How to Blend In with Brazilian Culture


If you think that Brazil is just about soccer, carnival, beaches, and women, you have to think again. The country is much more than that. It is rich in art and culture that you must know about in order to blend in and earn the respect of it friendly people. Here are some essential tips to get you started in adapting with Brazilian culture.

Know Some Basic Info about Brazilian Culture

Brazilians like it when tourists make an effort to know their language, culture, geography and economy. You’ll be greatly appreciated if you show some understanding about their native sports like Capoeira, Brazilian Jiu Jitsu and soccer. You can also impress them by having some knowledge about the states in Brazil like Rio de Janeiro, Sao Paolo, and Rio Grande do Norte.

Words May Have Other Meanings

Brazilians have a very informal approach in business and social life. This means that when they make an agreement with you, do not take “yes” in its literal form. It can have a different meaning. Brazilians are hesitant to say no directly, so a “yes” answer can denote “maybe” or even “no”. So if they say they’ll give you a call, don’t take it too seriously.

Nudity Isn’t a Normal Everyday Thing

While Brazilians have a laid back attitude about nudity and their body in general, you won’t see them dressed in scanty string bikinis (fio dental or, in Brazilian slang, dental floss) almost anywhere. Those naked women with body paint that you ogle at in carnivals are dressed for the event. Don’t expect them to dress like that everyday. In fact, nude swimming in most public beaches (except in nude beaches) are prohibited. Brazilian men and women, however, will naturally wear lighter clothing during hot weather.

Respect the Women

You can get thrown in jail with a sexual harassment charge if you get too fresh with a Brazilian woman. Remember that Brazil is a mainly Catholic country and its people can be conservative when it comes to their moral and sexual values. While they may wear less clothing when the weather is hot, or because they live near the beach, don’t judge Brazilian women as loose.

Don’t Think of Brazil as a Nation of Slums

Brazilians resent it when tourists equate their country to slums or favelas. In reality, Brazil is composed of over five thousand cities and has one of the world’s biggest economies. Only a fourth of the Brazilian population live in slums and the rest enjoy good housing conditions. Therefore, associating Brazil to slums will show your ignorance and prejudice.

Respect the Afro-Brazilians and Other Indigenous Races

Racists are not welcome in Brazil so you should show some respect to the Afro-Brazilians and other indigenous people in the country. What’s more, don’t make cruel racist remarks about their appearance or tradition even in a joking manner, as they’ll consider it offensive.

Don’t be Late in Your Appointments

Always be on time when keeping an appointment. In the major cities of Brazil, traffic tends to be a great problem especially when it rains or when a car accident occurs. To avoid being late and be perceived as unprofessional, it’s best to leave your hotel an hour early to make it just in time for your appointment.

Talk the Brazilian Way

Brazilians are essentially of Portuguese descent, not Spanish, so speaking to them in the Spanish language can be confusing if not downright offensive. Brazilians feel resentment if they are associated Cuban or Mexican culture and values.

Know Brazil’s Capital City

Brazilians are offended when tourists identify Rio de Janeiro as the country’s capital. In fact, it hasn’t been the Brazilian capital for over 50 years. If you must know, Brasilia is the capital and seat of government of Brazil.

On Riding Escalators

You should understand that Brazilians don’t normally form a line in front of an escalator. They just stand anywhere near and wait their turn. If you try to get ahead of every one, they may see you as ill-mannered.

Observe the Rules of Courteous Behavior

Observing the rules of courtesy in Brazil means you’ll only use public toilets for urinating (not in the open) and not consuming alcoholic drinks on the street. Driving under the influence (DUI) even in small amounts can land you in jail. Selling, using, or possessing drugs, even lighter ones can also get you arrested. Drug trafficking is a crime in Brazil. Believe me, you don’t want to be thrown in one of those Brazilian jails.

Understand Some of Brazilian Peculiarities

Take time to understand Brazilian idiosyncrasies. A certain payment date can be one day in advance or perhaps two days after the due date. Sometimes it is tolerable to be ten or fifteen minutes late for an appointment. However, this doesn’t mean that you can be late all the time.

Laws on Smuggling

Brazil doesn’t allow any form of wildlife, plant or valuable items taken out of the country without paying the proper taxes or without permission from the authorities.

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