Attending social events in Brazil is common for foreigners while in Brazil. Brazilians are a warm, open, and welcoming people so an invitation to some sort of social event or gathering should come as no surprise. Here are some dos and don'ts for a likely event.
There are many different types of events a foreigner can be invited to, each with their own set of nuances, traditions, and expectations. What to expect can vary greatly from event to event, region to region, and even family to family. The most common outings that a foreigner is invited to are churrascos or ‘BBQ’, going to a beach of countryside house, birthday parties, and weddings, among others. Here is what to expect from each.
A churrasco is the quintessential social event in Brazil. Brazilian churrasco is so famous that there are churrascarias, Brazilian Steakhouses, found all of the world. Whether visiting Brazil on vacation or living in the country long term, your chances of getting invited to a churrasco are high. It is a relaxed social event with the goal of uniting friends and family to enjoy food and drink.
Bring a beverage to share. There is going to be food and drink but it is good event-attending manners to bring something to share. Doesn't have to be a lot, some spirits, wine, or beer should do. If you do not fancy alcoholic beverages, cakes are always a hit.
Eat with your hands. Normally, Brazilians steer clear of putting their fingers on food but a churrasco can be an exception. Most of the time, you’ll be served directly from the cutting board and grabbing a piece of steak with your fingers is the way it’s done. If the churrasco is on the fancier side, then just follow the other’s lead by utilizing the proper utensils.
Bring a bathing suit. Churrascos are often done at someone’s apartment, beach house, or house in the countryside. Pools can be common place so make sure you bring the proper attire and double check to see what other recreational gear could be useful.
Ask before you bring a guest. It is not only polite to ask before you bring a guest, it also lets the host get a better gauge on how much food will be needed for all the guests. Ask before you bring!
Contribute. Some churrascos are organized by a few people and then everyone chips in some amount at the end, roughly 20 BRL are so. Other churrascos are a little fancier and everything will be taken care of by the host. Use your judgment and contribute if it is that type of event.
Expect Hamburgers and Hot dogs. They don’t call it a Brazilian Steakhouse for nothing! Brazilian churrasco is the real deal when it comes to succulent, grilled meat. Expect sausage, chicken, fine cuts of steak, and even blocks of cheese, all grilled to mouth-watering perfection.
Expect German punctuality. If you’re told it starts at 1pm, show up at 2pm at the earliest and don't expect food to be ready for at least an hour longer. Churrascos are relaxing event where there is less emphasize on time than normal. Sit back and enjoy the conversation.
Drink too much. The beer and caipirinha will be flowing, but try to take it slow. A churrasco is not a race, it’s a marathon. As a foreigner, Brazilians may be eager to get you to taste the various types of caipirinha. Go slow so you can maintain your composure and stick it out until the very end.
Be the backseat grill master. You were invited to attend, eat, drink, and be merry. Do not try to help unless you are specifically asked to, or you offer to help and your offer is accepted.
At a churrasco, it’s important to go with the flow and enjoy yourself. When in Brazil, eat churrasco like Brazilians.
Beach House or Country House
Its common for Brazilians own or rent either a beach house or a house in the countryside, interior. They frequent these places on weekends, especially extended weekends, it’s quite common to bring along friends and family. You may be invited and should plan accordingly.
Expect traffic. There will probably be traffic both to and from the location you are going to. Plan accordingly.
Pack what you need but pack light. The standard items to bring along apply here but you might want to verify with your host about some additional items. If you're carpooling, keep in mind the how big of a bag you should bring.
Sunblock bring regardless of whether it’s summer or winter or whether it is a beach house or a countryside house.The Brazilian sun can burn even in the middle of winter.
Sleeping bag, sheets, pillow, etc. Sleeping gear should be checked out beforehand. Most of the time there will be plenty of beads and other sleeping arrangements provided. On some occasions, sleep arrangements may not be fully equipped or there simply may be many people going to house. Ask beforehand or come prepared for anything.
Clothes for both hot days in the sun and cool nights. The city is normally hotter than the countryside or breezy coastal locations. Bring clothes that will keep you comfortable for any occasions.
Bathing-suit. This goes without saying but just in case you forgot. Bring a couple and don`t leave it at home if you going to the countryside. Many houses have a pool or at least have friendly neighbors that do.
A beverage to share. Yes, just like a churrasco, you should also bring something to share. Chances are there will be a churrasco at the house you stay at. Sure, you can pick something up at a store nearby but sometimes little markets are far away and have less selection then their city counterparts. Hedge your bets and bring something. Hint: Wine when in winter and going to the countryside. Beer, Whiskey, or Cachaça when going to the beach.
Expect Internet. Yes, it is sad but true. It is highly likely that the house will not have wifi. It also likely that 3G/4G internet will be sporadic at best. The beach is usually a better bet for cellphone service but the is truly countryside is hit or miss. Even if it looks like the location you are going to is right next to civilization, it will mostly likely lack good cellphone service. Send those pre-weekend emails before you leave and save the hastags until the next day.
Expect to go to bed early. This over course varies from occasion to occasion but some weekend getaways can be quite the all-nighters. Brazilians tend at to hit the road late to avoid the traffic and stay up until the sun comes up.
Expect the same amenities as the big cities. As an emerging market, Brazil still has areas where are not has developed as other areas. The difference is noticeable between the cities and the smaller towns. Big Brazilian cities have many of the same stores, restaurants, and services as their global equivalents. The smaller towns do not so don`t expect much more than local shops and supermarkets.
Weddings in Brazil, and their various nuances, are a whole other story. We’ll be focusing on where the guest comes in. If you get invited to a Brazilian wedding, be prepared for a party. It will not be just a ceremony and reception. It is two-day event with no stops or breaks. Good times all around from beginning to end.
The Brazilian wedding traditions are pretty similar to Western cultures with some nuances that are important to be aware of as a guest. Pay attention and come prepared.
Grooms Tie Cutting and Bride’s shoe.
In order to raise a little extra cash for the honeymoon, it is common to cut up the grooms tie up and ‘sell’ pieces to guests for an undetermined amount of cash. You may not want a piece of a cut up tie but, if offered, you must make your contribution for the tie. Also, the shoe of the bride is passed around like a church collection basket for contributions.
Participate and ‘buy’ a piece of the tie.
Put some money in the shoe
Bring some cash. Anything between 20 and 50 BRL is adequate. If you´re feeling extra generous you can give more as some do.
Refuse the piece of tie
Refuse to put money in the shoe.
Bring more cash than you’re willing to give. If you, for some reason, have a lot of cash on you, keep only what you willing to donate for the piece of tie or shoe in your wallet.
Other differences include the responsibilities, attire, and roles of groomsmen and bridesmaid as well as subtle differences during the ceremony. There is nothing too different than from the standard wedding. The day after the wedding will most likely consist of a churrasco so be prepared to continue the party.
Any social event you get invited is going to be different than you home country because you’re in Brazil. Additional differences can vary from region to region and state to state. The best piece of advice is to go with the flow and be open to new customs and traditions. However, don’t go beyond your comfort zone. You can always pull the gringo card and say enough, which is a good decision after one too many caipirinhas.