Surprising Brazil

Everybody has a set of knowledge and expectations about each country in the world. With a country like Benin it doesn?t go much further than ?Africa, isnt?t it??. Brazil is in the blessed circumstance that people all over the world have positive feelings about it. As is shown by the number of people who wear Brazil shirts nowadays. When you get to know a country some of your expectations are met, some are not, and you learn new things you never even thought about. The following things surprised me most:

Brazil?s size
Of course I knew that Brazil is a big country, but I didn?t know it?s even bigger than Australia. The sheer size first dawned on me when halfway through my flight to Rio de Janeiro I was already flying over Brazil. Or maybe even before that when I prepared my trip and even Sao Paolo which seems a neighboring city on the map turned out to be six hours by bus.

It rains a lot
One of the first associations almost everybody has with Brazil is sun. And there are many beautiful days. But all these trees don?t grow on sun alone, they need water as well, so it rains a lot. Showers that last various days are not uncommon in Rio and the south of the country.

Empty football stadiums
Football is popular and probably the favorite topic of conversation among men. With 4 clubs in Rio (Flamengo, Vasco da Gama, Botafogo, Fluminense) there?s plenty of room for discussion. All 4 clubs are struggling to stay in the highest division and games are played before empty stadiums. Some games in the huge Maracan? stadium just attract 3.000 spectators.

No spicy food
Although the climate resembles Thailand, Brazilian food does not. For flavoring they just use salt, pepper and garlic. They like salty food like bacon, but it?s never spicy.

Sweating Santa Claus
The first time I saw Christmas decorations in a shop, I thought it was a joke or a mistake. It took me a while to realize that although it was 30 degrees Celsius, it was November, and Brazil a catholic country. So the decoration was completely in order. Yet for me Christmas is still associated with at least the possibility of snow and not with a barbecue on the beach.

No English spoken
Speaking English won?t get you very far in Brazil. They tell me that English is taught in school, but I have never seen much evidence of that. Brazilians can?t pick up English from radio and TV either, because both are almost exclusively in Portuguese, including the music. Even simple things like place names can lead to confusion due to the peculiarities of Portuguese pronunciation.

Van Who?
Almost everywhere in the world the mention of Holland produces the same almost Pavlovian reaction :?Ah Holland, Cruyff, Gullit, Van Basten?. In football crazy Brazil you would expect this to happen as well, but until now it didn?t happen once. Brazil?s superiority complex doesn?t allow room for foreign players.

Smelly Gringo?s
Some Brazilians have heard rumors, they find very hard to believe, that Americans and Europeans just take one shower a day. It takes some convincing before they believe that in a place that?s not a natural sauna, this is enough not to be smelly.