Brazil, it’s not us, it’s you!

Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
Hubbie was not happy at the thought of missing our flight home from Rio!

We nearly didn’t make it home from Brazil.

There was some confusion with the taxi booking and a mumbled excuse about traffic. Who’d have thought it would be busy in Rio at rush hour after all? Becoming more stressed by the minute we sat helplessly in our hotel room glumly counting down the minutes to our flight departure. This level of disorganised service had plagued us during our 2 week trip to the country, so why should it be any different now. Luckily we made it, because despite joking about staying on the beach and never coming home, we were both pretty desperate to leave.

Brazil just wasn’t for us!

Christ Redeemer Corcovado, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

The landscape, both natural and human were the redeeming features of our trip to Brazil

We perhaps should have taken more notice of our blogger pals Frank and Lissette over at The Travels of BBQ Boy and Spanky, who declared they wouldn’t be returning to Brazil after feeling unwelcome there a few years ago. Although I always say don’t make up your mind until you’ve tried it yourself!

Arriving in style aboard the glamorous new KLM dreamliner, we jested that our unexpected upgrade to business class would be the highlight of the trip. Little did we know how close to the truth that would turn out to be.

KLM dreamliner business class from Amsterdam to Rio de Janerio, Brazil

Was travelling business class on the KLM dreamliner the highlight of our trip?

It wasn’t the landscape that didn’t tick the boxes. Brazil is as stunning as it gets, and indeed I’d stick my neck out and say the coastline and towns we visited along the Costa Verde are right up there with some of the most gorgeous places we’ve ever experienced.

No, instead it was the people.

Whilst that may be a sweeping generalisation, we just didn’t feel all that welcome in Brazil. And the incredible laid-back attitude that seems to be the core of existence in the country ensured our relaxing holiday was shadowed by stress and worry, all beyond our control.

Paraty speedboat tour - Palombeta, Brazil

There was nothing wrong with the scenery – loved the Atlantic Rainforest near Paraty

Feeling unwelcome

It’s perhaps all about managing expectations. You might be tempted to suggest we’ve been spoilt by our previous travel experiences. We’ve enjoyed genuinely warm welcomes all over South East Asia, Africa and Europe, and whilst we certainly don’t expect to be treated like royalty when we’re overseas, it certainly makes us eager to spend our money there, and even return one day.

To be fair, most of the hotel staff were friendly and helpful. Just because they don’t smile as much as the Thais, or feel your welfare is their honour like the Moroccans, doesn’t make the Brazilians any less attractive as a people. Indeed I’m sure many a foreign tourist has come to Britain and felt we are too reserved, and possibly a little unfriendly too?

Yet beyond the walls of our hotels last month, it was quite a different story.

The majority of tourism in Brazil is domestic, something I hadn’t realised before. We hardly saw another foreign tourist, which was both refreshing and maybe a little divisive. The Brazilian tourists almost without exception were verging on rude in their attitude towards us. Not one of them returned a cheerful bom dia or even a shy smile as we saw them at breakfast or in the street. Some even looked at us as though we were something they’d found on the bottom of their shoe!

Paraty speedboat tour - Palombeta, Brazil

The other tourists were mainly domestic, like here at Toboga Falls near Paraty

The only positive experience we had with domestic tourists were the lovely family from Rio who shared our jeep during a waterfalls tour from Paraty. They chatted to us, translated the bits we didn’t understand and generally saved another day from potential disaster. More on that later.

Shop keepers were indifferent, with many completely ignoring us and not even making eye contact when we made several purchases. On another occasion we took a private car transfer from Rio to Ilha Grande. The driver didn’t make eye contact either or even speak a single word to us the entire trip, not even at the hotel where he picked us up! Is it just me who finds this rather odd? Normally they never shut up, and at least ask us about football when they hear we’re from England.

I don’t think I’ve ever felt like such an outsider before.

Cute shops in old town Paraty, Brazil

Cute colourful shops, but grumpy shopkeepers!

In restaurants it was a little better, and hubbie did manage to make some of the staff grin with his unique sense of humour. In reality they were probably laughing at us for being the only people in the restaurant so early in the evening! How can you tell we’re British?!

Margarida restaurant in Paraty, Brazil

At home, 7pm is a perfectly respectable dinner time. Feeling silly at the Restaurante Margarida in Paraty!

