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Five Brazilian Habits Americans Will Never Understand

Lidi is a Brazilian expat living in the U.S for 10 years. She works as regional manager at BRIC Language Systems an online language program

At Copacabana Beach it is traditional to toss flowers into the ocean on New Year's Eve to appease the water goddess, Iemanja.

At Copacabana Beach it is traditional to toss flowers into the ocean on New Year's Eve to appease the water goddess, Iemanja.

Unique Brazilian Habits

Every culture has its own traditions, custom and habits. Some may be very different and even incomprehensible, and some may sound awkward to our fellow Americans.

I've put together a list of five Brazilian habits Americans (and non- Americans) have hard time to understand.

I would love to hear your comments, opinions, and any other Brazilian customs you think is weird.

1. Soccer Isn't Just a Game

Brazilian fans in Johannesburg react to Brazil's loss to Holland in the 2010 World Cup quarterfinals.

Brazilian fans in Johannesburg react to Brazil's loss to Holland in the 2010 World Cup quarterfinals.

Americans will never understand how passionate Brazilians are about soccer, or futebol. Brazil took a European game and reinvented it to be improvisational and creative. Brazilians are flamboyant players, moving their hips around more than others, and are incredibly hooked on watching games. During the World Cup employers install screens in workplaces to try to keep workers on the job. The fervor around soccer in Brazil can only be likened to religion. People are very emotional about their teams and have become violent about the sport.

2. Several Showers a Day

If you have been to Brazil or have Brazilian friends you already know that Brazilians take showering very seriously. The average Brazilian showers at least twice a day. The weather is sticky and people think nothing of showering once in the morning and again at night. In the humid summer, some Brazilians take as many as four showers in one day.

3.The Cheek Kiss

When it comes to greetings in Brazil, the cheek kiss is very common between women and when men and women meet. Men usually give a little hug and slap each other's back.

Take note: the number of kisses varies by state. For example, in Sao Paulo, the standard is just one kiss. In Rio and Bahia, it is proper to give two kisses. In some other states like Minas Gerais and Rio Grande do Sul, the norm is to give three. No matter where they are, when family members greet one another, three kisses is a very common custom.

Always start on the right cheek, and take note that often there is no actual contact with the lips, just touching the cheeks together and kissing the air.

4. Endless vacations

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In Brazil, vacations are usually long and holidays are frequent. Many holidays easily transform into long weekends. It is common for working Brazilians to get 30 days of paid vacation and 11 public holidays, while Americans get around 10-15 days.

Read More from WanderWisdom

Vacations are sacred in Brazil. Many Brazilians prefer to take their vacations between December and February, when it's summer in the country.

5. Talking With Hands

Brazilian body language is definitely something many Americans (and non-Americans) have difficulty understanding. It can be indecipherable sometimes, especially because some Brazilian hand gestures are not used in other countries, or mean something else outside of Brazil.

  • Joining the thumb and forefinger into a circle (the American gesture for OK) is an obscene gesture in Brazil, similar to giving someone the finger.
  • The "fig sign," when the hand and fingers are curled into a fist and the thumb pokes out between the middle and index fingers, means the speaker is wishing for good luck. In other countries, including Greece and Japan, this gesture is considered obscene.

So if you have a Brazilian friend, girlfriend, or boyfriend, ask them to help you learn the hand gestures that Brazilians use all the time.

6. Brushing Teeth at Work

Brazilians bring toothbrushes and paste with them so they can brush their teeth up to four times a day, including after lunch.

Brazilians bring toothbrushes and paste with them so they can brush their teeth up to four times a day, including after lunch.

Brazilian concern with cleanliness is a mystery to Americans. Just as an example, Brazilians bring toothbrushes and paste with them everywhere and usually brush their teeth after lunch. A typical Brazilian will often brush their teeth four times a day. This is related to the multiple showers trait, but Brazilians have a special obsession with keeping their teeth clean.

7. Talking Very Close

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Related to the habit of talking with hands, it is also customary in Brazil to talk to people in close proximity and touch them on the arms, hands, or shoulder. While Americans may slap one another on the back or give each other high fives while talking, Brazilians rest their hands on one another and often get very close. In Brazil, public displays of affection are also very common, more so than in the U.S.

8. Kisses in Messages

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It will be become obvious to you by now that Brazilians are passionate and affectionate. Unlike Americans, Brazilians often finish an email or phone conversation with beijo (kiss) or abraço (hug). This is a very common habit in Brazil. More puzzling to Americans are the weird abbreviations (bj or bjs for kisses and abs for hugs) used in emails or texts. For Brazilians ending a conversation without saying kisses or hugs is kind of rude.

9. Avocado Smoothie

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I know what you must be thinking: avocados don't go in smoothies! Before you get completely grossed out, bear with me for a second.

First of all, avocados are fruit (even though many people consider them vegetables). They have a very mild flavor and are very tasty in smoothies and shakes. Give it a try.

Brazilian Avocado Smoothie

  • 1 ripe avocado
  • 2 cups milk
  • 1/3 cup sweetened condensed milk
  • 6 ice cubes
  • Juice of 1 lime

Instructions

  1. Place ingredients in blender and puree until smooth.
  2. Garnish with a slice of lime.

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