Five Brazilian Habits Americans Will Never Understand

Updated on May 12, 2016
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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.

Have you been to Brazil?

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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. | Source

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

Source

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

Source

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

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.

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. | Source

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

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

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

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.

Brazilian Avocado Smoothie

Nutrition Facts
Serving size: 1 cup
Calories 531
Calories from Fat234
% Daily Value *
Fat 26 g40%
Carbohydrates 62 g21%
Fiber 6 g24%
Protein 18 g36%
* The Percent Daily Values are based on a 2,000 calorie diet, so your values may change depending on your calorie needs. The values here may not be 100% accurate because the recipes have not been professionally evaluated nor have they been evaluated by the U.S. FDA.

Which one of these Brazilians habits would you like to adopt?

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Comments

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  • lidialbuquerque profile image
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    lidialbuquerque 2 years ago

    I really appreciate your comment Chef de Jour! Brits and Brazilians definitely share a love for futebol, and I am very happy to hear that you had a good time in SP. It's not an easy city, it requires some time, patience and an open mind to understand it and like it. I am glad you managed to break through the obstacles and discover the real city and the paulistanos!

  • chef-de-jour profile image

    Andrew Spacey 2 years ago from Near Huddersfield, West Yorkshire,UK

    Habits die hard as we say here in the UK, habits are passed on from generation to generation and no one,not even governments, can do much about it!!

    Loved your Brazilian habits and the fact that you chose the American people to misunderstand them! In my experience Americans misunderstand most in the world, but please don't think I'm a biased Brit.

    When in SP last year I visited the museo de futebol and I watched a few Brazil games during the Copa. Extraordinary passion. Deep, rich emotional lives you Brazilians have in your DNA.

    Yes, I enjoyed an avocado smoothie of sorts on Av de Paulista and also drank from a green coconut in Parque Aguabranca whilst watching boys play soccer, horses gallop and the tall trees (Pau Brasil) gently wave in the breeze. Magical.

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    Rico 2 years ago

    I live in Brasil but I maintain my American ways. I say no to "banana hammocks". I do not buy into everything Brasilian i.e. Jetinho Brasileiro" and I can say with confidence that many more Brasilians wish that Brasil would be more American than articles like this would have you believe. I have spoken to Brasilians who, once they knew I was an American, would begin to complain about the problems with Brasil. More times than I can count, I've found myself defending this country to it's own people. This is the uniquely American characteristic we call "positive thinking." I hope that by saying "thank you" and "please" among other American traits I maintain here-I can in my small way bring a little of the USA's best qualities to a country that deserves to be successful.

  • lidialbuquerque profile image
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    lidialbuquerque 2 years ago

    obrigada pelo comentário Patrick. Minha idéia não foi generalizar ou rotular os brasileiros. Foi apenas destacar alguns hábitos comuns a alguns brasileiros de certas regiões do país. Nem todos têm o mesmo comportamento e costumes obviamente. Também sei que muitos não concordam comigo. Nunca foi minha pretensão. Mas acho que o bacana é ter a cabeça aberta para as diferenças e não levar tudo ao pé da letra.

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    Charles 2 years ago

    I'm from Curitiba and we do not eat ketchup or mayo with pizza. The avocado smoothie is simply wonderful.

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    ivana freire 2 years ago

    That list is so true! One Brazilian tradition missing is how welcoming we are. We love to entertain & a get together with close friends who we treat like family . Everything is a reason to celebrate! I guess I could haven't picked a better country to born... minus the avocado smoothie.... avocado for me must be salty and during breakfast with eggs...

  • lidialbuquerque profile image
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    lidialbuquerque 2 years ago

    Muito obrigada pelo comentário honesto e simpático Gracielly! Que bom que vc achou o post interessante!

    Realmente isso é algo importante, que devemos tentar exercitar sempre: a liberdade de escrever como quisermos, nesse caso seja em português ou em inglês e respeitar os demais.

    Obrigada!

    Abs!

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    gracielly 2 years ago

    Wow this is very true about us Brazilians.

    I am from South of Brazil and everything is completely true. No one will understand us. Then let's be happy.

