August 23rd marked one full year in Brazil. Since that time, I have survived unexpected housing changes, credit card theft/fraud, experienced New Year’s in Rio, and the huge global event known as The World Cup. Upon arrival, I had some expectations about how life would be here. Some of those expectations were met, others changed my viewed on Brazil, mainly about São Paulo in particular. So to review the past year, I have a list of things I have learned while being here and a list of what I want to accomplish/experience in the next 12 months
What I have learned:
- Brazilians know more English than they think….
Now that I have been an English teacher since October, I interact more with those who are learning English. Most have at least a basic level and those who don’t study know at least a few words. Comparing with Americans, the knowledge of a foriegn langauge is much better here.
- Its very hard to escape the English language in Rio and São Paulo….
Take a look at any menu and there is probably an English translation, but even more strange are the company logos and some phrases like “home office” that remind me of English everyday.
- I will never be able to live without fresh juice…..
No more kool-aid, no Hi-C, no favored water packets. I’m taking about fresh oranges, pineapples, passion fruit, strawberries, mangoes, and much much more. Nothing frozen and you can find any boteco (corner bar) with fruit on display and ready to be juice into almost any combo that you want. Not only botecos though, fresh juice is available at every bar, restaurant, or bakery. Cheers!
- American taxes aren’t that bad…..
29% food tax…….enough said
- Brazil isn’t the racial paradise that it thinks it is…..
Stopped by the police while leaving the metro for no reason then stood and watched as the police only stopped those that looked like me. TV looks like more like Europe than a country that has the largest population of black people outside of Africa, the largest Japanese population outside Japan and a mixed heritage of Portuguese and indigenous people. The social and economic lines are very clear. For example at most restaurants, bars, and clubs, I will be the only brown person in the building not including the staff. Coincidence? I think don’t so.
- Brazilians love lines….
Lines at the market…..lines at the club….lines for the museum…….if you see a line just go stand in it. Do you need to know what it is for? No not really. Just stand and wait for the sake of the standing and waiting.
- Paulistas hate eating with the hands…..unless its barbecue…..
Pizza…fork and knife……fries…using toothpicks…….chicken wings….wrapped in a napkin…. and the ultimate sin…..burgers with a fork and knife
With all of these classic finger foods you will see Paulistas avoiding to touch any part. But wait!? Go to any barbecue and it is a free -for-all of fingers grabbing bloody meat, dripping in it farofa, and shoveling it all in their mouths.
No napkins please!
- Paulistas make a damn good burger…..but where are the fries……..
As an American, I’m kinda of an authority on burgers by default, and I must say there are many good burger joints around this city. Only one thing erks me though. It is very rare to find a place that will serve the burger and fries together. 200% mark up on potatoes and an extra plate……they will get you every time.
- I eat healthier here than I did in the US…..
The variety of fruits and veggies is massive. Fast food is minimal and portion size is much smaller in comparison. Beef here is grass-fed instead of corn-fed and once again portion is smaller. No super size anything here.
- The World Cup wasn’t the disaster that people thought it would be…..
- The US could learn some things from Brazil and vice versa………
Relax and enjoy the moment more often like Brazilians. You will feel much better. Drink a beer on the street. Drink a beer on the beach. Have a street party. You don’t have to get drunk. It’s all about sharing an ice cold 600ml bottle with your friends and chatting all day/night.
- Portuguese is a beautiful language…..
Portuguese is a language full of emotion. You speak with your hands. It flows with a melody and sometimes you can’t tell if someone is excited, angry, or happy. Confusing to watch…maybe a little but once you catch on you will definite feel more apart of the culture.
- You can survive without knowing the language but……
In the larger cities of SP and Rio, there are plenty of English speakers and many locals have a basic level but once you leave these cities you will need some kind of portuguese to get around or be very good at sign langugage.
- Brazilians take barbecue to a different level…
No hotdogs or hamburgers here! It’s all about the popular cuts of beef and sausage. Picanha, Alcatra, Linguica, Lombo, Ribs, Chicken hearts. Rarely will you find veggies. Maybe some garlic bread (grilled of course) and farofa to dip your meat in. Basically a meat fest for meat lovers. Vegetarians and Vegans stay home!
What I want to do in the next 12 months:
- Write more….
- Determine which is the best burger place in São Paulo….
- Determine which is the best place for Caipirinhas in São Paulo……
- Speak more Portuguese……
- Attend more Black/Afro-Brazilian events…..
- Visit other cities in Brazil (Belo Horizonte, Natal, Salvador, etc)
- Go to the beach more often…..
- Take more and better photographs….
- Expand my network of friends (more Brazilians than expats)…..