If you have ever wondered what it’s like living in Brazil, here’s my rundown of some of the differences in the simple things, in no particular order.
- People take multiple showers during the day, at least 3, because of the heat and humidity to cool down. Showers are generally cold, intionally, and because it’s cheaper than installing an electric shower.
- There is no fresh milk here (in Sao Luís anyway). People use powdered milk or long-life milk. There is a special, vitamin enriched powered milk for children, made by Nestle.
- Food is different, as you would expect. It’s generally much fresher and good quality. Rice and beans are the staples and the main meal is at lunchtime. I confess that in the midday heat, my apetite isn’t always huge and sometimes I’d be happy with a sandwich! The rice and beans is served with meat or chicken or fish. Sao Luís offers lots of fish and shellfish and you can buy your crab live at the market every day.
- Saying on the food theme, there is a real lack of quality cheese in Sao Luis, which is hard for cheese lovers. Cheese is generally a bit plasticky but if you’re willing to pay a price, you can buy a teeny pice of gorgonzola for about 10 pounds.
- Driving is pretty insane and one sometimes dreams of smooth roads with no horns constantly beeping. See my previous blog.
- The lifestyle is relaxed. Being late is not a problem. We’ll get round to things eventually. Unexpected conversations and encounters are usually more important than being on time. Much more chilled on that front, if sometimes frustrating!
- Lack of law enforcement. Laws exist here but they don’t seem to come to fruition. This affects just about every aspect of life and leads to the corruption which permeates this state (see previous blogs).
- An unusual relationship with animals. Animals aren’t kept much as pets here and there is no RSPCA equivalent but people often have dogs for security. The dog is not usually walked and is fed whatever leftovers are kicking about. On one trip to the local market, I saw a women chatting to something inside her boot. I assumed it must have been a dog but she casually pulled out a live chicken. She had probably bought it at the market for lunch or perhaps was going to fatten it at home. The neighbour across from the workshop keeps a family of goats. One time a goat leapt out of his bus that he parks on the street and rents out to folk. So bizarre!
- Everyone has a nickname. This is cultural, but also because some of the names here are very difficult. People like to make a mix of names, like a part of the mother and father’s name. We have a friend called Wilson who has 2 sons: Wanderilson (nickname Wandinho) and Iranilson (nickname Iran). Daniel has a friend who is only known as Congo (don’t worry, it’s not racist here). I remember calling him to give him change at the Bazar we organised and it seemed wrong to shout ”Congo’ in front of the pastor’s wife, but no-one actually knew his real name.
- An obvious difference is the weather. It is hot and humid here with roughly 6 months of pure sun and 6 months of rain, though fortunately it doesn’t rain incessantly, because when it rains, it rains.
- The culture is fairly patriarchal. Times are changing but it is still the case that fewer women work, and those that do are paid less. Women are generally less independent than in the Developed World. Even in small things like fewer women drive and there is less of a culture of women going out socially by themselves (if they have husbands). That is not to say that women stay in all day but they are unlikely to go to social events without their partners. I hear part of the reason for this could be jealousy or safety concerns…
- Day to day routines are different. I have written about this before too. The heat of the day means that many more things happen early morning (in terms of work) and evening (in terms of play), with a rest in the afternoon.
I am sure I could go on, but that’s enough of a flavour. We take the good and the not so good!