5 Things Americans Might Find Disturbing in Brazil

People touching you

I’m not talking about the kissing. You’ll get accustomed to that move within the first 48 hours. I’m talking about the “surprise-side-hug” or the “shoulder-clutch” or the “arm-grab.” In my previous world, touching others in a business or social setting was limited to a “gentle touch on the arm or shoulder to establish trust and a sense of familiarity,” especially in negotiation situations. But here, it’s full body contact. I’m not certain how I react when this happens to me, because I’m always thrown into fight-or-flight mode and things get a bit fuzzy. But I’m guessing that at the very least, my body stiffens and my face twists into an expression of horror. I’m assuming this because people have pretty much stopped touching me now.

Manicure and pedicures

If your manicurist suddenly splatters nail polish all over your digit, she isn’t seizing into an epileptic fit. That’s just how they do it here. I feel this represents the “throw it against the wall and see what sticks, then clean up the mess” attitude of a country with a history of chaos. But don’t worry. Just like everything else in Brazil, it all works out in the end. (And FYI – there will be no nice chair that gives you a back massage while your feet soak in warm water. Just trying to manage your expectations.)

Pedestrians do not have the right of way.

‘Nuff said.

People openly discuss their plastic surgery. And they might recommend some for you.

Sure, some celebrities and reality television participants in the States will own up to work done, but only the most obvious and only when put on the spot– which accounts for about 25% of what they’ve gone under for. Otherwise, Americans tend to pretend what they got is what God gave them, even if they didn’t have it yesterday. But here, the surgery stories are nearly competitive in nature. And don’t come undone when someone suggests you get something done. So far, no one has made any direct suggestions (I think they are still scared I’ll flee the country). But I have heard about how good and inexpensive the plastic surgeons are in Brazil more times than I can count for pure coincidence. Me? At this point, I’ll never go under the knife. I just plan to put egg white on my face everyday and use my headstand contraption more often. I’ll let you know how it goes.

The price of children’s toys.

Ever pay US$125 for a Barbie doll? Sure, maybe if it was rare, antique collector’s Barbie that Queen Elizabeth played with. How about US$7 for a box of 24 Crayola crayons?  No? Well, if you are headed to Brazil you may want to stock up before you get here. Even if you don’t have kids, an expat in Brazil will most likely find themselves purchasing a toy at some point for a Brazilian Birthday Bash (see Barbies and Brigadeiro). And let me tell you, it’s painful to shell out R$75 for something you can get at Walmart for US$10.

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10 Responses to 5 Things Americans Might Find Disturbing in Brazil

  1. Miogaros says:

    Eu provavelmente me sentiria bem na América, pois eu também acho o hábito de tocar pessoas terrível.

    Translation by google:
    I probably feel right in America, because I think the terrible habit of touching people.

  2. HA! Some people in the U.S. are “touchy,” but then they get the nickname “touchy person!”

  3. Jimeluiz says:

    Welcome to Brazil – it is expensive!

    • Yes, MUCH more expensive than we thought! How did that happen??

      • LittleGreenMan says:

        It’s a mix of several things, but I’d say that it’s part the heritage from our mega-super-inflation years (when for more than 20 yrs everything was priced at the zillions, and then after 1995 when the Real currency was introduced cutting the prices to small number most people lost perspective of the value of things),
        part our predatorial tax policies (with the highest rates in the world ‘cos the gov’t needs loads of cash to pay for bribes, corruption, surreal salaries for the public sector, blah blah) and part the greed of our “empresários” (for whom 100 – 150% of profit over everything is a normal practice, not forgetting to mention that every cent of tax raise they get is promptly transferred to their prices)…well, basically that. Welcome to the 4th World.

        • I figured it had to do something with taxes. I wonder what would happen if the import tariffs were lifted… I mean, there are so many items here that are outrageously priced, I assume due to government influences.

  4. Ray Adkins says:

    Ha! It’s funny you mention the touchy thing, I never liked even before I ever left Brazil, now that I got used to the way it is here, I probably make the same faces as you do when I visit my family and friends 🙂

  5. Stephanie says:

    I absolutely agree. 🙂

  6. One Cocktail Away says:

    Haha, you have brought back memories for me! Yes, the touching took me a while to get used to, but the driving was even harder. The use of the horn instead of the brake, in particular. Aw, I sure miss it 🙂

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