People of Rio: The City Where Several Worlds Cross Paths

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I finally understood why plastic sandals, including the iconic Havaianas, are so popular here: it’s not for the beach but for the rain because when there is chuva, there is muita chuva: the streets are completely flooded in inches of water. Every day, in Rio, it rained around 7:30 p.m. It always followed the same pattern: big back clouds coming from the mountains, strong wind, torrential downpour. Bonus: rats running around! The streets of Rio then become a very dirty beach.

I also realized that if there are TV broadcasting news and piece of trivia in the Pão de Açúcar supermercado downstairs, it’s because it rarely takes less than twenty minutes to complete a purchase. Lineups are long and the check-out process is infuriatingly slow—cashiers are unenthusiastically scanning articles slowly, one by one, debit or credit cards don’t work, there is no change in the cash register so a supervisor must be called… Even French employees are faster!

There are many things I don’t understand about Brazil, a common local logic Brazilians have that escapes me. Brazilians seem to follow rules without questioning them too much, problem is, I don’t have a copy of these rules. Locals don’t seem to care that I’m not fluent in Portuguese. People weren’t unfriendly, they just assumed that we knew all the quirks. But of course, we didn’t.

We are sometime so out of sync that at one point, we “lost” an hour and only realized it at night. Background: we knew that Rio (and presumably Brazil, although I’m confused with the country’s time zones) was switching to winter time (winter? What winter??) the weekend of February 20. We made a mental note of it since we were flying back on the 22, but we assumed that we would adjust the clock late Saturday night/early Sunday morning like it is done in France or in Canada.

“You know what…” Feng said Saturday night before we went to bed. “I checked the time in Brazil online, and I think we already switched to winter time.”

“What? Like, today?”

“Yep.”

“So all day, we were an hour early?”

“Yep. We….”

“Picked up the laundry an hour early?”

“I know! That’s why it was just out of the dryer!”

“Oh and the museum had just opened at 12 p.m., that’s why the lineup was so long!”

Suddenly, everything made sense. It was funny though that for a day, we were an hour early and we didn’t even know it.

My final verdict on Brazil? As a backpacker, I love the country. But I don’t think I would live here.

I have this slightly annoying (“annoying’ according to Feng) and unrealistic habit to picture myself in all of the countries we visit. “Yes, I could fit here on the short or medium term,” I think when I’m in Argentina, Chile, China or Mexico. But there are a few countries that I only enjoy as a backpacker, mostly because culturally speaking, they aren’t the best fit for me. Australia is one of them. Great land to explore but I wouldn’t stay there too long—too far, too British, not a big fan of the island mindset. Thailand (or most of South-East Asia) is another place that I enjoyed but I don’t speak the language and I don’t “click” with people. Ah… and Quebec. I enjoy Quebec (well, mostly shopping for imported French products in Gatineau). But I wouldn’t want to live there.

I enjoyed Brazil as a backpacker but I fit best in the rest of the Latin America and Brazil is not a latino country. In a way, Brazil reminds me of China. I understand the mindset (at least as much as I can), I understand the people, I can communicate, but spontaneously, I can’t think like a Brazilian or a Chinese. My thought process is different. It just is. With China, I had years of training. I can “act” Chinese if I need to but it takes efforts and there are many customs and Chinese quirks I don’t agree with as a French or as a Canadian. However, in Argentina or Guatemala, things make sense to me, daily stuff is more instinctive.

I’m fine with that. I can’t picture myself everywhere. For Brazil, I keep the postcard scenery. I just don’t want to be in it.

While we are on our way back to Canada (can’t you hear me crying?), enjoy the “People of Rio”!

Two worlds

Two worlds

In Centro

In Centro

In Centro

In Centro

Preacher in Centro

Preacher in Centro

Oi, tudo bem?

Oi, tudo bem?

In Centro

In Centro

In Centro

In Centro

Doing business

Doing business

Two worlds... again...

Two worlds… again…

Going to work, going to the beach

Going to work, going to the beach

In the subway

In the subway

Shopper in Ipanema

Shopper in Ipanema

Gated residential building in Ipanema

Gated residential building in Ipanema

Dog walker in Ipanema

Dog walker in Ipanema

Done for the day

Done for the day

Building for the Olympics

Building for the Olympics

Argentinian tourist at the Corcovado (I'm guessing the country because of the mate de coca...)

