You may spend your days on the sand, listening to samba, thinking you fit right in — but here’s why you’re not truly a carioca.
Don’t even think about hitting the beach (or anywhere else) without sunscreen. The Brazilian sun is hot and will annihilate your skin if you’re not careful. Sure, you want to get a tan, but a carioca knows that skin cancer and sunburns aren’t sexy.
Scalding red tan lines show you’ve lost the battle with the sun and make you stick out against the tanned, caramel brown skin around you. You can still get a sexy tan when applying and reapplying sunscreen every few hours.
Less is more on Rio’s beaches. You think your belly pooch is so offensive you can’t wear a bikini? Wrong. Cariocas of ALL shapes and sizes rock minimal beachwear. This standard applies for guys who hide inside baggy swim trunks, too. Time to break out the sunga and let it all hang out. Order a beach caipirinha and leave your body issues at home.
Ladies, it’s called a Brazilian for a reason. The fellas don’t get a pass, either. Men in Rio have bare chests and manscaping in other areas. If you want to fit in on the soccer field or volleyball court, book an appointment at your nearest waxing salon.
Rio has four major soccer teams: Vasco da Gama, Botafogo, Flamengo, and Fluminense. Cariocas love the national team, but their true devotion lies with their local club. If you plan on spending more than two weeks in Rio, you’d better choose a side. Soccer is a religion here — you don’t want to insult your Brazilian friends by being so oblivious.
Be warned: Picking a team is an instant way to make friends and enemies.
Wearing nice jewelry is the equivalent of wearing a sign that says, “Hey, I have a lot of money! Rob me!” With the crime rate in Rio, you can’t wear anything expensive unless you want to be targeted. Muggers are known for running by and ripping jewelry right off your neck. You’re better off leaving the real gold at home and embracing knockoffs and plastic. This also applies to flaunting electronics on the street. Put your iPad away and blend in.
The one hundred Brazilian real bill is the bane of every cashier. When you hand it to them, they’ll shoot you an annoyed look and ask, “Não tem menor?” (Don’t you have something smaller?)
Whether it’s a street vendor, supermarket, or giant department store, salespeople rarely have tons of change. Break big bills any time you’re spending more than R$30, then save your small bills for anything under R$20. Otherwise, you’ll have to wait while your under-enthusiastic cashier calls their manager, debates over the money in the register, begrudgingly gets change, then huffily gives it back to you.
You first imagine a tropical climate where everyone only eats luscious mangoes and freshly caught fish. You think everything is natural and bursting with flavor. Then you realize cariocas will fry anything or smother it with cheese. And for dessert, they’ll pump it full of sugar or cover it in condensed milk.
Don’t be fooled by that “natural” juice you just ordered. Unless you requested sem açúcar, it’ll come loaded with sugar. If you’re expecting to find Whole Foods-type products here, you’re out of luck. Brazilians haven’t gotten the natural-eating memo yet. They still cling to their added sugar, processed foods, and diet products.
And good luck if you’re a vegetarian or vegan…
It’s toasted manioc flour, folks. Just sprinkle it over your beans and rice and don’t ask questions.