedure here, just unfortunate at the same time.
8. Electrical outlets
The power sources in the walls here are different from other countries. They sell adapters on many street corners for cheap, or you can buy one in the US but they’re more expensive there.
The chart below shows the different types of outlets, and then how many countries use that type. I believe Brazil is the only country that uses its own special outlet. Also the voltage is different in some places, so it’s a good idea to have adapters ready.