Tuesday – 4th July – 6:00 a small (more or less) guy from Switzerland arrives at the Sao Paulo international airport, it’s his first time in South America. What can he expect? To be honest, I had no idea. I am pretty lucky to have many friends all over Brazil from my time in San Diego. Otherwise, I’d probably have a completely different opinion now. Admittedly I expected some things in Brazil because I know how my friends are – and partly that was totally true, however, in other situations, it was completely different. But you will ask yourself: How is it to be a foreigner in Brazil? Let me share my first impressions with you.
Everything is big
Well, I’m from Switzerland, so probably I’m not the right person to talk about the size of a country, but Brazil is just huge! Do you want to go to the next city? Ah, it doesn’t look that far on the map – turns out to be a two hours flight. You get what I mean. To be honest you can see Brazil, just as the United States, as a whole continent if you compare it with Europe (excluding Russia). In some hours I can travel from Lucerne to Istanbul, for example, the way from Rio de Janeiro to the north of the country is quite similar. I think as a person from Europe this is quite unusual, especially because we are used to traveling by public transport such as the train.
But the craziest part, at least for me, was the traffic in Sao Paulo. This was absolutely crazy for me, sometimes even weird. A mother with her child crossed a highway, a random dude peed on the street from a bridge and people are trying to sell different (useless) stuff to the drivers in the traffic. After a while, you definitely get used to it, and Sao Paulo has a population of more than 15 million, so you can kind of expect it. Still, this was really a shock to me.
Communication – “Eu não falo português”
Probably my most used sentence in Portuguese. It means “I don’t speak Portuguese”. In most European countries this will not be a problem at all. But it can be in Brazil. Most Brazilians don’t speak English, so I highly recommend you to speak Portuguese or, at least, Spanish if you decide to go there alone. If there is one Brazil travel tip I can give you it is to learn the most important phrases in Portuguese. (You can find some of them right here) Don’t get me wrong, you will always find a solution, because they are, in general, really helpful. But your trip will be way better if you have the ability to communicate with the locals a little bit. Yet there are some tricks to overcome language barriers while traveling. As already mentioned I was always exploring the places with friends, so I was okay. But when I tried to go out alone I realized it really can be a problem. Learn at least some important sentences myself too. I personally mixed Portuguese with some Spanish and French and it always worked somehow, even though it was quite funny sometimes. If you travel through Brazil alone as a backpacker you should be careful and don’t act like the biggest tourist.
Go to Rio de Janeiro!
If you think about Brazil you automatically think about Rio de Janeiro. And believe me, it is even better than you imagine. I saw many great cities but Rio really beats them all and turned out to be my favorite city of 2017. It combines a breathtaking landscape, beaches, great food and bars, culture and then there are the Brazilians, which just give the city its own soul. Maybe I am biased right now because I’m writing this little Brazil travel guide inside a dream house next to Copacabana, but if you’re thinking about visiting this lovely city – just do it! The moments when you arrive on the Sugarloaf Mountain or in the San Diego, just to mention two of the main attractions of Rio de Janeiro, are unforgettable in my opinion
Being a foreigner in Brazil? Simply amazing!
I could probably write 10 more paragraphs about Brazil (for example: How to get fat in Brazil. The food is so good!), but that’s not the idea behind this post. I just hope you got some short insights into my first days here, and you will definitely hear more from my journey in Brazil the upcoming weeks. After I wrote this article I continued my journey to Lencois Maranhenses and Foz do Iguacu, two of the most popular places in Brazil.
“They have a joy for life in Brazil unlike any country I’ve ever seen.”