Did you just print off your plane ticket? You’re zipping your suitcase? Just realizing you’re traveling to a country you’ve never visited before? Whether it concerns the people, culture, food or restroom habits, here are a few tips to keep in mind when traveling to Brazil.
1. Your space is not your space.
Brazilians love each other! Five minutes together, and it feels like they’ve been friends for years. Kissing for hellos, goodbyes, and good laughs is a must, and “excuse me’s” are far and few between. When walking through large crowds at a festival or fair, manners are not often used. Space is shared with everyone — personal bubbles no longer exist. It will catch you off guard at first, but soon you will come to love the Brazilian people and their ways.
2. Be prepared to take care of your business with your left hand.
Brazilian plumbing is not quite as advanced as that of America’s: nothing, not even toilet paper, should be flushed down the drain. Instead, trash cans sit beside every toilet — not just for the ladies, but for anyone (hopefully everyone!) who uses toilet paper to clean themselves up. The reason for this, according to thebrazilbusiness.com, is because the water pressure is not strong enough to push the toilet paper through the extensive pipes, and the toilet paper isn’t entirely biodegradable. “I keep forgetting about [not flushing toilet paper]. We’ve clogged our toilets a few times,” said tourist Brittany Yates, 26. So before you leave your house, cherish this small, and not stinky, act of privacy.
3. You will see new food.
It’s not what you may know in America, but it is SO GOOD. Green, spiky fruit; yellow, spiky fruit with a white-and-black filling; chicken hearts; colorful candies; and neon drinks are common. Dragonfruit has become my new favorite snack. Fresh-squeezed fruit juices (some fruits you may know, others are hidden within the Amazon rainforest) are endless! Brazil sells incredibly fresh mangoes, passionfruit, papaya, multiple banana types, guavas, atemoia, jackfruit, and more! And, according to thebrazilianbusiness.com, Brazil sells the majority of their fruit abroad, primarily to the European Union (70% to be exact), and the Netherlands receives over a quarter of this export! Who knew the EU states loved fruit so much.
4. Guaraná Soda will become #1 on your list.
The second-largest soda company in Brazil, AmBev, according to thebrazilbusinesss.com, creates a drink made from an Amazon-berry, Guaraná. Guaraná has a sweet taste — a mix between cherry and raspberry — but isn’t quite too sweet to bear. Still carbonated, the bubbles entice your tongue with a brilliant twist of flavor causing you to beg (and gulp) more. I’ve found this soda to be more addicting than any I ever found in America.
5. You’ll enjoy being separated from your social media friends.
Approximately 75% of the locations (restaurants, museums, libraries, etc.) you visit will have their own wifi. Most require a password, but with kind words and a smile, you usually are granted your wish. Often, however, wifi does not stand up to the spoiled American ways: Brazilian wifi tends to be spotty, only holds so many devices, and is incredibly slow in loading pictures (sorry Instagram-ers). I’ve learned to only use wifi when absolutely necessary — or right before bed. This limits my social media access and conversations with friends and family, but it helps me to dive into the Brazilian ways and culture. It’s quite bittersweet, but I think I’ll appreciate the lack of wifi once I’m reconnected back home.
6. Graffiti will take on an entirely new look.
A few bridges and buildings in America ask graffiti artists to beautify a public area with incredible paintings, diagrams and portraits. In Brazil, this is the same. These areas are scattered frequently throughout the cities, particularly in that of São Paulo. For example, for the 2014 World Cup, city officials gave street artists a 2.5 mile stretch to celebrate soccer (The Washington Post). Some pieces are political, others poetic, and some were made with laughter intended. Tourists and locals alike pose for photos, upload sassy Instagram captions and fall in love with this art. One street, Batman Alley, is a must see when visiting Brazil.
7. Time will become “circular” rather than “linear”.
Brazilians will be late to everything. Whether it’s a meeting, a party or a simple hang-out session: Brazilians don’t seem to understand the words “Sorry, I’m busy!” so double-booking may happen. Dr. Cesar Alves Ferragi summarized this Brazilian tendency, and the idea that time doesn’t really slow down, as long as there are people in the world and a mind in your head, there is always something to do!
8. A flight home will be the last thing you wish to do.
After spending just a few days in this incredible nation, the people, colors, food, and amazing drinks will lure you in. Leaving Brazil means going back to plans, calendars, deadlines and cemented streets of your home city. America is beautiful in its own way, but where else will you walk through a tropical garden, enjoy a 2-inch cup of coffee while listening to the beats of colorful drums and laughter caucusing down the street?
Madeline Grosh is a Ball State University student and writer for Ball State at the Games, a group of 50 journalism students traveling from Muncie, Indiana, to Rio for the Olympic Games. Follow them at bsuatthegames.com, @bsuatthegames on Twitter and Instagram, and facebook.com/bsuatthegames on Facebook.