12 bulletproof ways to piss off any Brazilian during the World Cup
When the average person thinks of Brazil, images of Victoria's Secret models, Carnival, and beautiful beaches pop to mind. And probably the dominant soccer team in those bright yellow jerseys, too.
But what else makes Brazilians unique?
For the most part, they're nuts about the jogo bonito, or the beautiful game. But they also out-mellow a summer sunset in just about every other way. Even so, Brazilians have buttons to push. Think your country is the best? Keep it to yourself. Love Brazilian women? Cool. Everyone does.
With so many travelers flocking to the South American nation to witness the 2014 World Cup, there are bound to be misconceptions and miscommunications left and right. But you don't need to be that clueless dolt.
In the interest of keeping you on Brazilians’ bomzinho (bom-zeen-yo), aka their good side, here are 12 simple things you should absolutely not do during your visit.
1. Assume people live in the Amazon jungle
Forests cover more than 50 percent of Brazil. Most of the people live in the other 50 percent. Sure, there are slums, but a lot of people have the Internet, cars (too many of them in some cities) and clothes. Don’t act surprised and don’t ask where the monkeys are in urban centers such as Sao Paulo, Rio or Salvador, unless you're at the zoo. Then it’s a matter of logic. Check the primates house first.
2. Say they speak Spanish or Brazilian
Not Spanish. Not Brazilian. They speak Portuguese. Some people might speak Spanish, since most of South America does, but saying Brazilians speak Brazilian is like saying Mexicans speak Mexican. And tossing just a few Portuguese words into your vocabulary will go a long way towards ingratiating yourself. An obrigado (thank you) never hurt anybody.
3. Horn-dog after all the beautiful women
Brazil knows its women are hot. It sells that image to tourists. Broadcasting broads abroad... it works. But a slim number end up working in the sex industry. You may not be perceptive enough to know right from wrong. Generally, it’s not a good idea to assume any woman is for sale (is it ever?), as some oblivious douche inevitably will. But there's a lot of suggestive dress in Brazil, where belts pass for miniskirts, dental floss passes for bikinis and pasties pass for undergarments -- except during Carnival, when pasties pass for formal wear.
Nevertheless, keep your jaw hinged and your eyes in their sockets, and don't ask a girl to quote a price for “company".
4. Refuse their hospitality
If you're a gringo (a non-Brazilian), learn how to say, "Yes", especially to food. And learn the sweet spot — or savory spot — between “give me that” and “no, thank you”. Many Brazilians come from Italian descent, and learned the recipe for imposing food on guests from their Mediterranean mothers’ cookbooks.
And good luck playing the vegetarian card. Huh? No meat? What about chicken? Fish? You might as well be speaking Spanish out of a second head.
5. Flaunt your foreign wealth
Here’s another thing about that beautiful girl you just missed insulting: she might like your accent more than your money. Foreigners often receive preferential treatment — be it from members of the opposite sex at a bar, colleagues at work, or doctors at a hospital. Brazilians generally are hospitable and eager to exchange cultures with visitors from faraway lands, especially the U.S., Europe and Australia) Some, however, resent taking a backseat in their own backyard. So try not to expect the royal treatment. Showing how rich you are in a big city is a good way to get robbed.
6. Complain about having to get a visa
This one goes out to the Americans frustrated by a country requiring you to apply — and pay $140 — for a visa before departure. Yes, the process for visiting Brazil is cumbersome and costly. Yes, Brazilians also hop through more hoops and fork over the exact same fee each time they want to visit Disney World -- and boy do Brazilians love Disney World.
But no, being American does not grant you unfettered travel freedom. So complaining about bureaucracy and tariffs sounds a little like the rant of a self-entitled jerk. Don’t be a self-entitled jerk.
7. Signal A-OK, which tells them, "Up yours"
Mind your hand signals. Want to express gratitude or agreement in sign language because your Portuguese is about as decipherable as an IKEA instruction manual? Go with thumbs up. It’s good. It’s tested. It's pretty much universal. That thumb-pointer circle with the three other fingers in the air? The one that looks like a three-eared rabbit as a shadow puppet? That means “up yours” to the locals.
Totally thumbs down on that gesture.
8. Think you have right-of-way
The Abbey Road cover would feature four squashed Beatles if its photo were snapped in Rio. Crosswalks here operate under transportation Darwinism. You approach on foot. A car comes down the street. You have common decency and the law on your side. The driver has 4,000 pounds of padding, road rage and a police force that would only lift a finger to scrape you off the pavement. Yup, you’re the asshole for daring to exercise your right of way. Seriously, Brazilians probably give Tiananmen Square’s Tank Man a run for his money. Don't end up a grease mark.
9. Deny the Wright brothers being wrong
Brazilians regard compatriot Alberto Santos-Dumont as the father of aviation. The Wright brothers’ use of a catapult to launch their airplane, according to local lore, disqualifies them from consideration. If you say the guys who put Kitty Hawk on the map were the first to put man in the air, Brazilians will probably ask you to go fly a kite.
10. Make fun of their mothers
Brazilians take yo momma jokes about as well as Wes Mantooth. They have a separate dictionary of double entendres for calling their friends homosexuals (i.e. “that Coke is Fanta”) and cuckolds (i.e. “vikings”) — all in jest, apparently. Insult a matriarch, on the other hand, and you’re likely to get a fist to the face. If you simply must insult a female family member, sisters are the way to go.
11. Say anything bad about Pelé
Insinuate Argentine footballers Maradona or Messi are the best to ever lace up cleats and you'll be shitting spikes for a week.
Pelé is known in Brazil as “The King”. Remember all of those things people attribute to Chuck Norris and the most interesting man in the world? They’re all true in Brazil, except they're about Pelé.
Sure, he sometimes sticks his famous feet in his mouth, like when he criticized World Cup protestors before he eventually supported them. Sure, his son was just sentenced to 33 years in jail for money laundering. But The King won three World Cups while scoring 12 goals in the globe’s grandest tournament, 77 with the national team overall, and over 1,000 in his career as a whole. He's like Wilt Chamberlain, Michael Jordan, and Michael Jackson all rolled into one. His passport probably doesn't even need a photograph.
12. Do anything but agree that Brazil sucks
If samba should one day cease to exist, bellyaching would become Brazil’s national soundtrack. On buses, bar stools and blogs, Brazilians complain about the ills holding back their country. The list is long and varied, from traffic and crime to graft and boorishness. If they were to take to the streets like they take to social media, a few anti-World Cup protests would be a snooze instead of news.
But Brazilians begrudge outsiders who join the kvetch fest. They will curse their country in one breath and chastise you for doing the same in the next. “If you don’t like it, get out”. You're better off just listening.