    E dizendo para aqueles que estao reclamando. Cada um escreve como quer. Ingles ou Portugues. Vc tem escolha. Entao nao se preocupe com a escolha do proximo. O que seria do preto se todos gostassem do branco?!?!?!

    Respeitar a decisao a opiniao alheia significa que vc tem cultura ou seja que vc seja EDUCADO(A),.

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    Nicole Gloor 2 years ago

    I'm Brazilian; born and live in Brasília, federal capital. It's a cosmopolitan city. We have all that particularity but we accept every thing!

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    Daniela Duarte 2 years ago

    I liked the text a lot. The information is accurate, in my opinion. I like avocado smoothies, I take two showers a day, I have 30 day vacations, I know soooo many people who use their hands while talking... I have been to the US and I have not noticed any of these habits. I think the text shows some cultural differences in a natural positive way.

    And Thays, we are NOT ashamed to use Portuguese. It's only coherent to answer the text in the language the author used, since she is the person you are supposedly addressing to.

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    Joe 2 years ago

    For Brazilians who said they have never had avocado smoothies, they just refer to what we call "vitaminas" in Brazil.

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    obcecado 2 years ago

    Brazilians will never eat food with their hands because it is unhygienic but the rule doesn't count for french fries. Rules in general don't make much sense in Brazil, hahaha or kkkkkk

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    KB 2 years ago

    There are more:

    - using cuttlery to eat pizza

    - tapping people you have just met on their backs

    - rarely stopping at red lights

    - men wearing speedos on the beach

    - women wearing next to nothing on the beach (though that much I can appreciate)

    - talking loud

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    Renato 2 years ago

    Very accurate facts.

    Except that I'm from Minas Gerais, and everyone I know usually kiss only once in the cheek when meeting someone.

    I didn't know that Americans had only 10-15 days vacation, and that's very awkward. I couldn't work during the whole year knowing I wouldn't have 1 month to rest!

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    Anna Líria Sansaloni Barbosa 2 years ago

    We take many showers a day because it is awfully hot in here and we end up weating a lot throughout the day!

  • Dan Costa profile image

    Dan Costa 2 years ago

    My contribution: brazilians always offer to hold your purse or bag on a crowded bus or train. Once I was riding the NY subway with my cousin that had recently moved here from Brazil, and he did just that: asked a person that was standing in front of him to hold her purse for her. She didn't take it very well, and gave him a very bad look, probably thought he was either crazy or a thief

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    Chris 2 years ago

    Unfortunately The most weird Brazilian habits it's re-elect corrupt politicians and not care about and not do anything when they discover the robbery. Very sad!!!!!

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    Sissy 2 years ago

    The article was in ENGLISH, hence the comments in English! Hello!!

    O artigo foi escrito em ingles, por isso os comentarios estão sendo em ingles gente!

    Brazilian born and raised. But been living in the United States for 34 years. Very true list!

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    Ileana 2 years ago

    Interresting all the comments on this page!!!! Some are nice some are challenging and some do not even address the 5 issues!!!!! I am writing in English because the majority of brazilians do understand english while there is a minority of americans that can either read or speak portuguese!!!! First of all I grew up in Rio and never had an avocado smoothie!!! Yes I did have avocado cream with sugar and was amazed when in the USA I was served avocado in a salad! Smoothies are a modern thing so we can not say that it is Brazilian in origin! Fruit juices were restricted to orange or grape juices when I was small. Pizza with mayo or ketchup was unheard off. Eating it with a knife and fork is common because brazilians tend use these tools more frequently than americans we don't like to have our fingers dirty. Gesturing is common in Rio the reference of italian influence is interresting due to the fact that like the USA Brazil is a melting pot of nationalities so it is not the influence but what we grew up with. Kisses are normal because Brazilians not only hug and kiss but they tend to touch the person to whom they are speaking! As for showers it is the norm due to the hot climate! Having also worked in Rio the vacation was of 30 days and did not include weekends. One could also sell the vaccation back to the company and work during that period. This could be done for two consecutive years but on the third year the employee had to take the vaccation. You did not mention how a woman is treated in Brazil. From 8 to 5 we did our work, but after that we are treated as delicate females and are pampered! As for men yes they are also pampered by women. At least that is how I was brought up.

