A Carioca is a local from Rio de Janeiro, easily distinguished from the Paulista who hails from Sao Paulo and works to play while the Carioca plays for work. While Rio is a large city it is still a beach town filled with beach people. Sure you came to Rio to get away from it all, but if you plan on spending a few weeks in this marvelous city then be sure not to stick out like a gringo. (In Brazil it doesn’t matter what your background is, if you are not Brazilian you are a gringo.)
Sunga (men) or Brazilian Bikini and a sarong (women). That’s a banana hammock and dental floss with your see through beach blanket if you weren’t sure. If you show up at the beach wearing your AE swimsuit, even if it is in style back home, here it is not going to help you blend in. Yeah you always see the Brazilian beauties wearing the tiniest of outfits, and maybe- just maybe you fell short of your New Years resolution and still don’t have the beach body you want, but that is OK. The fact is that Cariocas are comfortable with their body so expect the 20 year old babe with the hourglass figure and her 40 year old aunt who hasn’t lost the weight after her second child, to be wearing the same style AND size bikini. The same goes for the guys, you have your Calvin Klein model and his overweight best friend who has more fur than me both rocking a sunga. Politicians trying to get re-elected are shown wearing a sunga in their ads. Put your mind at ease, slip on your swimsuit which has less material than your average napkin and strut your stuff.
Rio Card – This is a great way to use transportation without having to whip out your wallet every time you enter the bus. Once you are on the first step the bus starts moving so quickly that you can’t help but fly around like you are on some extreme thrill ride. Now try to picture digging into you pockets (that’s right giving up an arm to brace you) to dig out a few reais. You get the picture which is why with this card you simply have to stand up long enough to hold you card up next to the reader (you don’t even need to take it out of your wallet) and you get the green light to go. The real amazement is the little old ladies who rock and sway as they gracefully move about the bus, something that after 4 months I still couldn’t maneuver.
- There are two different types of Rio cards one that is for the bus only and one that works with both the Metro and Bus. To make sure you get the one that works for both purchase your card at the Metro station, otherwise you may pick up a bus card anywhere including most grocery stores.
Havaianas - Oh, you have some flip-flops, understandable why would you need Havaianas. I’ll tell you why, because theses are not your every day flip-flops, these bad boys are the superman of flip-flops. I’ve watch construction workers build massive structures in nothing but a pair of shorts, Havaianas on their feet and the tools in their hand. The best part is they are cheap here, for around R$20 (about US $10) you can purchase an inexpensive pair, which also could serve as a great souvenir.
Futbol – Pick a team, get a jersey and if you get a chance watch them play at Maracana. There are many teams in Rio but choosing a team is no simple decision to the local die-hard fans. I lived in Botafogo and figured it would be best to support my ‘local’ team. I quickly learned the best bet was to root for Flamengo as this is the team ‘of the people’ where as Fluminense is more often associated with the upper class. You are already the gringo tourist the last thing you would want is to be associated with the wrong team. I found myself in a few situations that made me happy I had on the right jersey, such as a make-shift samba parade where their dance turned into not-so-friendly futbol songs.
Relax - Being a beach culture many of the people are easy going, including with their perception of time. If a friend invites you over for dinner and drinks at 6 and you show up before 7 they will be a little thrown off and unprepared. Instead spend the extra time getting a tan and learning how to haggle with the beach people for your seat and some drinks at a non-gringo price. This also applies with comfort in proximity around other people, greetings often involve a hug and kiss on each cheek and with being a city of about 8 million you are bound to find yourself in a few crowded areas including beaches.
Will these tips allow you to easily blend in as a Carioca, probably not but it will help to make your transition to a Brazilian way of life a little bit easier. All I know for sure, is I will never recommend a Brazilian wax!
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