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.
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.
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.
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.