If they were any more laid back they’d fall over

I get that there’s a certain charm to a relaxed what-will-be-will-be attitude to life. Never succumbing to urgency or stress, and bumbling along in a kind of sunshine bubble at the pace of a contented tortoise. Indeed I can draw parallels with Morocco’s much loved phrase Insha’Allah which is used both in reverence to religion and as an excuse whenever anything is uncertain or unknown. Or just too difficult to bother to investigate. Yet somehow this doesn’t irritate me in Morocco like it did in Brazil. Perhaps because most Insha’Allah’s are accompanied with a mischievous twinkle in the eye, or else just buckets of charm.

I’m usually a pretty chilled kinda girl, rarely get in a flap and am probably one of the calmest people you’re likely to meet. Yet I’m also highly organised, and like things to run like clockwork most of the time. It’s not a difficult concept. It simply requires thinking ahead, planning and a bit of common sense, and most people don’t have a problem achieving this.

Yet in Brazil, NOTHING seemed to run smoothly.

Relaxing in hammocks, Asalem, Ilha Grande, Brazil

I’m not opposed to a bit of chilling out, especially in hammocks on Ilha Grande

Nothing runs smoothly here

Right from the word go it was a nightmare trying to make enquiries and reservations. Tour companies and hotels would take weeks to respond, and more often than not just ignored my emails completely. Even some of the hotels with whom we had a confirmed (and paid for!) reservation wouldn’t bother to reply to my repeated enquiries, which led to us spending most of the trip wondering if we did actually have somewhere to stay the next night.

To name and shame an example, let me introduce Paraty Tours. This company pretty much has the monopoly on excursions from Paraty, and unless you like flying by the seat of your pants and booking tours on the spot whilst you’re there, it seems the obvious choice for advance reservations. Yet I emailed them THREE times, enquiring about transfers and trips, but not once did they get back to me. I also tried using their online contact form, to no avail. In the end we asked the pousada where we were staying to contact them on our behalf, and in the event didn’t manage to actually book anything until we were there in person. Not ideal especially when arranging transfers! We have very mixed feelings about their service delivery too, but I’ll review that in another post.

I should point out that a notable exception to this rule was Davi from Palombeta Speedboats who took us on the most amazing tour of the coast down near Paraty, and was spot on in terms of both communication and charm!

Paraty speedboat tour - Palombeta, Brazil

All the ingredients for a perfect day – secluded beaches and great communication!

Once we were in Brazil, we assumed things would improve. They didn’t. Communication between hotel staff was diabolical and we spent our time unsure whether our requests for meals, trips and transfers were being actioned. Even when we complained or hassled staff for answers there was never any sense of urgency in rectifying the problems.  Rarely did we receive an apology for cock-ups and it was very much a case of ‘that’s how we roll here’.

We stayed at Asalem Seaside Hideaway on Ilha Grande for a few nights, and whilst the staff were friendly and the location almost perfect, the laid back attitude once again put a damper on things. The team didn’t seem to communicate with each other. We’d book a tour or a transfer with the morning shift, only to discover the evening shift knew nothing about it. We were constantly having to reconfirm our arrangements, just to make sure, and it was always up to us to take the initiative, never the staff.

This somewhat chaotic approach was typical of our entire trip.

Asalem Seaside Hideaway, Ilha Grande, Brazil

Asalem Seaside Hideaway is stunning. Just a shame communication wasn’t better!

I say it again. A little communication goes a long way.

Changing our future plans because of Brazil

Our experience in Brazil has affected us so much that we’ve reconsidered our travel plans for the remainder of the year. Back in January we flicked through the Lonely Planet World book, chose a page at random and vowed we would visit wherever lay on that page. It was Sao Tome and Principe. Somewhere we had to look up in the Atlas, and Africa’s least visited country (it only receives just 8,000 visitors a year). Lying off the coast of Gabon and Cameroon, the islands are a veritable paradise of tropical forest, azure coastlines and colonial history. What a find! The next couple of months were a whirl of over-excitement and secrecy. We planned to run a competition to guess the destination, and couldn’t wait to explore this relatively unknown part of the world.

