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Brazil and its glorious quirks | © Pexels
Brazil and its glorious quirks | © Pexels

15 Secrets You'll Never Resolve If You're Not Brazilian

Picture of Sarah Brown
Updated: 16 November 2017
Brazil already has a somewhat flamboyant reputation thanks to internationally-known events like Carnival and the endearingly social citizens. So it shouldn’t come as a surprise that some parts of everyday Brazilian life can leave outsiders mildly perplexed. Here are some of the charming quirks you can’t help but notice after spending some time in Brazil.

Condiments on pizza

In many parts of Brazil, it is perfectly normal to order a delicious slice of pizza with your choice of favorite topping to then smother it in tomato ketchup.

Couples sit side by side at restaurants

Rather than gazing into each other’s eyes across a candlelit table, couples in Brazil tend to sit side by side. This charming habit means that couples remain physically close to each other and avoids the awkward leaning over the table for a smooch.

Carrying a toothbrush and toothpaste everywhere

After lunch, Brazilians will head to the bathrooms to brush their teeth before heading back to work. After food or drinks, dental hygiene becomes a priority and as a result, Brazilians often carry a toothbrush and toothpaste with them so they can brush their teeth throughout the day.

Using a napkin to eat

Finger foods are rarely taken literally as finger foods. Instead, Brazilians use a napkin to eat them to avoid touching the food. Foods like burgers, pizza, or sandwiches will also be eaten with a napkin or, when a napkin doesn’t suffice, a knife and fork.

Several showers a day

From regular teeth brushing and not touching foods with hands, there seems to a bit of a pattern emerging here of the importance of hygiene. Brazilians also take two or more showers a day, one in the morning and one in the evening at least, plus more during the day if they are active then.

30-day holidays

Brazilians take 30 days of holidays per year – but all at once. So while they may spend the whole year working, they get a month off to travel, rest and basically enjoy their free time. Also, Brazil has several national public holidays per year – 12 to be exact – plus state and city holidays that vary across the country so it’s not uncommon to have long weekends and midweek breaks.

Unusual jobs

There seems to be a job for almost every service. At gas stations, customers don’t need to get out of their car as the gas station attendants will fill your tank up and take the payment for you. If you take the bus, it’s common to pay a designated bus ticket collector rather than the bus driver. In large offices, many elevators have an assistant who sits inside the elevator and presses the buttons on behalf of people getting inside.

Sweet avocado smoothies

Anyone that has Instagram will have noticed the craze for all things avocado, especially avocado on toast topped with all manner of different things. In Brazil, it is far more common to drink an avocado smoothie that is blended with milk and sugar. It’s sweet and totally delicious.

Answering the phone by saying ‘speak’

When a friend or family member calls, it is normal to answer the phone by saying fala which literally means “speak.”

Dogs have a fashion style too

Brazilian pet owners adore their dogs and treat them as members of the family. As a result, they get dressed up too and dogs go out for walks wearing little t-shirts, and sometimes even baseball caps. Many dogs wear socks which is partly to keep their feet clean and protected and partly for fashion. There are also the dogs that wear little jewels on their foreheads and ears.

The importance of star signs

If you’re getting close to someone, whether it’s as friends or something romantic, you may get asked what your star sign is. For many Brazilians, compatibility of star signs is extremely important and whether your relationship will run smoothly or have troubles ahead will be assessed based on your star sign.

The lazy creature

One of Brazil’s most well-known animals is the sloth. In Portuguese, its name is bicho preguiça which literally translates to “lazy creature.”

The CPF

The CPF is basically a taxpayer registry identification. It is required for anyone that pays taxes or does things that generate revenue that could require a tax. A CPF is needed for almost everything from gym membership and booking flights to getting a SIM card for your phone, and even some shops ask for it before purchasing something. While you won’t need it if you are traveling for just a few days, it’s a good idea to have one if you are staying in Brazil for longer. It is also a requirement to carry ID with you everywhere you go.

The slang

Like anywhere in the world, Brazil has its fair amount of slang but some of them are truly puzzling. From beleza which translates to beauty but is used as “how are you?” or as “ok” to gato or gata which translates to “cat” but means a “hot guy” or a “hot girl,” there are plenty of slang words that are wonderfully Brazilian.

The bureaucracy

The bureaucracy is something that to outsiders seems like a labyrinth of confusion and things to do. To Brazilians, it also seems like a labyrinth of confusion but they are far more laid-back about it. A simple process of opening a bank account can turn into a headache, whereas larger processes such as marriage and buying a house are off the scale.