Overview of Brazil
The most common option for international students is to share a house. Most public universities won’t provide dormitories for international students and many domestic students aren’t allowed to live at dormitories, so basically everyone has to arrange a place by themselves. This is at the same time troublesome and fun – you’ll get to live with other Brazilian students, making this challenge a perfect way to learn how their daily life is. SNS can be a good tool to find a nice home. Students of your destination university probably have their own pages and groups, so you can join them and ask for help.
You can also search for some company which offers home stay. Remember that when doing home stay, you will have to adjust yourself to the family schedule and daily life.
Hostels are only recommended for those who are going to stay for a short time (around a month).
■ Transportation system
Big cities have buses, trains and subways. The traffic is chaotic in most of them, so we don’t recommend you to drive. It is not dangerous, but it’ll take a lot of your time. If you need to go to a place where there is no public transportation access or the access is too troublesome, check with some Brazilian friends if they can go with you and give you a ride. Or take a taxi.
Some cities are getting bicycle-friendly, but don’t expect flat streets all the time – depending on the city, there are many uphill streets.
Big cities have many shopping malls. For the ones in Sao Paulo, if you go to the mall on a rainy weekend, you’ll probably conclude that there’s nothing else to do in the city unless going there: it is so crowded.
Our Brazilian staff recommends malls only when you want to buy brand goods, go to the movies watch blockbusters and run away from the heat during summer. Otherwise, there are other better places for shopping experience.
Brazilian open markets are just awesome. There you can buy from fruits to pans. The vendors scream the price, product name and the quality all the time and offer you to taste the fruits for free. Imagine around 15 people screaming things like “Banana, banana, banana!! Only a dollar if you buy with me!!! The sweetest banana in this market!!!” non-stop. It is very funny.
If you go to the open market, do try eating pastel (a fried huge dumpling) accompanied by sugarcane juice.
Other options for shopping are commercial streets. There are some of them specific for one kind of product, e.g. “the brides’ street” for bridal apparel. You can also get a lot of typical crafts at touristic places.
For supermarkets, each state usually has one or two branches that are more popular or expensive. You can ask any Brazilian about the best one for you and they’ll be glad to help.
Especially in Sao Paulo, it is quite easy to purchase imported goods.
Brazilian cuisine varies greatly from in each region, but most of the recipes have European and/or African influence. Main ingredients are rice, meat, beans, vegetables, wheat, fruits, seafood for coastal regions… Some recipes are national famous, such as the feijoada, black beans cooked with pork, usually served with collard greens, rice and toasted manioc flour; churrasco, typical Brazilian barbecue; shrimp bobo, shrimp served in manioc puree, coconut milk and palm oil; and many others.
Brazilians also love home-made sweets, such as brigadeiro, a chocolate truffle with sticky texture, beijinho, very similar to brigadeiro, but made with coconut; many flavors of cakes, and peanut based sweets.
As for snacks, Brazil has a diversity of “salgados”: fried or baked salty snacks. The most popular fried one is probably the “coxinha”: a chicken croquette; as for the baked ones, try the “empada”: basically, a pot pie.
It doesn’t matter where you are, we highly recommend per kilo restaurants, where you can enjoy the typical dishes of certain region for a reasonable price.
Telling you exactly what is the Brazilian culture in a few paragraphs is a huge challenge. Scholars have been trying to do so by writing many books, but the discussion seems to be endless. With indigenous, African and European influences, you can find people with basically any kind of background. Even in the language, some words are remained from the languages spoken by the immigrants and indigenous people.
Most Brazilians love soap opera and soccer. You might expect that everyone goes to that spectacular Carnival we see in the news, but actually that is something many Brazilians don’t participate or aren’t interested in. Most of the people like to celebrate the Carnival on the streets.
Brazilians are very friendly and they love “gringo”: that’s how they call foreign people. If you make friends with people who are not used to “gringo”, they’ll probably ask a thousand questions – try to take it easy and just laugh at the surreal ones.
As for the fields of arts and science, you might not know, but there are some very good painters from Brazil: Tarsila do Amaral, Di Cavalcanti and Portinari; and the master of architecture in Brazil is Oscar Niemeyer – he is the one who designed the capital, Brasilia, which is totally worth a visit. In science, Carlos Chagas discovered the Chagas disease and the epidemiologic system of the Amazon forest. Most of the scientific discoveries done in Brazil are still very local, not having a big influence in other countries.