Dealing with Culture Shock in Brazil: How to blend in!

Culture Shock in Brazil

The supreme advantage a desi person has, across South America is the ability to blend in with the help of some basic Portuguese (Brazil) and Spanish (all other countries). Besides that, use these nifty tricks and hygiene tips to make your visit a memorable one, for all the right reasons…

Culture Shock in Brazil

“When in Rio de Janeiro, air-kiss a lady with a peck on either cheek!”

1. Greeting: In São Paulo, you greet the ladies with one air kiss on the cheek, usually on the left side.
But when in Rio De Janeiro, do this on either side (both cheeks). They’d shudder if you do it the other way round. It’s almost sacrosanct!

2. Remember: All cars in Brazil are left hand drive, so if you’re driving or calling Shotgun, do not mix up your sides or you’ll freak them out.

3. Not all of Brazil is sultry hot. Pack warm clothing for metropolitan cities like São Paulo. People dress really sharp here. Think New Delhi sharp.

4. Brazilians are very LGBT friendly, and if you’re homophobic like my pal Rahul – stay away from Posto 9 in Rio. If you are part of the clan, you’ll feel welcome!

5. When someone sneezes, use “Saude” instead of “bless you”. Use “obrigado” (thank you) liberally when dealing with people.

6. Tipping isn’t always expected, but appreciated. Restaurants will specify clearly when adding service, or ask you if you want to add it. 10% is reasonable.

7. When at a forro / samba club, dance even if you think you look silly. You’ll be surprised how much people will try to help you with your moves!

8. For the love of whichever God you believe in, please don’t go to the beach in trousers, shoes and a camera just to click pictures of hot women in tangas (thongs). They would appreciate you talking to them more than you being a pervert. Again, you’ll be surprised how easy it is to talk to locals if you try!

9. Lying down on the beach is STRICTLY FOR WOMEN. Guys, you are only allowed to sit / run / play / swim / help the ladies with their suntan lotion.

10. If you love the food at a restaurant, do NOT make the “excellent” sign with your fingers in the shape of a zero – depending on scenario and place, it could mean “i am homosexual” / “you are an asshole” (i’ve heard even more variations, so just don’t ever use that sign).

Hey, asshole!

“Hey, asshole!”


Exotic Gringo (Kaushal Karkhanis)

Leading an experimental life as a digital nomad, I started traveling in 2007 while choosing to shuttle between Goa and Mumbai as 'home'. An epic life-changing trip to South America an year later gave birth to this blog, Exotic Gringo.

Blog Comments

Initially thought you were kidding about ‘New Delhi sharp’ 🙂 – but on second thoughts, yeah, that’s probably the only place in India where people REALLY care about what they’re wearing.

Right? 🙂 i truly felt under-dressed, even in a decent jacket that would otherwise be too posh for Mumbai!

Happy to see that you’ve been able to make it to South America, all the way from India! – it’s on my to-do list for 2015 but the sheer lack of information for the Indian traveller to S.Am. is making it a wee bit intimidating. Any Peru / Chile travel lined up for you?

not in the near future, but hopefully next year 🙂

meanwhile, here’s a friend’s post about Lima, Peru: