Brazil 101: Be a Carioca in 50 Easy Lessons

 Brazil 101: Be a Carioca 
  in 50 Easy Lessons

Eat a hot dog from
a street vendor in the morning. Do you know
anyone that died after eating a hot-dog with parmesan, corn,
peas, onion, fries, raisins, and quail’s eggs? Well, then. Cariocas
call the owners of the vans that sell them by the nickname,
and are always looking for novelties in lower urban gastronomy.
by: Jefferson


1. Drink a cafezinho at the counter

We love coffee and welcome
with open arms novelties, coffee with a smattering of vanilla or moss, ready
to be savored. But a cafezinho has to be drunk at a counter in a botequim,
in cups of heavy porcelain like those at Lamas. Refinements are good, we like
them, but not when we are having our cafezinho.

Café Lamas: Rua
Marquês de Abrantes 18, Flamengo – 2556-0799. Mon-Sun, 9:30 AM to 3

2. Have a personal
story of being mugged to tell

This, unfortunately, is
not hard. There is the gold chain ripped from the neck on the bus, the lightning-kidnapping,
along with the robbery at the stoplight, with a toy gun (or a real one) pointed
at your head. These stories, whether at a party, at work, or at the bar, are
told to a moved and profoundly respectful audience. Until someone comes along
with an even scarier story, of course.

3. Be proud of
having survived at least two of the following:

( ) The war in Rocinha

( ) The floods of 1966, 1988 e 1996

( ) Rock in Rio I

( ) The 1950 Cup Final

4. Go to Maracanã

(collective mugging), brawls, flanelinha (informal car attendant),
Senegalese heat: none of this seems to matter. When it is a matter of the
greatest soccer stadium in the world, the real Carioca abandons his
reason, trusts in God and goes—even if it is only once. The excitement
of the crowd (always described as indescribable) changes Maracanã into
an urban icon. But, listen: it only counts if you go to see soccer. Santa
Claus, show and such do not count.

5. Agree on something
to do without the least intention of following through

If you never said "We’ll
talk tomorrow to set up that dinner" or "Come have coffee at my
place" without exactly rooting for these things to actually happen….you
may throw the first stone. Non-Cariocas hate it—and maybe even
with good reason. See you soon….

6. See a show
on the beach

It’s free, there is no
muvuca (anarchy) (there is, but it disappears in the sand), the beer
from the strolling vendors is cheap. But the setting, so, so beautiful, is
what makes all the difference. You never went?

7. Spend hours
in line to buy advance tickets for the ‘Festival do Rio’

It seems like something
for a Paulista (or a Mineiro, Baiano, Paraense,
Pernambucano… people that make plans in advance, that is.) The difference
is that even after all that wait, the Carioca can still give up on
seeing the film: "Ah, I went to the beach and I ended up feeling so lazy…"

8. Run into a
celebrity and not blink an eye

Rio itself is a star that
always attracted stars. So why get all googley-eyed when Chico Buarque enters
the restaurant? Or Malu Mader? Or Romário? After all, nine out of ten
Brazilian celebrities live here. One who only pretends that he doesn’t care
has a long way to go before becoming a genuine Carioca.

9. Order at Bar
Lagoa without needing to look at the menu

The Carioca practically
knows the menu of Bar Lagoa by heart from birth. He knows that Beef alla milanesa
and sausage with potato salad are THE things to order…and for the latter,
he knows that the highlight is the potato salad, full of mysteries in its

Bar Lagoa: Av. Epitácio
Pessoa 1.674, Lagoa — 2523-1135. Mondays, 6 PM to 2 AM; Tuesdays-Sundays,
noon to 2 AM.

10. Know someone
who was at the final of the elimination round for the Cup in 1970

Maracanã set the
attendance record, hosting more than 180,000 fans. The stories are gruesome:
people squeezed into the stands, the tunnels congested, the heat unbearable…but
how great it would have been to be there.

11. Join a gym
at least once

You can’t bear seeing
those fantastic bodies that parade by us without dreaming of looking at least
that good. And in this case, dreaming will cost you a membership and a monthly
fee. Look for a gym, tell all your friends, show up (rarely) for a while,
and quit—that’s good enough.

