Nearshore Americas

Living Like a Local in Rio de Janeiro

Rio de Janeiro is probably not like the place where you live (unless you live in Rio de Janeiro). Here are some tips that should help you appear less conspicuous during your visit.


Rio natives or inhabitants, known as Cariocas, are generally very kind and warm people. They’ll normally greet you first or they’ll pleasantly respond to your greeting. Men greet men with a firm handshake, introducing themselves saying, “prazer” (pleasure, pronunced prah-zeyr), followed by their name. You can reply “prazer” and your name.

Women typically kiss and will be kissed on both cheeks. In some cities other than Rio, it is common to exchange a third kiss (on the cheek, of course), for good luck or marriage (?!). In Sao Paulo one kiss will do. The initiation of a group gathering can be quite a lengthy process as each person is expected to kiss every other person at least twice. Once it’s over, don’t try to leave in a rush, as the ritual is repeated to conclude a gathering as well. You’ll also notice that Cariocas like to touch, hug and pat each other on the shoulder quite often-including the men. This is the world famous Carioca human warmth in action.

Other common greetings are “e aí, como vai?” for “how’s it going? (pronounced ee aiy ee, como vaiy), or “fala!”, literally “Speak!” used in place of “what’s up”. You’ll surely hear the ever-popular, all purpose “tudo bem?” and “tudo bom?”, literally “everything okay?”. If you’re greeted with “tudo bem?” just respond with a cool “tudo bom” or vice versa.


Literally translates to “it was worth it”. It is generally used when thanking someone, and is generally used by the younger generation. A common example of when to use this word is when a vendor on the beach is trying to sell you something, and you’re not interested. A polite, “não obrigado” (if you’re a male) or “não obrigada” (if you’re a female), and “valeu”, lets the seller know that you’re not interested.


This is how Cariocas will refer to you, a foreigner, whether they like you or not, either to your face or behind your back. It’s not meant in a derogatory way but rather as a form of identification (especially if they don’t know your name or can’t pronounce it).

Portuguese Slang

Rio is a slang-factory. You won’t notice the seasons changing, but slang expressions come and go quite often. When at work, the Carioca forces himself to use the language correctly, but when off duty, Cariocas like to let their tongue loose, as they say. When drinking, it is common to hear a lot of swearing.

About Women

Like many other Latin-American countries, Brazil has a rather ‘macho’ culture, but don’t let that deceive you! Brazilian women are known to be very strong and demanding and not easily pushed around! Beauty is a common attribute to a Carioca woman and Carioca males often show their appreciation with a long look or a kind comment. Both sexes can be a bit possessive and may not want you looking at “their property,” so always be careful and try to notice if their patroa or patrão (boss, as they call their companions) is around.

About Men

As with many Latin-American cultures, the men can be surprisingly forward, depending on where you have come from. While generalizations are dangerous, it’s pretty safe to say that if you’re blonde, you’re exotic here and will likely get an extra dose of attention from the men folk. It may be shocking at first to have someone blatantly stare at you or make comments as they pass by. This is not meant to be offensive, but is actually just an expression of appreciation. There is no need to be rude, but also no need to pursue them. It is fine to simply continue on with what you were doing. If you find that the line has been crossed, and you are truly uncomfortable, pop in to a nearby store or café and take refuge for a few minutes.

The kiss in Brazil has about the same weight as a handshake in the US so don’t be surprised if a guy asks to kiss you or if lips—or even tongues—collide suddenly as you’re dancing or walking side by side with someone you’ve very recently met. As with a handshake, you can move on with no fuss.

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If you are the type of person who needs to keep to a schedule, Rio is not the place for you. Virtually no event starts on time. No service personnel will ever see the fault in making you wait while they finish up gossiping on the phone. Even your friends aren’t immune. If you invite people for dinner, don’t expect to see anyone for at least two hours after the specified time (fashionably late). That’s just the way it goes.


Tips at restaurants and bars are typically included in the tab and amount to 10%. Sometimes the tab will indicate ‘serviço não incluso’ which means that tips have not been included and you should leave a 10% tip for your server. Taxis fares are typically rounded up to the nearest Real, but no formal tip is required.




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