Argentinian tourist at the Corcovado (I’m guessing the country because of the mate de coca…)

Old lady in front of a Corcovado mural in Ipanema

Old lady in front of a Corcovado mural in Ipanema

Mark checking out Havaianas

Mark checking out Havaianas

Police on the beach in Ipanema

Police on the beach in Ipanema

Careful couple in Ipanema

Careful couple in Ipanema

During a downpour

During a downpour

During a downpour

During a downpour

Sunday crowd in Ipanema

Sunday crowd in Ipanema

Waiters in a restaurant

Waiters in a restaurant

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About Author

French woman in English Canada. World citizen, new mom, traveler, translator, writer and photographer. Looking for comrades to start a new revolution.

16 Comments

  1. I have the same habit. And my partner says “yeah yeah ok yeah” and I never seem to understand his lack of passion about my life plans! 😀 I’ll probably stay in Lyon anyway.
    Good flights back, and good luck for the cold! I didn’t realize it was already 2 months on the road. I am going to miss reading you as much!

    • I don’t know how normal it is to want to change life. Unrealistic? Maybe. It doesn’t mean I’m unhappy though, it means that… I always want something better? But not in a “I hate my life” kind of way. Just something that keeps me going.

      • For me, I’d say I’m always thinking of how my life would be different and how I would try out something new. Not even better!
        Last time, I pictured myself living in Séville and how I would live, how much I’d improved my spanish, etc…
        Unfortunately, expat life isn’t for my partner!

        • Feng wouldn’t move anywhere else either, traveling is all he needs. Your partner doesn’t mind traveling, does he? If so, traveling is probably the best of both world because any place can turn boring… I think…

  2. I enjoyed this post a lot. As I a brazilian living in Europe with an european partner I understood your point about your impressions from Brazil. I can’t and couldn’t live there anymore. this summer we will be in Canada and I’m wondering how everything wil be.

    • Oh, welcome to Canada for the summer! Ah, summer… good pick 😉 Right now, it’s miserable with winter conditions.

      Do you find it hard to connect again with Brazilians back home? Did your mindset change?

      To me, an outsider, it seems that Brazil is truly a country apart from the rest of Latin America. Not just because of the language, the mindset is totally different.

      • Well, I’ve always felt that I was born on the wrong place. This is difficult to explain, but I wasn’t confortable with many things around me.

        I’m still somehow proud of being brazilian. There are certain aspects of our culture that I’ll take for the rest of my life and I’m so grateful for it.

        Sometimes it’s difficult to understand my own family that still lives there. Everything seems so logical from my point of view. And then I remember that I don’t live in Brazil anymore and that my mindset has indeed changed a lot.

        And about the other comments on this post. I find it amasing that you travel so much with your family. That certainly wouldn’t be for me, but we will give Canada a go. I think we are also searching for something new, and for me it’s like, I’ve already immigrated once, so why not a second time?

        • I hear you on the “been born in the wrong place”, I kind of felt like that with France. I mean, I am French and I have no problem with that… but I always wanted to be someone else too, I’ve always wanted to investigate other cultures and maybe adopt some customs. I wanted to make my life difficult I guess 😆 Like you, I can slip into the French mindset when I go back but most of the time, my other cultures, the one I adopted when traveling or when living in Canada, interfere with the “true” French mindset. I have a split personality I guess.

          Canada is a good place to start again from scratch. It is welcoming to immigrants, although after a while I do find there are pitfalls as well… no place is perfect!

      • Martin Penwald on

        This American religious zealots are amazingly stupid.
        Speaking of Canada’s weather, Alberta is incredibly warm for the season, so warm that road bans (load limits for trucks) are already in place. And there is always the option to leave in the Vancouver area with its mild oceanic climate. But here the problem of job.

        • Vancouver is also crazily expensive, I’ve heard. And winter over there isn’t that awesome (i.e. warmer but not warm enough for me) that it is worth paying a premium.

  3. I love that ‘during a downpour’ photo. I have this same habit, I can tell you that I could 100% imagine living in the south of Spain, where I was lately. Not sure I could do the same in Brazil myself to be honest, but then I have never been.

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