Top 10 Cultural Differences I’ve Noticed in Florianópolis, Brazil

Keron Hopkins is a student at University of Missouri – Kansas City and an ISA Featured Blogger. Keron is studying abroad in Florianópolis, Brazil on an Academic Year program.

1.  The Hot Dogs. The people here in Florianópolis love hot dogs.  When I lived with my host family, it was common to see a cachorro quente cut up in a prepared salad or pasta dish.  Even around town, it is common to see popular outside restaurants or stands that solely sell grilled hot dogs and drinks.  What make the hot dog so popular is the toppings.  Unlike in the U.S., where the typical hot dog is topped with mustard, ketchup and relish, the toppings here include things like peas, corn, dried potatoes that resemble those things typically used in the US on a green bean salad, fried onions, cheese and a type of pickled peppers.  The bread resembles a cross between the typical hot dog and hamburger buns.  The bun is grilled as well.  It is actually a hearty and tasty sandwich.  In the picture above, somewhere, underneath all that stuff is a hot dog.

2.  Restaurant Hours. In the US, if a person is hungry, that person will find a restaurant open somewhere to satisfy that hunger regardless of the time.  Here in Florianópolis, that is not the case.  All restaurants do not open for lunch and dinner.  Some restaurants open only for lunch and some open only for dinner.  Restaurants open for lunch from 11:30 to approximately 3:00, and restaurants open for dinner around 6:30 p.m. and close around 11:30 or so.  If a person becomes hungry between the end of lunch and the beginning of dinner, there are several small restaurants where people can buy a natural juice drink and have a small “pastel,” which is usually filled with cheese, chicken or beef.

3.  Having a microwave is a privilege.  I recently moved into my own apartment and decided that I wanted the convenience of a microwave.  After all, in the U.S., the microwave is as much a part of kitchenware as eating utensils.  To my surprise, the smallest microwave that would cost $50 in the US that can easily be picked up in Wal-Mart, Target or the General Dollar Store, cost here in Brazil about $150.  Well, I’ve learned that warming up leftovers in the oven is actually not that bad.

4.  Having a clothes dryer is a luxury.  It actually gets cold here in Florianópolis.  Without a clothes dryer, it can take clothes up to three days to dry using the old method of hanging clothes outdoors on the clothes line if it’s not raining or indoors on a “rack” if it is cold.  When I lived with my host family, the home had a washer.  Washers here are small and typically take about 2 hours to wash a load of clothes regardless of the batch size.  There are no laundry mats similar to what is common in the US.  Most laundry is washed by hand or sent out to a lavaria.  A lavaria is similar to our dry cleaners except they wash everything from underwear to bedding to dry cleaning.   The cost is based on weight for general daily wear, towels and bedding.  Other items that require special care are priced on a per item basis.

5.  You can count on one or two institutions being on “strike” every month.  In the short time that I have been here, four institutions have been on strike or are currently on strike.  The first strike involved the federal universities and the federal police.  Both were critical because the strike involving the federal universities prevented undergraduate students from returning to school on time, and without the federal police working, the streets were unsafe in some of the most dangerous cities in Brazil, such as Rio de Janiero and São Paulo.  Currently the banks and the post offices are on strike.

6.  Weekends are for partying, relaxing, going to the beach and enjoying family and friends.  This is a wonderful thing, but I have struggled with it, as have probably many Americans that have spent a great deal of time in Brazil.  As Americans, we are accustomed to consistently working on something.  On the weekends, I have consistently looked for a library or quiet place to study or read, to no avail.  The public library does not open on the weekends and UNISUL library (the university that I am attending) is open from 8:00-12:00 on Saturdays and closed on Sundays.  The library at UFSC, the local federal university, is open until 5:00 on Saturdays and closed on Sundays.

7.  The wash cloth or “face towel” is not typically used here in Brazil by adults.  What is referred to in the U.S. as the “hand towel” is actually the “face towel” here in Brazil.   This is true, even in hotels.  The rooms have hand towels and the regular towels used to dry the body, but they never have the small towels typically used in the US to wash the body.  Even in stores where towels are sold, it is difficult to find the small wash cloths.  To find a towel small enough to be used to wash the body, I have had to go to the section of the store that sells baby items.

8.  The Marcado Publico. Drinking beer and other alcoholic beverages in public, at various times throughout the day, is very much a part of the culture here in Florianópolis.  Tables and chairs are setup in the Marcado Publico (the public market) for this purpose beginning at the lunch period and continuing until about 7:00 p.m., when the public market closes.  The legal drinking age in Brazil is 18.  It is not uncommon to see persons walking the street or standing in the supermarket drinking a beer.

9.  Under no circumstance should toilet tissue be thrown in the toilet.  It is thrown in the waste paper basket.  This was weird at first, but I guess if you do anything over a period of time, you simply get use to it.

10.  Voting is mandatory.  In Brazil, voting is an obligation.  Failure to vote will affect everything attached to the use of the individual’s social security number.  There are pros and cons attached to this obligation.  In some regions, there are some politicians that hold a lot of power over workers.  Because of this power over the workers, the politicians can demand their votes and remain in office.

One thought

  1. nice post ;)

    the only thing is that you forgot to mention that another fundamental difference between our voting system and countries like the United States, for example, is that here, since two decades, the whole process is done electronically (and in the last election, some cities have used biometric recognition).

    cities like São Paulo (population 10 million), they know the outcome of their elections about 5 hours after the end of voting.

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