What to Know Before You Visit Brazil

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Brazil is an enchanting country: its people are magical, their culture rich, and the natural history unrivaled.  Most travelers already know about the Amazon rainforest and Rio de Janeiro’s spectacular beaches.  But far fewer people know much about Brazilian culture.  We’d like to therefore mention a few words about Brazil’s people, music, cuisine, sports and beach mentality.  And while we’re at it, we’ll also address some do’s and dont’s!

The People & their Love of Music

Brazilians are famous for their warmth and unique ability to enjoy life to the fullest.  Seemingly without provocation, they’ll begin singing and dancing with infectious enthusiasm.  But Brazilian music extends far beyond festivities and samba: the music is sophisticated and varied.  Brazil has provided the world with a varied and rich selection of music, including Samba, Bossa Nova, and Tropicalismo, a merging of Brazilian and African rhythms with traditional rock and roll.  Brazil also has an exciting pop music scene known as MPB.  Some of the country’s best loved artists include Caetano Velosa, Marisa Monte, Gilberto Gil, Gal Costa, and Tom Jobim, known for his Bossa Nova rendition of “The Girl from Ipanema.” For a small sample of classic Brazilian songs, try this link: http://www.buzzfeed.com/gabrielakruschewsky/23-classic-brazilian-songs-you-need-to-listen-to-right-now

Futball (soccer)

With the World Cup taking place in Brazil during June/July of 2014, it is no wonder the country has become a vacation destination for soccer fans from around the world.  Games are found everywhere in the country, from the beaches to the stadiums.  But the Brazilians’ fanaticism over soccer has been longstanding, and their passion has been rewarded with a record five World Cup championships and a brand of futbol known as “jogo bonito” (the beautiful game).  In Brazil it is not enough for their national and domestic teams to win; they must also play an attacking style soccer that is exciting and visually pleasing.  Brazilian soccer has thus gained fans from throughout the world.

Love of soccer pervades all segments of Brazilian society and brings people together across class and racial lines.  It is also serious business: offices typically close three hours before Brazil’s World Cup matches in order to give workers time to prepare for the game! And no wonder: with stars like Pele, Ronaldino, Neymar and a multitude of others displaying their eye-popping skills, why bother trying to work! If the schedule works out, why not try to catch a game while exploring the country?

The Importance of the Beach

Beaches are the lifeblood of many Brazilian cities.  They are typically beautiful and clean, and serve as the community playground, park, bar, social meeting place, and even on occasion, office!  Babies are taken to the beach in their first few weeks of life and learn to walk and play there.  The connection usually endures throughout their life.

Beaches are not considered tourist destinations in Brazil, though most travelers will want to spend several hours, at least, on the beach, soaking in the sights, sounds, and sunshine.  The beaches are truly a microcosm of Brazilian life.  (Note: adapted from Brazil the Guide).

Mouth-watering Local Cuisine

While in Brazil, most visitors take several opportunities to indulge in the various regional cuisines.  The foods served throughout the country blend immigrant and native cultures, with strong African and European influences.  Popular dishes include moqueca de camarao (shrimp stew) and acaraje (fritters with black-eyed peas, caramelized onions, shrimp, stuffings) in the northeast; churrasco (grilled meats) and barreado (meat stew) in the southern region, and feijoada, served throughout the country and considered the national dish of the country (stew of black beans, beef, pork, okra, potatoes, carrots, banana, bacon served over rice).  Brazilians also have a sweet tooth and dessert options are plentiful in all regions of the country.  Sample some of these common Brazilian desserts including quindim, cocada, rice pudding, or fresh tropical fruit during your visit.

Basic Do’s and Don’ts

Brazilians are warm people but they do appreciate visitors having at least some basic knowledge of their country.  Don’t speak to them in Spanish as they speak Portuguese and are proud of their heritage.  Avoid referring to yourself as American; instead say that you are from the United States and Canada.  Don’t assume that Rio is their capital city (it is Brasilia).  Don’t openly root for Argentina during the World Cup (or express allegiance to their team afterwards) unless social ostracism is your thing.  With respect to hand gestures, the thumbs up sign is fine but the OK sign is considered obscene.  When planning a trip to Brazil, keep in mind that the country is about as large as the continental United States — a nonstop flight from Rio to Manaus takes 5 hours — and make sure to research the climate averages in the various places you plan to visit.  Know that the internal flight logistics within Brazil are often inconvenient.  Don’t forget that Americans and Canadians require a visa to enter Brazil (US $180).  Consult with a travel physician or the CDC to see if any vaccinations or malaria pills (Amazon) are recommended or required.

Should you venture to Brazil one day, we hope that you have fun immersing yourself in all aspects of their wonderful culture!

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