Here are my 5 most recent Brazilian cultural difference discoveries…
1) Chicken Shame
I’m not at all fussy about food and will pretty much eat anything, but there are certain dislikes that I can empathise with like tuna (bit whiffy), mushrooms (strange texture) and gherkins (odd-looking). However, I’ve been surprised to encounter so many Brazilians who claim to hate chicken. It’s really not an obviously offensive food, and I’d honestly never met anyone prior to living in Brazil who had expressed any strong negative feelings about it. I brought this up with a Brazilian friend, who explained that many Brazilians simply don’t want to be seen to like chicken because it’s associated with poor people. Apparently if you grew up eating a lot of chicken, it means that your family didn’t have a lot of money, so people seem to want to distance themselves from it.
2) Pump Offence
If we want to fill up our petrol tank in the UK, we have to do it ourselves, getting high as a kite in the process and probably impulse buying half the confectionary selection on the way out. I’ve come across gas station attendants in other countries, affording you the luxury of sitting in your car and watching someone do it all for you. Here in Brazil however, they take it a step further. It’s actually illegal to fill up the tank yourself, due to a federal law enacted in 2000. Not only does this save all the messing around and the risk putting the wrong thing in, but it’s also by all accounts saved 300,000 gas station attendant jobs across Brazil. Can’t argue with that.
3) Golden Whisps
Forget that 5 o´clock leg shadow or the agony and expense of leg waxing, Brazilian ladies have found a somewhat appealing alternative. Many Brazilian women simply bleach their leg hairs with a cream which is applied to the skin whilst sitting in the sun, then wash it off after about 30 minutes (often into the sea). It’s apparently perceived as extremely sexy to have golden hairs on top of tanned skin in Brazil. As someone with naturally blonde leg hair, who has been shaving it off for years, I found this quite intriguing. Despite the fact that achieving a tan is very challenging for me, I fully support any time/ pain-saving approach to hair removal.
4) Pissed up Drivers
In the UK, most of our grandparents drank and drove back in the day and probably some of our parents got behind the wheel after a few sherrys over the years, but as far as I know its way less common amongst younger people nowadays. We grew up watching horrific TV ads about the dangers, and we’ve all heard of someone who was pulled over and failed a breathalyzer test. If I went on a night out with friends back home and even attempted to get in the car and drive when drunk, I would fully expect a great deal of concern and a backlash of criticism for my stupidity. Here in Brazil on the other hand, I frequently see friends and acquaintances get in the car when completely wasted and nobody bats an eyelid. It is apparently illegal here too but the chances of getting pulled over by the police are so slim that nobody really worries about it.
5) Yawning Epidemic
After an extensive amount of field research, I can confirm that it’s not considered impolite to yawn without putting a hand over your mouth in Brazil. I spend my life looking at classrooms full of gaping black holes, or holding conversations with people who yawn directly into my face (sound effects and all) when I’m attempting to share an anecdote with them. I just thank God for Brazil’s highly vigilant approach to dental hygiene. I’ve actually started to wonder if the whole hand-over-the-yawning-mouth social rule was indeed introduced in the UK on account of our historically poor track record of dental care.