26 Habits You’ll Pick Up While Living in Brazil

When many people think of Brazil, they think of beautiful, pristine beaches…carnival…festive music and dance…fútebol

Brazil is all of that…and so much more. It’s an incredibly diverse and unique country filled with many cultural idiosyncrasies that might seem strange to outsiders.

After spending just over a year living in Brazil, I’ve found that there are a few habits that every foreigner is almost certain to pick up (or at least witness) while living here. Here are 26 of them…

1. Hitchhiking

In the U.S., hitchhiking is illegal, and growing up, I was led to believe that hitchhiking was incredibly dangerous and frankly, just plain stupid (in fairness, maybe in the U.S. it is).

But in Brazil, hitchhiking is very common and generally safe (at least in Florianópolis and the safer cities of Brazil). So if you can’t get a ride somewhere, you’ll learn to just stand on the side of the road, stick your thumb up and wait for the first car to stop.

2. Wearing tiny bikini bottoms 

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Photo credit: Adam Kontor

In order to blend in on the beaches of Brazil, a tiny bikini is not just preferred–it’s mandatory. Preferably one that shows off your tan lines (which in my case, are nonexistent!).

While it may feel uncomfortable at first to bare so much skin, you’ll soon find it liberating. And after some time, you’ll almost definitely prefer the more revealing Brazilian bikini style and will find it difficult to revert to those “fraldas” (“diapers”) that everyone else around the world wears.

3. Crazy driving 

If there are no other cars around, most drivers in Brazil speed through stop signs and red lights. This isn’t something that police will ticket drivers for either.

Tailgating and passing cars illegally is the norm in Brazil. And many drivers will come so close to hitting pedestrians or the cars in front of them that you’ll wonder how accidents don’t happen more often.

4. Chilling red wine 

The first time I even knew that chilled red wine was a thing was when I was staying with a Brazilian family in Florida. They put red wine in the fridge and I thought it was the oddest thing…I thought that maybe they just didn’t know that red wine was supposed to be served unchilled!

But then I moved to Florianópolis and realized that everyone did it there too. Because of the warmer climate, Brazilians prefer to chill red wine prior to drinking it…and it’s actually pretty rare to see red wine served unchilled.

5. Making…and cancelling plans 

In Brazil, plans are made to be broken. So unless you make plans with someone at the last minute, chances are, whatever you had planned in advance is not going to happen.

After getting frustrated with this on more than one occasion, I’ve found that the best way to deal with it is just to make plans with multiple people because chances are, 3/4 of those people will cancel or flake in the end.

6. Listening to Brazilian music

One thing that I really love about Brazil is the music. There are so many different genres: sertanejo, rock, samba, funk, forro, MPB (Musica Popular Brasileira)…and personally, I love it all. I also love that almost everywhere you go in Brazil, you’ll hear Brazilian music—not foreign or American music.

After living in Brazil, you will inevitably accumulate a large playlist of different types of Brazilian music–and you’ll wonder why it’s not more famous worldwide.

7. Watching your belongings like a hawk

In the year and some months that I’ve lived in Brazil, I’ve had two iPhones stolen straight out of my purse.

You’d think I would have learned my lesson the first time, but many of these thieves are so smooth and slick that you often don’t even realize you’re being pickpocketed until after the fact.

I’m lucky enough that I was just pickpocketed both times–because just about every single Brazilian I have met has been robbed at gunpoint at some point in their lives. In many parts of Brazil, it’s not enough to be careful. You have to be super careful.

There are some places that are the exception to this (like Florianópolis and some of the smaller cities in Brazil), but in most larger cities, like Salvador, Porto Alegre, and Rio, you literally can never take your belongings out of your sight. Because the second you look away is the second that someone will rob you.

Want my two cents? Unless you are in Florianópolis or some of the smaller, safer cities in Brazil, make sure that you:

  1. Keep your purse closed at all times (I believe I was pickpocketed when I had my purse open to get money out and pay)
  2. Keep the zipper facing towards you (if it’s facing away from you, that makes it much easier for someone to open up your bag–which yes, does happen…a lot)
  3. Hold your purse up to your chest (I was pick-pocketed from a purse that hung down my shoulder)
  4. Hide your belongings in concealed travel bags and put your most valuable stuff there—that way, if you are robbed at gunpoint or knifepoint, you at least will have that remaining (hopefully).

8. Showering several times a day 

Brazilians have an obsession with cleanliness. They wash their hands numerous times throughout the day, keep their homes sparkling clean and brush their teeth about ten times a day.

Most Brazilians also shower at least twice a day. And during the hot, humid summers, many shower up to five times a day.

9. Greeting with a kiss 

Like in Europe, the standard way to greet someone in Brazil is with an air kiss (or two) on the cheek (so no, not an actual kiss…more like touching cheeks and making a kiss motion).

But in Bahia (known for its incredibly warm culture) people will often give real cheek kisses–with lips involved and everything.

10. Being more touchy-feely 

As a whole, Brazilians are very affectionate. There is a lot of kissing, touching and hugging that goes on between loved ones, family members, and even strangers.

Don’t be alarmed if a stranger lightly touches you on the shoulder or arm or if you see couples passionately making out in public.

And if you aren’t an affectionate person yourself, you might find it difficult to date a Brazilian (and vice versa). Or…you’ll just have to adapt.

11. Ending every conversation with “Beijos”

Brazilians are not only affectionate physically–they are also affectionate in the way that they speak to one another.

In Brazil, it’s almost rude to end a conversation and not say “beijos” (“kisses”).

If the relationship is more formal or professional, then you might hear “abraços” (“hugs”) instead. Although not always. It’s totally normal for doctors to say “beijos” to their patients, for instance (this has happened to me on more than one occasion!).

In the U.S., I’m pretty sure something like this would constitute as some form of sexual harassment or at the very least, be considered weird and creepy. Personally, I love it.

12. Calling strangers “flor” and “querida” 

When I first moved to Floripa, I lived with a Brazilian girl for four months. She called me “flor” (“flower”) so much that I actually started to wonder if she thought that was my name. I soon realized that this was just her affectionate nickname for me.

So don’t be surprised if strangers (or friends) call you nicknames like “flor” or “querido(a)” (dear) instead of your name. This is just yet another Brazilian way of showing affection.

13. Eating avocado as a fruit 

Okay, so technically, avocado is a fruit. But in the U.S., we treat it like a vegetable.

In Brazil, avocado is not something you’ll find in things like salads or sushi. Instead, it’s often treated more like a desert, mixed with condensed milk, sugar, chocolate syrup and the like.

14. Drinking exotic fruit juices 

Maracuja….pitanga…caju…cupuaçu…guarana…the list goes on. In Brazil, you’ll taste fruits that you never even knew existed, often served as juices.

When I was in Bahia, I tried a cacau caipirinha–basically composed of cachaça, sugar, cacau juice and cacau seeds….yup, the seeds that are used to make chocolate.

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15. Finding a way 

The other night, I was talking to a Brazilian friend of mine and was saying how, if I wanted to live in Brazil (or anywhere in the world), I believe I (or anyone) could find a way to do that. Screw visa regulations and all of that. No matter what it is, if you want something badly enough, you can make it happen. He laughed and said to me, “you’re so Brazilian.”

Because in Brazil, there’s an expression called “dar un jeito” (“find a way”). This expression sums up Brazilian culture in a lot of ways. Basically, if you want to do something, then you find a way to make it happen. You dá um jeito. 

16. Throwing toilet paper in the trash can..not the toilet 

In Brazil (perhaps like many other developing countries), you aren’t supposed to throw toilet paper in the toilet, since this can clog the sewage system. Gross, but yes, it’s supposed to go in the adjacent trash can instead.

17. Taking your time 

In Brazil, time just moves a bit slower. People are very relaxed; you won’t see many people rushing around from place to place.

So as you can probably guess, Brazilians also aren’t the most punctual people. Everyone and everything always runs a little bit late, even business meetings. Although people do seem to be a bit more punctual in the South of Brazil (thanks to that European influence).

Bottom line: If you’re someone who’s always on time, you might have to adjust your schedule a bit in Brazil.

18. Drinking strong (and sugary) coffee 

Brazilians make their coffee super strong and tend to drink just a little at a time, generally in small expresso cups. And often, there’s a lot of sugar involved.

Oh, and be careful if you order a cappuccino in Brazil. At most places, a “cappuccino” is not a cappuccino…It’s basically an incredibly sugary and chocolatey coffee drink. Don’t say I didn’t warn you!

19. Drinking beer out of small cups

In Brazil, it’s pretty much sacrilege to drink beer that is anything less than ice cold. So instead of drinking beer out of large glasses, Brazilians tend to drink beer out of small copinhos (cups). That way, the beer is still cold by the time you finish it. Genius, right?!

20. Waxing it all off 

Umm hellooo, it’s called the “Brazilian” bikini wax for a reason.

In Brazil, most women wax all of their nether parts on a regular basis (which yes, is incredibly painful the first time…but fortunately, gets less and less painful the more you do it.)

Luckily, this habit isn’t one that will break the bank. While in the U.S., a Brazilian bikini wax costs at least $50-$60 (and probably more with that damn tip that’s required!), in Brazil, I never paid more than a total of $10 USD for a Brazilian wax.

21. Saying “maybe” instead of “no” 

Brazilians are not the most direct people and generally do anything to try and avoid conflict.

For that reason, they will rarely flat-out decline an invitation. Instead, they will say “maybe” and then decline later…or just not show up. While in North American culture, this is considered rude, in Brazil, this is totally normal and expected. Ironically, it’s just their way of trying to be polite!

Oh, and if a Brazilian says “yes” to an invitation, then that really means “maybe” (see #5 for more on that).

22. Only texting via Whatsapp 

Brazilians don’t text—they Whatsapp.

If you aren’t a Whatsapp user before coming to Brazil, you definitely will become one while living here. And once you start using Whatsapp, you’ll wonder why you ever used any other platform to communicate.

24. Drinking agua de coco 

In Brazil, agua de coco (coconut water) is omnipresent, especially on the coast. And it’s almost always served in the actual coconut (even in restaurants).

Warning: You’ll get used to drinking it this way and if you ever have to go back to bottled coconut water, it will probably be a tough adjustment!

25. Breaking the rules 

I was once talking with a Brazilian who lived in the U.S. and found it difficult to adapt because of all the strict rules. Because in Brazil, rules are made to be broken. Granted, this probably helps explain all of the political mayhem too.

But it is nice to live in a place where you don’t have to worry about being penalized for something like drinking a beer in the middle of the street or jaywalking (true story: I got a $170 jaywalking ticket in Los Angeles…and my friend got a jaywalking ticket in L.A. for crossing the street when the “don’t walk” sign had just started flashing!).

26. Not sweating the small stuff 

The bus running late? Oh well. Read a book!

Missing 20 cents to pay the cab driver? No biggie. Fique tranquilo. 

Brazilians are a very laid-back bunch. After living in Brazil, that relaxed attitude will inevitably rub off on you–and you’ll wonder why everyone else around the world is so uptight and stressed all the time.

What it’s REALLY Like to Live in Medellin, Colombia

After spending seven unforgettable weeks in Buenos Aires, I once again packed my bags and this time, relocated to Medellin, Colombia, where I ended up living for another two months.

