Local traditions and culture in Brazil

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Most Viewed Local Customs in Brazil

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    hang gliding by niteroi

    by gwened Written Mar 3, 2013

    well used to come to the Rio area a lot and been all over Brazil, now more often by Sao Paulo but the hang gliding activity from Niteroi was fantastic going down over the bay to copacabana beach.

    now you have some other outfits that do it from elsewhere , but still fun

    dont remember these outfits as was back in 2000 and was taken there by local friends but you should try it ,very nice indeed

    from the takeoff ramp for hang gliding at Rio
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    by cachaseiro Updated Feb 10, 2013

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    In most countries hammocks is something you put up for a few days a year in the garen but in Brazil it's something that many people sleep in every night, especially in the Amazon region.
    If you travel around Brazil for a longer period of time then i would suggest that you buy a hammock as many hotel rooms have hooks for hammocks and if you travel by boat in the amazon region then it might be the only option you have when it comes to sleep.
    The brazilian hammocks are also wider than most other hammocks in other countries.
    If you stretch them out then they are generally between one and a half and two meters wide so you do not need to sleep in "banana position" in a brazilian hammock.
    Hammocks are for sale on almost every market in Brazil and are quite cheap.


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    Brazilian Music: Sertanejo

    by perfectly_zen Written Jun 5, 2012

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    I cannot talk about local customs and not mention the ammount of distinct music styles we have in Brazil. Even though samba and bossa nova are the most known by foreigners, there are many other genres spread along the country, each with its share of ethnic heritage and originality.
    One of those styles is called sertanejo, music typical from the rural, central region of Brazil and constantly played on rodeo festivals.
    The original "root" sertanejo became popular around 1910, and is characterized by the predominant sound of the viola, performed mostly in vocal duets, with either emotional or funny lyrics.
    As time went by, sertanejo was influenced by pop culture and modern editing, originating other subtypes such as the romantic style (with influence of "country")or, the current fever amongst teens (and the sadness of oldstyle lovers), the sertanejo universitario.
    Nevertheless, if you come to Brazil you may get to hear the three main styles of sertanejo.
    Here are some links for you:
    1. Root sertanejo ("sertanejo de raiz"):
    Almir Sater
    Renato Teixeira
    Sergio Reis
    2. Romantic style:
    Leandro & Leonardo
    Zezé de Camargo & Luciano
    3. Universitario:
    Michel Telo
    Gusttavo Lima

    Related to:
    • Arts and Culture
    • Music

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    How to Use an Electric Shower and Live Through It

    by glabah Updated Dec 11, 2011

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    One of the popular 1960s guide books for American tourists in Brazil, of which I was able to find a copy in one of our local used book stores, says:

    "Western tourists may be confounded when presented with a Brazilian shower. Instead of a hot and cold water faucet, there is instead a deadly looking contrivance on the shower head with two wires sticking out of it. The adventurous tourist will discover, when the water is turned on, that the lights in the entire building suddenly go dim, that loud electrical sparking and sputtering sounds come from inside the shower head. and that the water gets very hot very fast."

    It should be fairly clear to anyone why a Brazilian would use one of these contraptions in their home over a large tank style water heater. It costs a lot of money to put both hot and cold water lines into a house, and other than for taking a shower Brazilians have learned to live with cold water. Furthermore, a large tank style water heater like we are used to in the USA is quite expensive. An electrically powered shower head can be obtained for the equivalent of about $10, the last time I checked.

    In many hotels now, the European and North American style hot and cold running water faucet are much more common than electric showers. This is especially true if the hotel intends to cater to tourists from those countries.

    However, it is still very common, especially in homes, to find this type of contrivance.

    Yes, it is true that the things are very deadly looking. However, here are some tips on how to use one:

    + Before getting in, check to see if there is even electrical wires going to the showerhead. In some cases the shower has been supplanted by a shower stall elsewhere, and the wires to the shower head have been completely disconnected. No wires to the shower head = no hot water, unless there is evidence of an added hot water pipe and tap. Upgrades to hot and cold running water can be found in places, so don't be surprised of you do see it.

    + DO NOT TOUCH THE WIRES. The shower head has a switch inside it that turns on the water when the water passes through it. Thus, the wires going from the wall to the shower head always have power to them. Even if the water is turned off, there is still power to the device.