12. Applaud the
sunset at Posto 9

This is one of those embarrassing
things that, for decades, there is no way of escaping. But, let’s be honest:
it is one of the nicest embarrassments that there is, the embodiment of summer
in Rio. Come on, confess: you, at some point in your life, have applauded
the sunset from Posto 9—even if you have the excuse of going along with
the rest of the gang.

13. Climb the
Pedra da Gávea

This is something that
serves as a passport for a Carioca. With friends, with teachers, with
a girlfriend…only those who have been up on top know what we are talking
about. Daniel Towersey leads the ascent each Saturday starting at eight. Just
call and put your name down.

Daniel Caminhadas: Sat.,
starting at 8 AM. 2617-6563 and 9961-6898. R$ 80 (individuals) and R$ 250
(group of five people).

14. Use malandro

"já é", "é nóis",
"vaza!". Purists hate it, not without reason, but…tough
luck: Carioca slang, which doesn’t bother to match subject and verb,
is born in the streets, with malandros (crafty slackers). Democracy
Carioca style means that the children of the best families use gang
slang without shame. A "vaza" here and a "já
é" there make their way into the group’s jargon. And then
the rest of Brazil imitates it.

15. Eat a hot
dog from a street vendor in the morning

Do you know anyone that
died after eating a hot-dog with parmesan, corn, peas, onion, fries, raisins,
and quail’s eggs? Well, then. A podrão (literally, a rotten
one) is great, especially on mornings with lots of carousing and not much
money. Cariocas call the owners of the vans that sell them by the nickname,
and are always looking for novelties in lower urban gastronomy, which is extensive.

16. Have a beach

How can you not have a
favorite beach in Rio? They are numerous and beautiful, but everyone chooses
his own, and defends its superior qualities tooth and nail. People from Pepê,
for example, never go to Ipanema.

17. Go digging
in Saara

You need to have stamina
to make your way through hot, narrow alleys, filled with avid consumers, between
Rua Uruguaiana and Campo de Santana, in the center of Rio. Hours later you
head home with bags and bags full of plastic flowers, shirts that were sewn
in 1974, petticoats that have become skirts, shower curtains, carpets of artificial
turf, etc. etc. etc. All for about R$ 50 (US$ 16), at the most.

18. Love filet
with cheese

Forget smoked salmon with
cream cheese on ciabatta. Ignore brie with apricots, and pay no attention
to prosciutto, endive and focaccia. The favorite sandwich of
the Carioca has filet mignon, melted cheese, and at most, a slice of
pineapple, as in the unbeatable version from Cervantes.

Cervantes: Av. Prado Junior
335, Copacabana – 2275-6147. Sun, Tue-Thurs, noon to 4 AM; Friday and Saturday,
noon to 6 AM.

19. Give the flanelinha
the slip

This is a fundamental
rite of passage, since nothing compares to the happiness of pulling out of
your parking space without losing your hard-earned pennies to the guys crowding
the streets. If they help out, OK. If they prevent assaults, even better.
But as soon as you turn your backs the guys disappear. To give the flanelinha
the slip functions as therapy and a rite of initiation for one who wants to
bear the proud title of Carioca.

20. Invite someone
you have just met to your house

Without doubt, a monument
to Carioca-ness. One of the nicest, like a chair on the sidewalk on
a really hot day, and a chopp after work. Even nicer when the invitation is
not just being polite.

21. Always run
into people that you know

You go to buy something
at the corner pharmacy and bing!, there is your colleague from work. You go
on to walk along the beach, and voilà !, you bump into your
ex-girlfriend. At night in Baixo Gávea, everybody is there—even
that school friend who disappeared years ago. There’s no explanation—it’s
something about a beach town.

22. Have gotten
unforgettably plowed on batidas from Oswaldo

Younger folks may not
know this, but the Bar do Oswaldo, near the famous street of motels in Barrinha,
had its days of glory. The super-sweet coconut batida, worthy exemplar
of the era that preceded the boom in gastronomy, is an icon.

Bar do Oswaldo: Estrada
do Joá 3.896, Barra — 2493-1840. Daily, from noon to 2 AM.