However, after returning from Brazil we realised the overly laid back culture was very similar in Sao Tome. I guess they share the same Portuguese history so it’s perhaps not surprising. The phrase leve-leve (‘easy easy’) started to catch our attention, and before long we were reading visitor reviews that made us immediately wary. Laid back is the very spirit of the country. Communication was poor, tourists found booking excursions and hiring guides difficult, and service was generally nothing to write home about. Alarm bells ringing, and we made the gut-wrenching decision to abandon our exciting Sao Tome plans.

Immediately it felt like a weight lifted, and instead we’re looking forward to visiting Slovenia, Kenya and Peru over the next 18 months. And of course Morocco.

Machu Picchu, Peru

We can’t wait to return to Peru 10 years after we first visited for our honeymoon.

It’s not all doom and gloom

If you stick with the thought that beauty is in the eye of the beholder then you’ll do okay. Travelling south from Rio along the lush Atlantic rainforest coast, we stopped at both Ilha Grande and Paraty, and weren’t disappointed with what we saw. We snorkelled with sea turtles, explored remote fjords and walked on deserted beaches. We climbed waterfalls, drank cachaça and slept in colonial mansions. On the whole it was worth putting up with all the uncertainty above, and of course we only saw a small part of Brazil. Maybe up north everyone is friendly and organised? Let me know if you’ve been!

Paraty speedboat tour - Palombeta, Brazil

Despite all the frustrations, we did some pretty cools things. Including playing with our GoPro!

This post isn’t meant to offend, and of course is just the opinion of a couple of tourists who have only spent 2 weeks in the country. Yet I stand by my guns. The purpose of blogging is to show the good, the bad and the ugly of travel, and I’m never going to lie and tell you it was all rosy.

Whilst we didn’t fall in love with the culture, we certainly did the with landscape, and although we won’t be returning to Brazil any time soon, I wouldn’t advise against travelling there. Just go armed with the knowledge that it won’t all be plain sailing.

27 Comments

  • Marcus says:

    Hello Heather,

    After reading your posts I felt sadly disappointed by what you said but being myself a traveler and soon going to Brazil I do understand where you come from with some of your comments. Some not all of them!

    There are indeed some problems in Brazil and education is not up to a high level (regarding languages). However as so many places like Spain they do preserve they origins and culture which I think it’s admirable. Unfortunately (most of the cases) English native speakers (British/Americans) most of the times only speak English and more and more that’s becoming a problem if you truly want to discover the world!

    On the hospitality point I’m fairly surprise because from my previous experience in Brazil they are the most welcoming people (even more towards “gringos”).

    But in my opinion and “judging” by the content of your blog you were definitely in the wrong country. Brazil is not a luxurious destination! Simply as that! Brazil is not the Seychelles or Mauritius and I believe that should be something travelers should have well in mind even before taking off!

    On another note (being my mum Portuguese therefore me having a Portuguese ancestry) I felt quiet sad with your generalization of “I guess they share the same Portuguese history so that’s not surprising”.
    Well I could well say the same about Jamaica because they share the same English history and therefore never set foot there. Because frankly when you were describing your experience in Brazil I could almost swear that you were in Jamaica.

    Portuguese is an official language in ten countries, including Brazil, Mozambique, Angola, Portugal, Guinea-Bissau, East Timor, Equatorial Guinea, Macau, Cape Verde, and São Tomé and Príncipe.

    During the Portuguese discoveries of the 15th and 16th centuries, the Portuguese language was brought to many regions in Africa, Asia and the Americas. Local officials and Europeans of all nationalities used Portuguese as a lingua franca (a common language) to facilitate communication. Portuguese was also used by Roman Catholic missionaries in Asia, and today there is a cultural presence of Portuguese in parts of India, Sri Lanka, Malaysia and Indonesia.
    Portuguese is estimated to have between 215 and 220 million native speakers and 260 million total speakers. It’s the sixth most natively spoken language in the world and the second most spoken Romance language in the world, after Spanish.

    Although they are the same language, there are some differences between the European Portuguese spoken in Portugal and Brazilian Portuguese. The one you decide to learn will depend on your individual goals and interests.

    When 10 countries and 220 million native speakers share the same language and culture I believe it’s a bit difficult to judge this by your experience alone. Thus when only visiting a tinny part of a vast country.

