Warning: This article is based on our takeaways from Fortaleza in the state of Ceará. Some of the points might not be true for other states or even cities inside the state.
- ▫️Security 🔪
- – Security is still the biggest obstacle to the development of the country;
- – It is dangerous to go into small streets and people can start to talk badly to you even if you only stare into these streets;
- – When entering a “favela” (a small street where a community lives)inside a car, you are supposed to open windows so everyone can see who you are. You can even get shot if you do not do it;
- – After 12 am stopping on a red sign is not obligatory as someone could try to attack you in the car.
- ▫️Politics & Corruption 💰
- – Corruption is part of the culture. One of the reasons is that the high governmental positions don’t give a good example at all;
- – Voting is obligatory for all Brazilian citizens – if you do not vote you will get a fine;
- – It is common that politicians pay and give goods (fridges, water tanks, microwaves, etc…) in exchange for a vote;
- – “Flanelinhas” are people who “help” you to park your car, even when you do not ask for help. They expect money in return and if you don’t give it to them, you might have big troubles (damages in your car or even physical violence. Sometimes police officers are even involved in the scheme.
- ▫️Business 💼
- – WhatsApp is a phenomenon – a large portion of businesses (from the small bakery to the big multinational insurance company) use it to talk to customers!;
- – Hierarchies are strong. Someone that works for the government has a higher social status and very unlikely will ever leave that position;
- – Big businesses and entrepreneurs take advantage of the illiteracy of the population. A small percentage of the poorer population is able to read and understand the contracts they sign when buying products on credit when buying lands to build their houses, etc…
- – There are many small “businesses” that are likely to not be even registered – people just sell what they can, for example opening their houses and selling homemade food or craftwork.
- ▫️Consumption 👠📱
- – Credit is a huge problem, which is seen as a blessing – Brazilians can buy almost everything in “0% interest” installments, from shoes and groceries to restaurant bills and cars. Although many people see this with good eyes, the truth is that the hidden fees, taxes, and delay penalties make every purchase incredibly expensive. As explained by locals, even if a good portion of people end up not paying back the credit, those who pay to make up for them and much more;
- – Walking through the shopping mall you can notice a lot of salespeople standing in front of the stores – waiting for clients. They have turns to serve the client. Usually, their salary is low, and they are paid dependently on their sales;
- – Different prices for different people (normally foreigners are charged much more on everything ). However, you can usually negotiate prices.
- ▫️Others 😎
- – The country stopped to watch World Cup matches with their national team (even Makro closed during 3 hours in the afternoon – the rest of the businesses closed the whole afternoon or even a full day);
- – There is always a gas stations nearby. Many of them offer coffee and some even fruit juice – as an incentive to clients. The prices change very often (at least between June-August 2018) so people go to stations very often and only buying small quantities of fuel;
- – At least in Fortaleza, pharmacies are everywhere! It is not uncommon to see 3 pharmacies on one road cross!;
- – Catholic masses are celebrated in a happy way – people clap their hands, wave and sing. After the mess everyone, including a priest, sing happy birthday and give blessing singing;
- – The electronic devices have higher prices than what we are used to see;
- – “Everyone” drinks coffee and eats something in the afternoon (5 PM)
▫️ Fruits 🥥🥭: Indulge yourself with the tropical fruits at your disposal – coconut, mango, guayaba, açaí, pitaya, etc…
▫️ Cuscuz Nordestino (Northeastern) 🥄 : It is a simmilar product as one used in Europe, but made of corn or corn and manioc, instead of wheat. It is cooked in special pots and if it is hard enough can be cut in slices. Usually eaten for breakfast or afternoon snack, either in a salty or sweet version
▫️ Romeu & Juliet 💑 : It could be the love Brazilians have for Shakespeare’s novel, but it is not. Any combination between queijo coalho (white cheese, like mozzarella) and goiabada (marmalade made of guayaba) has this name. You can get it in pizzas, tapiocas, cuscuz, etc;
▫️ Others ❕ : Due to space limitations and the warm weather, it is possible to have an indoor clothesline, attached to the ceiling, with a very specific mechanism (see photo).
▫️ As you might have seen by now, food is a very important aspect in Brazilian culture. Not only it is made with fresh and healthy ingredients, but also it is delicious and cheap!;
▫️ The international fast food chains are relatively expensive – lunch set is 4-5 times more expensive than lunch in a local restaurant;
▫️ There are a lot of buffet-type restaurants where you pay for weight;
▫️ Rodízio – a type of “all you can eat” where besides the buffet you have meat served to the table. The meat is smoked or grilled on long sticks and cuts directly to your plate;
▫️ Sweet Pizza – with banana and cinnamon, with rapadura, with chocolate, Romeo e Julieta;
▫️ Feijão Verde com queijo derretido – typical cearense dish – green beans with melted cheese;
▫️ Tapioca – “Tapioca de Carne do Sol” (with meat), tapioca with grilled queijo coalho, tapioca with “Doce de leite” (sweet sauce made of condensed milk, similar to caramel);
▫️ Farofa – toasted manioc flour with butter, salt, pepper, and bacon;
▫️ Feijoada – a stew made of black beans with beef and pork, served with rice;
▫️ Baião de Dois – rice with beans;
▫️ Brigadeiro – black cream made of condensed milk with chocolate in powder, sweet cream and a bit of butter. They use it to make small balls, like truffles or as a cream for cakes. Coconut version is called Beijinho and you can use it as a white cream – instead of chocolate use coconut (dried or just pieces of normal one). Beijinho + Brigadeiro = Casadinho (“Little marriage”);
▫️ Caipirinha, caipiroska – two signature drinks of Brasil, prepared with cachaça (liquor made of fermented sugarcane), lime, and sugar, served with ice;
▫️ Açai traditional – it is a fruit but Brazilians typically eat açai in the form of frozen pure as a main ingredient for breakfast bowl, served with banana, granola, and honey, can be also with powdered milk.
▫️ As opposed to our US trip, this was the month when we started to commit seriously to our freelance work, hence, we decided to travel less inside the country.
▫️We still managed to spend some days in a land that can be seen as a “piece of heaven”. Mundaú is a fishing village 150 km away from Fortaleza. Here you can experience pure peace of mind, away from the city traffic and with amazing deserted beaches. We had the opportunity to stay in a small inn managed by a priest.
One of the best kept secrets of this place is that you can eat as much lobster as you want for a very cheap price.
Events & Meetings
▫️ The event that might change our lives forever was the moment when we decided to take 30 minutes every day to read. It was an important step to create a routine that we did not have before and that we are really happy about 📚
▫️ Brasil, even though experiencing a developing economy it is still an unsafe country. Try to avoid wandering around small streets and walking with your valuable jewelry – overall it is better to not stand out of the crowd. As much as you are tempted to take many photos, make sure you do not blink with your iPhone in places like previously mentioned “favelas”;
▫️ Drinking water from the tap is not advisable. You can buy bottled water in the supermarket or if you are staying for a longer time you can have a service providing you water directly to your place;
▫️Do not overlook the size of the country, however funny it seems! If you plan to backpack through Brasil remember that it is almost 2 times bigger than all countries of EU together! Moving from one city to another can bare high cost and a lot of time;
▫️The low-cost flight “industry” is not very well developed in the country and there are not many cheap alternatives to travel around Brazil. The best you have to do is chose 2-3 states as a priority and adapt your budget to them.