    As part of this, it should be noted that for many years, electrical tape, wire nuts, and other good quality insulation material for wire junctions were unavailable in Brasil, or of inferior quality for many years. For a while, those of us volunteering time at certain church missions projects would bring down a supply of these when we came in order to provide better electrical connections. Don't be surprised to see duct tape, scotch tape, masking tape, or other improvised electrical connections, or in many cases the wire simply left bare (as in the first two photographs).

    Also note in the first photograph that BOTH WIRES to the showerhead from the wall are GREEN! Color coding of electrical circuits is rare in Brasil. Any color wire may be energized at any time.

    + The slower the water passes through the shower head, the hotter it gets. This is because the shower head only has so much heating capacity. Many Americans that have never used these things before seem to think that the water should get hotter if they turn the water on harder. In fact, the faster the water goes through the shower, the colder it will get because that limited heat is spread over a larger water flow. If you want it hotter, then slow down the flow of water.

    + At the same time, there must be enough water flow through the shower head to activate the switch that turns on the power to the heating element. If you turn the water down to a trickle, and it isn't getting hot, then you may need to turn the water on harder.

    + If you need to adjust the shower head, turn off the flow of water first so that the power to the element is turned off. You still don't want to touch the wires, but at least power will not be going to the heating elements and there is some less potential of coming into contact with the electricity.

    + There is almost always a switch on the side of the element. "Desliga" is "turned off". If the switch is set to that setting, no matter how hard or softly you turn on the water flow it will not get hot as the device has been turned off. "Morna" is "Warm". Usually this means only half of the heating element turns on when the water flow is turned on. "Quente" is "Hot" and means the element is operating at its highest capacity. "Invierno" is "Winter" and "Verão" is summer, and some of these things are marked like this. I do not understand if this means it is colder (winter-like) in the "Invierno" setting or if it means it is hotter (for the winter season) if set to the "Invierno" setting. I have seen a few of these devices that have as many as seven (7!) temperature settings on the switch, so it may take some adjustment and experimentation to find a comfortable setting for you, and determine just how to best work with the device with which you have been presented.

    + If the device is operating (you will hear the water boiling when it hits the hot heating element, which is the source of the hot spitting and sparking sounds noted in the tourist guide, above) and yet the water is not getting very hot, it is possible that a significant part of the element is burned out. This happens on a regular basis and a huge number of stores (hardware stores, grocery stores, clothing stores, drug stores, etc.) sell replacement elements for these. Generally, it seems that only part of the element burns out at a time, so you get the "warm" setting but not the "hot" setting when this happens.

    + Despite the horrible looks of many of these contraptions, and the rather fatal sounds they make when they are operating due to the water boiling inside the shower head, they are reasonably safe devices. Virtually all of the modern ones are quite solid insulated plastic and have the power well insulated from the actual flow of water. Most of the ones I have seen in the stores in Brasil for the past 7 years or so advertise a ground safety interruption - something like the devices on American bathroom power outlets that cuts out the power if it isn't going where it should. There is an older style that you will still see in some places that has some metal parts on the shower head. If you are presented with a shower with one of these in it, do not touch the metal parts of the shower head while the water is turned on. It is probably still safe, but it is also best to be safe about how you use these things.

    + Really, the concept isn't that different than, say, an American style hot water heater that has all this high voltage electricity going into it, and a lot of metal pipes and water to it as well that could serve as a route for that electric power should something go wrong. The concept of the device really isn't that bad, but the scary part are the various improvised methods of getting the power from the wall to the shower head. Some (such as found in some of the hotels that still use these things) are quite good in their installation and an American that doesn't know otherwise might just notice an oversized shower head. Those installations completely hide the electrical wires in a conduit that runs to the shower head in a small hidden conduit that is part of the water pipe. Other installations are, without a doubt, very improvised and not something where you would want to get anywhere near the wires.

    Some photos:

    1. Typical home electric shower. Note that there are no insulators on the wires near the wall. Such things as wire nuts that we have in the USA were very hard to find in Brasil for many years. Thus, you will find many sorts of improvised electrical connections, and frequently no insulators at all. Thus, dont' touch the wires! Despite its rather deadly look to American eyes, I used this very same shower dozens of times without incident. It was installed in the house of the family with whom I stayed.

    2. A closer look at the shower in the previous photo. Note the switch on the shower head labeled "Inverno" (winter), desliga (off) and "Verão" (summer). From the symbols, in this particular case it appears this one is designed to only give half-heat on the summer setting. You get no heat at all in the off ("Desliga") position.

