Tuesday, 24 July 2012

Educate Yourself!

Education in Brazil is a Federal domain.

In Brazil kids in elementary usually only go to school for half the day. You're either part of the morning class or the afternoon class.

Teachers in Brazil are known by their first name, never their surname. Calling someone Mr./Ms. Surname is considered extremely formal. This goes for all levels of teaching, including university. The closest we come to that is adding Mr./Ms. before an elderly person's name, and even then it's not an absolute you-will-be-shunned-for-not-doing-it must (eg I called the co-principals of my school in Kindergarten/Grade 1 Dona Otília and Senhor Daniel, but that was because they were both well in their seventies/eighties).

A class (especially Primary) is often referred to as a "turma" (usually translated as "gang" but with the modern connotations of gang turma is actually closer to "team"). You would use it to say something like "Eu sou da turma da tarde, a turma da Marlene" (I'm in the afternoon class, the class [taught by] Marlene).

When not using the teacher's first name students often call their teachers “professor/professora” (teacher). The word is often also shortened to “Fessor/Fessora”.

Recess is called "recreio". 

There are three interchangeable words for homework: 
- Dever de casa (literally, home duty)
- Lição de casa" (literally, home lesson)
- Para casa (literally, for home)

Graduation from High School is not considered a big deal. The graduation that gets all the praise and cool gifts is graduating university. 

Colégio does not mean college. It is another word for escola (school). (Eg. Colégio Santo Agostinho merely means "Saint Augustine School").

There is no distinction between college and university in Brazil. They are both known as universidade (university). 

Saturday, 21 July 2012

Colloquialisms, sayings, Slang

O que não mata engorda - What doesn't kill you fattens you. 
The Brazilian equivalent of "what doesn't kill you makes you stronger". Engordar literally means "to become fatter", or "to fatten". 

(Pegar) dois coelhos com uma cajadada só - (To get) two rabbits with a single club
The Brazilian equivalent of "to get two birds with one stone". Except that instead of stoning birds to death one is clubbing rabbits to death instead. 

Wednesday, 18 July 2012

Oh, What's In a Name?

I've heard people get confused over why Latinos have two last names. Here's the thing. We don't have two last names. We have two sobrenomes, or surnames. You get one of your mom's and one of your dad's in any combination they prefer.

This is how it works:

Let's say Bob and Sally had a baby. They name that baby Fred. That's his nome (name). I guess they decided not to give Fred a segundo nome (second name), which in English is known as a middle name.

Now, Sally's full.name is Sally Smith Anderson, and Bob's is Bob Williams Jones. 

This means that baby Fred could be named any of the following combinations Bob and Sally like best:

Fred Jones Smith
Fred Smith Jones
Fred Anderson Jones
Fred Jones Anderson
Fred Smith Williams
Fred Williams Smith
Fred Williams Anderson
Fred Anderson Williams

This means that whatever two sobrenomes his parents choose are both legally his surname, and he can use either one by itself or the two together.

Here's a real life example with Latino names:

My father's surnames are "de Oliveira" and "Flecha". My mom's is "Braga" and "Espeschit".

They then decided that the combination they liked was "Espeschit Flecha". This means that in Brazil I can say my sobrenome is "Espeschit", "Flecha", or "Espeschit Flecha", and they are all legally true.

Sunday, 15 July 2012

Culturally Cultured

                                     The Personal Bubble

Anglo-Saxons (and perhaps other cultures I am unaware of) have this thing called "The Personal Bubble". If you've ever lived in the UK and/or North America you have probably heard of this. You might even be rolling your eyes and thinking "Duh! Who hasn't?"

Brazilians, that's who. 

Well, I think it's safe to say that to Latinos in general this is about one of the strangest, most alien concepts ever. We're a very touchy, grabby kind of people. We hug, kiss, lean on each other, and unceremoniously sit on friend's laps if there's a lack of space in an almost subconscious level, because to us this is no big deal. 

Eleven years after moving to Canada and my mom still has to constantly remind herself not to touch someone's shoulder when apologizing for running into them.

We most certainly never say "excuse my reach". Why would you, if there's no "personal bubble" to infringe the boundary of?

If you see someone leaning on a person of the opposite sex it doesn't necessarily have a sexual connotation. If you're tired and there's a friend handy to rest your head on their shoulder then why not? (Of course, this has a bit of a double standard - girls leaning on boys is normal, girls leaning on girls is normal, and a guy leaning on a guy can get you weird looks. Sorry, boys). Don't get surprised if people brush by you without instantly apologizing or stick out their arm right in front of your face to grab something without so much as a "by your leave".

Brazilians have no qualms about standing within what would be considered a "personal bubble", especially in more crowded situations. Which isn't to say you shouldn't tell off a stranger for feeling you up or standing too close. Just be aware that the more acquainted you are with someone the less they will think of staying out of what you might consider to be "personal space".

Thursday, 5 July 2012

Money, Moolah, Cash

Brazil's current currency is the Real (plural: Reais), and its decimal form is centavo(s) - the Portuguese word for cents. It's symbol is R$.

In Portuguese "real" can mean both "royal" and "real", depending on the situation.

In Brazil the use of commas and decimals are the opposite of that in North America (but the same as in most of Europe, I believe).

So if a book costs costs five Reais and twenty five centavos it would look like this: R$ 5,25

Brazil has 6 bank note values and 5 coin values.

All coins (5, 10, 25, and 50 cents as well as a R$ 1 coin) are commonly used. 
The most commonly used bank notes are R$ 2, R$ 5, R$ 10, R$20, and R$ 50.

Just like English has its slang for money (moolah, cash, etc), Portuguese has it too. The most common are "grana" and "dim dim". Other slangs include "cobre" (copper), "prata" (silver), "Mango" (somewhat equivalent to the use of "bucks" or "quid"), and "bufunfa".

"Trocado" is slang for small change.
"Troco" is is the change you receive when you're buying something, so depending on what you're buying the change can very well be big.

Sunday, 1 July 2012

                                                  Food, Glorious Food...
Almoço - Lunch

Lunch is the most important meal of the day. The overall content of what one is eating varies, but the staple lunch food is rice, beans, and some type of protein (usually meat or a fried egg or something). 

We often have a little dish of “batata palha” (straw potato) on the table to add to the rice (it's also popular on stroganoff). Batata palha is comprised of thinly cut potatoes that are then fried into matchstick-thin potato sticks. They're similar to Hickory Sticks. 

Batata palha
There are many traditional meals that are also commonly eaten for lunch.

Colloquialisms, sayings, & Slang

Póde ir tirando o cavalinho da chuva! - You can go take your horsie out of the rain!
An exclamation meaning “forget about it! It ain't hapening!”

Bom dia flor do dia! - Good day flower of the morning!
The Brazilian equivalent of “mornin' sunsine!”

Food, Glorious Food...

Dietary habits vary from area to area, and this does not hold true to all of Brazil, or even all of an area. But for the most part, this is what the first meal of the day is like:

Café da manhã (Morning Coffee) - Breakfast

Unlike in North America, it is the lightest meal of the day. It usually consists of bread and butter and a cup of coffee or chocolate milk, sometimes juice.


Coffee has three levels of “strength”. I don't mean this taste-wise (though the flavour is affected), but rather how much coffee you put into the cup.

The weakest is “Pindago” (dripped). It has very little coffee, and is mostly milk. This is the kiddie version of coffee, with just enough to get the kids used to the bitter taste of the drink.

Next is “café-com-leite” (coffee with milk). It has a lot more coffee, but is still somewhat diluted due to the milk. Many people drink this in the morning instead of straight-up coffee.

The last is, of course, plain black coffee - café preto.


Our breakfast bread is not sliced bread. It's like an itty bitty mini loaf we call “pão de sal” (literally, bread of salt).

It looks like this:

Many of our sandwiches are made with this type of bread instead of sliced bread as well.

Chocolate Milk

We have two traditional brands: Nescau, and Toddy. In Brazil chocolate milk is not a drink just for kids. Adults may not usually drink it as much as children, but it's not embarrassing to drink a glass of Nescau or Toddy in the morning like it seems to be in North America.   

Coming soon... Lunch!