Why Medellin? I was drawn to the fact that there was a huge digital nomad (pardon the douchy term) and entrepreneurial community there, thanks to the city’s high quality of life, low cost of living and friendly people. Medellin is also known for being one of the most creative cities in South America; many entrepreneurs from all around the globe move to Medellin to start businesses (I lived with three of them).

I certainly had my preconceptions about what it was like to live in Medellin, but not all of them proved to be accurate. So for those of you who are curious, here’s what it’s REALLY like to live in the former drug capital of the world…

It’s safe (really!) 

Before I moved to Medellin, I had received my fair share of warnings. A lot of my friends and family back in the states thought I was certifiably insane for moving to a place that was once the drug capital (and the most dangerous city) of the world. One ex-colleague of mine relayed warnings to not go anywhere near Colombia, because the entire country was replete with drug trafficking, kidnapping and violence.

Rest assured, these warnings were nothing more than vast, unfounded generalizations based entirely on anecdotal evidence and stereotypes. Even just a little bit of research on Medellin shows that this is a far cry from reality.

Here’s my take on things: Like any city, it depends on the neighborhood you’re in. I lived in El Poblado, which is one of the nicest neighborhoods in Medellin, and felt like I could have just as easily been in a suburb of the U.S. All of the bars and restaurants were within walking distance from my place or a short cab (or Uber) ride away and I honestly felt safe walking home at any hour of the night.

But when I ventured out to other areas (like the slums, for lack of a better word), I definitely didn’t feel quite as safe. I visited Comuna 13, known for once being the most dangerous neighborhood of Medellin. Over the years, it has undergone a massive transformation; home to a library park, an outdoor escalator and some colorful graffiti art, the neighborhood is now liveable and relatively safe (at least comparatively). But I wouldn’t recommend flashing your belongings or meandering down any dark alleyways.

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Comuna 13
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Comuna 13
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Comuna 13

Bottom line: Like any city, you just have to “keep your antenna up,” as my mom always used to say, and be aware of your surroundings. But honestly, most of the time, I felt safer in Medellin than I did in the U.S.

People are very honest 

I gotta say, as bad as it sounds, this one surprised me. Being in a developing Latino country (not to mention a city that was once the drug capital of the world), I would have expected the locals in Medellin to try and take advantage of gringos like myself whenever they could.

Au contraire. There was not one, but multiple instances, where I nearly overpaid by quite a lot (the Colombian currency takes some getting used to, okay?!). The taxi drivers/cashiers could have easily pocketed the extra money, but instead, they told me that I was paying way too much and gave me back the money I didn’t need to pay.

It’s cheap–but not THAT cheap

Compared to a city like Buenos Aires, Medellin is definitely cheap. And when it comes to housing, the dollar and euro go a long way. Because the city has developed so much over the last ten years, many of the apartments are modern and new and come equipped with pools, saunas and gyms.

Just to give you an idea, I paid $500 USD a month to live in a shared penthouse where I had my own private bathroom, desk and a queen-sized bed. The two-floor apartment had a large terrace with a big screen projector and a kick-ass view of the entire city, as well as another large balcony (which also had an awesome view). It also had a treadmill, which proved particularly advantageous due to the city’s unpredictable weather.

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Our terrace
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The view from my bedroom
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#digitaldouchebag

And for all that, I still think that I was overpaying a bit.

I found my place through one of the Facebook expat groups (so no, I didn’t live with any Colombians)–but Airbnb is also really cheap and honestly an option for long-term rental. When I went back to Medellin (on my way to Brazil), I rented a room in Poblado for a week and paid about $10 per night. The apartment was nice and fairly modern; I had my own bathroom; and my bedroom had a panoramic view of the city. Like so…

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Yup, $10 USD a night for that. True story.

In Medellin, I was able to afford things that I currently wouldn’t be able to afford back home (or in many other places for that matter).

I never go to get my nails done in the U.S. because it’s not worth it to me to spend $60 to $70 on a mani/pedí every couple of weeks. But in Medellin, this was something that I could easily afford. I paid a total of $15 for a gel manicure and pedicure at a nice salon in Poblado (which would have cost me nearly $100 back stateside). Imagine what I would have paid at a “cheap” salon!

I also paid $10 for a haircut at a high-end salon in Poblado (something that would cost me a minimum of $60 in the U.S.).

We had a housekeeper come to clean the apartment several times a week, and each time, it cost us a total of $20 USD (so $5 each) for about six hours worth of cleaning. Given the fact that she worked so hard, traveled for several hours to come to us and had a son to provide for, I felt bad about paying her so little. I talked to my roommate about paying her a bit more, but he said that if we paid much more than the going rate, we would then become the dumb gringos who get taken advantage of…so alas, that stayed the same…

We also had a full-time chef, who came five days a week and cooked all of our meals (that cost about an additional $500/month per person for the food ingredients plus her services). As someone who reallyyy does not like to cook (at least not on a daily basis), this was a huge bonus for me.

Here are some of the gourmet meals that she cooked for us…

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Your mouth watering yet? Ok sorry, I’ll stop. Moving on…

Uber and taxis are also very inexpensive. I never felt guilty about taking them because they almost never exceeded the cost of what I would pay in NYC for a subway ride.

To give you an idea, a 20-minute taxi or Uber ride will set you back about $3 USD. There was one time (in Cartagena) where I think I paid about 50 cents for a ten-minute Uber ride…yet again, I felt pretty bad about not compensating the poor driver more for his time.

As for groceries, you will probably spend about $70 on a week’s worth of groceries, give or take, depending on what you buy.

What’s not cheap? Going out to eat. If you want to eat at a nicer restaurant in Poblado, you will probably spend just a bit less than you would at a similar restaurant in the U.S.

The medical care is amazing 

The medical care in Medellin is inexpensive; the facilities are state-of-the-art and modern; and many of the doctors are top notch.

To be seen (and tested) by a good doctor, you will pay about the same without insurance as you would pay with insurance in the U.S. To give you an idea, I paid about $30 USD for a very full and extensive teeth cleaning. A procedure that would have cost me between $1,500 and $10,000 in the U.S. (an upper endoscopy) cost me a mere $150 in Medellin.

If you’re looking for a doctor in Colombia, I recommend searching for one on Doctoralia.

Oh and don’t be sketched out if the doctor gives you his or her Whatsapp number. It’s totally normal in Colombia (and all of South America–or at least Brasil and Argentina) for doctors to converse with their patients via Whatsapp.

It’s really easy to meet people & network

I normally worked from home, but almost every time I worked from a coffee shop, I would meet other gringos/expats/travelers. On my last day in Medellin, I probably met at least ten different people (all gringos of course), some of whom I ended up going out to dinner and dancing with later that night. That’s how easy it is to meet people in Medellin.

It’s also inspiring to be surrounded by–and meet–so many ambitious and creative people. On my last day in Medellin, I was working from a restaurant and started talking to the guy sitting next to me, who was also working from his computer. Then the other guy next to me (also working) chipped in and goes, “I hear you talking about content marketing…I started a content marketing company.” And then revealed that he was one of the founders of Contently, a company which is pretty big in the marketing world and one that I was already well familiar with. As a content marketer, that was a pretty exciting moment for me.

The digital nomad/expat community in Medellin is huge and all the gringos/expats tend to know one other and stick together, for better or for worse. To be honest, I didn’t have much luck meeting Colombians. I suppose like anywhere, it’s always easier to meet other expats and travelers than it is to meet locals.

It rains a LOT 

Known as the city of eternal spring, Medellin has a pretty ideal climate. It never gets too hot or cold and the temperature hovers in the 70s Fahrenheit (mid 20s celsius) year-round.

The downside is that it is always a bit chilly at night (so not quite comfortable enough to go jacket- or sweater-free). And it rains (ie: pours) a LOT, which can get annoying if you are unprepared. I learned the hard way to always bring an umbrella (and sweater) with me wherever I went. Luckily the rain never lasts too long (normally only a few hours) before it’s sunny again.

Spices don’t really exist 

If you like spicy food, then I’ve got some bad news: You’ll probably be disappointed by the food in Colombia, which is notorious for being quite bland and spice-free.

The typical to-go food in Colombia is fried…think: plantains, arepas (corn cakes) and empanadas.

Most of the time, the to-go food also looks pretty unappetizing, like it’s been sitting out for several days (and judging by the taste, probably has been).

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Super fresh hamburger patties and sausages…yum

But go to a nicer restaurant and the food can be pretty amazing…

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The amazing food at Alambique, a restaurant in El Poblado

Pollution is bad 

Because Medellin is situated in a valley, surrounded by mountains, pollution can build up and get pretty bad at times, like during rush hour when there are a lot of cars on the road. Good news is that the frequent rain helps to clear the atmosphere.

Also, if you live higher up on a hill, the pollution isn’t really an issue. Where I lived (in El Poblado), I didn’t notice it, but when I ventured out into certain parts of the city, I sometimes felt smothered by the polluted air.

The paisaje is breathtaking 

One of the reasons that I wanted to live in Colombia was because I wanted to be surrounded by nature. And Medellin definitely turned out to be a good place for that.

I loved looking out of my apartment window and seeing green mountains in the distance and cows lounging in nearby parks…

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See the cows?? View from one apartment I stayed at

I loved walking through the streets of my neighborhood and passing by streams, bamboo trees and lush plant life I’d never seen before.

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One of the streets in my neighborhood

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I loved the open-air restaurants and bars and always feeling like I was surrounded by nature.

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37 Park – my favorite bar in Medellin. Can you see why?
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37 Park

I also loved being able to hop on a bus and in 40 minutes, completely escape from city life and be surrounded by, well, this: 

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Can you blame me?

For mini outdoor escapades, caminadas (walks) and hikes, I went to Envigado (which is technically a separate town, but practically in the city of Medellin).

There are also many pueblitos (small towns) close to Medellin, which make for some amazing weekend getaways. During my two months there, I didn’t get to see as much as I wanted to, but I did pay an overnight visit once to the colorful town of Guatapé (an absolute must-see).

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It has a thriving cafe culture 

Being a city full of digital nomads (again, there goes that douchy term again) and online entrepreneurs, it makes perfect sense that there are a ton of coffee shops and places to work from in Medellin.

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Cafe Zeppelin in El Poblado
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Cafe Zeppelin in El Poblado
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Cafe Velvet in El Poblado
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More cafes in El Poblado

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More of a restaurant than a cafe, but I loved this place (and yup, worked from there too)

And unlike the U.S., where waiters and waitresses bring you the check practically before you have taken your first bite or sip, in Colombia (and pretty much anywhere else in the world, to my knowledge), it’s considered rude to bring patrons the check or offer them their check before they have asked for it.

In the U.S., waiters will ask you about a hundred times how everything is and if you need anything (which gets so annoying). But in Colombia, waiters will only come up to you if you summon them. In other words, you can sit at a coffeeshop or restaurant all day long in Medellin and not be bothered or feel pressured to leave.

And now, I know you’re probably wondering about the coffee itself…apparently, the best coffee in Colombia is exported. But it is still home to (hands down) the best coffee that I’ve ever tasted: Pergamino coffee.

Like many of the cafes in Medellin, Pergamino has a variety of brewing methods and beans to choose from, so there’s something for everyone.