    Good travels,

    Best,

    Marcus

    • Heather Cole says:

      Hi Marcus, thanks for your comment, it’s certainly interesting hearing other perspectives on this. I totally agree with you about the language thing, so many of us Brits and Americans aren’t taught other languages from a young age, and therefore fall far behind the linguistic skills of people from other countries. We find this lack of education a bit embarrassing when we’re abroad, which is why we always try and learn a bit before we go. We’re the last people to expect locals to talk to us in English, it’s our job as visitors to make an effort to communicate in their language! And it’s also fun.

      It’s interesting that you say they’re really welcoming to ‘gringos’. This really was not our experience at all, and although we were only there for 2 weeks (which we acknowledge in the post) this is a travel blog, and all about our honest impressions, wherever we may be in the world. I can’t write about an experience that we didn’t have. As for the ‘luxury’, that term doesn’t just mean golden bath taps and Egyptian cotton. It’s also about luxury of experience, the beauty of the surroundings and the level of service (which doesn’t have to be 5*, just decent). We stayed in some gorgeous places in Paraty, and have no issue with the environment. It was simply all about very poor communication, which to us isn’t acceptable in any country, at any level of establishment, from hostel to palace. (If you read our post about Mauritius you’ll see we didn’t fall in love with it either!).
      Hope you enjoy your trip to Brazil, and that it goes smoother than ours. It certainly is a gorgeous country and perhaps one day we’ll give it another try.

  • Filipe says:

    Dear Heather, I am sorry you didn’t have a good time in Brazil. From your post, I feel like you actually got pretty unlucky. Brazilians are usually extremely nice to foreigners – in fact, nicer than they are towards Brazilians. However, I do have to say I’m a little disappointed to read some sentences that sound extremely disrespectful towards Brazilians. “If they were any more laid back they’d fall over”, “I guess they share the same Portuguese history so that’s not surprising” and “it’s not us, it’s you” are definitely not the kind of thing one should say about places and people they really don’t know about. You’re telling your own experience and by all means that is absolutely fine. But as a Brazilian I felt somewhat offended by what you wrote. You can’t take your 2 weeks experience in a country and state that “nothing runs smoothly there”. I don’t think you’ll ever want to come back, but if you do, I hope you have better luck so you’ll be able to fully enjoy some of the great things Brazil has to offer. Cheers!

    • Heather Cole says:

      Hi Filipe, thanks for your comment and for stopping by the blog. It’s good to share different perspectives, and reading your words, perhaps we were just incredibly unlucky (although I know of others who have had similar experiences). I am sorry that you feel offended, it was in no way my intention to do so, but can understand why you do. And I agree that 2 weeks isn’t nearly enough time to get to know a county, as I mention in my post. Yet first impressions count for such a lot. We’ve travelled all over the world, and experienced similar issues, but not constantly during the entire visit. It really made our trip stressful (like the fact we nearly missed our flight home!), and if Brazil wants to encourage repeat visitors, the customer service needs to start playing on the world stage a bit more, because at the moment it really is lagging behind. Having said that, it’s now been a year since our visit, and we’re remembering the good parts (there were plenty!) rather than the bad. We’re actually thinking that one day we WILL return and give it another go (would love to visit the Pantanal and the Amazon regions), so we’re totally open to our minds being changed.

  • Interesting post. I have always wanted to go to Brazil and I think I will still go because I really want to see the sites but I will bare in mind everything that you said. Hopefully it improves as they get more and more tourism.

    • Heather Cole says:

      You should definitely go and make up your own mind, you could have a totally different experience depending on your destinations…have a great trip, and do let us know what you think!

  • George says:

    Hey Heather!

    Sorry about your trip not being as relaxed as it should have been!
    I am brazilian and I feel that we are simply not ready to receive foreing tourists. But the funny thing is that Brazil have a multicultural society. Isn’t this strange? It should cater to people all over the world. But I think decades of poor management (politics) and education have led the country to close itself to tourism.
    By reading your post, I think most of the stress happened because there was a real lack of communication. As I said, people simply do not know how to speak english here. Let alone proper portuguese. So I can imagine how you must have felt.
    I am a world traveller. I’ve lived in Canada and Portugal and I have the chance to lots of great places. One thing that I have learned is that in some countries, having the help of a local makes everything run smoother, in my opinion. For instance, Brazil, India and Egypt are some of the countries I can think right now.