23. Have a construction
worker try to pick you up

The city has many construction
sites, the boys work with other workers of the same gender, it’s really hot…you
know how it is. To have one of them try to pick you up is so common that it’s
frustrating never to have heard "You are the daughter-in-law that mom
asked God for"—this is in the most elegant cases, of course.

24. Get to know
what’s happening at night at the beach

The only ones who stay
home are those who didn’t go for the "sand test." Even if it’s only
at the end of the day, just to be informed.

25. Ignore the
people handing out flyers

It’s like giving the flanelinha
the slip, but feel guilty, really guilty—after all the guy is working,
and spending the day on you feet handing out little slips of paper on the
sidewalk can’t be easy. The problem is that the Carioca doesn’t have
enough jewelry to respond to the slips saying "I buy gold", and
is no danger of believing the pamphlets that say "Bring your beloved
back in three days". Enough!

26. Eat deer at

A classic so classic that
it is prior to the appearance of the word cholesterol. It might be a little
heavy on the stomach; but not on the wallet, since the deer at Capela—a
Carioca refuses to call the traditional restaurant Nova Capela—can
easily be shared by three.

Nova Capela: Av. Mem de
Sá 96, Centro – 2252-6228. Daily, from 11AM until the last client leaves.

27. Ask for your
chopp without a head

You don’t need to repeat
yourself, we know that real chopp has a head. Fine, it’s the head that maintains
the flavor, the temperature, blah blah blah…But, so what? Maybe it’s
the sense of having a fuller beer glass. Or perhaps it is just that the Carioca’s
tastes are different. The fact is that here we ask for our chopp without a
head. That’s all. Nothing more to be said.

28. Be proud of
the Teatro Municipal

Because of those stairs,
those marbles, that vaulting….the Municipal is very chic and has excellent
programming in popular music.

29. Get lost on
the road to Barra de Guaratiba

Your friends make maps
and give directions, but whoever goes to a restaurant there for the first
time ends up getting lost—whether because he forgot to turn at the "Honey
for sale" sign, or because he was captivated by the landscape. Bira is
perhaps the hardest to find; and the best.

Bira: Estrada da Vendinha
68-A, Barra de Guaratiba – 2410-8304. Thur-Fri, noon to 6 PM; Sat-Sun, noon
to 8 PM.

30. Have a favorite
juice bar

No, they are not all the
same. The juices don’t even seem to be similar. There are those where the
mango juice seems thinner. There are others, where no matter what you ask,
the drink comes with sugar. Some are expensive and some are cheap; some clean
and some dirty. Whatever; full of personality, our juice bars are all different.
Discovering your favorite is an exercise in citizenship.

31. Dream of the
day when the subway gets to Barra

Do we need to explain

32. Go the beach
even when the water is polluted

A real Carioca
can’t believe that you could catch something in our beloved waters. Coliform?
Outfall? Huh?

33. Have fond
memories of the days when mate and lemonade were only sold from aluminum drums

"Get your mate, get
your lemonade!" A true Carioca can’t forget the cries of the legion
of vendors balancing drums on their shoulders and served the cold drinks in
paper cones.

34. See one of
the capybaras at the Lagoa

Not because you kept vigil,
but because you live in Rio, and often one of the two capybaras is there,
waiting to be seen. The male lives in front of the Parque do Cantagalo and
can be seen at the beginning of the afternoon. The female lives near Vasco
and appears at sunset.

Capivaras: Parque do Cantagalo,
on Av. Epitácio Pessoa. Clube de Regatas Vasco da Gama, on Av. Borges
de Medeiros.

35. Have a lunch
of ‘salgado e refresco for R$ 1’

You know how you always
are saying "I don’t have time for anything"? Well, that’s the best
excuse for savoring—yes, savoring—that deal for a salgado
and a drink for R$ 1". Nothing better than a good excuse for sinking
your teeth into junk food alla Carioca. You can find it everywhere,
in every neighborhood. Make your choice, and good luck.

36. Always be
astounded by the beauty of the city

Remember coming out of
the Túnel Rebouças into Lagoa. Or when your car enters the avenue
by the bay of Guanabara, in Urca. Or the ocean seen from the viaduct in Joá.
Or from Prainha on the road to Grumari. These landscapes are old friends,
and at the same time, they continue to surprise us.