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Home to the best coffee in the world, hands down

My other favorite coffeeshop in Medellin, Urbania, is also in Poblado…but is much less touristy. The coffee is also (probably equally as) delicious and beautifully presented:

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Only in Colombia do they have 7 different coffee brews to choose from…

The locals are warm and friendly 

Before moving to Medellin, I had heard rave reviews about how friendly the people were. Perhaps because I went with such high expectations, I was a bit let down by the friendliness of locals. I imagine it has something to do with the fact that the city has received a massive influx of tourists and expats over the past few years.

But with that being said, I did encounter some very friendly people. On my first day in Medellin, I had not one, but two different cars of people stop me to ask if I needed help or a ride (and no, they weren’t males with ulterior motives…they were females!). I did accept the first ride from two Colombian women (mother and daughter) and they drove me to a nearby coffeeshop.

And on my last day in Medellin, I had an Uber driver pick me up and take me to the airport. Except instead of dropping me off curbside and helping me unload my bags, as would have been expected, he parked the car, paid for parking himself (actually refused to let me pay), and then proceeded to help me take my bags to baggage claim and didn’t leave me until I was in line at check-in.

I had to get photographic evidence of whom was probably the world’s best Uber driver:

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Not a bad note to leave on.

So there you have it. The good, the bad and the ugly (well, there wasn’t much ugly) of living in Medellin.

My final verdict? With its low cost of living, temperate climate, vibrant community and excellent medical care, Medellin has a great deal to offer both expats and tourists alike.

So what do you say…ready to pack your bags?

Observations from 7 weeks in Buenos Aires

In November of 2016, I left my 9-to-5 office job and started working for a remote-based marketing agency, which has since given me the freedom to work from anywhere in the world. I first set my sights on Buenos Aires, where I ended up staying for 7 weeks.

A little context: When I first arrived in Buenos Aires (or “Bs As” as the locals refer to it), I stayed with my friend Carolina and her brother, who were both total godsends when I arrived. They took me in while I looked for a place to stay (which turned out to be much more difficult ordeal than I had originally predicted).

After staying with them for a month, I moved to an AirbnB for another month, where I stayed with two Argentinian guys in a different part of the city. They often had asados (barbeques) at the house and invited me to join them whenever they did.

So…after all of that, here are a few things that I learned about Argentinian (or Porteño culture)…

Driving 

I think this might be more of a South American thing, but pedestrians don’t have the right of way in Buenos Aires. Cars just don’t stop for pedestrians (even at crosswalks where there is no pedestrian signal). You can be in the middle of a crosswalk and cars will just continue to barrel towards you.

After nearly getting run over several times (quite literally), I learned my lesson: always cross with extreme caution and NEVER assume that a car will stop for you!

The Language

Pretty much every Spanish-speaking person I’ve met seems to be obsessed with Argentine Spanish. It sounds like Italian-influenced Spanish, singsongey and melodic.

One Argentinian guy friend of mine lived in Barcelona for some time and told me that Spanish girls would go loco for his accent. I found the same to be true of my friend, Carolina. Personally, it also happens to be one of my favorite accents, as well.

To the outside ear, Argentine Spanish can take some getting used to. My Spanish is still pretty basic at this point, but here are a few things I’ve found…

The “y” sound becomes a “sh” sound. So instead of saying “yo,” it sounds like “sho.”

“LL” is pronounced as “Sh,” so “llevar” is pronounced like “shevar” and “calle” is pronounced “cashay.”

What I love is that Argentinians don’t say “de nada” (you’re welcome), they say “no, por favor” (no, please). They don’t say “todo bien (all good),” they say “todo bien, por suerte” (all good, thankfully).

Argentine Spanish (or at least Porteño Spanish) has a lot of Italian influence, with many words that are taken from Italian. Laburar (to work) is a slang word that is taken from the Italian word “lavorare.” Fiaca (laziness) is another word that is taken from the Italian word “fiacca” (weariness).  The list goes on…

There is one expression I recently learned which I love: viejos son los trapos, which means basically that things are old, not people. You will probably never hear an old person being called viejo or “old” in Argentina. I noticed that waiters, for instance, even address middle-aged (and older) women as “chicas” (girls). In Argentina, everyone is treated young, no matter their age. “Old” doesn’t exist.

One thing I’ve found is that while I tried to speak Spanish all of the time, many people would respond in English to me (to which, I would respond back in Spanish or simply say “español esta bien”). I found that this very rarely happens in Colombia (where far fewer people speak English). So if you are just passing through Buenos Aires, you could probably get by on unicamente ingles (only English). But the polite thing is to at least ask “Hablas ingles?” before assuming. You’d be surprised how many foreigners (ahem, Americans) don’t seem to do this.

Fashion

Women in Argentina seem to love wearing these hideous five-inch platform shoes (referred to as “tacos”), which for whatever reason, have become a trend in Buenos Aires. They look a little something like this…

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And EVERYONE (at least all young people) wears them.

Cost of Living/Prices

Word on the street is that Bs As used to be quite cheap. Not so much anymore. Everyone warned me that it was an expensive city, but I guess I didn’t realize just how expensive it was. While definitely less costly than other major cities like London, New York and Paris, it’s definitely not cheap.

For a decent room in a shared apartment in a desired neighborhood (like Palermo or Recoleta), you’ll pay upwards of $600 USD. If you don’t mind living a bit off the beaten path or in a tiny (and I mean, tiny) room, you can pay less than that, like $375 maybe.

A coffee in a nice coffee shop will run you about 50 pesos or $3 USD. A take-out meal normally doesn’t cost less than 150 pesos or $10 USD. If you want healthy, organic food, you’ll pay closer to $20 USD (or more). Prefer to dine in? Lunching at a nice, healthy restaurant in Palermo (admittedly one of the most expensive neighborhoods in the city) will set you back about $30.

Alcohol isn’t cheap either. Expect to pay about 200 pesos or $13 for two beers in Palermo (the place to go out in Bs As). A cocktail at a nice bar costs about twice that, 200 pesos (or more), for one cocktail.

Groceries are probably even more expensive than the U.S.–for lower quality. I would pay about $100 USD for a week’s worth (maybe less) of groceries.

As someone who is quite health-conscious and picky about what I put in my mouth, I found it difficult and frustrating to grocery shop in Buenos Aires.

The selection is much more limited for health-conscious eaters and finding things like Himalayan sea salt, seed-based crackers, goji berries and the like isn’t easy (I realize I probably sound like a spoiled, pretentious brat even saying that!). Also, many of the fruits and vegetables look practically rotten, sometimes with flies all around them. Not very appetizing.

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Frankly, I found it difficult to find what appeared to be fresh fruits and vegetables. There are some smaller markets that sell healthy, organic foods, but still not even close to the same selection that you can find back stateside or in neighboring Brazil.

Food & Drinks 

On that note, it’s not easy to be vegan or vegetarian in Buenos Aires. While there are more and more healthy, plant-based restaurants opening up around the city, this is, first and foremost, the land of meat. Porteños love to have asados, or barbeques, on the weekends, and the abundance of rooftops and terraces (every house or apartment seems to have one) bodes well for that.

A typical breakfast here consists of some medialunas (croissants) and coffee.

And, oh, the wine…This is not only delicious in Argentina, but also one of the few things that is relatively inexpensive. Wine-lovers rejoice.

Fernet, which, let’s just say, is an acquired taste, is another alcoholic drink that you will hear and see a lot of in Argentina. No party is complete without it.

And then there’s mate. Mate is like an herb tea and is everywhere in Argentina. People drink it out of a tin cup filled with herbs. At parties and get-togethers, you will probably see a thermos filled with hot water, which is poured into the tin cup every so often and then passed around for everyone to drink. Like so…

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One thing that I love, which I had never had before, is coffee tonic, which is a cold brew coffee with tonic water – expensive but surprisingly delicious. This is a thing in Buenos Aires I found.

Getting Around

There are three ways that I got around: Uber (or taxis); the bus or the metro. The metro is very limited, so in terms of public transportation, you’ll probably be relying mostly on the bus. In order to take the bus or metro, you’ll need to get a card–and recharge it before boarding. If the card runs out while you’re on the bus, you have two passes which you can pay off another time and then you won’t be able to use it all. If that happens, you will have to ask a fellow passenger to pay for you (and give them the 7 pesos or whatever it is).

Uber exists only for people who have a foreign bank card–because of the taxi competition, people with Argentine bank cards are prohibited from using Uber. Uber drivers will often ask passengers to sit in the front seat (and pretend that they are a friend), because if a taxi driver notices an Uber driver, he may pick a fight (Yup, I have heard of this actually happening). Unlike many other South American countries, Uber and taxis are not cheap.

Culture

Buenos Aires feels more like a European city than anything else. And this isn’t just in the architecture (Recoleta, in particular, feels like a little Paris) and the city itself, but in the behavior of the people, as well. Everyone greets each other with a kiss on the cheek. Men will even greet other men this way.

People tend to be very nice and friendly once you start talking to them, but at least from my experience, they generally won’t strike up a conversation with you on the bus or in the middle of the street. Of course part of this surely has to do with being in a big city–I’m sure it’s also a bit different in other parts of Argentina.

What’s interesting to me is that, despite its proximity, Argentina is culturally so different from neighboring countries (like Brazil, for instance). Argentinians themselves have told me that people are happier, more carefree and laid-back in Brazil (or at least seem to be).

Another example: In Brazil, there isn’t much of a cafe culture. People tend to drink coffee standing up at juice bars. In Buenos Aires, like Paris, there is a huge cafe culture. Cafes are everywhere, and you will often see people sitting outside with friends, sipping on a coffee and talking about life.

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The vibe is just completely different from Brazil–and it seems, the rest of South America. It really did feel like I was in a European city in South America.

Nightlife & Dinner Culture

The proverbial nightlife and late-night dining of Buenos Aires is really something else.

I went out to dinner one night–and at 12:30AM, the restaurant was packed (so loud that I could barely hear the person I was with). And that was a Wednesday night.

Most restaurants close at 2AM, at least on weekends, because people generally don’t dine before 10-11PM here. Restaurants will be completely empty if you go at 7:30PM (the most popular time to dine in the states). Most restaurants don’t open until 8PM, but that is considered a super early hour to eat (probably equivalent to eating at 5PM in the U.S.).

When it comes to partying, people (at least young people) tend to pregame (or have prévia) until 2-3AM and then go out to clubs. Which, let me tell you, wasn’t easy on my ancient, 30-year old body!

On one of my first weekends there, we got to the club (or boliche as they call them here) around 3AM and it was only around 4AM that the place started to get super packed and everyone started to arrive. It was really unlike anything I’d ever seen before (except maybe Spain).

Given all of that, what surprised me was the fact that the streets themselves are actually pretty quiet, even on weekend nights. People tend to do their partying either at a friend’s place or at a bar or club–and not so much on the streets.

Despite the fact that people party super hard (and late) here, the hard-partying only really goes on during the weekends (at least Thursday, Friday and Saturday). On Sundays-Wednesdays, everything is dead and streets are empty after around 1AM. So porteños (or people from Buenos Aires) save their real partying for the weekend.

I was talking to a Spaniard who was visiting Buenos Aires and I asked him where the parties were better–here or Spain–and he told me Spain, because, in Spain, there is a party every single day (and Buenos Aires, people only party on certain days).