    3. This is a closeup view of a typical showerhead itsesf. Oh wow. This one actually has electrical tape on the connection near the shower head. That's because they got some from one of the American missionaries working nearby. Note again the switch on the shower for turning it on and off. The tube you see running downward on these showerheads is a hose extension that allows for more flexibility in cleaning. Generally, these are turned on by a valve at the end of the hose itself: push the rod into the auxiliary shower head at the end of the hose to divert the water there, or pull it out to change it back to water falling from above.

    Typical Home Style Electric Shower Closer Look at Electric Shower: Note Switch Detail View of Showerhead, including electric tape
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    Spiritist Cults

    by traveldave Updated Apr 14, 2011

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    When I was birdwatching on the Theodoro Trail high in the mountains above Rio de Janeiro, I came across a tree whose trunk was surrounded by candles, cups of rum or cachaça, cigars, and fruit (pictured here). This was a place where the rituals of one of Brazil's spiritist cults were performed.

    Brazil's early economy was based on the production of sugar. Slaves from Africa were imported to work on the sugar plantations and in other industries, such as mining. Their owners forbade them to practice their African religions and converted them to the Roman Catholic faith. Although many of the slaves earnestly converted to Roman Catholicism, many continued to practice their African religions, either in secret nighttime rituals, or during rituals disguised as Roman Catholic mass.

    Over the centuries, several spiritist cults evolved in Brazil, including Umbanda, Macumba (and its subcult Candomblé), Quimbanda, and Batuque, among many other lesser cults. These cults, or religions, combine the practices and rituals of religions from West Africa with the Roman Catholic mass. Although at first most of these religions were practiced by slaves and their descendants, many people in Brazil now practice some form of spiritist religion irregardless of race, wealth, or social standing.

    The most popular and widespread of the spiritist cults is Umbanda. This religion originated in the poor slums of Rio de Janeiro in the early nineteenth century by a psychic medium called Zélio Fernandino de Moraes. It soon spread over much of southern Brazil and northward to Bahía. Put in simple terms, practitioners of Umbanda contact the spirits of deities or the deceased to ask for help with major problems or the minor trials of everyday life in the material world. Deities include a supreme god called Orixá Olorum and lesser dieties called Orixás which are equivalent to the Roman Catholic saints.

    Most rituals take place in buildings called either terreiros or tendas, but if neither is available, the rituals can take place in a private backyard or in the forest. Rituals are presided over by a priest (pai-de-santo, meaning "father of the saint") or priestess (mãe-de-santo, meaning "mother of the saint"). The rituals involve the playing of conga drums, whose beat and rhythm help to produce a trance in which the priest, priestess, or lay practitioner is possessed by the spirits, who then make proclamations or answer questions. The rituals also include chanting, dancing, and the smoking of cigars. Offerings are made to the spirits which can include popcorn, fruit, and rum or cachaça. And divinations are made with the shells of sea snails.

    Umbanda rejects the witchcraft, black magic, and animal sacrifices which are part of Macumba and Quimbanda. However, some practitioners of Umbanda will placate the evil spirits with offerings of rum, food, or cigars. The main evil spirits include Exú (the devil) and his consort, Pomba Gira, an alluring female spirit, generally portrayed as a garish prostitute.

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    by DAO Updated Apr 4, 2011

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    The people of Brazil speak Portuguese as a legacy of their colonial past. Here are a few phrases to get you started!

    Olá Hi
    Bom dia Good morning
    Boa tarde Good afternoon
    Boa noite Good night
    Como está? How are you?
    Muito bem, obrigada Very well, thanks
    Obrigada Thanks (for a woman)
    Obrigado Thanks (for a man)
    Adeus Goodbye
    Tchau Bye
    Até logo See you later

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    English to Portuguese

    by cwest03 Updated Apr 4, 2011

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    Knowledge of a few Portugues words will be helpful to anyone traveling in brazil. Try to make a list of just a few of the essentials to bring with you as you travel around. There are many good English to Portuguese dictionaries available on the web and VT is a good source of info too.

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    by ant1606 Written Aug 31, 2010

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    Cachaça, made from fermented sugarcane, is the most popular local liquor which is the main ingredient for "caipirinha" along with chopped lime, sugar and plenty of ice cubes.
    Any occasion is appropriate, but sipping a glass or two on the beach is a must!


