Differences between American Culture and Brazilian Culture.

There are more similarities between Brazilians and Americans than differences. And there is good and bad in both Cultures. Here are a few things to be aware of to try to understand one another. Both Cultures have many individuals that act nothing like any of the generalities mentioned here. This is just a few of the things that start to become apparent after meeting many Brazilians.

The most obvious difference between American Culture and Brazilian Culture is time. When a Brazilian gives an estimate of time, it is abstract and not literal, it means a general time period, not a specific time. It is normal in Brazil to not show up at all after promising to be somewhere. If a Brazilian tells you that he or she will be at a particular place, at a particular time, don't take them literally. They are only trying to be friendly. They don't want to ruffle any feathers by saying "No".

If an Amercian wants to get around this, make a point to reference it as if someone or something is leaving, with or without them at a specific time. The Brazilian will usually take this much more seriously. If a Brazilian tells you that they will be there to pick you up from the airport, you call almost guarantee that they will be there on time. If you need to leave on a bus or catch a specific ride, the Brazilian will be on time. But if you ask them to meet you somewhere or to be somewhere at a specific time that doesn't involve scheduled transportation, school, or work, they will be late.

If you are used to a scheduled life, and want to maintain your sanity, You will need to know what to expect.
And you will need to relax a little bit, you will see that in some ways their way is better than ours.

The formula for HOW late a Brazilian will be works like this:
If you are waiting for 1 Brazilian, they will ususally be about 20 minutes to 1 hour late.
For each additional Brazilian coming in a group, you can add 20 minutes. ie: Three People = at least 1 Hour.
If you are having more than 3-4 Brazilians come to the same place individually, then it will be between 45 minutes to 2 hours.

They will usually call you if it's much more than that to tell you that "They are on the road" ("To na rua"). That doesn't mean they are on the road, that means they are about 5-15 minutes away from leaving. If they say they are "arriving" ("To chegando"), that means that they've just left. If you call a Brazilian when they are about 5 minutes away from you, they will tell you that they are pulling up right now. Try it. They aren't lying to you, it's just a characteristic of their culture.

Brazilians don't really like it when someone from North America (USA) refers to themselves as an American. They feel that everyone in the "Americas" (North, Central, and South America) is American. They suggest and prefer that North Americans say that they are from "The United States", or "Os Estados Unidos".

However the The United States' real name is "The United States OF America". It doesn't say "Of The Americas". Just like the officiall name of the country of Brazil is "O Federativa Republica do Brasil" or The Federal Republic OF Brazil. They wouldn't want to have to say that they are from the "Federal Republic" when they visit the USA. There's a difference in meaning between; The Americas and America.

Also, everyone outside of the Americas calls the people from North America "Americans", no one outside of the Americas refers to a Brazilian, Agentinian, Mexican or even Canadian as an American. That's why Americans call themselves "Americans".

BraZil with a Z

Another common argument, discussion, or question the Brazilian will have with the English speaker is "Why do English speakers spell Brazil with a Z"? Some feel even a little indignified by this, or think that its completely ridiculous. I think this started with a song back in the 60's. Also, because most Latin American countries basically say and spell the other Latin American countrys' names the same, that English speaking countries would say and spell them the same as well.

As a result, you'll see Americans and Brazilians creating new words like "brasilian" or "brazileiro". Or spelling Brazil "Brasil" while writing in English.

The reason why English speakers spell Brazil with a Z is because we speak a totally different language. If we spelled it with an S it would always be pronounced "Brass-ill". It would be spelled wrong in English. Brazilians spell "The United States"; "Os Estados Unidos", with only the finally "s" being spelled "correctly" (small joke).

Another point is Brazilians call Germans "Alemaos" (Ah-ley-mownz) and Germany "Alemania" (Ah-ley-mahn-ya), but the Germans call themselves Deutchelanders and their country "Deutche". Different languages, different words.

The Brazilian is much more family oriented than the American. Children often live with their parents until their 30's in Brazil. Usually, it's the parents who try to keep the child from moving out. Such is not the case in America. In America children commonly leave their parents when they turn 18, and many move out earlier. The family is closer in Brazil than America and because of it, many of the people of Brazil are much less prone to psychological disorders than the American.

The Brazilian seems much more friendly, men usually give big hugs, women give cheek kisses. Sometimes the American is taken back by this type of affection. Sometimes the American can take it the wrong way, if a Brazilian man gives two cheek kisses to an American's wife, there will need to be some explaining soon after, if the American doesn't already understand.

The America has higher expectations than the Brazilian.


Brazilians are like Italians in that they are always generous with their food. They will always insist on you trying everything they make, and that you should have a little more. On the road, or in a restaurant, don't expect people to be giving anything away for free, but among your Brazilian friends, you will find that people will expect you to eat more, so eat slowly.

Vegetarians in Brazil

Vegetarians and Vegans are not very common in Brazil.
If you are a vegetarian, there are plenty of things to eat in Brazil, much more than in America, but you will have a hard time with some people. You will also find that meat has been mixed into many normally vegetarian dishes. The meat looks and smells so good, you might just be tempted to try just a little, and then, you'll be hooked. But if you are a diehard vegan or vegetarian, you might want to make up a story that you can't eat meat, doctor's orders. There is very little else the average Brazilian will accept besides that.

Feijao is rice and beans with flour from the yuka plant to thicken up the sauce. The Feijao is always filled with pork and sausage, but it is delicious and good for you. This is one of the most eaten meals in Brazil. In some places it is common for people to eat 4-5 servings every day.