Side note: I can attest to that. I remember arriving in Madrid one night around 1AM, after having taken the train from Toulouse, France. A group of us from the hostel I was staying at all went out together, and we tried to go to a bar with live music, but found that it was closed…until 3AM…

So we went to a karaoke bar in the meantime, and when we returned to the other bar around 3AM, the place started to get packed. And this was a random Sunday at 4AM…

Not sure I could handle that degree of party-crazy. Buenos Aires is already more than I can handle!

Safety

After living in Rio, where assaltos and robberies are commonplace in pretty much every single neighborhood, Buenos Aires feels very safe to me, especially neighborhoods like Palermo, Recoleta and Colegiales (where I lived). So safe that I would even walk home from my coworking space at night with headphones in my ear.

But like many other large cities, Buenos Aires can also be pretty dangerous, depending on what part of the city you’re in. Venture much outside of the aforementioned areas to places, like to Microcentro, La Boca, and it can get pretty sketchy, fast…even in broad daylight.

Architecture & Design

Buenos Aires is a city of contrasts.

From the European-inspired architecture of Recoleta, to the colorful, artistic buildings of Palermo, to dilapidated buildings in between, this city is a blend of many different styles. Each street corner is different from the next…

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Graffiti and street art are omnipresent in Buenos Aires, thanks to the fact that there are almost zero restrictions on where artists can paint in the city (they only need the permission of property owners).

The plethora of abandoned buildings throughout the city means that there’s a profusion of blank canvases for artists to freely express themselves. On almost every street corner, there is yet another incredible mural to look at and try to interpret. Much of the art is politically-charged or depicts the history of Argentina (which was ruled by a dictatorship for many years).

Here’s another little slideshow to show you what I mean:

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Buenos Aires may be a concrete jungle, but greenery and plants are everywhere. Even though you’re in a big city, it feels like you are surrounded by nature.

From the tree-lined streets to the foliage adorning restaurant walls and window sills, there seems to be almost an obsession with plant-life in Buenos Aires. I’ll let these photos speak for themselves…

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The Weather

I have yet to experience winter in Buenos Aires, but I hear that it gets really cold (0-5 degrees Celsius), and because it stays humid year-round, the wet air makes it feel much colder than it actually is. One Argentinian told me that Buenos Aires winter felt much colder than winter in Stockholm, due to the humidity. Brrr!

Autumn is really nice and temperate though. Summers are supposed to be super hot and humid. And be prepared–when it rains here, it pours. 

La gente (the people) 

Get a little alcohol in them or put them in a party setting, and Argentinian men can be pretty aggressive and persistent (they are also, for the most part, incredibly attractive). My friend, Carolina, and I went to a club one Thursday night. I kid you not, three or four separate instances, different guys literally grabbed my face and tried to plant one on me. And this, I’ve heard, is normal behavior. Granted, most of the people in the club were probably under the age of 25…but still.

While generally, people are not quite as warm, relaxed and friendly as Brazilians (the bus drivers would never strike up a conversation with me, for instance, as would sometimes happen in Rio), overall, I have found people to be quite friendly in Buenos Aires. All of Carolina’s friends and brother’s friends were very warm and hospitable. The same goes for my Airbnb hosts and their friends. They could not have been nicer.

Here are some more examples of the buena gente I encountered in Bs As:

Once, I was looking a bit lost, trying to find my way, and an older woman stopped and asked me (in English — because I guess it was that obvious that I wasn’t Argentinian), “what are you looking for?” and then pointed me in the direction that I needed to go.

Another time, I was riding the bus and my card had run out of money, so I had to ask a random passenger to pay for me with their card. I asked a teenage boy and he immediately agreed, but when I handed him the cash, he refused to accept it. Granted, it’s not a lot of money (like 50 cents), but I thought it was so nice that he actually flat-out refused the money when I tried to hand it to him.

One time, I was walking by myself (in broad daylight) to La Boca, a pretty sketchy neighborhood of Buenos Aires. I was trying to find the famous “El Caminito” street and ran into two police officers. They told me that it was dangerous for me to be walking by myself, because there was a soccer game going on. They then offered to drive me to my destination in their police car. As soon as I got in, I got a bit worried–what if they are corrupt and kidnap me?! But they dropped me off, safe and sound, to where I wanted to go….But not before one of the police officers asked for my Instagram! Only in South America does stuff like this happen…

It’s also totally normal for wait staff or people in the service industry to call female customers “linda” (beautiful), as in “Ciao linda” (bye beautiful). Can you imagine a service employee or waiter saying that to a customer in the U.S.?! He would probably get sued for sexual harassment.

Sólo effectivo, porfa 

Get used to hearing “sólo effectivo” (only cash) in Buenos Aires. While nicer restaurants generally accept credit cards, they don’t accept all credit cards (sometimes only debit cards). And most places only accept effectivo or cash.

It’s pretty much impossible to get by on just credit cards in Argentina, and I found myself having to make frequent trips to the ATM there.

The Verdict

Crazy nightlife and late-night dining. Delicious wine and steak. Fernet and mate. Tango. Neoclassical architecture and edgy street art.

My verdict? Spend some time getting to know Buenos Aires. I think it’ll be worth your while.

Beyond the Beaches: Getting to Know Some of the Real Mexico

I think it’s safe to say that most gringos visit Mexico for the beaches. I’ll be honest: I’ve been guilty of being one of those gringos too.

Up until last week, the only places I had visited in Mexico were Tijuana, Cancun and Puerto Vallarta. In the latter two cities, my friend and I stayed at all-inclusive resorts and the only time we ventured out was to go to a few local bars (chaperoned by the resort staff of course).

While this was undoubtedly a relaxing and fun experience, I wouldn’t say we gained any sort of understanding of the Mexican culture or way or life. Culturally, we may as well have been in Florida.

I was curious to see what else this massive, neighboring country of mine had to offer. A few Google searches showed me that there was much more to see there than just exotic, white-sand beaches.

So I booked a trip for the long Memorial Day weekend. None of my friends could join, so I ended up going solo.

Many people would probably think I’m crazy for going to Mexico by myself. In the U.S., Mexico is perceived as being incredibly dangerous and off-limits to travel to. When I first moved to San Diego, I was initially terrified of going to Tijuana, based on everything that people told me. In the end, I realized it’s like any other city. Side note: Word on the street is that if Tijuana were a U.S. city, it would be ranked number #35 or so on the list of most dangerous U.S. cities. True story.

While it’s true that kidnapping, drug trafficking and assaults are more common in Mexico than many other countries, it also depends on where you go (border cities are obviously not as safe) and how you travel.  As my wise mother always told me, keep your antenna up. Don’t be stupid (and by “stupid,” I mean get excessively inebriated, leave your drink unattended, be loud, accept rides from strangers, or wander down vacant streets at night), and chances are, you’ll be fine.

Even so, I was a little nervous about traveling to Mexico by myself, given the bad rep that it has stateside. I had heard enough stories to incite a little fear in me.

Getting to Mexico 

I booked my flight from Tijuana to Mexico City–or DF (Distrito Federal) as the locals call it.

Tip: If you live in the San Diego area, you should seriously look into flights from Tijuana if you are heading south of the border; my flight was at least $200 cheaper than it was from San Diego.

There is a bridge from San Diego that will take you directly to the Tijuana airport, but I found it a bit ridiculous to pay $15 just to cross the border, so I parked my car on a random street by the border, then took an Uber to the border, walked across, and from there, took a taxi to the airport. With my broken Spanish, I somehow managed to bargain my taxi fare down from $20 to $8! Lesson learned: Don’t accept the first price you’re given, a.k.a. the gringo price.

Once at the TJ airport, it probably took me all of five minutes to get my boarding pass and walk through security–couldn’t have been easier.

When I arrived in DF (around 1AM), I took a taxi to my hostel, Casa San Ildefonso. The location was central (Centro Historico de la Cuidad) but in a pretty (supposedly) touristy area. Funnily enough though, I barely saw any other tourists outside of the hostel.

I expected to be sharing a room with like five other people (as is the case in most hostels), but instead, I had an entire room to myself the first night and the second night, had to share it with just one other person.

There were three spacious bedrooms connected to one another, with two beds in each room, all of which shared a common bathroom.  Set in a gorgeous colonial-style building, with high ceilings and hardwood floors, it felt almost more like a hotel or European mansion than a hostel.

It looked a little something like this:

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The area immediately surrounding the hostel was pedestrian-only, and it sat behind the beautiful Antiguo Colegio de San Ildefonso (Former College of San Ildefonso). So when I stepped outside, this was the view I was greeted with:

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Exploring DF 

I only had one day and night to spend in Mexico City, since I also wanted to visit Guanajuato, further north. I chose to spend my time just walking around and checking out the different neighborhoods and architecture.

Since I’m a big fan of rooftops, my first stop was El Mayor, a Mexican restaurant set on a rooftop overlooking Templo Mayor, one of the city’s major archaeological sites.

The food was expensive by Mexican standards, but average to cheap by most U.S. standards (I paid like 60 pesos or a few bucks for a delicious, seemingly bottomless pit of guacamole).

And the view made the above-average cost worth it…

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Next, I went to check out the more ritzy, upscale neighborhoods of La Condesa and La Roma. When I got to the metro station, I found that I was unable to pay with a credit card–and had no pesos on me. Luckily, the kind woman working behind the counter paid for my fare. I cannot imagine something like that ever happening in the U.S., where if you are so much as two pennies short, the cashier won’t let you make a purchase.

Once I made it to La Condesa, I passed by this beautiful, tranquil park. DSC_0497

The buildings in the neighborhood looked a little something like this:

I then wandered a bit further, into the neighboring La Roma. Out of all the places I saw in Mexico City, this was my favorite district. Populated by trendy cafes, chic restaurants and avant-garde boutiques, La Roma has got it going on. It’s also got a vibrant nightlife scene for those who are looking for a fun night out.

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I eventually took an Uber back to my hostel, and along the way, I saw some more stunning historical sites in the central neighborhood of Zócalo

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And then walked around some more…

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A few observations about DF 

One thing I loved about Mexico City was that, despite being a massive city with a population of over 21 million (fun fact: that’s more than five times the size of New Zealand), I’ve never met such friendly, helpful people. If I so much as looked a little bit lost, whether on the street or on the metro, people would come up to me and ask if I needed help. This happened not once, not twice, but multiple times.

Everyone I encountered was also so polite. For instance, Uber drivers would actually get out of the car and walk over to the other side just to open the car door for me.  Nice to know that chivalry is not dead after all!

Here in the US, my pet peeve is being called “ma’am.” In Mexico, I loved that everywhere I want, people called me “senorita” (“miss”).  I imagine that this is a result of the more casual, friendly Mexican approach.

To be expected, everything was so cheap in comparison to the U.S. It was nice to be able to eat out at a nice restaurant and not feel like I was spending half my weekly income. And considering the fact that a 20-minute Uber ride costs only about $2 (no exaggeration here), which is cheaper than the cost of a metro ride in New York City, I could take an Uber everywhere and not feel guilty about it.

Despite the warnings I had heard about Mexico City (I had actually heard of people who came to DF and hired bodyguards), I felt incredibly safe walking around by myself.

I definitely felt safer walking around than I did sitting in the backseat of Ubers or taxis. It doesn’t seem like traffic laws are really obeyed or enforced in DF. Even when the streets were congested with people, drivers would just keep driving. Whatever happened to stopping for pedestrians? There were also multiple instances where I actually thought that another driver was going to run into us!

