Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Five Facts For Foreigners - Vol. IV

Here are some additional pointers that might help you to understand why things are done a certain way here, as well as help you avoid standing out like a sore thumb.

Word to the wise: it is financially savvy to remain incognito...

  1. Just as Americans tend to say, "Oh," (as in the letter "O") instead of "zero," Brazilians may say "meia," (pronounced "may-uh") for the number six.

    Don't be confused... they aren't suddenly talking about socks [“meias(plural)].

    Meia” means half, as in (meia dúzia) half a dozen , which is: 6!

    For the record, meia calças aren’t “half pants,” either…
    They are pantyhose.

    Meio (pronounced "may-yo") can also mean “kinda.” Kinda confusing, huh? (Meio confuso, né?)

  2. Another thing about Dr.'s visits... Don't have a coronary when they ask you for your mom's & dad's full names, the city you were born in, and your nationality... all in “the loud voice” as they repeat it back to you, in case anyone cares to take notes. At first, I thought it was because identity theft isn't as much of an issue here, but I was mistaken.

    Privacy isn't as much of an issue here. To circumvent this system I have all of my info printed out on a slip of paper, and just hand it to them when they start with the 20 questions. It can sometimes make me feel like I’m a 10-year-old with a note from mommy, but at least not everyone within earshot is privy to my building address & apartment number.

    This also helps with spelling challenges that arise, with all of the family members in question having foreign names. Otherwise, you might feel a bit like you are the host of a game show, as the studio audience looks on.

  3. Do not flush toilet paper – for any reason – anywhere. The sanitation system is not the same as, say, the U.S. The long & the short of it is that the piping in the U.S. is physically bigger. There are step trashcans for your convenience, so that we aren't as troubled by certain sites & smells that could arise from multiple users.

    Generally, restrooms are either super clean – or very much the opposite of this. There are a few truck stops and gas stations that I’ve had the misfortune of happening across, while driving through other states, that stand out in my mind for the simple fact that they had nary a toilet - but rather: a shallow, ceramic hole groove in the floor with convenient no-slip grooves on the sides for your shoes. Uh-huh. Yes, you are supposed to use that.

    Please note that when you are setting out on a road trip, it is wise to bring your own stock of T.P. & soap. Not all gas stations provide these amenities.

  4. Hot showers are made with an electric heating device directly above your head. But electricity & water don't mix, right? Well, that's what I assumed to be the general rule, when sitting in the heart hospital ER at the age of 20, after trying to fix a leak in my washing machine. Going into it, I thought they had been made to coexist peacefully in the same area – otherwise, that would be dangerous!

    Needless to say, I was more than a little wary of the first 30 showers here. Then one day, it happened: zzzzzzzzt! I jumped out, screaming, "I knew it!" only to find out [what everyone else knew, but hadn't mentioned] that you can only be shocked if you have a cut on your hand, or something along the lines of #5.

    Yesterday, I congratulated my man on having the least scary real-life example on Google Images. See for yourself! Just type in "Electric Shower Head," and you'll see some of the downright hair-raising examples of various setups, that one might run across in their travels - all over the world.

  5. Ladies: if you plan on getting a manicure in Brazil, know this... The majority of Brazilian women are accustomed to getting weekly manicures so their cuticles have built up quite "a tolerance." Aside from this, there are some manicurists who like to remove THE. ENTIRE. CUTICLE, forming small red moats around your nails.

    The following tips are crucial not only to avoiding a shock or two (see #4) when showering, but in being able to grasp objects in the week to come.

    Dica [pronounced: “jee-kuh”] (Tip) 1:
    Let them know that you have “delicate” cuticles.
    (“As minhas cutículas são finas.”)

    Dica 2:
    Tell them you only want your cuticles trimmed, not removed entirely.
    (“Tirar as cutículas só de leve.”)

    Dica 3:
    This is straight from the Doc here in Brazil... Be sure you are up on *all of your Hepatitis shots before you make the jump.

    I didn't even know this until I had already been here almost 2 years! It is a series of 3 shots (A&B combined into one vaccine) that span 6 months. The first two doses are only a month apart. They hurt unlike any other shot I've ever had the displeasure of receiving. You will most likely be sore for about 4 days after each shot.

* You need Hep A for other arenas (contaminated water supply/poorly handled salads) & Hep B is for possible contamination in a salon - there is no vaccine for C, yet. Get these six months in advance of visiting, and you will be good to go!

Up next: Brazilian Bar-B-Que Brief

All images found on Google.


  1. I like the "five facts" and I agree with the toilets. I've found some VERY clean toilets in shady places which I think is rather strange. But I do flush the TP at my house and at my friends' :).

    - an expat living in Brasilia

  2. Meredith ~

    It is refreshing when it happens, isn’t it? I'm glad you like the 5 Facts. :)

    You guys must have those super power flushers that disintegrates the TP in mere seconds! I've seen one or two of those, as well.

    However, even these couldn't handle some of the wads that some tourists have offered. I wondered where they came from that any toilet possibly could?! (Think: arm of a sumo-wrestling suit molded out of wet TP.)


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