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    Peggy Dane 2 years ago

    I love the avocado smoothie, but my favorite is avocado mashed until smooth with lemon and sugar. At the ice cream shops they serve avocado ice cream! Don't say, "yuck." It is delicious. Que saudades de passar 28 Anos da minha vida no Brasil. Muito amor.

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    Luise Sitjar 2 years ago

    I'm Brazilian and I love your view oon our habits. X

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    Renata Mazotte 2 years ago

    Every Brazilian have had a avocado smoothie. It is just impossible not to have it if you are Brazilian. Perhaps you have not lived here for all you life.

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    Mayara 2 years ago

    I really love avocado smoo. I think this post is a funny joke. Some people need more "smiles" and less bad humour

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    fabri 2 years ago

    The language is not a wall in our lives.

    you may write in any language you want.

    the target is: be good and chat.

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    waleska 2 years ago

    Like: woa, seriously people don't offer a piece of their food normally?

    I simply LOVE avocado smoothie and when my kid was like 2 or 3 I use to make smoothie of whatever-was-available-on-the-fridge. Guess more brazilians use to drink same kind of smoothie in their childhood + the terrible tasted cod liver oil. lol

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    Sergio 2 years ago

    How about the Brazilian habit of always offering to share food? Even if it is something that wouldn't be expected to be shared like a single apple, Brazilians always offer it to other around them before eating it. Such a bizarre "polite" action!

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    Stupid Hurts 2 years ago

    I eat pizza with KETchup not catchup, use spell check people, and Mayo as well,. I don't think it is a Brazilian Habit, I think it is my personal liking.

    And I do think responding in English does suit the article since it was written in English. If you can't read, use a translator, or build a bridge and get over it. Ha!

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    Débora 2 years ago

    Let's not forget about after using the bathroom, throwing the toilet paper in the garbage instead of in the toilet... I had a really bad time getting used to this and after coming back to Brazil, had to get used to the american way...

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    Pri 2 years ago

    Avocado smothies are the best!!!!

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    2 years ago

    Penso que o fato dos comentários em inglês por brasileiros se deve ao fato da matéria estar escrita em inglês.

    E...confesso q houve um período em minha vida q eu torcia o nariz pra tudo q eu via escrito em inglês.

    Valorizo muito minha língua portuguesa, mas não vejo problema em brasileiro postar as coisas em inglês, desde que o público em questão domine o idioma.

    No caso aqui, quem soube ler a matéria, saberá entender os comentários.

    Até recomendo estes tipos de links pra brasileiros q falam ou estão aprendendo inglês.

    Qual o problema em praticar o uso da língua inglesa?

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    Anderson Rossini 2 years ago

    Very good!!! I'm brazilian and all this habits are true!!! I never had an avocado smoothie, but probabily is very good!!! And I talk all the time with my hands!!! Lol

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    thaisa 2 years ago

    I think the avocado thing goes the same way for us. It took me a while to get used to think of avocado as a vegetable, and I thought it was super weird to have it in a salad.

    We could also make a list of american things brazilians can't get used to or think it's weird lol

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    Lis 2 years ago

    Our vacation is sacred! It is a right that we got through many and many fights with the government. I love Brazilian way of life and being Brazilian is really an interesting thing when you are abroad. I love it!

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    Aru 2 years ago

    Avocado smoothies are very popular in the northeast part of Brazil, and I used to drink it a lot in my hometown: Recife. But it's not just a "Brazilian" thing, in Vietnam they have the same habit. Now, endless holidays, I'm not so sure about that... ;)

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    Vladimir 2 years ago

    I can't wait to do all these things! Thanks for the article!

