Here is a list of 9 behavioural quirks I´ve noticed Brazilians display over the past year. Most are charming, while others be mildly frustrating. The list is intended to be light-hearted, and of course, my own unique brand of Britishness is stuffed full of quirks and weirdnesses. I really have a fondness for Brazilian culture and Brazil as a country, so don’t misinterpret this list as a personal attack!
- Eating ice-creams out of the wrapper. I usually take the wrapper off an ice-cream before devouring it. In the sweltering summer heat of Brazil however, you would have to eat the ice-cream super-humanly fast to reach the bottom half before it melts. The solution? Peel the wrapper of gradually! Who cares if you look like you have been rummaging around in the garbage, as long as your don´t get any lurid drips on your favourite white t-shirt.
- Chicken hearts. Brazilians love chicken hearts. They are a staple at every comida-a-kilo, and are best when they are barbecued (supposedly). They have a gamey taste, and come complete with little aortas and chambers, so there is no doubting their origin. My personal theory is that Brazilians enjoy the symbolism of eating the heart of another animal, as revenge for infidelity.
- Strangers offering to hold you bags on the bus. If you find yourself on a packed bus, with a heavy bag, don´t be suprised if a seated passenger asks if they can lighten your load for you. In general, you will have nothing to fear from the kind-hearted soul that offers you their lap, but its always a good idea to zip up pockets, and keep an eye on the bag. This act of kindness even applies to packages of food, which can confuse gringos that assume you want a slice of pizza before the box has even made it home.
- Sharing tiny beers. As another strategy to beat the heat, Brazilians will happily share a stubby beer (around 300ml) between 4 people. This is great when the beer has just emerged ice-cold from the freezer, but in comparison to a country that sells beer in 1 pint glasses, it´s difficult to ever take a good swig of beer. Also, you will be forever getting up to get refills for you and your guests.
- Non-toilet toilet paper. The least pleasant of the oddities is the practice of putting used toilet paper into a tiny bin next to the toilet, rather than down the toilet. I imagine it is due to overloaded sewer systems, but now the practice is engrained, there is also no motivation to add the capacity that would solve the issue. For any Brazilians reading this, don’t do this in Europe. Your host will not be happy to find a skid mark peering at them from the bathroom bin.
- Square pizza slices. Brazil is a place where industrial cheese is still king, despite rising incomes and expanding waistlines. Pizzas have therefore become swamped in tasteless oily cheese, meaning the structural integrity of the average triangular pizza slice is totally overwhelmed. The solution? Reduce the amount of cheese to a sensible level? No. Cut the pizza into about 50 tiny squares and eat it with a fork, or occaisonally, a toothpick. Confusingly, this is known as pizza françesa.
- 7. Biscuits. I love a good Custard Cream as much as the next man, or so I thought. House of Biscuits, The Biscuit Tent, The Little Biscuitary, biscuit Pic`n`Mix – biscuits here are big business, and Brazilians lap them up. This might be becuase they don’t melt, unlike almost anything chocolate based, but still, it’s not uncommon for a Brazilian working lunch to be a pack of biscuits and a fag.
- Sneaky buses. Buses in Brazil are cheap and fast. This is a good thing when you are on them. However, sometimes, getting on them is the difficult bit. You have to sympathise with the bus drivers, becuase there are just so many bus stops that the exasperated drivers are constantly stopping and starting. But then again, if that was going to piss you off, then maybe bus driver wasn’t the best career choice. To alleviate their stress, some bus drivers have taken to sneaking round the city, in the hope of avoiding passengers all together. Some of their favourite tricks range from the simple yet effective, ‘if I don’t look at you, you don’t exist’, to the more sophisticated, ‘if I time this right, I can sneak by this long row of buses in the outside lane, without having to ignore you at all”. Bus drivers also get bored of traffic jams, and have on occaision, been known to switch off all running lights, essentially entering stealth mode, then driving off down the nearest rat-run. Heroic behaviour when you are on the bus already, but down-right dastardly when you are waiting patiently at the next bus stop.
- Talking into your phone like a walkie-talkie. It is very common to see a Carioca talking into the mouth-piece of their phone, while holding the ear-piece end as far away from their head as possible, then swapping the phone round when it is their turn to listen. I’ve been told that some phones actally have a 2-way radio capability, which is a partial explanation. As for people with normal phones, I’ve still not worked it out. Maybe it is a tactic for winning arguments, avoiding criminal complicity and avoiding a microwaved brain. Maybe people just do it to look cool? Any ideas?