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Brazil is a big country with a plethora of things to do and see; even locals never tick off every bucket-list destination. However, there are some things you can do to be considered a Brazil expert without having to travel to every corner of the vast nation (although if you get the opportunity to, take it!).
Do you know the differences between samba, chorinho, forró, bossa nova, sertanejo, and Carioca funk? If you do, then you’re certainly an expert on Brazilian music. These genres are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to music in Brazil and each comes with its own unique origin and beat. To brush up on your knowledge, check out Culture Trip’s guide here.
Salgados are Brazilian snacks that can be found in almost every padaria (bakery) in Brazil. Some of the most popular ones you absolutely have to try are pão de queijo (gluten-free cheese bread made with cassava flour), coxinha (a deep-fried dough-ball filled with shredded chicken), and joelho (a doughy-pastry with ham and cheese).
Since Brazil hosts the biggest annual festival in the world, you can only be a Brazil expert after spending at least one Carnival there. Most locals enjoy the animated street parties which are alive with music, dancing, flirting, drinking, and non-stop partying. Some of the best places for celebrating Carnival are in Rio de Janeiro, Salvador, and Olinda.
Many Brazilians believe compatibility in friendships and relationships depends on the star signs of the people involved and that smooth or bumpy connections can be explained by the date on which you were born. Once you’ve been asked a couple of times about your star sign, you can be sure that you’re beginning to make close, local friends.
The stereotype of Brazilians having a burning passion for football is not far from the truth as many really do. Watching a live match at Maracanã Stadium is the best way to see how beloved the sport is by locals. You’ll get bonus points if you can recognize Rio de Janeiro’s four main rival teams and a gold star if you can sing along with some of the football chants.
While no one expects you to master Portuguese after one trip, if you can go beyond the basic oi (hi) and tudo bem? (how are you?), then you will definitely be considered a Brazilian expert, at least by the locals. We’ve even got some handy phrases in Portuguese to get you started.
Hitting the beach is one of the main things everyone wants to do when they come to Brazil. However, to really count yourself as a Brazil expert, venture to the beach in a typical Brazilian bikini or a sunga for men (a very small speedo). It’s the best way to fit right in and get a great tan.
The roda de samba in Rio de Janeiro is a group of sambistas that form a circle and play a repertoire of improvised samba songs. It’s wonderful to watch this lively performance, which usually takes place at a casual bar or an outdoor party. Head to Parque de Ruínas, Arco de Teles, or Pedra do Sal in Centro, or Mercado das Pulgas in Santa Teresa for some of the most traditional spots.
While Uber is undoubtedly convenient, the majority of Brazilians use public transportation—an experience in itself for tourists. Shuffle along with the crowds in the subway at rush hour in São Paulo or navigate the bus system of Rio de Janeiro’s complex network of lines.
Feijoada is Brazil’s national dish and a source of pride among Brazilians. It’s a slow-cooked bean stew with various cuts of pork and beef served with rice, fried kale with chopped bacon, farofa (fried cassava flour), pork scraps, and a slice of orange. You can find it at almost any traditional Brazilian restaurant.
The Festa Junina (June Party) celebrates the harvest that marks the end of summer in Brazil and dates back to the country’s colonization by the Portuguese. It’s a time of mulled cachaça, hearty homemade food, and plenty of forró, a music genre from the northeast of Brazil.
You may have already tried a caipirinha outside of Brazil but you have to try the real deal in the country of its origin. The drink, traditionally made with cachaça, ice, and crushed limes, is potent yet refreshing and is perfect to drink at the beach or at a lively bar.
Capoeira is a mix of martial arts, dance, and hypnotizing music and is an important part of Brazilian culture with its roots in the history of Brazil’s African slaves. Watching a live show at least once is a must—better yet, participating in it makes for a memorable experience.
What is normal for Brazilians, yet eye-opening for tourists, is to see employees at large supermarkets getting around on rollerblades. If a cashier needs change or a customer needs to exchange an item while standing at the checkout, the rollerblade-clad staff can quickly glide off to sort the issue out and return just as quickly by skating back. Once you can see this and not bat an eyelid, you are officially a Brazil expert.
Happy hour is a beloved moment for many Brazilians and a typical happy hour will involve a few chopps—Brazilian beer served in small glasses—and some classic snacks, such as pastels (mini pies) and bolinho de bacalhau (seasoned, salted cod rolled into balls and deep-fried). Once these happy hours become your routine, you are definitely a Brazil expert.
Just when the Portuguese version of the “Happy Birthday” song seems to be coming to an end, the next part of the song begins. It’s an animated, happy song that invites everyone to sing along and seems much longer than the English version. Sing this at a Brazilian birthday party (or at least hum along) and you know you’re practically an honorary Brazilian.
If you get invited to a party that starts at 3 pm but realize that you should actually show up a couple of hours later, you are definitely beginning to understand Brazil’s social etiquette. Official starting times there only serve as an idea of when you should show up at any event, but rarely (if ever) do people arrive on time—normally, guests start arriving to an event a few hours after the designated start time.