My book Apareça Lá em Casa – Brevíssimo dicionário do jeito de ser brasileiro (“Drop by at my place – A brief dictionary of the Brazilian way”) isn’t a travel guide, nor is it a sociological essay. Instead, it’s an effort to capture the uniqueness of the Brazilian spirit. With just over 50 terms, I try to humorously navigate some of the things inherent to Brazilians, such as our lack of punctuality, our mannerisms, and our habits.
The book is currently available only in Portuguese, but translations into English and Spanish are on their way. You can take a sneak peek here, as I’ve selected a few of the best terms for plus55.
A special moment of the day when we interrupt our work journey and enjoy the moment. To finish, a cafezinho (small coffee) – often in a second establishment. In Brazil, you don’t have lunch with a book in your hands, or hold a meeting during lunch. You also shouldn’t speak with food in your mouth or eat while walking.
Brazilians – like Italians, French, Portuguese, and Argentinians – have lunch. Period. The price you pay for that is feeling like a bear headed to hibernation for about an hour afterwards. It is amazing to see men and women enjoying a churrasco at noon, and then going back to the office, as if it were nothing.
In general, Brazilians take a small kit to the office to make sure they can brush their teeth after a meal. Apparently, this is pretty shocking to foreigners.
On Sundays with the family, lunch can mean anywhere between something small to a gargantuan feast. On weekdays, the best moment of the day is when a colleague says: “What up, let’s go have lunch?”
Apareça lá em casa (Drop by at my place)
When Brazilians say “Drop by at my place,” what we’re actually saying is: please, don’t drop by. This sentence is as empty as saying “Have a nice day.” It doesn’t mean much.
On the bright side, if a Brazilian tells you that, it’s because he or she likes you. It’s a polite way of treating an acquaintance. If a Brazilian doesn’t like you, you won’t even get that fake invitation!
If a Brazilian really wants you to drop by, you’ll know. The invitation will be accompanied by an address.
-Ão (Suffix for augmentation)
Life would be better without this suffix, but it’s everywhere, from names to nouns. Some say that the Portuguese invented -ão to tell native speakers from foreigners.
However, foreign children are able to imitate the -ão sound with ease. If you don’t master it, here’s a tip: ask your kid to finish saying the word for you.
Banho (Bath or Shower)
Brazilians take a lot of showers. Many do it more than once a day, which has the positive benefit of making public transportation a more bearable commuting experience.
Some like to say that Brazilians are the cleanest folks in the world. Popular culture states that the habits came from native populations.
If a Brazilian is hosting you for a few days, don’t be shocked if the first thing he asks you is: “Do you want to take a shower?” This doesn’t mean your host things you sleep oddly or smell weird, or anything nefarious – it’s just a sign of being a good host.
Believe me, you get points for answering yes.
The word banho is equally used to describe taking a shower or a bath, though it’s usually the former. People typically don’t have bathtubs, and they’ll probably not invite you into their Jacuzzi...
Jeitinho (The Brazilian way)
This a hard word to define. In general, it describes Brazilians’ will to solve problems in a creative way. Stereotypically, we’re able to find solutions that aren’t necessarily obvious to others.
It can also mean “ruse.”
When an expat arrives in Brazil, he or she quickly realizes how bureaucratic our country can be. And sometimes, it takes a bit of grease to make the state machine work. There are situations that things won’t work unless you work a jeitinho. The problem is, of course, that there is a fine line between jeitinho and corruption.
Even if Brazil becomes the epitome of a Weberian bureaucracy someday, I highly doubt the jeitinho will die.
Pão de Queijo (Cheese Bread)
Few things can provoke saudade in the mind of a Brazilian as a pão de queijo. If Proust had been a Brazilian, this would be his madeleine.
Originated from Minas Gerais, this is one of Brazil’s most popular snacks. Pão de queijo translates literally as “cheese bread,” although it is by no means a kind of bread. Rather, it’s a biscuit made out of manioc flour, eggs, salt, and cheese.
In addition to pão de queijo, Minas Gerais also has magnificent colonial cities, mountains, an exquisite cuisine, and people who master conversational skills like no other.
Minas is not close to the sea, however. You can’t have everything!