37. Eat pizza
at the counter at Guanabara

The pizza served at the
counter is better than that served on the veranda (the dining room, everyone
knows, is for tourists). Serious thinkers say that it is because it arrives
more quickly for those who are standing. And of course they argue the point
at the counter at Guanabara.

Pizzaria Guanabara: Av.
Ataulfo de Paiva 1.228, Leblon – 2294-0797. Daily, 9 AM till the last client.

38. Spend an entire
night in Jobi

The night begins full
of good intentions: "I am not going to drink, I am going home early,
tomorrow morning I am going to take a walk…" OK. Little by little,
the cold chopps in Jobi keep coming, friends keep arriving as well, and will
power begins to fade. Result: a whole night at the bar. Leaving, we find the
sun rising and the survivors from the Pizzaria Guanabara, on the previous

39. Give the Paulistas
a hard time

Because of the way they
say "cinqüêêêinta", "vou estar ligando",
"então", "mano" and "mina". Because of
their rs and esses. Because of their mania for work. Because of Hebe and Maluf.
Because of the criminals, the floods, the traffic jams…

40. Envy the lively
cultural scene of the Paulistas

Because of the Bienal,
the shows at Oca, at Masp, the concert hall of the Estação Julio
Prestes, of the State Pinacoteca. Because the clubs for modern people, with
modern bands, modern bars, because of the Week of Modern Art in 1922.

41. Go to a rehearsal
for an escola de samba

You don’t even need to
have gone to the Sambodrome. It is enough to promise yourself that you will
go some day. But a samba school rehearsal at their site, with friends and
lots of cold beer, surrounded by people from the community…this is essential.

42. Buy Biscoito
Globo in a traffic jam

In the rest of Brazil,
people like to say that Cariocas don’t work. It’s a fable: Cariocas
work a lot! And they do millions of things at the same time—including
taking advantage of a red light to buy Biscoito Globo. Or those cones, almost
the same thing.

43. Be certain
that Rio is the most beautiful city in the world even thought you don’t know
any others

Any doubts?

44. Restock your
larder at a convenience store

It’s expensive, but the
gasoline station is right there and never closes. And "right there"
and "never closes" are irresistible for a Carioca.

45. Go to the
Feira in São Cristóvão

Before, the problem was
the filth. After the repairs, the crucial question became authenticity: many
thought that the Feira in São Cristóvão had lost its
northeastern roots. The fact is that people love the feira. Where else
are you going to eat carne-de-sol (jerk beef) e queijo coalho
(curd cheese) at 5 AM?

Feira de São Cristóvão:
Pavilhão de São Cristóvão s/n. Friday to Sunday.

46. Have something,
anything , that you bought from a camelô (street vendor) in Rua
Sete de Setembro

Is it wrong? Yes. Does
it stimulate the informal economy? Yes. But just as New Yorkers buy their
socks in the streets, Cariocas love to buy from camelôs.
There is always something new, from pens to a DVD of a film that has just
been released.

47. Know that…

… Claro Hall is called
… Rua Vinicius de Moraes is called Montenegro
… Copacabana is Copa and Ipanema is not Ipa
… O Baixo Leblon is not near the Melt
… The Circo Voador will never be the same
… The beach is not the shore

48. Hate…

… Rainy days
… Old-fashioned cinema broken up into smaller theaters
… Pharmacy signs spoiling the façades of old buildings
… Dirty beaches
… Warm beer
… Red lights

49. Realize that
Pan is going to bring jobs and money, but, basically, not really believe it

Are you anxiously waiting
for tickets to go on sale? Well then. The Pan-American Games of 2007 are going
to generate jobs, and the city will get cleaner (and perhaps, safer). But
we just aren’t meant to root for sports that aren’t soccer.

50. To be sooo
relieved when the plane lands at Galeão or at Santos Dumont

Because, in spite of everything,
Rio is still Rio.

Jefferson Lessa is journalist and writes for Rio’s daily O Globo.
You may contact the author at

from the Portuguese by Tom Moore. He translates from Portuguese, Spanish,
French, Italian and German, and is also active as a musician. Comments welcome

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