US Visitors to Brazil
Wilmer J. Miller
12 Apr 1994 [modified September 1997]
If you plan an extended
stay, you may expect "Culture Shock" after 6 weeks or so. The first
few days may see "Atalhaulpa's Revenge" as your gut gets new E.
coli strains. Tourists in hotels, etc. may escape these
CONDITIONS THAT MAY DISTRACT OR STARTLE YOU:
1. Most building and houses have NO HEAT!
2. Window SCREENS to keep out mosquitos and flies are RARE!
3. Practically all houses and apartments have a resident GECKO (lizard). No real problem, they are nice. Eating ants, mosquitos and cockroaches. Ants are common inside houses.
4. Light fixture covers over light bulbs in the ceiling are frequently missing-- just the bare wires and bulb hanging out, even in the nicest modern rooms.
5. Town houses almost always have DEFENSIVE WALLS around the property often with nails, broken glass, or barbed wire embedded in the top. Attack dogs (rarely lions) are contained within some properties and by their sudden rush and barking may really startle pedestrians walking by.
6. CRAZY DRIVING is the rule in Brazil. Pedestrians often walk in the MIDDLE of the side streets.
7. Almost no one can tell you which way is NORTH! And YOU will have direction difficulties!
8. NO HOT WATER is in the tap. Bathtubs are rare! Shower heads sometimes can shock you, since they are electrified to heat the water.
9. NO FROZEN vegetables nor many prepared foods are readily available (but are becoming so progressively). Tomatoes and oranges are always partly green!
10. In lieu of door bells, the poorer houses, and in the country, hand CLAPPING is the way to announce your presence.
11. Old style European-colonialism is rather evident, most noticeable by the presence of servants, especially maids and cooks and gardeners.
12. INFLATION was ever present with over one percent per DAY for nearly 30 years! But since 1 July 94 the Real has replaced the Cruziero and is relatively stable. One USA dollar = 0.85 Real Oct 1994-Feb 1995! Sep 1997 -- $1 = 1.09 Real; 1999 Indonesian "crash" -- one Real = 0.56 cents.
13. Car/truck/bus wrecks, breakdowns, etc. will have broken off tree branches in the road in the lane of stoppage. Therefore, trees and bushes nearby are often in bad shape. Roads are generally bad. Some hills are very steep. (At least two or more in Belo Horizonte reach 30o incline.)
14. In polite company do not mention going to /or planning to stay in a Motel. In Brazil a motel is a brothel.
Every case is different. The particular city sometimes makes a difference. We were in Belo Horizonte, M.G., which we enjoyed very much, and its weather was excellent. Even so, in crowds watch out for pickpockets. Men: try to have both hand and arms free, which is likely a good deterent.
What to wear? ...Stone washed or used jeans and T-shirts with English words, if you want to fit into the street or public scene. I found simple double pocket shirts were useful for carrying "documentos", pen and note pad. [But keep passports, etc. hidden.] Close up you will almost certainly be easily marked as a foreigner no matter how you to try to fit in.
MONEY: Never keep large sums of cash on your person. Men should always have at least one hand/arm free (both is better) in cities. Women should have a shoulder strap purse always closed secured over the shoulder. Never have money or passport showing in pockets when walking in cities. Use a checkbook most of the time for groceries or any larger transaction. [A gang of boys may have a "grab and run" intention.] Be prepared to pay local urchins the equivalent of 10-50 cents (or more to an adult person) to "guard" (= not injure) your parked car. Radios and anything of value are transferred to the trunk when parked on streets. In big shopping centers the cars are reasonably well guarded.
Take/bring "After Bite" for the mosquitos or fleas you might encounter on unexpected occasions. Actually, we never encountered mosquitoes, etc. in high numbers. In the winter you might want an electric room heater (or electric pad for the bed.). There are small heaters that will fit into your suitcase -- ours worked very well. You probably will not need this in coastal cities because they are at low altitude, nor in the Manaus (Amazon) area.
You will miss: free water in restaurants...screens on the windows..bath tubs...automatic shift on cars...good rubber bands, non-breaking dental floss, dependable postal service, and as foods: American pie, pecans, pepper in shakers, cheddar cheese, parsley, celery, tender beef, packets of sugar or substitute sugar on restaurant tables, and "Tums".
You will notice things such
as wrist watches are often worn very loose like bracelets. Jean pants
legs on men will usually have 1-3-5-7 bends above the shoe (top count
US VISITORS TO BRAZIL -- WHAT YOU PROBABLY WILL LIKE:
Climate: Depends on where you are: Pro: the city of Atibaia in the state of São Paulo reputedly among the best 3 places in the world; Highlands of Minas Gerais such as the city of Belo Horizonte with temperatures from 45oF minimum in the winter to 90oF maximum in the summer. The rainy season has short thunder showers. [Wait 30 minutes and you can walk home even on the "mud."] Con: Amazonas (Manaus) is very hot and humid, uncomfortable; and we were there in the winter!
1. Guaraná (especially Antartica or Tai brands -- a soft (National) drink.
2. Cheese bread (Pão de queijo, specialty of Minas Gerais state).
3. Cupim (hump meat) in Churrascarias-sliced and served directly to your plate from a sword. (50% fat?)
4. Exotic fruits including properly ripened Mangoes; Pineapple which are tasty even in the center.
5. ...quite a few good "dishes."
It is fascinating!! There are many more and different species of:
Blooming or graceful trees -- some exotics like flame tree, spathodia, and munguba, as well as many natives like biroska (with a neat green trunk and graceful leaves against the sky, coqueira palm, ipê (one species with yellow or white and another with purple-pinkish flowers), Erythrina with red fingers for blossoms, Quaresmeira (a pink or deep purple blossom) near Easter time...
Birds -- small flocks of parrots may fly overhead: the bananaquit may cheep at you from nearby shrubs; hummingbirds (beija flor or "flower kisser') are frequent;...Not enough can be said about the birds -- fabulous!!!.....Very long legged wolf, armadillos, butterflies,... the bem-te-vi (Great Kiskadee flycatcher) is neat and cheerful...etc. etc.
Animals.... Fascinating--see the jacaré, capivari, quati,...
Insects.... Fascinating --various degrees of blue on Morpho butterflies, strange caterpillars, genetic varieties in one colony of some insects....
Generally, people like (gostão) Americans and are very helpful. They have a strong sense of family and have frequent "get togethers" with meals almost picnic style to which friends and visitors are made welcome. Racial mixtures are frequent with beautiful skin tones. English is frequently spoken rather well by the educated.
Brazilian Portuguese has many words of African and Indian origin. Mouse, for example is camundongo [from Africa]. They use pedra for rock as well as ita [Indian}. the pronunciation is rather different than Spanish. Any word beginning in R is pronounced as an H. Thus, no native Brazilian goes to Rio [de Janeiro (rolled R)]., but to HeeOh! Even in the middle of some words double r's are h's. Carro = Cahoe. Many, but not all, pronounce de, di, te, and ti as ch wherever it may be in the word. Many words similar to Spanish have the middle dropped out as a "lazy Spanish"; so that salir in Spanish becomes sair (to leave).