Onwards and northwards 

After soaking in all of DF’s madness, I headed north to the colonial city of Guanajuato.

I took an Uber to the main bus station in the north of the city and from there, took a bus to Guanajuato. The ticket was quite expensive (around 600 pesos or 30 dollars for a 5-hour bus ride), but each passenger had their own reclining chair and TV with a wide selection of movies and TV shows.

I arrived in Guanajuato later than expected–around 8:30PM–without a place to stay. But I ended up lucking out and finding an awesome place at the last-minute.

I stayed in yet another quaint, beautiful hostel (called Casa de Dante), a bit aways from the main city center (but within walking distance). To reach the hostel, I had to walk up a seemingly endless flight of stairs–not easy when you’re lugging an approximately 25-pound bag along with you!

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Like Casa San Ildefonso, this hostel had a very open, airy feel to it. There was also a massive two-level balcony with amazing views of the city…

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Besides the hospitable staff and endless supply of free earplugs (!!), one thing I loved about the hostel was all of the distinctive signs and decorations throughout. As you can see, there was a heavy emphasis on drinking!

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After I arrived at the hostel (around 10:30PM), I went out and explored the town with a Kiwi guy and a Mexican guy who were staying in my room.

Not sure if this was just coincidental, but I found it interesting that I was the only female staying at Casa de Dante and was also one of the few (if not the only) females staying at my hostel in Mexico City. Girls, don’t be scared of Mexico!

Saturday night on the town 

Even though the streets were packed and alive with music everywhere, many of the restaurants were already closed by the time we got into town.

So what exactly do you order on a night out in Guanajuato? I’m not a huge beer person, but apparently, Corona is not the type of beer you should be drinking in Mexico. From what I’ve heard, the best Mexican beers (and the ones that you will probably see the most people drinking) are Dos Equis, Victoria and Leon.

Mexcal, a distilled beverage made from the agave plant (native to Mexico), is also a must-try. It is basically like tequila, but tastier, traditionally served with orange slices instead of lime slices. And instead of being served with normal salt, mexcal is accompanied by chili salt or sal de gusano, which is sea salt ground with the dried caterpillars that infest agaves. Gross, I know. I actually didn’t know that until I looked it up afterwards–and probably would have been better off not knowing that.

Anyway, mexcal comes in many different flavors, and you can drink it as a shot or sip it, whatever suits your fancy.

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Daytime exploring 

The next day, Sunday, I had planned to spend the morning and early afternoon in Guanajuato and then head on to San Miguel de Allende (which is only an hour away and on the way to Mexico City, where my flight was flying out of on Monday night), but I was so entranced by Guanajuato that I couldn’t bring myself to leave.

You can see why…

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Like DF, I also felt very safe walking around the city, both day and night.

I spent another day touring around, and on my last night, I went to get a drink with the guys from my hostel at a bar that boasted one of the best views of the city (and a shot of mexcal for 50 cents). This view (seen below) is also about 100 times better in person.

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We then all went out for some dinner and drinks. Even though it was a Sunday night, the town was full of people out and about. There’s really no off-night in Guanajuato!

One thing I appreciated was how few tourists there were in Guanajuato. During my time there, I only heard English spoken a few times outside the hostel. It definitely was nice to be in a foreign country and actually feel like I was in a foreign country.

The next morning, before I left, I had a delicious, homemade breakfast at the hostel (which was included with my stay).

I was shocked to discover that the hostel actually had its own private chef on staff, who cooks and serves the guests each day. The most I’ve seen a hostel ever have for breakfast is bread and maybe waffles if I’m lucky! This put all the other hostel (and hotel) breakfasts I’ve ever had to shame…

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Shortly after breakfast, I headed back to the bus station, where I took a bus to Querétaro, and from Querétaro, hopped on a bus that took me directly to the airport in Mexico City.

It may have been a lot of traveling, but hey, at least I had some nice views on the way there…

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I bid farewell to Mexico with some delicious tacos. Even the airport tacos in Mexico put US tacos to shame:

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Hasta luego, Mexico!

17 Razões para Ter Adorado Morar no Brasil

Após ler um artigo, escrito por um americano que morou em São Paulo, notando todos os razões que ele odiou morar no Brasil, pensei em fazer o contrario.

Não me entende mal – concordei com muitos pontos no artigo – e tinha as diferencias na cultura que eu não gostei e achei difícil morar no Brasil por vários razoes (os preços altos, salários baixos, ineficiência, serviço de cliente etc). Mas, nenhum pais é perfeito. Como eu já falei, existem as coisas que prefiro no meu pais, as coisas que eu prefiro na Europa e as coisas que eu prefiro no Brasil.

Bom, eu passei 9 meses no Rio de Janeiro, voltando em junho.  E esses são os razões para eu ter gostado (quis dizer, AMADO) de morar no Brasil…

(A propósito, peço desculpas para meu português, que está longe de ser perfeito!)

1) A cultura é bem descontraída

“Relaxa”, “fica tranquila”…esses expressões são bem comuns no Brasil. Adorei isso. Se você não tem troco, “fique tranquilo”….se você está atrasado por um compromisso, “fique tranquilo, vai dar certo.” Se você está agitado, “relaxa”…a internet caia e você não tem acesso ao internet pelo dia…sem problemas. Até o jeito de falar (e cantar) é descontraído.

No Rio, reparei que é normal ver uma pessoa usando apenas sunga na rua, no supermercado ou no ônibus. Nos EUA ou na Europa, você nunca veria isso. As vezes, os ônibus param para você montar-se, mesmo se não seja o ponto. De novo, nos EUA, que sempre segue as regras, isso não aconteceria. Dançar na rua? Normal no Brasil. Musica tocando em todos os cantos? Normal também. Rico ou pobre, as pessoas realmente sabem viver no Brasil e eu adorei isso.

2) Todo o mundo tem sua própria beleza

No Brasil, não importa se você esteja velho ou gordo, magro ou jovem – todo o mundo usa sunga e biquíni na praia e ninguém julga. Nos EUA, as mulheres só usam biquínis se elas são jovens e magras. Mas no Brasil, todas as mulheres usam biquínis pequenas e elas são orgulhosas de seus corpos (ou pelo menos, parecem). Mesma coisa com os homens.

Ao contrario, eu acho triste que aqui nos EUA, todo o mundo pensa que tem que ser jovem e sem rugas para ser bonita. Quando passamos uma certa idade, tem que encobrir-se. Mas por que? envelhecer é uma coisa normal, acontece com todo o mundo e porque temos vergonha disso? Por que encobrimos nossos corpos se eles não estejam bastante magros, jovens ou perfeitos? Acho que poderíamos aprender umas coisas do Brasil – seja orgulhoso/a do seu corpo porque a beleza vem em muitas formas e tamanhos.

3) Musica em todos as lugares

Eu adoro a musica brasileira – de forro, samba, funk, sertanejo (minha preferida!)…tem vários estilos bem únicos.  Na rua, você quase sempre pode ouvir alguém tocando musica. A musica faz parte da cultura brasileira e um parte bem importante. Eu adorei as bandas que tocavam nas ruas do Rio no domingo…enquanto transeunte andava bicicleta, andava de skate, ou levava o cão para andar…eu nunca tinha visto um estilo de vida tão descontraído e legal…talvez em Venice Beach, Califórnia. Mas tipo assim…

4) As pessoas apreciam as coisas pequenas

Tipo…apos o por de sol na praia (algo que acontece todos os dias), todo o mundo aplaudem! Que coisa linda.

5) A variedade das frutas e verduras

Cada vez que eu ia ao supermercado, conhecia mais uma fruta nova – tem açaí, 6 tipos diferentes das mangas, tem maracujá, as abacates enormes…etc etc. Se você pede uma caipirinha, pode garantir que vai ser feita com fruta verdadeira (nos EUA ou na Europa, isso não é o caso no geral…as bebidas são feitas com suco ao invés de fruta…depois ter vivado no Brasil, não da mais para beber desse jeito!).

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6) As festas nas ruas

Nos EUA, não pode beber álcool na rua (o exceção sendo Nova Orleans)…acho isso uma besteira e acho que não faz sentido. Eu adorei festejar nas ruas do Rio, seja BG (Baixo Gavea), Lapa ou samba nas segundas ao Pedra do Sal…Sinto muito falta disso.

7) Os Brasileiros sabem festejar…

Quando eu fui para Ouro Preto, eu fiquei em 2 republicas – festejamos quase todas as noites – fomos para varios “rocks” – e eu me diverti muito. Eu deveria ter assistido faculdade lá…As festas no Rio também eram bem legais – talvez mais descontraídas (todo o mundo usando tipo chinelos e bermudas, ao invés dos saltos e vestidos)…mas ainda assim…em qualquer lugar, os brasileiros sabem festejar!

8) A cultura de praia

Um tempo atrás, eu fui pra praia aqui em Delray Beach (na Florida) e eu quis alugar uma guarda-sol – quer adivinhar o preço? 40 dólares por dia. Um absurdo, né? No Rio, isso custa 5 reais!

Além do alugamento barato, eu adorei a cultura na praia no Brasil. As barracas, as pessoas vendendo agua de coco, açaí ou até biquíni…as pessoas jogando futebol na praia até 19h…as sungas e biquínis pequenas…a praia é realmente uma coisa importante da cultura do Rio e eu adorei.

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 9) Ademais das pessoas que trabalham nas lojas e tal, as pessoas são bem amigáveis, felizes e educados.

Por exemplo, quase cada vez que eu comecei falar português, um brasileiro falava alguma coisa assim para mim: “Nossa!! Você fala português melhor do que eu!” Claro que isso não é verdade – mas esses elogios são bem simpáticos.

Marcar algo no Brasil não quer dizer a mesma coisa do que nos EUA. Se você marcar aqui, você tem que aparecer, senão, é grosseiro e mostra falta do respeito. Mas eu reparei que no Brasil, é simplesmente educado falar tipo “Vamos marcar algo!” ou convidar alguém para fazer algo e não quer dizer nada. Eu fiquei um pouco frustrada as vezes por causa desse confusão (e percebi que quase todas as coisas acontecem no ultimo momento no Brasil), mas ao mesmo tempo, reparei que isso é apenas um jeito de ser educado. E falar “não” para alguém é falta do respeito – é mais simpático falar “talvez” ou “sim” e não aparecer do que falar “não”.

O povo brasileiro é bem aberto e terno. Um brasileiro/a vai imediatamente te acolher na casa dele/a – quando eu estava namorando meu ex por exemplo, toda a família dele me acolheu nas suas casas como se eu fosse um membro da família. E quando eu visitei Ouro Preto (sozinha), alguém na site couchsurfing me convidou ficar na casa dele (numa republica) – eu fiquei lá 5 noites e, além de me dar meu próprio quarto (numa republica, a maioria das pessoas dividem um quarto entre varias pessoas), eles me deixaram com o sentimento que eu era uma parte da republica.  Eles me fizeram sentir em casa – me levando para todas as festas e eventos, fazendo comida para mim, me ajudando com o português…e ate dizendo que eu podia morar lá se eu quisesse (um exageração eu imagino! Mas foi simpático ainda assim).

