Brazilian Challenge Day 10: Appearances

Today I had planned to follow the suggestions of Danielle and Shelley and make black beans and farofa for my challenge today! But, I’ll need to soak the beans overnight (yes, I own a pressure cooker and no, I’m not using it. That thing scares the stuffing out of me.) And we got invited to dinner at someone’s house tonight, so the cooking will be my challenge for tomorrow.

Instead, I got dressed up to go to the bank. Not really dressed up, in like, a dress. But I wore normal clothes, put on make-up and jewelry and did my hair. I put on lipstick. Normally, I hit the bank, if I must go, during my morning walk with sweats and a baseball cap. But I noticed that the Brazilians, except for the household help, are all dressed up at the bank. So I thought I would try it.

Brazilians are all about appearances. Most Americans are about appearances as well, but at least in NYC, you can go to the bank in uber-casual clothes and still be cool as long as you are sporting the attitude to match. Not here.

Usually, the employees at my bank are tolerant of me at best, rude at worst. But today, everyone was super nice. Yes, same set of people, different reaction. Was it because my appearance was more acceptable? I’d have to say yes.

Interesting. Will it make me more careful with my appearance in the future? Not sure. But it definitely felt like a more pleasant experience. I definitely felt more Brazilian.

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14 Responses to Brazilian Challenge Day 10: Appearances

  1. Brasilicana says:

    This was very Brazilian of you! You’re right, wearing shlocky clothes – as well as “letting oneself go” in general – is not so socially acceptable here. Although I am not a fan of investing excessive time/energy into my appearance, I do dress a little better here than I did in the states (where I could spend the whole year in soccer shorts and a ponytail if nobody stopped me!)

  2. Meredith says:

    Will you post about making black beans, please? I asked my husband if you can cook them without using a pressure cooker and he said “no”…hmmmm, I knew it wasn’t the truth. Thanks!

    • I will! My beans and carne seca are soaking right now! I know, we have a Cuban friend who made black beans while we were on holiday and the housekeepers kept pressuring him to use the pressure cooker. They were horrified that he refused!!

  3. Becky says:

    love the post. once when i was living in Sao Paulo I had the silly idea one sunday morning to go to the grocery store to get some bread for breakfast in my pjs… meaning my flannel pants and a sweatshirt with my havaianas. HUGE MISTAKE. i also lived one block down from the fancy schmansy Rua Oscar Freire… which made the WHOLE experience at the grocery store in sweats even more horrifying. noone even wanted to serve me… and everyone looked at me like i was an idiot.

    another experience: my first visit to brazil I was on my way to see my sister in law’s place of work and her mother came running towards the car waving us down, slammed her hands on the hood of the car out of sheer exhaustion of having had to run the length of the driveway and shouted “YOU FORGOT TO CHANGE YOUR SHOES, BECKY!” it was through this experience that i SHOULD HAVE REMEMBERED Havaianas are unacceptable footwear outside of the home… however, in the two short years since that incident things have changed DRASTICLY regarding that topic thanks to all the new commercials about being an uptight a$$hole (i hope you have all seen the guy who tells his girlfriend to change her shoes and she goes back into her house to call another guy to pick her up… LOVED IT!)

    in closing, I dress much better here, however, i have a hard time putting on heels to do anything that isn’t formal… but i’m learning.

    finally, PRESSURE COOKERS ARE NOT THAT SCARY PEOPLE! I use one almost every single day when i make beans, potatoes, carrots, mandioca… pretty much EVERYTHING just goes into the pressure cooker… even pasta! it all goes sooo much faster! haha I was terrified when I first started using it too, however, it’s super easy and i think you have to be an idiot for them to explode (i.e. you didn’t put enough water in it or you left it on way too long and all the water boiled out.) give them a try! it saves you HOURS AND HOURS of suffering in the kitchen! 🙂

    • I totally remember that commercial!! But I was told it’s OK to wear Havianas in Rio, just not in Sao Paulo… HA! I live ON Oscar Freire and most of the time I’m in something that I just did yoga in. That is hilarious about the woman and the shoes.
      What do you mean EXPLODE? I didn’t even know the pressure cooker could explode. Na ah. I was just afraid I could burn myself.
      Thanks for your comments!!

  4. “What do you mean EXPLODE? I didn’t even know the pressure cooker could explode.”
    But it’s a PRESSURE cooker.

  5. “pressure” does not equal “explosion”

    True; but given the context – what could go wrong when using a certain appliance – then if said appliance is described as being pressurized wouldn’t explosion be 1st on your list? Kinda like what receiving a shock would be to anything eletrical, such as an eletric shower.

  6. @BAB
    You could ask if your residence has electrical grounding (“Aterramento Elétrico”); this is when electrical surges are drawn and taken to an Eletrical Grounding Rod (“Fio Terra”), instead of using our bodies as conductors ( after all I’m already hot enough as it is, according to most).
    I found the videos below quite handy, (the 1st one in Portuguese is more concise I think), Perhaps it would be wise for those who have doubts concerning this matter to ask a Portuguese speaking electrician to take a look.

    Here is one in English.

    Most residences in Brazil that I have been to (apartments and houses) have Electrical Grounding. A Building for instance should have a place where all these surges are transported to ( “The Fio Terra” or Electrical Grounding Rod), BUT not all apartments count on proper plugs and wiring to transport electrical surges to that location.
    1. Este edifício/prédio tem aterramento elétrico ? – Does this building have electrical grounding?
    2. Onde está localizado o fio terra do edificio/ da casa? – Where is the eletrical grounding rod of the building / house located?
    3. Você também assiste Mulheres Ricas? É eletrizante – Do you also watch Mulheres Ricas? It is electrifying.

  7. Ray says:

    Dear B.A.B,

    You are becoming a Brazilian expert. This is one of the single most important cultural rule in Sao Paulo, how you dress will definitely define how you are treated at a bank, a very important rule. Remember that infamous “Pretty Woman” scene, when the prostitute goes into the upscale clothing store dressed as a prostitute and then she goes back dressed accordingly? Yeap, that will apply for banks in Sao Paulo too! 🙂
    By the way, you are correct, havaianas in Sao Paulo only in your home or by the pool, never in the city, and that goes to men in shorts or bermuda shorts, very rare to see men in the city (Sao Paulo) wearing shorts.


    I am surprised you weren’t dragged away on a straight jacket! You are lucky you were wearing PJ’s to a supermarket on a Sunday, or would have ended up in an insane asylum before you could say flannel PJ’s. 😉
    By the way, you would have gotten the same reaction if you were wearing PJ’s in New York city or Boston for that matter. I think this is more of a big city thing versus small towns or suburbs kind of social rule…
    But again, that would be in the US, I wouldn’t try that in Alphaville, Swiss Park or any other Sao Paulo suburb if I was you… 😉


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