Brazil can be both a fascinating and unpredictable place for any traveller heading there for the first time. Here is Futbolita’s foolproof, fun and no-nonsense travel guide for football enthusiasts planning to travel there during the World Cup!
1. “PORTUGU S, POR FAVOR” – There is a joke in Brazil about Spanish-speaking ‘gringos’ (English-speaking foreigners) who ask for a ‘mojito‘ from a Caipirinha vendor, only for the Mexican tourists behind to laugh at him. It’s cringe-worthy, but remains a common mistake encountered by locals to this day.
Brazil is the only Portuguese-speaking country in the Latin American continent, after Portugal’s colonisation in the 16th century, but it is a fact that is surprisingly ignored by many visitors. Most Brazilians prefer to speak the very little English they know compared to French or Spanish. So whip out that phrasebook and master some useful Portuguese ‘palavras’ (words). Don’t be a gringo!
2. LESS IS MORE – Despite a recent economic boom, Brazil is divided into classes, with the between rich and poor widening. Still, you’d be hard pressed to find anybody flaunting branded goods or watches in cities like Rio de Janeiro or Salvador. It’s a country of mixed cultures and vibrant personalities, with little regard for material wealth. As the majority of the locals enjoy life simply, all you really need to go far is a pair of flip flops, a love for life and a smile. Take it all to the beach!
3. IT’S NOT JUST ABOUT FOOTBALL – Do not assume every Brazilian you meet is passionate about capoeira, samba or football. This is a popular stereotype that has unfortunately permeated the society. You’d be surprised to find many neutralists who are simply not fans of ‘futebol’ and prefer baseball. And while everybody knows Pele there, Gisele BŁndchen is a better bet for a conversation starter!
4. RIO IS NOT BRAZIL – “Rio is a different country from Brazil, it’s by itself,” explains Marina, a good friend of ours who is also a native of Porto Alegre. “You can visit Rio, and have no idea what Brazil as a country is about at all.”
Indeed, its a common misconception that Brazil’s entire landscape and personality is the home of the Christ the Redeemer statue, but the country is made up of 27 different states.
The capital Brasilia is known for its architecture, Salvador de Bahia for its Afro-heritage, and Manaus, the home of the Amazon rainforest, will attract adventurous visitors. The New York of Brazil lies in Sao Paulo, which is about the same distance between Singapore to Kuala Lumpur (six hours by bus and 40 minutes by air).
SPIN Brasil Tours founder and CEO Eliana Souza, who receives business travellers in Sao Paulo said :”Sao Paulo is the complete opposite of Rio de Janeiro. It’s a vibrant city of immigrants, and we have a huge mixed community here of Japanese, Germans, Lebanese and lately, Swiss and Indians. We are very open to many different cultures, and very welcoming.”
5. GET USED TO PALM OIL : Food in Brazil is cooked in palm oil, which may not be suited to Asian palettes, which typically prepare food using sunflower, canola, sesame or the ever-popular olive oil in Mediterranean diets. In addition, flavour is not a big component of food here, although seafood remains a popular choice for visitors of the coastal cities due to its high availability and taste.
Feijoada, the national black beans and meat dish is a popular dish in Brazil, with roots from Africa and Portugal, while Sao Paulo’s P„o de queijo (cheese bread) is a popular breakfast taken with coffee. Vegetarianism is relatively unheard of in meat-loving cities such as Rio, but you will find it easier in cities like Sao Paulo. If you’re a vegan, you will also enjoy in some of the best quality of fruits from this part of the world, so don’t fret!
6. YES, IT’S EXPENSIVE – Brazil is Latin America’s most expensive country. To quote a local who travelled extensively, expenses spent during a week in Brazil could last you for a month in neighbouring Bolivia. Brazil’s inflation level remains one of the highest in the world, with consumer-price indexes rising to 6.3% and salaries remaining low. During the World Cup, prices are expected to increase by as much as triple-fold.
7. NO BAGS, PLEASE – Snatch theft or robberies are common on several touristy streets, despite the availability of police. However, despite its crime, millions of visitors pass through Brazil unharmed every year, and you will do well if you know how to hide your ATM cards, IDs and cash in the right places. Hiding them in your front pockets, socks, underwear pockets may sound a little crazy, but is a better bet than carrying a branded bag and attracting the wrong kind of attention. Also, walk away if you are approached aggressively on the street, although you will be met with kind people willing to help.
8. KINGS OF REALITY TV – If you find yourself locked indoors due to an unfavourable situation such as a strike or protest, reality TV shows such as ‘Policia : 24 horas’ would be your best accompaniment. The programme is Brazil’s answer to the popular TV show, ‘Cops’, which follows real-life policemen on their daily encounters. From shootings to break-ins, domestic violence to drug issues in all of Brazil’s cities and the show was marginally better than the soap operas.
9. SUNDAYS – Nothing in Brazil is opened on Sundays, not even the local pharmacist. Plan your calendar around this and keep the beach and local football matches for Sundays, and you’re all covered.
10. PLAN YOUR TRANSPORT IN ADVANCE – Many of Brazil’s promised and highly-anticipated transportation projects for the World Cup are not complete, including a train system linking Rio to Sao Paulo and proposed metro services in Natal and Salvador. Buses and taxis remain the only viable option in smaller cities, but despite the Rio government declaring matchdays on public holidays, it remains to be seen whether supply can meet demand. Try to hitch a ride from friends or book a car if you are planning to head to the stadium on time for the match.
11. TODDYNHO – You haven’t lived if you haven’t tried Toddynho, Brazil’s most famous chocolate drink (for kids). It’s a favourite for breakfast, lunch and dinner, and is sold in almost every supermarket – more than Redbull or Coca Cola. In the words of our friends, it’s the best cure for a hangover. Toddynho on the rocks, anyone?!
12. CLAUDIA VS IVETE – Music is a huge part of Brazilian culture, and two of the country’s most famous singers happen to be sassy females that will give Beyonce a run for her money. Meet Ivete Sangalo and Claudia Leitte (whose back-up dancer even gave us tickets to see her show in Rio!), the voices of music in Brazil who are even mistaken for each other occasionally.
Claudia also featured in the official World Cup song alongside J-Lo and Pitbull (‘We Are One’ – Ole Ola’). Both singers count Neymar and Kaka as their biggest fans and friends.