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    Drinking beer and watching football.

    by cachaseiro Written Aug 10, 2010

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    Yes i know this sounds like something you do all over the world, but the little local football bars are a bit of an institution in Brazil.
    They are just hole in the wall bars where the local working class guys meet for a few beers after work and there will always be a TV and if there is any football game on then it will be shown.
    I just love hanging out in these places and talking to the locals while sipping beer and watching football.
    in my opinion this is one of the best ways of catching the heartbeat of the nation.

    Local brazilian football bar.
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    • Beer Tasting
    • Budget Travel

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    When you are having a beer on the beach.

    by cachaseiro Written Aug 9, 2010

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    In Brazil they generally serve large beers on the beach they are served in containers that keeps the beer cool.
    The little beach bars often only have a few of these beer coolers, so if you are let´s say 4 guys going there for a beer then you are expected to get 4 glasses and one large beer to start with.
    tis is often very weird to europeans who are used to having "their own beer", but in Brazil you share your beer with your friends so you better get used to it.
    And it is a very sociable way of drinking and that way they can keep your beer cool.

    Brazilian beer in a beer cooler. Brazilians having beer.
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    do i need to know portuguese to travel in brazil?

    by rkearns Written Apr 8, 2010

    haha esperanto. i was wondering if my portuguese needed touching up (it's pretty bad) or if the above poster perhaps used a hybrid lingo. anyway, i have to agree with mccalpin. i have also stayed in remote areas and large cities. i went almost 3.5 months without hearing english in the remote area (of 7 months there, i heard it two or three times by tourists). in the city, you should definitely stay at larger hotels if you expect them to speak english. the polite thing to do would be to learn enough of the language to ask basic questions. it's just something you do when you go to another country. i would not expect them to understand spanish (although they do) because they speak portuguese there.

    as for getting out of rio for a few days, buzios is always nice. it's pricier. another option i tell everyone is to go on a boat excursion to itacuruca. you can look under my rio "things to do" tip for that info, i believe. you will get a ton of info on here if you do a search for rio, and then look at off the beaten path tips. most people on VT are incredibly patient and generous, knowledgeable and helpful.

    i wouldn't drive in brazil unless you
    a) speak some portuguese
    b) are in a really touristy, "safe" town like florianopolis.

    as far as traveling independently, or however you worded it, you can do it. you know, just be aware. true, people have traveled much more corrupt and impossible locations. just have fun!

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    Brasil's Buildings

    by pepples46 Updated Feb 24, 2010

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    in the Countryside have always been very pracmatic as well as realy nice to watch at and resemble which immigration background the area has, italian, portugues, german, polish and so on. often white painted, lots of windows for good ventilation, high ceilings.the rooms are generously laid out and not overloaded with furniture. the kitchen the main meeting place, friends sit around, have a meal afterward a game or two of canaster...erva mate..chimarao.. makes the round, and coffee, black, short and sweet.
    many immigrants brought of course their building skills and custom with them, here the house of my friends, which I had rented in Rio Grande do Sul..Boa Vista do Herval and Santa Catarina
    sure you'll find all the highrises you want in Sao Paulo or Rio. Architecture in Brasilia, the Capital, is an Artform

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    Eye contact

    by cachaseiro Updated Nov 6, 2009

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    If you are talking to a brazilian then look them straight in the eyes.
    A lot of people will think that you don't like them or that you are not interested in talking to them if you avoid eye contact.
    This is unlike some other cultures in other parts of the world where staring at people is rude, but in Brazil they like when you look straight at them.
    If you don't look people in the eyes when you say cheers you get 7 years of bad sex according to some brazilian friends of mine so you better do it :O).

    Eye conatact will give you a smile back
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    The jangada

    by cachaseiro Updated Nov 6, 2009

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    The jangada is a little fishing boat made from a few pieces of wood, with a little sail on.
    It's a very important boat in the history of the north east and you will hear it mentioned in many songs and in many brazilian novels.
    It's used for fishing and you see it all over the northern coastline.
    The jangada fishermen are some of the people that has played a big part in creating the spirit of Brazil.

    A jangada
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    Take it easy

    by cachaseiro Updated Nov 6, 2009

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    Brazil is very casual and laid back.
    Forget about gucci and rolex and put on your shorts and your thongs (your tanga if you are a girl).
    The only thing that is compulsory is a positive attitude.
    Be proud of who you are and smile.
    That way you are a sure hit in brazil.

    Chilling out while sitting on the bar
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