When we decided to go on a sabbatical we knew that Brazil would be included in our trip for obvious reasons: First, Brazil is the home country of Beatriz and second, it is an excellent chance for Lars to dig deeper into the Brazilian culture and learn Portuguese. Once this decision was made it was not difficult to choose a city to live in for a month. Oh yes, Rio de Janeiro “A cidade maravilhosa”, was our choice!

Lars is following a Portuguese course at Caminhos Language Center since the 2nd of May and learning a great deal about the Brazilian culture, language and about the cariocas – people lucky enough to be born in Rio!

To get a better understanding of the carioca life, Lars had a chat with Sonia Lisboa, a great Portuguese teacher at Caminhos.

For how long have you been teaching Portuguese to foreigners?
I’ve been teaching Portuguese to foreigners for five years.

What exactly is the carioca lifestyle we hear so much about?
The carioca lifestyle is very particular and authentic. When we talk about the typical carioca, we imagine a person that loves the beach and the feeling of being near it. Cariocas like the idea of being able to enjoy nature without having to travel. They are very eclectic regarding their music taste – they like samba, rock, pagode, axé, sertanejo and MPB (Brazilian Popular Music).

Cariocas are also extrovert and love making new friends. Unlike some people in other countries, cariocas “work to live” and don’t “live to work”. Furthermore, cariocas like to drink beer, and it must always be estupidamente gelada (ice and ice cold). The beer tastes even better if it is combined with a barbecue and friends.

Dealing with so many internationals in Rio de Janeiro, you have probably heard funny stories, could you tell us one?
Yes, there are many funny stories concerning the Portuguese language and the Brazilian culture. A good example is the use of the diminutive (making subjects smaller) in Portuguese. We use “inha or inho” as a suffix in many contexts with different meanings. Once, a Japanese student was learning the use of the diminutive and wanted to practice this with his colleagues. His wife was Brazilian so he was used to hearing many words in diminutive at home. One day, during a meeting at work, he used a word in diminutive to express that he was tired (soninho). His colleagues laughed for a long time and he couldn’t get why. Afterwards, they explained that the diminutive in this particular case sounded very feminine; only women would say a thing like that. There are many stereotypes in the Brazilian culture, for example, what can and cannot be said by men or women. The “inho” diminutive sounds too female for men in many situations.

We also imagine that you have heard many “misconceptions” about Brazilian and the carioca culture. What’s the most common?
Definitely. Many foreigners arrive with stereotyped ideas and, in many cases, are prejudiced with regard to Brazilians and Brazil as a country. For example: They think that all Brazilians like football and caipirinhas; they believe that Brazilians don’t like to work and, for this reason, service is bad in general, and that carioca only think about beach and carnival. There are many Brazilians that dislike those things! Also, thinking that cariocas are very open with regard to their body and sexuality, just because they wear small bikinis and short clothing, is a big mistake – some cariocas can be very shy and reserved.

What are the most common made “mistakes” by foreigners when visiting Rio de Janeiro?
I don’t know if I would call it mistakes but some small slips made by foreigners are:

  • Not wearing sunscreen every day
  • Not wearing repellent (and bringing it wherever they go), mainly in the summer
  • Thinking that they will find international restaurants and typical food from other countries (you can even find some but don’t expect too much from it)
  • Thinking that all Brazilian women are an easy lay; they are not!
  • Thinking that cariocas don’t adapt themselves to formal and informal situations regarding language, dress code and attitudes
  • Thinking that cariocas’ “lateness” is a sign of disrespect. In fact, this is more a demonstration of our lifestyle, more spontaneous. Nevertheless, this unpunctuality is only well accepted in informal situations. When it comes to work, it is seen as negligence and lack of professionalism as in all other countries

Which restaurants serve food that always makes you come back for more?
There are some 😉

  • À Mineira, located in Humaitá, which serves typical food from Minas Gerais
  • Barraca da Chiquita, which serves Brazilian Northeastern food. They are located in the Northeastern Tradition Market in São Cristovão
  • Delírio Tropical, which offers very healthy food with vegetarian options. You can find them in different locations in many neighbourhoods of Rio
  • Bar Bracarense you find typical carioca’s snacks or comida de boteco. Try “bolinho de bacalhau” (cod dumplings), it’s delicious! Located in Leblon
  • Chácara Tropical, located in the Itanhangá neighbourhood, it’s surrounded by many flowers and the atmosphere there is great! Perfect to enjoy breakfast

What are your personal highlights of Rio de Janeiro?
I like to enjoy the mornings in “Vista Chinesa”, which is an amazing viewpoint in the Tijuca Forest.

For picnics or even barbecue I normally go to Cidade Park (for barbecues you need authorization from the City Hall), in Gávea, it’s lovely. Also in Gávea, nearby Cidade Park, I love the Moreira Salles Institute – Culture and Cinema House.

When I want to hang out with friends, my favourite places are Quinta da Boa Vista, at metro station São Cristovão and Santa Teresa neighbourhood – which is very famous for its alternative culture.

My golden tip for those who love the beach is Joatinga Beach, on Joá road between São Conrado e Barra da Tijuca neighbourhood. It’s isolated, small and I would say “exclusive”.

More about Brazil? Get inspired here.

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