10 things Brazil does better than anywhere else
What first comes to mind when you think of Brazil? Samba beats, beautiful beaches, tropical rainforest? Yes, you’ve got it, but there is much, much more. Travelers to this enormous country don’t just visit to get a suntan. Brazil is a country of contrasts; the rich and the poor, the beach and the jungle, love and violence, salty and sweet. Beyond the obvious, check out 10 things Brazil does better than anywhere else and book your luxury Rio penthouse right away!
10. Take a break, have a snack!
You definitely won’t get bored when it comes to finger food in Brazil. The only thing harder than choosing which tasty treat to sample first is memorizing their complicated names. From Portuguese bolinhos de bacalhau (codfish balls) to Northeastern queijo coalho (hard grilled cheese), and from trendy and versatile tapioca to the national favorite pão de queijo (cheese bread), all are widely available and highly addictive. Of course there’s nothing better to pair those with than a glass of ice-cold chope (draft beer). Sweets include açaí (South American superfood berry), brigadeiro, doce de leite, and Romeu e Julieta, and are not to be missed out either.
9. Religion mixing
One of the most unique things about Brazil is the melting pot of different cultural influences and beliefs from the native Brazilians, colonizing Portuguese, and the years of the African slave trade. Unlike what happened in most of the Americas though, a fusion between them emerged. Nowadays, Brazilian society experiences a daily and interesting intertwining of different religious traditions, with the most recurring breed being that between Catholicism and African Candomblé and Umbanda. Some of the most important landmarks of that heritage still survive, such as Pedra do Sal in Rio de Janeiro, a large rock around which a group of freed slaves founded a community. This is still a remarkable site of resistance, where currently one of Rio’s most famous rodas de samba (samba informal parties) takes place.
Pucker up. With the exception of formal occasions, Brazilians greet everyone with a kiss on the cheek (two if you’re in Rio or even three in Minas Gerais) even if you don’t know them. Men will greet each other with something between a hug and a handshake, but man-to-woman or woman-to-woman contact is usually a warm, tactile greeting. Don’t be alarmed to find a hand on your shoulder, touching while talking is a favorite here too. So let go of your personal-space bubble and enjoy Brazil’s charming informality.
You might be familiar with trendy açaí, but you probably don’t know cashew nuts are actually named after the bittersweet fruit they grow from, and never heard of delicious pitanga, mangaba, jabuticaba, jenipapo, and cupuaçu. There must be something in the water, as even foreign fruits grow tastier and better-looking here. The best way to take full advantage of that is to try one of the countless and mouth-watering juice bars, available on virtually every corner of Rio and other major cities.
This quite abstract trait had to make it to our list of 10 things Brazil does better, because it’s impressive to notice how Brazilians always find the silver lining for everything that can’t be solved with their notorious jeitinho (i.e. “cunning”). All that despite how tough daily life can be as the country still struggles to tackle issues like public services provision and the gap between the rich and the poor. Barbecues over beer and cheerful music are also a very popular way to keep things going well.
5. Beach life
Brazil wouldn’t be Brazil without its beautiful beaches; 7,500km (4,600mi) of coast to be precise. With many of the country’s major cities located here, beach life is definitely one of the 10 things Brazil does better. Brazilians have turned the beach into the epicenter of social life par excellence. Each region of the country has its own “beach tradition”, from top-notch restaurants literally by the water in the Northeast, to sport practicing in Rio de Janeiro (local favorites frescoball and footvolley were invented in Copacabana beach), to “after-beach” parties in southern Florianópolis. Yet what all of them have in common is making the most of living next to the beach.
4. Enjoying the night outdoors
In most cases, Brazilians won’t invite you over; they will take you out. Their enchanting way of socializing, with generous hand gesturing, loud talking, open people watching, and (usually) ice-cold beer consumption, is best enjoyed outside. Thanks to the year-round warm temperatures Brazilians rarely spend an evening indoors. And outside here means literally that, as most bars put their tables and chairs on the sidewalk. It’s just amazing to watch those large bar gatherings get bigger and happier as the night goes by.
3. Luxuriant nature
If you haven’t heard of the Brazil’s legendary Amazon Rainforest, you must be living under a rock. However, you may be surprised to learn that this is not the only ecosystems found in this immense country. You can also find the savannah-like Cerrado and marshy Pantanal in the Midwest, semi-desert Caatinga in the Northeast, pampas in the South, and mangroves throughout much of its coast. Brazil boasts a wonderfully diversified wildlife and qualifies as one of the 17 “megadiverse” countries in the world, which makes it an awesome destination for ecotourism lovers. Each of these biomes has its own beauties as you’ll be pleased to find out. Jewels like the Iguazu Falls, shared with neighbors Argentina and Paraguay, Bonito cave in Mato Grosso do Sul, and Lençóis Maranhenses are an absolute must-visit.
2. Welcoming foreigners
Brazilians are extremely curious about all that comes from abroad, and the way they find to best express that is by talking to foreign visitors as much as they can. Don’t be surprised if they ask you a lot of questions about your home country and especially what your impressions on Brazil are. Also if they can’t speak English, they’ll do their best to make you feel welcome and put a smile on your face (Expect them to name famous players from your country). Their outward-looking sense of national pride plays a major role in that, yet most of it stems from their authentic friendliness and candid extroversion.
1. Music and dancing
Thanks again to the aforementioned multicultural history, music is the rhythm of life in Brazil. When the drums of the Africans met the language of Europeans – gradually softened by the different peoples that spoke it – a highly engaging and sensual musicality emerged. Now this, surprise surprise, is much more than samba and Bossa Nova, its sophisticated offspring. Lambada, Baião, Forró, Frevo, Maracatu, Choro, and Funk Carioca are just some of the genres that make up Brazil’s vibrant music scene. Carnival, celebrated in different ways throughout the country, brings most of those rhythms onto the main stage, so that’s the perfect occasion to get to know them.