For people who have never visited Brazil before, the experience can be a little overwhelming. There is simply so much to see and so many interesting places to visit that it’s hard to know where to begin.
But before you start exploring Brazil, there are a few odd cultural difference between Brazilians and the rest of the world that you should know. This will help make the culture shock a little less jarring.
Every Outsider Is a ‘Gringo’
Unlike other Latin American countries, Brazilians consider any foreigner to be a “gringo” (or “gringa” if you are female), regardless of where you are from or whether you can speak Portuguese fluently (or at all). If you aren’t Brazilian, you are a gringo. Don’t take it personally. It’s not a derogatory or insulting term. It’s just the way it is.
You might also hear the term “maraja”, which is Portuguese for “rich person”. It’s a term commonly used to describe foreigners, even if you don’t consider yourself to be rich. To Brazilians, if you can afford to buy a plane ticket and fly all the way to your country, you are a maraja. Again, it’s not meant to be insulting.
Brazilians Speak Portuguese, Not Spanish
Portuguese is the official language of Brazil. While many of the words are similar to Spanish (and Brazilians may even be able to understand Spanish speakers), it’s a mistake to believe Brazilians speak Spanish. In fact, they may become insulted if you assume they speak Spanish or if you claim that Portuguese is simply a dialect of Spanish. It’s not. It’s an entirely separate language.
Brazilians also don’t consider themselves to be Hispanic. This is a term that refers to people from Spain or people who originally have ties to Spain. Brazil is neither. While there are many Spanish immigrants in Brazil and the country is surrounded by Hispanic nations, Brazilians aren’t Hispanic and may take offense if you say they are.
Brazilians do consider themselves Latinos, however, because Brazil is a Latin American country.
Brazilians and Argentineans
Brazil and Argentina border each other but it’s important that you don’t confuse the two. Brazilians don’t like to be identified as Argentineans and vice versa. Unlike Canada and the US, the Brazilians and Argentineans don’t have a great fondness for each other. So don’t say that the capital of Brazil is Buenos Aires because that’e the capital of Argentina. Brasilia is the capital of Brazil.
Another common misconception is that Brazil sympathized with the Nazis during World War II. Actually, that was Argentina. Brazil actually aided the Allies by providing air and naval bases, using its Navy to counter German submarine activity in the South Atlantic, and sending soldiers to fight with the Allied Forces in Europe.
Knowing a little about Brazil before you visit will help you appreciate the people, the culture and the country more, especially if you come with no misconceptions about its culture and history.