With a population of 190 million and a geographical area covering half of the continent of South America, it’s no wonder Brazil is called the ‘land of contrasts’. Its people vary from the extravagantly rich to the very poor; many are rural folk who’ve rarely travelled, others are world-wise urbanites who’ve adopted European customs.
But for a nation that huge, there are certainly differences in culture that mark Brazilians out as different from UK sensibilities.
So for those visiting the country – whether it’s for the carnival, an Amazonian experience or hiking up to the top of Christ the Redeemer in Rio de Janeiro – here are a few local customs and helpful pointers that the Flexicover team thought just might help ease the transition.
Avoid Black And Purple
Black and purple might be the colours of choice for those who prefer a more muted look, but leave such outfits at home. That’s because they’re the colours associated with mourning – a significant and serious affair in Brazil – so they’re considered unlucky at all other times. The aversion to the colour continues in other facets of life: black or purple gifts will seem rude rather than polite, and purple flowers will rarely be seen. Given the sunny disposition of Brazilians, the brighter the better will work in almost all situations.
The famous carnival is a chance for the diverse population of Brazil to put aside their daily differences and connect with each other in the most social and enjoyable of settings. So it’s a huge no-no to taint this time with talk of serious subjects, especially topics which might serve to disunite the partying people. So it’s best to just grab the opportunity to go with the flow and you’ll enjoy the ride even more.
It’s no surprise, given it’s where samba began, that Brazilians are a physically expressive bunch. Their tactile nature is often at odds with our stiff upper lip, but all it takes is a little relaxing into their way of life for it to become second nature. Lots of touching doesn’t necessarily mean romantic interest: it’s used between friends freely. Note that it’s considered rude not to reciprocate, so if your new pal hugs you at the end of your meeting, try to take their lead to guarantee a continuing strong friendship.
Better To Dress Up Than Down
Despite the relaxed nature of Brazilian culture, they find meaning in presentation, so if heading to an event – whether a restaurant, a family’s house or a party - it’s more respectful to dress up than to dress down. While the heat might mean anything that’s not a vest and shorts feels like too much, smart touches like buttoned-up shirts and nice dresses will always go down well. If it transpires you’re more overdressed than underdressed, there’s no need to feel self-conscious – it’s a much better outcome than the opposite.
While appreciating a smart look, Brazilians are also much more relaxed about showing off their body in revealing clothes. The country has many nude and topless beaches, with bare skin limited to these places. But skimpy outfits dominate elsewhere, especially on women. This might entail micro-skirts and itsy-bitsy thong bikinis, affectionately called ‘fio dental’ (dental floss) by Brazilians, which leave little to the imagination. Normal bikinis and swimsuits are considered frumpy and old fashioned, but being culturally-sensitive, tourists are given a free pass to wear what they please.
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