10 things that confuse me in Brazil

A guy on the roof with no security measures does no longer  surpise me, a typical brazilian meal with loads of carbs and a pinapple Caiprinha.

Arriving in a new country, there’s bound to be a few cultural differences. Some might be expected and others just take you by a total surprise. Here are some of the differences that either caught me off guard, annoyed me or merely leave me without any logical reaction at all.
1 – The language
I mean, not English, not Spanish… Why?!! Could we not just have done the easy thing here? Supposedly not a very difficult language, that’s what the Brazilians themselves are saying anyway. Without making much of an effort I think I’ve learned 6-7 phrases to use on a daily basis. Most of them are greetings though.
2 – How to greet someone “hello”
The Brazilians have a range of methods when it comes to greeting another “Hello”.  So far I’ve encountered at least five different ways, and you can never be sure who is going to do which one. Firstly, you either greet with the hands or by kissing and hugging, and each one has a couple of variations.
Hand greetings: The slap and punch. This is probably the most casual one. It’s sort of a low five hand slap followed by a knuckle punch. This move might still contain small variations from person to person as some like to spice it up. Then there is the Take and hold. It is a morph between slapping and taking your hand followed by holding your hand for a second or two. I perceive this as being a bit more of an affectionate one.
Facial greetings: The one-cheek kiss. This is the simplest one, but curiously not used that often. It’s basically just a kiss on the cheek. Then there is, of course, The two-cheek kiss just like in France. The most common one however, seems to be the Kiss n’ hug. And it feels like it’s written, a slang version of a greeting, very commonly used. If you want to be safe, just go for this one. Although, I have encountered a kiss on both cheeks and a hug so you’ll just have to go with whatever.
Problem is, each one of these moves can be as casual or intimate as you want, and I have no idea to whom you would use these, when or why. Sometimes you greet total strangers one way, and then you greet close friends the same way. I really cannot put it into a category when you do what.
3 – When is an appointment an actual appointment?
It seems like everything resembling an appointment here is taken very lightly. Of course you would have this anywhere when you just talk loosely amongst friends. “Yeah sure, I’ll come for a run tomorrow!” –not.
The problem here is what happens amongst acquaintances or service-relations. For example, I’d think I am making a deal to get another surf lessons for tomorrow, when finishing today’s lesson. However, I found out by chance that was not so. Meeting the guy at in the street the same night, he was surprised by my “see you in the morning!” as I had not come by his shop to reconfirm any lesson the same night aka 8 hours instead of 20 hours before the lesson.
But things are not just laid back, requiring reconfirmations all the time, they are also oddly punctual and specific. Laundry lady told me to come back either sometime tomorrow night around 6pm or the day after. So, I figured no stress, let’s just wait till the day after to be sure she’s ready. Wrong. There she was, the night after, not around 6pm, but exactly at 6pm yelling at me for not showing up on time. So, lesson to self, even though things are laid back and casual, always be on time, just in case.
4 – What is actually a Caiprinha?
When I arrived in Brazil I was under the impression that a Caiprinha is like a mojito only without the mint. Wrong. First of all, it is served with Cachaça though within the rum family does not taste like Bacardi rum or Captain Morgan. It will also, without a doubt, give you a headache before your body gets accustomed. Second, there is no rule as to what the Caiprinha mixer is. You can put any fruit or any mix of fruits as long as it includes ice.
5 – The need for several types of starch with each meal
The food here in Brazil is absolutely delicious, but it I am fascinated by the need for several types of fillers in one meal. In Norway you would for example have potatoes as the stomach filler next to vegetables and fish, or you might do some rice or pasta. ONE of the above. In Brazil, or Bahía, however it seems natural to do both rice, beans and potatoes in one meal. And then of course some farofa on the side, the tapioca mix made of the cassava root.  If you’re lucky you might get some pasta in there as well. But then again the whole town is dead during the afternoon, which is probably due to everyone being in a state of post-lunch food coma.
6 – Sugar all around but no candy?
Sugar seems to be a huge part of anyone’s diet. Cake for breakfast, cookies for snacks throughout the day and loads of sugar in your evening drink. But, if you’re actually looking for a sugary treat like a proper piece of candy, your options are very limited. In the supermarket the shelves upon shelves with cookies really don’t seem proportional to the couple of containers with chocolate at the till area. And you can forget about the m&m’s they sell here, it will not be the m&m’s you’re used to.
7 – The time and place it seems natural to be loud as f***
There is an unspoken code amongst most travellers staying in a dorm. Whenever someone is sleeping between 10 pm and 10am it usually calls for some quiet movements and hushed voices. If you’re feeling social, you get social in the communal spaces. Many Brazilians though, have yet to discover this code. Like when three Brazilian girls in my form decided to get up at 6:30 and spend one and a half hour getting dressed and putting on their faces on so they’d make breakfast at 8:00. At first I figured they were leaving early and had to get up and do lots of rummaging at this hour, but when the functional movements to get dressed and go in and out of the bathroom transcended into slight singing and laughing, my level of annoyed reached new heights. What’s up with the lack of knowledge of whispering? It did not get any better seeing them at breakfast 08:30.
7 – People selling stuff don’t actually want your business (Itacaré special)
I’ve encountered this several times now. The people selling stuff are actually bothered that you walked into their shop. It happened to me the first time I was renting a surfboard. After managing to tear himself away from playing with his computer or whatever, the guy was actually complaining about how we’re just gonna break his boards, and that we have to pay shitloads if we don’t return it exactly as is. I mean, this is self explanatory when you rent stuff, but start with a “Hello, how can I help you” and continue with a “I think this will be a nice board for you, here let me show you how to..” before you mention how we need to watch out for this and that and be careful. I’ve also, as mentioned before, been yelled at by the laundry lady causing me not to go back there again.
9 – Letting everyone know you have a phone
Do you remember the time you got your first mobile phone? I was 12 years old, and a lot of time was spent just configuring the phone. You know, selecting ringtones and stuff. It was just such an amazing toy, with such a wide range of different noises. One set of noises for ringing, another for texting, a third for the games and so on. And as you were freakin’ proud of this novelty, you wanted to let your phone become an evident part of whichever room you were in. This was done by, for example, having buttons that made sound whenever pressed so that everyone could hear you with your new phone. That was 15 years ago. This. Still. Happens. Here. It really amazes me how someone has an absolute need to let everyone know that they are on their phone. Ding-ding-dinging. Doo-doo-doodoot. MAAAH!!
10 – Being a girl, being fed.
So this is a very specific habit that might be related to just one person, but as he is a Brazilian one and this happened in Brazil, I’ll include it. Going on a dinner date I have previously been offered food from the guy’s plate, but I’ve always used my own fork to taste whatever he’s offering. A couple of times now, dating this Brazilian guy, he has insisted on me trying his food, but then feeding me of his own fork. I’m like, ok, it’s a little sweet, but I feel like a child. But what makes it really awkward, for me at least, is that I cannot figure out where to put my hands while this is happening! Do I keep them lying on the table, in my lap, hold them under the fork to keep anything from spilling? Usually I don’t have the time to plan this, as the fork is sort of shoved in my face, “here, try this!” and with no time figuring where to put my hands the frantically move back and forth between the three options making everything even worse.
Now, a few of these curiosities might be very specific to Itacaré, where I’ve spent most of my time, or just general for South America. And as I’m puzzled by a lot of things, it must be said that the positive surprises outweigh the annoying ones every day!

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