E no geral, os estranhos na rua vão tentar te ajudar se você está perdido ou precisa de ajuda. Conheço uma americana que mora em Belo Horizante, e ela falou que as pessoas ai são os mais amigáveis que ela já tem conhecido. No Rio, eu admito que eu não achei a maioria das pessoas tão amigáveis que eu tinha esperado…mas isso pode ser por causa do grande tamanho da cidade e a quantidade das turistas. Porque quando eu fui pra Minas Girais, eu achei todo o mundo muito amigável.

Acho que sendo gringa ajuda com isso, porque as pessoas imediatamente são bem curiosos de onde você é etc…mas ainda assim, no geral, acho que os brasileiros são bem abertos e (de novo essa palavra) amigáveis.

10) A beleza natural do pais 

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Um trilha perto de Paraty, RJ

As praias, montanhas, cachoeiras, colinas rolantes e verduras, as selvas….Eu deixei a Paris porque eu queria uma mudança – queria morar num lugar descontraído, com beleza natural…como o Brasil. Eu não fui decepcionada. “A cidade maravilhosa” nao é um exageração. Mais do que isso, eu visitei Floripa, Paraty, as praias isoladas perto de Paraty, e Ouro Preto…eu fiquei ainda mais apaixonada pelo Brasil. Nossa senhora, esse pais tem uma beleza que eu nunca tinha visto na minha vida. E essa beleza deixa a oportunidade para fazer quase todos os tipos de esportes imaginável. O surfing, o SUP (stand-up paddle), escalada, trilha…A Europa tem arquitetura linda e tanta historia, sim…mas sejam orgulhosos, brasileiros, porque seu pais é lindo demais.

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Praia Vermelha no RJ

11) Brasileiros são bem carinhosos

Não importa se você esta namorando ou apenas ficando com alguém, os brasileiros são bem carinhosos. Alem disso, os homens sempre vão elogiar uma mulher. “Voce ta linda” é uma frase muito falado no Brasil. Muitos brasileiros dizem que os Americanos são frios” – eu não concordo com isso – somos mais independentes, sim…e as vezes, moramos longe da família, sim. Mas não quer dizer que a família não é importante para nós. E não estamos acostumados ao mostrar muito carinho em publico – mas tudo isso não quer dizer que somos “frios”!

Em qualquer caso, eu gostei do jeito brasileiro de mostrar muito carinho. Eu estava saindo com um brasileiro aqui na Florida – e até em frente dos amigos dele, ele me mostrava muito carinho– me beijando na bochecha, pegando meu mão etc. A gente nem estava namorando, mas ainda assim – o carinho não faltava. O americano é mais reservado quanto a mostrar carinho.

Até o jeito de falar é bem carinhoso – tipo falar/escrever “abraços” ou “beijos” – eu lembro que eu tinha dado meu currículo para uma empresa na Floripa – um cara respondeu para mim e falou que eles não precisavam das pessoas naquele momento mas ele assinou o e-mail “abraços” – eu nunca tinha conhecido esse cara na minha vida, nem falado com ele, e ele estava me dando abraços!! 🙂 Um outro exemplo: quando eu estava com alguém na rua – ele pediu direções e o ajudante falou “abraços” depois. Eu adorei isso.

12) A língua

A língua português é simplesmente musica aos meus ouvidos. Eu adorei morar no Brasil e sempre escutar essa língua maravilhosa. Nem preciso da musica – só preciso dos brasileiros falando português…

Eu acho muito interessante que a língua muda com cada região. E tem muitas frases que não traduzem em inglês – eu acho essa língua muito bonitinho também – o jeito de falar….tipo “Beleza” por exemplo – em inglês, a gente não tem nenhuma frase igual! “The beauty”? Faz sentido não, galera!

13) Tomando ônibus é como tomar uma montanha- russa!

No Rio, muitas vezes (especialmente sentado em frente do ônibus), parece que o ônibus vai virar! É foda mesmo. Mas eu adorei pegar ônibus porque (quando eu não estava com medo da morte), eu achei a viajem relaxante, divertido e as vezes excitante (como uma montanha-russa!).

14) O chopp sempre servido quase congelado 

No Brasil, só tem alguns tipos de cerveja, enquanto nos EUA, temos provavelmente milhares.  Eu prefiro a variedade da cerveja nos EUA, mas eu prefiro a temperatura da cerveja no Brasil – sempre servido bem frio, quase congelado.  Quando esta assim…uma delicia!

15) As lugares caseiros tipo…

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Um lugar bem caseiro no meio de Lavras Novas, Ouro Preto

Nesse lugar, a cozinheira/dona até deixou o amigo que estava comigo fazer caipirinhas para a gente! Nunca vi uma coisa assim.  Eu tinha impressione que eu estava na casa de um amigo duradouro, não um restaurante.

16) A campanha do Brasil 

Sim, tem talvez as praias mais lindas do mundo no Brasil. Mas eu adorei também o interior do pais. Eu só visitei Minas Girais, mas eu adorei e apesar do fato que era apenas uns horas do Rio, reparei um grande diferencia não só no sotaque, mas também na cultura. As pessoas eram ainda mais simpáticos e abertos, todo o mundo ouvia sertanejo (não samba ou funk como no Rio) e tinha uma beleza diferente, com colinas e montanhas.

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Ouro Preto – cidade linda…

E uma vez, em Lavras Novas (Ouro Preto), eu vi um cavalo e algumas vacas andando no meio da rua e grama!! Normal lá! Completamente diferente da vida no Rio…

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17) As coisas são as vezes mais simples do que aqui, mas não importa

Quando eu fui pra as praias perto de Paraty com minha amiga, eu percebi que todo o mundo levava uma vida bem simples, sem muitas coisas matérias.  As áreas foram isolados e longe de civilização…as casas eram bem simples e as pessoas viviam com muito pouco…mas não importa.

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Pessoalmente, eu gostei de escapar a vida normal por uns dias – sem telefone e internet…a gente fez uma trilha que durou 3 dias e acampou a noite.  Foi um viagem bem legal, mas também foi legal ver como essas pessoas viviam.

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Uma praia mais povoado na peninsula

Ta, tudo isso esta me deixando com tanta saudade do Brasil que eu preciso parar agora…mas espero que agora, vocês sabem que tem muitas pessoas (e americanos!) que adoram viver nesse pais maravilhoso.

Being 20 Again: 12 Days Spent in Ouro Preto

Last night I got back to Rio after spending twelve incredible days in Ouro Preto.

I had originally planned to stay for five days, but was having such a great time that I ended up extending my stay. And I went by myself, which just goes to show that, while it’s always fun traveling with friends, you can sometimes have just as much fun (if not more) traveling alone.

A Bit About the City

For those who haven’t heard of it, Ouro Preto is a former colonial mining town located in the mountains, in the state of Minas Gerais.

It’s been named a UNESCO World Heritage Site because of its beautiful baroque architecture. It looks and feels like a European town, with hilly cobblestone streets and red-roofed houses.

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To add to the charm, the shop and restaurant signs throughout the city are all hand-crafted. Like this…

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In addition to being much smaller than Rio (eliminating the need for taxis much of the time), Ouro Preto also feels (and is) much safer than Rio. I would feel totally comfortable walking home alone at night, for instance, especially in the center of town.

Another thing that makes Ouro Preto unique is the fact that it’s the only city in Brazil with fraternities and sororities. Ouro Preto is home to a massive student population and most of those students live in shared houses, called républicas (aka fraternities or sororities).

The Frat Culture 

I stayed in two male républicas when I was in Ouro Preto (which I found thanks to couchsurfing!). I stayed in one called Républica Kome Keto for the first five days and then stayed in another called Républica Vaticano for the remaining six nights.

I had an especially awesome time at the second républica I stayed at (Républica Vaticano). The house was located in the center of the city and everyone in the fraternity was so welcoming and nice, making me feel right at home.

When I first asked them if I could stay six nights (which felt like a long time, and I didn’t want to overstay my welcome), they replied without hesitation: “Of course!! You can even move in here if you want!”

And even though some people had to share a room in the house (the youngest people of the house generally have to share a room), they were gentlemanly enough to give me my own room and everything.

Some of the républicas actually charge couchsurfers a fee to stay there, but Vaticano refused to accept my money. They treated me as if I were an actual guest and friend, not just some stranger occupying their living space. They also had their own personal chef, who came to cook delicious food each day – I’m already missing that food!

There are around 500 républicas in the city of Ouro Preto. Walking down the street, it feels like nearly every house is a républica.

Someone told me that in Ouro Preto, people even tend to give directions according to républica, rather than the street name.  Each républica generally has about 11 students living in the house; most are either all male or all female, but there are some mixed/coed houses as well.

As you can imagine, living in a républica is super cheap. One guy told me that he only paid R$ 200 a month to live there (granted, he didn’t live in the center and had to share a room with two other guys…but he said that the price would be the same when he was upgraded to a larger room later on).  He said you could rent a private room in the center of town for around R$ 400. Compare that to the average exorbitant price of around R$ 2,000 one pays to live in the center of Rio…

The houses each have their own names and people in the house are loyal to that house and one another, much like a fraternity/sorority.  Each person in the républica has an “apelido” or nickname.

Everyone calls one another by their nicknames–it’s almost as if the real names are a secret.

Each républica also has several “bixos” which are like the American version of pledges–they do all of the grunt work for about six months and only after that do they become officially part of the républica.

The Parties 

Loved the name of this Républica - Beijinho Doce (Sweet kiss)
Loved the name of this Républica – Beijinho Doce (Sweet kiss)

And of course…républicas also throw awesome parties nearly every day of the week (which rival any of the parties I attended in college). I learned the Portuguese phrase “virar a copa” (chug the cup), which I had never once heard during my nine months in Rio. Suffice it to say that the going-out/drinking culture in Rio is much more centered around sipping–rather than chugging–beers!

On Saturday, there was a churrasco (Brazilian BBQ) at the Vaticano and the neighboring républica (Républica Pureza), which was basically a 12-hour eating, drinking and mingling fest.

The parties (called “rocks” in Ouro Preto – pronounced “haw-ckeys”) are all thrown in some part of the républica houses.  The last one I went to (on a Sunday night) was quite massive, in the center of the city, held in a part outdoor, part indoor space, with about five different rooms. One room resembled a club with strobe lights, while another room had a beautiful view overlooking the city…and of course, alcoholic punch could be found throughout the house.

Another “rock” I went to with some guys from Républica Vaticano was held in an outdoor space in Centro (the center of the city). At the party, there were all different kinds of cachaça (cinnamon and peanut butter were my personal favorites), and there was a competition between the républicas to see who could drink the most shots of cachaça (Side note: Mineiros–people from Minas Girais–drink a LOT of cachaça!).  The prize for winning the contest? A “date” with the female républica that hosted the party. And guess what? My républica (Vaticano) won!

At the parties, nearly whenever someone takes a shot, people in the corresponding républica raise their glasses in unison and chant the “reza” (cheer) of their house (each républica has their own cheer). The cheer of the house I stayed in went something like this…”Quém tem amor tem saudade..” (Whoever has love has saudade) and…I forgot the rest haha.  I wish that I had recorded it–but here is the “reza” of another républica to give you an idea…

Oh and if you go to Ouro Preto (or any part of Minas Girais), you can expect to hear a lot of sertenajo music. This was one popular song that I heard almost everywhere I went…

Despite being the oldest person at these parties, I had a fantastic time. Being there made me want to go back in time and be a student again…but this time in Ouro Preto!

