10 ways Brazil is sort of goofy

One of my host mom’s favorite Facebook pages is O Brasil Que Deu Certo, a collection of various oddities that people submit from around the country. The pages showcases Brazilian ingenuity at its best, but also the country’s shamelessness at its most ridiculous. It’s kind of great.

I’ll be honest: Brazil can be a little goofy sometimes. I try to limit my comments about this, because Brazilians I meet are all too ready to critique their country (while maybe unfairly lionizing others), and I don’t see it as my place to contribute. But that being said, after 8 months here, I’ve seen some things I have to share.

Bathroom signs

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I’ve seen this sign in a number of (men’s) bathrooms all around Brazil. It reads:

Warning:
– Do not urinate on the floor
– Throw toilet paper in the trash
– Flush after use
Keep the bathroom clean

I don’t know why one needs to be reminded not to pee on the floor.

Toilet paper bins

In Brazil, you don’t flush toilet paper. Instead, you stick it in a little garbage bin next to the toilet. Does it make sense? Sure—plumbing here apparently isn’t capable of handling the extra load of toilet paper. Is it sanitary? Almost definitely not.

Dental hygiene

Brazilians seem to be really into dental hygiene. Brushing after every meal isn’t uncommon—I’ve eaten dinner with a student, only to have him duck into a bathroom to brush his teeth before class. I’ve also seen people of all ages with braces. This hygiene strikes me as a little ironic when you’re willing to leave used toilet paper sitting around.

Elevators

Why was Law No. 13.413 passed? Who knows. But evidently it mandates a warning be placed on all elevators that reads “Attention: before entering, check that the elevator is stopped at this floor.” I can only imagine the story behind it.

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Managing university risks

On a similar note, I also spied a risk assessment posted in Bloco L, the building at UCS where I give nearly all my classes. I was heartened to see there were no “big” or “medium” risks; however, there were small risks of “falling on the same level” and an “ergonomic risk” of “inadequate posture.”

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Power outlets

Meanwhile, at UCS, you can spot two types of power outlets—sometimes right next to each other. Brazil used both European and US power standards up until 2011, when it decided to standardize by adopting a third (!) unique standard. However, there still isn’t a nationally standardized voltage. Across the country, the voltage and outlets you find are thus dependent on the age and location of the building you’re in.

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Pizzas

I’ve lived in a lot of places where people have strong thoughts about what pizza should be. I try to be diplomatic; pizza in Rome and pizza in New Jersey are two different types of food, each with their own merits. But pizza in Brazil, however, is something else entirely:

Granted, that picture’s an outlier, the creation of a meme-minded pizzaria in São Paulo. But it speaks to a lot of Brazilian pizza’s hallmarks:

  • Multiple topping combinations (commonly four per pizza)
  • Unusual toppings (including gobs of a cream cheese-like substance, canned tuna, corn, and stroganoff)
  • Overflowing toppings
  • Dessert pizzas (topped with some combination of mozzarella, chocolate, doce de leite, bananas, pineapple, and ice cream)

I think most of the pizza I’ve had here is pretty good, but it can very easily be too much.

Cheddar cheese

I asked Elaine to buy some cheddar for me to serve alongside some chili I was preparing for her. Here’s what she came back with:

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The label said “cheddar,” but the product inside was very clearly American-style processed cheese product™.

Installments

Okay, this one is actually sort of interesting: practically any non-food item here you can purchase via parcelas, or monthly installments. I don’t think credit cards are as common in Brazil as they are in the States, so parcelas are a way for people to afford more expensive purchases. But in reality, nearly anything can be parcelado–as long as the store takes credit card and the monthly payment is at least like US$3.50.

The reason parcelas are on this list is because you can buy a US$8 iron, for example, and then spend two months paying for it.

Motels

As far as I can tell, motels are used exclusively for sex. It makes sense; young adults will often live with their parents up until their own marriage, in apartments that can also contain grandparents or other members of extended family. If you want a little privacy, you basically have to go somewhere else.

However, the marketing around motels I find a little amusing. I’ve seen ads for a motel that featured a fancy lunch and dinner, but I especially like the “stay for four hours, pay for two ” deals that all the local motels seem to run.

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A video ad I saw fairly frequently on the bus

This country can definitely be a little goofy, but I’m going to miss it.

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