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    Brooxanderson 2 years ago

    Finally, an américano writing in! Yeay! Yes to vitaminas de abacate! I LOVE the taste of avacado smoothies. So simple: a large Brazilian avacado, Ninho (sweet powdered milk), and water in a blender. That's it! The essence of life in a glass. Yes to kisses when greeting. Awkward at first for Americans, but when you shower four times a day, who cares?! Everyone smells so good. The country embraces you... Not sure about a fork and a knife with pizza. That might take a while to get used to... One thing I couldn't get used to is the Bahian style of serving hotdogs with corn, carrots, and other vegetables. Sacrilege. Americans love their hotdogs with mustard and onions. Maybe ketchup. Plain and simple, while watching a baseball game.... Americans, don't wear your large beach shorts into the water in Brasíl. Buy a few pair of "sungas." More customary to wear these tighter, smaller shorts at the beach and in the water. It's the body beautiful in Brasíl... Talking with your hands, just watch the "novelas" (soap operas) on TV Globo. You'll get the hang of what gesture when. Brazilians, brasileíros, thank you for being patient with us americános. We try. Nós amamos o seu país. Beijos

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    silvana 2 years ago

    Not sure about avocado smoothie, but I agree w the other comments...and I love pizza w mayo...wooohooo.

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    Caio 2 years ago

    Paulistas do not eat pizza with Ketchup or Mayo because the pizza in SP is da bomb.

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    vanessa 2 years ago

    Well almost a year living here in USA I can totally agree with all you wrote up here!!!! Hahaha

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    Ale 2 years ago

    all true!!!

    about One, two or three kisses, I never know how many, even as a brazilian!

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    Elisa (an I'm Brazilian!) 2 years ago

    You really got to know us ! - Gestures and kisses is what I miss more in Canada :(

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    Nati 2 years ago

    Totally have to disagree with the people saying it's common to put ketchup and mayonnaise on pizza. I'm from São Paulo, where there's a lot of italian ancestry....and putting KETCHUP on a pizza is like a sacrilege hahaha. I do know a lot of people from Rio though that only eat their pizza with ketchup though!

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    Maria 2 years ago

    I am not brazilian, the talking with the hands it is so accurate, and I love it!

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    malena 2 years ago

    My husband is brasilian and most of my friends. I've adapted and prefer it. I made an avacado smoothie last night. Yummy muito gostoso!!!

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    Maya 2 years ago

    Perhaps because the article is in English so all the comments will follow suit.

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    Roseli Doty 2 years ago

    yes to avacato( abacate) smoothie !!

    Yes for many showers !!!

    Yes for kisses in the chick ( x3, I am from São Paulo)

    And I agree that mayo and catchup is not a Brazilian habit, it's a personal choice. ( never heard of that ). To each its own!:)

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    Fran 2 years ago

    Francielle that's so true! My host family was wondering why I brush my teeth so many times ....

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    Marcy 2 years ago

    I´m Brazilian from Sao Paulo city.. that´s true about the vacations, for the one´s who has an employee. Half population are themselves bosses, though, so.. no vacations at all. I myself haven´t had vacations in the last 16 years!

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    Jander 2 years ago

    O povo ta reclamando dos comentarios em inglês...É que nois é chique beim!

    Oh the avocado smoothie hummm, it's just me that had it blended with cream crackers or maizena biscuits...oh delicious...mouth watering

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    nina 2 years ago

    I just love avocado smoothie with a tiny bit of cinnamon.

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    Arn 2 years ago

    Anyone with any sense knows avocados are supposed to be consumed sweet. I've learnt to like guacamole etc, but there's just no comparison.

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    Essa foi boa  2 years ago

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    Cris Pinheiro 2 years ago

    We use fork and knife to eat pizza.

    Comemos pizza com garfo e faca.

    By the way, I love avocado smoothie.

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    Idma 2 years ago

    I never really cared for avocado smoothies but it's definitely something very Brazilian. In Rio it is common to eat pizza with fork and knife, I do it here and people think I'm weird, I think it's just because Brazilians prefer not to eat with their hands. As for the showers, it's really humid in parts of Brasil, so we tend to take lots of showers to cool off and freshen up, we like to feel clean! The kisses and talking with our hands: that's our trademark! Brazilians are lively people, we are intense in our emotions! And for the lady that made the comment about everything being written in English: this article was directed at foreigners, commenting in Portuguese wouldn't make sense.

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    clarice 2 years ago

    I agree , will all I'm a Brasilian women married to a Dutch man he didn't understand why I will take so many showers .