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One of the “rocks” that I attended with the boys

Even better, there are very few gringos/foreigners that study in OP. As far as I know, I was the only gringa at these parties, which means that I got to speak almost exclusively Portuguese the entire time…and of course met a lot of people who were very intrigued by my foreigner status and where I was from. 🙂

Speaking “Mineiro” 

Despite the fact that I sometimes felt a bit out of the loop and like I was repeatedly asking “what?”, all the guys were extremely patient with me and constantly filling me in on different “girias mineiras” (slang from Minas Gerais).

While in the US, the slang is fairly universal (as are the accents), in Brazil, the slang (and accent) varies with each region.

In case you’re curious, here are a few “girias” from Minas that I learned…

cabaço: bobo/stupid

fragar: sacar/to understand (very common)

passar fina: dar uma dica/give a tip

kamofa: mulher galinha/female player

uai (pronounced like “why”): basically can be added on to any sentence/used to express disbelief, admiration, impatience or to reinforce what someone just said (this is a classic mineiro word, used all the time by mineiros)

The Friendly People 

As a whole, mineiros are known nationwide for being incredibly friendly and warm. Go to any part of Brazil and everyone talks about how great mineiros are.

And they definitely lived up to their reputation! When walking down the street, random passerby would strike up a conversation with me.

People were very curious about where I was from and what I thought of Brazil. Even when just buying something from the pharmacy, for instance, the woman at the checkout counter, upon noticing my accent, curiously asked me where I was from.

And when buying something from the market the other day, the people who worked there struck up a conversation with me about where I was from, why I was there, and the differences between Brazil and the US…This type of thing happened quite frequently.

I was reading an article in the New York Times about a woman who was traveling around Minas and she said that, while driving somewhere in the middle of nowhere, she and a friend stumbled upon what seemed to be a “mirage in the dust.” She said,

Curious, we pulled up, wandered the out-of-place manicured lawn and found a gentleman farmer from the city examining his banana orchards. Rather than shoot us for trespassing, he invited us in for coffee and homemade guava paste. For me, that was a typical moment in Minas Gerais…”

I think that sums up the Mineiros (people from Minas Gerais) quite well…

Exploring a Nearby Village 

While there, I also met a nice couple who picked me up in their car one day and took me to a different part of Ouro Preto called Lavras Novas (where there are supposed to be some great waterfalls – a.k.a. the “beach” of Ouro Preto!).

Once there, we indulged in a few caipirinhas before going to grab dinner at a charming restaurant (which was actually someone’s house) in the town.

The large kitchen looked incredibly ancient (with one of those old stoves that I don’t think I had ever even seen before in real life)…and of course the food was delicious.

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The homey kitchen of the restaurant that I ate at in Lavras Novas, OP

The guy I was with helped out the owner (this adorable old lady) by making the caipirinhas himself. Only in Brazil…

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Lavras Novas–a part of Ouro Preto where there were actually cows and horses just wandering around the streets…NBD

The Verdict 

Ouro Preto reminded me of why I love Brazil so much: the happy, friendly and hospitable people; the jaw-dropping scenery; the laid-back culture…and of course the fun parties don’t hurt!

Even though I can’t turn back the clocks of time and go back to student life, I think at the very least, I know where I will be spending my next Carnaval…

15 Things That Surprised Me About Brazil

You can learn a lot about a country and its culture just by visiting. But you really learn about a place after living there.

After the honeymoon phase is over, you start to see both the good and the bad. You see what really lies beneath the surface, as opposed to just the fantasy sold in guidebooks and the like.

I definitely had my preconceptions about Brazil before moving here…but there were some things that surprised me in the end. Here are 15 of them.

1) People rarely ever text. They (almost exclusively) whatsapp.

Whatsapp is basically the only way that people communicate here via cell phones. Which is funny because in the US and France, Whatsapp isn’t used all that much (except to talk to people who are in another country). I’m pretty sure that Brazilians are the primary reason why Whatsapp was sold to Facebook for $19 billion…

Before moving to Brazil, I never used Whatsapp. Now, I can’t imagine communicating with anything else. It’s much more user-friendly than normal texting or iMessage. Once you start using Whatsapp, you’ll never go back. Guaranteed.

2) How insanely expensive (almost) everything is.

I was warned about this before coming, but I still didn’t think that Brazil would be that expensive compared to the US.  This is a developing country after all, so how is that possible for things to cost that much more when the salaries are so much lower? But it is.

All imported products are absurdly overpriced, due to the high import taxes. So overpriced that I refuse to buy clothes, cosmetics, books, electronics…I pretty much only buy what I actually need here!

Just to give you an idea, I went to Sephora the other day and saw that a NARS lipstick that runs $26 USD back home costs R$100 here (about $45 USD).  A Lancome cream that costs $190 USD in the U.S. (still crazy expensive) costs a mind-boggling $1,029 reais here (like 450 USD).

The price of electronics is generally two to three times the cost that it is in the US. A Nikon camera that costs about 500 dollars in the US will set you back about 2,100 reais here (approximately 1,000 dollars).

I was shocked when I saw the price of this simple calculator (equivalent to about 70 USD  - would not cost more than 5 USD at home!)
I was appalled when I saw the price of this simple calculator (equivalent to about 70 USD – would not cost more than 5 USD at home!)

It makes me honestly wonder how people can afford to live here long-term. I have heard that many Brazilians travel to the US just to buy things and then resell them here–And they are able to pay for their flight (and more) with the money they make.

3) The horrible customer service 

People who work in low-level service positions (like at grocery stores, big department stores etc) all generally seem very unhappy (probably due to their low wages) and often project that unhappiness onto the customer.

They do not care to help you and are often even downright rude. I was actually shocked when, last month during Carnaval, some woman behind the counter at Lojas Americanas (a “cheap” department store) initiated a conversation with me. That had never happened before (and hasn’t happened since)!

And if you buy something and want to return it, the salesperson will make it very difficult for you to return that item (if you are able to return it at all). Yet another reason why I don’t buy things here!

This all goes back to the mentality. In Brazil, it’s all about short-term gain–making as much money as possible in that moment.

Whereas in the US, people tend to think more long-term–which is why, for instance, if the customer has to wait longer than usual for the food, they will likely get something in return, like food or drinks on the house. And if the meal doesn’t live up the customer’s standards, it will be free. The restaurant owners want to keep their customers happy, because they know that doing so will prove most beneficial and lucrative for their businesses in the long run.

4) How much I like the Brazilian bikini

When I first came here, I was so timid about wearing the Brazilian bikini on the beach.  Now, I can’t imagine wearing anything else!

Personally, I find the Brazilian cut FAR more flattering than the American/European bikini bottoms– which Brazilians jokingly refer to as “fraldas” (diapers).

And now, I couldn’t agree more. I think it’s safe to say that I am forever converted to the Brazilian style…

My Brazilian bikini next to my
My Brazilian bikini compared to my American bikini
My Brazilian bikini on top of a bikini I bought in France...
And…another Brazilian bikini bottom on top of  bottoms I bought in France…

5) How I always feel like I’m being ripped off

Just to go to a bar in Rio (not a boteco, which is a casual Brazilian bar), you generally have to pay a cover of at least 15 reais. And that’s if there is no live music playing. It makes bar-hopping pretty much out of the question and going out a very expensive excursion.

In comparison, even in a big city like New York, you rarely have to pay to get into a bar. You will likely have to pay a small cover if there is live music, otherwise, the only places that you have to pay are at the high-end clubs. But even then, you won’t pay more than 20 dollars (with a free drink included). In Rio, you can pretty much expect to pay a cover everywhere…and you can forget about that free drink!

There are also many times when the waiter will short you of change or overcharge on a bill. You have to be extra diligent about checking change and bills here.

Here’s another example: If I order sushi and want extra wasabi, I will have to pay 4 reais for that extra wasabi. In the US, you would never be charged for something like that! But I’ve found that nothing is ever free in Brazil.

6) The inefficiency 

Let’s just say that Brazil’s strong point is not exactly efficiency.

Take this for example: As I mentioned above, if you go to a bar in Rio, you are normally charged an entry fee. But instead of paying at the door when you arrive, you have to pay it when you leave. You’re given a piece of paper, where food/drinks are written down as you buy them, and then at the end of the night, you have to pay.

This process sometimes leads to extremely long lines at the end of the night–and caused major issues when there was a fire at a nightclub in Brazil last year.  Tragically, many people actually died because the bouncer would not let people leave without paying their tabs first.

A much more efficient system would be to have customers pay for the cover charge immediately when they arrive and then have them pay for their drinks as they order them–or just allow customers to start a tab and leave the credit card with the bartender, as is done in the US.

It works similarly in stores, where customers have to go to one cashier to get a slip with the price of what they have to pay, and then proceed to another cashier to actually pay.  I never understood this. Why can’t I just pay at one cashier? Why is it so darn difficult just to make a purchase?! Whatever the reasoning is for this (probably to avoid theft), there has got to be a more efficient way.

If I go to the grocery store, there can be three people in front of me and I will be waiting for half an hour just to buy a mango.

So…yeah. You learn to be patient living in Brazil.

7) How necessary it is to speak Portuguese

I had heard that not many people speak English before coming here, but I was still fairly surprised by this.

I witnessed this when my friend Mallory came to visit and, not speaking a word of Portuguese, tried to get by solely on English. Oftentimes, people just did not understand. As can probably be expected, taxi drivers, bus drivers and other people in low-level service positions generally do not speak much (if any) English, while educated and wealthier people tend to speak quite well (but this is of course a very small portion of the population). Personally, I prefer it this way. It means I get to speak Portuguese almost all the time! 🙂

But if you are traveling to Brazil and expecting to get by on just English…you may have your work cut out for you.  I would at least advise buying a phrasebook and learning some key phrases–a little Portuguese will go a long way! And will be much appreciated.

8) Everyone flaunts their bodies proudly 

I honestly have never seen so many ripped male bodies in my life than I have seen in Rio…and luckily for females, many guys elect to go shirtless, even just walking down the street. Definitely makes for some nice eye candy on a day-to-day basis!

But what I love is that no matter one’s size (or age), everyone seems to be proud of their body. In the US, women tend to stop wearing bikinis past a certain age or if they are over a certain size. In Brazil, all women wear bikinis (and not those “diapers” that people wear back home!). Suffice it to say that the beach culture is a refreshing change from the US.

9) How hard it is to eat healthy

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Salgados, popular Brazilian fried snacks made up of meat and/or cheese (photo courtesy of pixabay.com)

In a country that has more types of fruit than I have ever seen in my entire life (which I LOVE by the way), it’s surprising to me how difficult it’s been to have a healthy, well-rounded diet here. I have found myself eating much worse here than I do back home. The grocery store selection is limited and the majority of restaurants do not cater to healthy-eaters.

I’ve found that most Brazilians love to add tons of sugar to almost everything–even things that (at least in my opinion) don’t need any added sugar! Like fruit juice, for instance. Unfortunately, this could be a reason why obesity is on the rise in Brazil.

Eating out centers around mainly fried food (salgados), meat and sugar and very little organic food.  The healthy food is few and far between. If you do seek it out (healthier restaurants can be found in Ipanema and Leblon, the wealthier neighborhoods of Rio), you can expect to pay an arm and a leg for it.