There are more fruits in Brazil than you can even imagine, you will encounter dozens of types of fruit that you've never even heard of. Variety is the spice of life, and with so many types of fruits to choose from, you will really be spicing up your life.


Beach Volley Ball, Foot-Volley Ball, and Jui Jitsu are all extremely common sports in Brazil, most everyone has done at least one of these, but there is only one sport when you are talking about Brazil; Soccer, or as the rest of the world calls it Football. (Futebal Foo-Chee-Bahw). Soccer didn't originate in Brazil, but some say it was perfected there.

People don't ask you what your religion is, people don't ask you your feelings on politics, they ask you what your team is. Before answering, remember this is more important to the average Brazilian than whether or not you believe in God (and Brazil has the largest poplulation of Roman Catholics on the planet). In some places, if you are on the wrong team, they will actually kill you for that reason. If you are a foreigner, visiting a large city in Brazil, you should never wear anything related to Futebal except for the national team. So if someone asks you what your team is, your answer should always be "Brasil".


This is where the Brazilian goes to unwind.Brazilians are always working on their tan. They think it looks funny to walk around with white legs, but just a littler funnier when they see a tourist who looks like a fried shrimp from sunburn. Most of the beaches are fairly crowded these days, and have become a hotspot for crime. It is not a good idea to hang out on the beach after dark. Be careful swimming in certain beaches as some are more polluted than others.

There are many local vendors that walk the beach selling their wares to sunbathers. If you buy anything other than food, don't expect quality. I bought a cheap pair of sunglasses from a guy, and then one of the lenses fell out. I saw him again later, He approached me and when I told him that the sunglasses had broken, he gave me another pair, that lasted for the rest of the trip. Like most Brazilians, he was trying to do his best job.


The only thing that Brazilians covet more than the Beach is the night time party. Partys don't start in Brazil until after Midnight, and no one shows up until around 1:00 am. If you don't want to be the only one there, you might want to wait yourself. When a Brazilian tells you to be there at 10:00 PM, start getting ready at about 10:00 PM.

If you go to the bar, they will check your ID and write your name down, then they will give you a reciept known as the "comanda". Don't loose this, whatever you do. You will pay a fine if you do.


There are many distinct styles of music in Brazil.

Samba, this is as Brazilian as it gets, this style comes from a mixture of Angolian beats with Portuguese instruments. The samba rhythm is intertwined with the samba dance, a 3 step tricky shuffle that appears to have the dancer walking in place, with rubbery hip waving and butt-shaking. Common instruments used in samba are: Pandiero, Surdo, Repinique, Caixa, Shakers.

MPB, Musica Popular Brasileira, Brazilian Pop Music, what's commonly on the radio.

Batucada, Another Brazilian original, where you have a full band of drummers, directed my a leader with a whistle. These bands can number in the hundreds, like the drum clubs in Bahia, like Olodum and Timbalada.
Axe, (Ah SHEY) A form of dance music based on the Batucada. There is always a new song with new dance moves coming out where every young person in Brazil has memorized. This style is most popular in Bahia.

Bossa Nova, This style is more famous outside the country, or among the older Brazilians. One of the more elegant forms of Jazz in the world, Bossa Nova is known for it's mature chord movement and advanced arrangements. Sometimes combining dissonance and tension moving into pure harmony, Bossa Nova is an aquired taste that can become quite addictive. The originators of Bossa Nova where Antonio Carlos Jobim and Joao Gilberto. They named an airport after Jobim in Rio, also known as the "Gaveao".

Rock n Roll, Brazilians pronounce this "Hock-ayn Hoe-u", and is one of the most popular forms of music in Brazil.

Hip Hop, Brazilians pronounce this "Hippy hoppy", it is similar to American Hip Hop, but the lyrics are more about the realities of the world instead of the glorification of self, like the American version.

Foreign music, It is extremely common to hear American, or English music on the radio.

Forro (Foe-ho-aw), Comes from the english phrase "For All" This style comes from european polka and folk-dance music. Common instruments in Forro are the Triangle, Acoustic Guitar, Bass, Mini-Acordian (sonfono) and sometimes trumpets.

Sertanejo, this is a Brazilian version of love-song country music from the south and central regions of Brazil.

Funk, AKA Baile Funk. This is one of the simplest forms of music in Brazil. It isn't anything like American Funk music. This style comes from the Favelas, where there isn't much more than a stereo and a microphone, and with some girls shaking their rump, you've got some Funk. It is similar to rap, but based more on the dance moves, with most of the songs being about dancing and the female anatomy. It is very common to hear a child's voice singing the chorus or the entire song with Brazilian Funk. Usually the lyrics are sexually explicit or violent and many Brazilians are turned off by Funk for this reason.

Outdoor Fairs
- Feira Hype (Fay-dah Hippy)

Beautiful Brazilian Artwork
You can buy original Brazilian artwork from the artist at the local fair.

A four piece samba band at the Ipanema Hipe Feira. Here are the names of these instruments:
pandeiro { pan-day-ru } (a hand drum that looks like a tamborine)
{ cah-vah-keen-yu } ( A little guitar that looks like a Ukelele)
tantan { tahn-tahn } A larger drum that looks like a conga.

There is usually a street market on a specific day of the week where local vendors can sell untaxed foods etc. This is a great place to buy artwork from local artists, and an even better place to find fresh fruits, vegetables, and many other foods. You will find all kinds of crafts including homemade guitars, wooden saxophones, hand drums and much more.

Brazilian Culture
Rio de Janeiro

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