  • Fabiana Dantas profile image

    Fabiana Dantas 2 years ago

    Ok... I agree with all of them. Adding to the list.

    ✨ Eating with fork and knive when eating pizza and adding catchup and maionese.

    ✨Brazilians dress well when going to the mall or shopping in general.

    ✨Brazilians are not used to TIP when traveling abroad!

    ✨Brazilian men are not used to pick up after themselves.

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    nubia 2 years ago

    The long vacations is not an accurate in my opinion.

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    Ana 2 years ago

    Me too I my grandmother and my mother did lot smoother avocado I use to love

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    Gabby 2 years ago

    lol, this morning i made my Avocado smoothie and posted on my ig : gabby_b_reis . I explained it was popular in Brazil so my friends so get grossed out. but its really good and worth trying!!!

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    cristina 2 years ago

    The avocado smoothie must be clarified. The avocados Brazilians use is of a different type than the avocado used in Mexican food per example, the later is the one usually known by Americans. The Brazilians use an avocado (abacate or aguacate) that is larger, greener, with smooth skin and has more water and less flavor, easily combined with sugar. If you try to do a smoothie recipe with the small avocados, it will not taste great.. I currently live in Brazil now and I can finally find the small avocados, known here as mini abacates, to do guacamole!

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    Ivan 2 years ago

    Well, we are americans too.

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    Vivian 2 years ago

    I like avocado smoothies, but I loooove mashed avocado with sugar and lemon squeezed!

    And my brother take shower 6 times a day... But its not normal

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    Viviane 2 years ago

    I forgot to mention shower. We love to shower even in the winter. We want to be sure that we are ok to be near people and we are very picky about the way we look. If we are in our pj's at least we want to be sure we smell good. Specially for our partners. Who does not like to cuddle? Specially winter that we need to warm up one another. ;-)

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    Viviane 2 years ago

    I am brazilian from Sao Paulo. Yep for avocado smoothies. I used to pick avocado myself from the tree. Sao Paulo is common to give a friend when we see or someone that we just met greed them with three kisses. Pizza here in the USA I started to wonder why people use fork and knife to eat pizza, from where I am from we eat pizza with our hands and no catchup or mayo this is something I learned here in school sitting with people from other states from Brazil. I believe even for us it's strange because we don't have the same habbits. People from MG for example, I noticed that guys are to manly while in the other hand guys from Sao Paulo are more like let the girls participate in the guys stuff. Don't get me wrong people. My husband is from Minas and we kind think a little different from each other. So, think about! :-)

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    Lu 2 years ago

    I would add eating pizza with nife and fork. Americans only use their hands.

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    Gabriella 2 years ago

    Well Brazilians are really like that!!!

    Avocado smoothie is bomb!!! Love it!! Best if you use as sweetner condensed milk!! Lol

    And why lot of showers is because is really hot during summer time, and isn't everybody that has air conditioners! So a good shower to fresh up!!

    The kiss will vary depends on the state because it shows how friendly they are!!!

    Summer is the best time so why not take vacation!! And some breaks during the whole year! Maybe that's why we're so stress free!! Lol

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    Suenya 2 years ago

    All these facts are absolutely right... I grew up drinking avocado smoothie made by my mom and it's so funny when you mentioned how we greeting people kissing a lest 2 times in the cheeks, because I felt so awkaward when every time I was introduced to someone here in USA the most I could get was a hand shake lol .

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    jhonatan 2 years ago

    Another thing we as Brazilians do and americans don't . When we eat pizza we spread a lots of ketchup and mayo on the top of it making it very saucy . Americans eat their pizza the way they get , some add parmesan cheese or crushed pepper but they never add ketchup and mayo .

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    Sabrina 2 years ago

    I grew up with my vovo making me avocado smoothies. That's the most accurate one on this list to me!!

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    Andre 3 years ago

    Then maybe you're not Brazilian Renata lol

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    Renata 3 years ago

    I'm Brazilian and never had an avocado smoothie.

  • lidialbuquerque profile image
    Author

    lidialbuquerque 3 years ago

    It seems that people are very interested in having the "Brazilian style" vacation! Cool! Let's join forces and make it happen!

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