10) The fact that everybody seems to live with their parents.

Most Brazilians live with their parents until they get married, unless their parents live in a different city. It is pretty strange for me, coming from a culture where people generally move out at the age of 18. But here, living with the ‘rents is simply the norm!

I live with an English guy and anytime I tell a Brazilian that I live with a guy who is not my boyfriend and that yes, we have a purely platonic relationship, their jaws practically drop in surprise. I asked one Brazilian about it and he explained that it is not normal for a guy and a girl to live together here, unless they are coupled up or married.

11) The fact that I generally feel quite safe here

This also came as a surprise to me. Sure, I live in a very safe neighborhood and spend most of my time in the Zona Sul (the safer part of Rio), but I do feel a lot safer in Rio than I had anticipated, even riding the bus (I had always heard that there were a lot of robberies on busses, but I have never had a bad experience).

Perhaps this is a false sense of security. I know that I need to always have my guard up here and should not walk alone at night…And I have certainly heard my fair share of stories. But I think if you stick to the safe areas and do not walk alone on empty streets at night, chances are, you will be fine.

But regardless, if you’re traveling to Brazil, be sure to check out these safety tips.

12) The fact that cariocas tend to be a bit closed-off

I had always heard that cariocas (people from Rio) and Brazilians were super friendly, so when I came here, I was a bit surprised to find that this wasn’t exactly the case.

Now, don’t get me wrong. Cariocas aren’t anything like frigid Parisians. But they tend to have their group of friends (from high school, college, work…) and don’t seem to care that much to branch out and make new ones. I have heard from many people that it is very hard to break into a circle of Carioca friends–so it’s not just me that thinks this!

I was out the other night with my awesome Carioca friend, Claudia, and my (equally as awesome) American friend, Iyin. Some Brazilian guy asked us how we all became friends. He thought it was estranho (weird) that a Carioca girl would befriend us, since generally Cariocas have their friends and stick to them.

While people in Rio may not be as overly friendly and warm as I had anticipated, many people are friendly and strangers will often go out of their way to help you if you need help. And in other parts of Brazil, like Minas Girais, people are incredibly friendly and approachable.

13) How women are often seen as sex objects 

How sad is it that I just google imaged “Brazil beauty” and “Brasil beleza” (the Portuguese version of that) and hoping to see pictures of the beautiful country, I instead see (in both languages), pictures of beauty pageant contestants, dolled-up women and their behinds. Such gender objectification is obviously a global issue, but I notice that it is much more blatantly obvious in Brazil.

I’ve been shocked by some of the things that I see on TV here. Watching a normal talk show, for instance, this is what I see on the screen: one male presenter holding a microphone, surrounded by his “assistants”, a line of women in skimpy costumes, just standing there next to him, posing and smiling. As a woman, I find it to be downright offensive! Yet this type of thing is completely normal in Brazil–nobody bats an eyelid.

14) The fact that nearly all of the men have tattoos 

I was quite surprised when I moved to Brazil to find that almost everyone and their mother has at least one tattoo. I have rarely seen a guy without one. Although it is something that seems to be fairly regional. I noticed that tattoos weren’t as prevalent with Mineiros (people from Minas Gerais), for instance. Must be a beach thing!

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The Portuguese term for a full arm tattoo is “braço fechado” (photo courtesy of pixabay.com)

15) That despite it all, I still love it here

OK, that’s a lie–I knew that I would love Brazil before coming here. While some of the things on this list do make me miss home at times, at the end of the day, the positives outweigh the negatives.

The other day, I was riding the bus and the bus driver told me to sit in the front and he would let me out through the front later. He told me that he didn’t speak a word of English–that the only thing he knew how to say was “I love you”. Surprise, surprise!

Then at my stop, he directed me where to get off and how to get home, and when I got off the bus, he shouted out “I love you!” Only in Brazil…

It’s those little interactions that make me love this country so much. It’s the kind, warm people…the infectious energy…the laid-back attitude…

It’s walking down the street and seeing this…

You see? Try not falling in love with Brazil. I dare you.

Beach Culture in Rio: How to Blend in Like a Local

To most cariocas, the revered beach is much more than just a place to swim and soak up some rays. And if you want to blend in somewhat, there are a few things you should know about this city’s unique beach culture.

Get to know the “postos”

First things first, “postos” are used as a reference point for locating the different beaches; each beach has its own “posto.”  So if you are meeting people at the beach, they will often use postos to describe their location.

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Perhaps more importantly, all of the beaches (or postos) in Rio have their own characteristics and are frequented by different crowds.  As Frommers puts it, “beaches are to Rio what cafes are to Paris.”

While Copacabana may be the most famous beach in Rio, it is certainly not the coolest amongst cariocas or Rio residents.  Posto 9 (Ipanema beach) is the place to be and be seen, frequented by a diverse crowd of young people (and on a sunny weekend day, it gets so packed that you can’t even see the sand!).  It is also known for attracting all of the beautiful people.

Between Posto 8 and 9 (also Ipanema) is the gay beach, made distinctly obvious by the rainbow flags waving about.

Posto 12, in Leblon, is less packed than Ipanema. Located in the wealthiest neighborhood of Rio, this posto is (also) filled with many beautiful people, along with many families.

Posto 1 (Leme beach) is more low-key and also less crowded than the others.  Read more about the different postos here.

Update your swimwear 

It is always easy to spot the gringos on the beaches of Rio.  How? Simply put, they are the ones that do not show enough skin.

In direct contrast, the Brazilians are the ones flaunting their bodies.  It is quite refreshing to see that in Rio, women of all ages and sizes sport the bikini – and often a thong bikini or “fio dental” (also the name for dental floss).

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A typical Brazilian bikini (Photo courtesy of Creative Commons)

Unlike in the US, where women generally stop wearing a bikini at a certain age, in Brazil, older, overweight women are just as likely to sport a bikini as younger, skinny women are.  It is actually extremely unusual for anyone to wear a full-piece to the beach.  Fortunately, Brazilian women do not seem to be burdened by the same body hang-ups that Americans are; for the most part, they seem to be comfortable in their own skin and liberated from society’s expectations of the ideal body type.  While the end goal is to show as much skin as possible…no one goes topless (or bottomless for that matter).

So if you want to blend in, be sure to stop by one of the many bikini shops in Rio before hitting the beach, if nothing else than to the avoid getting some looks for that “fralda” (or “diaper”, as Brazilians refer to the American bikini).

As for men, most wear the sunga, which is quite similar to the “speedo” bathing suit. Other guys (often surfers) wear regular trunks.

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Sunga, the typical male bathing suit in brazil – and no, it’s not a speedo! (photo courtesy of Creative Commons)

Get your bronze on 

Sunbathing is of course a major part of the beach culture in Rio.  But don’t hide those tan lines! Because in Brazil, the more tan lines (and the deeper they are), the better.

Hit up the “barracas” 

Along the beach sidewalk in Copacabana, there are many restaurants (all of which look the same), where you can sit down or take away food.

Sidewalks of Copacabana

On the beach itself, there are numerous small tents (or barracas) throughout, where you can buy drinks and snacks or rent chairs and umbrellas for just 5 reais a day.  You pay at the end, so just don’t forget to pay your bill before leaving.

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Barracas de praia

A trip to the beach in Rio is not complete without drinking the delicious agua de coco (coconut water).  Another popular drink of choice is matte leao, an iced tea that, on the beach, is served directly from a keg riding on the seller’s back.

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Lose the towel – trust me on this one 

Less is more in Rio (and I’m not just talking about bikini fabric). You definitely don’t want to bring any valuables to the beach.  My ex-roommate (who is English) made the mistake of bringing his iPad to the beach during one of his first weeks in Rio, and had it stolen (he got it back in the end, but not without a fight-another thing which is not recommended!).

Beaches in Rio are also frequented by arrastões, which is a type of crime in which a gang of people surround an area and steal everything in sight.  The beach turns into total mayhem.

So…you will never see cariocas at the beach with the hefty beach bags that Americans bring – many people just bring sarongs, also known as kangas, which can be used to sit on. These are sold all along the beach boardwalk.  Towels are an absolute no-go – after taking a dip in the ocean, people choose to air-dry instead (trust me – the heat will do that quickly!)

Lose your bikini top in the waves? Not to worry – hard-working men brace the sun’s scorching rays, pacing back and forth along the beaches selling everything from jewelry to bikinis to sarongs.

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If you look like a gringo (like myself), you will likely be approached by these eager vendors.

Stay active 

Introverts, be warned: You are unlikely to ever see a Brazilian reading at the beach or listening to music with headphones in. The beach in Rio is meant for socializing…playing sports…bronzing – and drinking coconut water of course…or maybe an ice-cold cerveja.  

While the females lounge on rented cadeiras (chairs), in the vain attempt to deepen those covetable tan lines, many men simply stand, hands on hips, and check out the scene (Can you blame them?).

For those who aren’t sitting or people-watching, engaging in sport is a popular pastime (especially for men).  Volleyball nets are set up with bronzed men in sunga competing against one another.  And surprise, surprise – there is almost always a group of guys kicking a soccer ball around.

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Futebol na praia (football/soccer on the beach) in Copacabana (photo courtesy of pixabay.com

For those who prefer more solitary activity, there are exercise stations set up at each posto sidewalk, that even come accompanied by glass-enclosed stretching guides for its users.

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In case you can’t already tell, in Rio, it’s pretty much impossible to get bored at the beach. Even just people-watching is entertaining enough. But if you want to get up and stretch your legs, it’s always relaxing to stroll along the boardwalk that runs parallel to the beach…especially on Sundays, when the street is closed off to cars and replaced by bikers, rollerbladers, joggers and the like. There are even a variety of bands set up, all of which are composing mellifluous tunes that rival your Spotify playlist.

Tip: After you’ve had enough of the beach (and hopefully not burnt yourself to a crisp), meander the street between Leblon and Ipanema, one of my favorite places to spend a leisurely Sunday afternoon.  Major plus if you can stay and watch the sun set…

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In case you aren’t convinced, this is a video I took that perfectly depicts the typical post-beach Sunday afternoon in Rio:

And last but not least…

Learn to bargain like a carioca

Chances are (at least if you have read this article), you will want to buy or rent something on the beach at some point.  The only way to not get the gringo price is to speak a bit of Portuguese (and know when you are being ripped off).  Use your best judgement – if it sounds unreasonable, it probably is. But note that the beaches in Leblon and Ipanema are going to be more expensive than its neighbors to the east (like Copacabana and Leme).

Here are a few words and phrases that you should know when hitting the beach:

cadeira – chair

guarda- sol – umbrella (for the sun)

kanga – sarong (the Brazilian version of the towel, which also doubles as a cover-up)

fio dental – thong bikini

maté – sweet iced tea

agua de coco bem gelada – ice-cold coconut water

Cuanto custa isso? (bonus points if you can pronounce it with a carioca accent – “quan- toh cush – tah) – how much is this?

Você ta me dando o preço gringo, cara? Are you giving me the gringo price, dude?

Me dá o preço carioca – give me the carioca price

Eu tenho apenas 5 reais – I only have 5 reais

Onde fica o banheiro mais proximo? Where is the closest bathroom?

And for all the rest…bring a dictionary!