    • Heather Cole says:

      Hey George, thanks for your comment! I totally agree that communication was the main issue we encountered on our trip, it really is a game changer, and when most of the rest of the world have it spot on, it’s always surprising to come across somewhere that hasn’t quite. For us, it wasn’t a case of the lack of English (although we did struggle at times, which is a reflection on our poor language skills, not theirs), it was the unwillingness to try to communicate, and the complete disregard for schedules and reservations. It’s interesting you point out that Brazil has a multicultural society, you’d certainly think as a result the communication would be a lot better. And it’s definitely a good idea to enlist a local to help make things run a little better…next time! Thanks for stopping by!

  • Claire says:

    We’ve always found people very friendly and helpful in Brazil but we have travelled more in the north.
    Maybe the climate is one reason for the slow pace.

    Getting a reply to emails can be tricky though!

    • Heather Cole says:

      Yeah, maybe we’ll try the north some day (we’d love to go to Manaus), I know we only experienced a tiny bit of the country, but the lack or organisation just really surprised us. We’ve been to even hotter and more humid places where communication and service has been solidly impeccable so I’m not sure they can use that as an excuse. Good to know it’s not all bad though!

  • Very interesting article. I wonder how much of your experience was cultural. I was just reading an article about a immigrant and her culture shock moving to the US and it was interesting how she took some of Americans actions in ways I wouldn’t have expected.

    • Heather Cole says:

      The thing is, every new country we visit is a culture shock, and half the fun is embracing that and enjoying something new, but here it was just really off putting. I’m sure people probably say the same about visiting the UK

  • Raymond says:

    I love that line “If they were any more laid back they’d fall over.” I think I’m going to have to use that. 🙂

  • Katrina says:

    I’ve never been to Brazil, but this definitely doesn’t make me want to go! Sorry your experience was so unfriendly, honestly some countries are just like that. At least the sights were nice!

    • Heather Cole says:

      I think as long as you go expecting this, you’ll probably enjoy it more than we did in our ignorance.

    • Jasmine says:

      Such a shame this post is putting people off travelling to Brazil, it’s an amazing country with beautiful nature, rich culture and friendly people! Some of the friendliest I have ever met and I am British, travelling here for one month in all the same places you have been. Of course if you come to the country as a gringo, expect everyone to speak English and do things exactly how you would at home, you are going to be disappointed. Travelling is about opening yourself up to new experiences, expecting the unexpected, and “going with the flow” as it were, as well as trying to immerse yourself in a different way of life. Trying to cram a country like Brazil into a two week organised trip all planned to the second while sticking to your British rhythm is not going to give you an authentic, relaxed or fulfilling experience, as this country does not cater for mass foreign tourism, but this is part of the beauty of it. And if you make little effort to integrate with the local people or speak their language you will not be received as well. Next time ditch the fixed itinerary, figure out a rough plan of what you want to do but stay flexible and don’t worry about booking things in advance, talk to and listen to other travellers and locals about the area and what you should do there, and enjoy each day as it comes instead of worrying about a response to an email. And learn some Spanish/Portuguese before you go! Even if it’s just a few phrases it gets you off on the right foot. Hope you can go again and enjoy from a different perspective!

      • Heather Cole says:

        Hi Jasmine, it is indeed an amazing country, with some incredible sights, and as we’ve already said, we will return someday to see more of the country and its beautiful landscapes. I’m glad you had such a great experience yourself, and I’m sure many others have too. I would like to respond to a couple of your comments, as I feel perhaps you haven’t actually read the post or other comments above. We are certainly not the sort of people to expect everyone to speak English, and always try to learn some local lingo (and I do speak Spanish at a basic level), so please don’t tar us with that brush. We do interact with locals, but if they don’t want to even make eye contact with us, how the hell are we supposed to do that? And we never expect things to be the same as at home (otherwise what’s the point of travelling), BUT if we’re paying good money for a service, we don’t expect it to fall far short of everywhere else we’ve been in the world (and that’s quite a few places). Frankly, it was simply poor service, whether it had anything to do with the culture or not. Further, I’m glad you had the luxury of being able to travel for a whole month, you must have seen and done a lot. We both have full time jobs so having 2 weeks out there was a luxury to us, maybe one day we’ll be able to have longer trips, but for now we make the best use of our annual leave that we can. And we’d certainly never say we ‘know’ a place having only been there 2 weeks. Which is also mentioned in the post. However, it is important to have an itinerary when travelling for only a short time…we don’t want to waste time trying to organise things when we’re out there, and having the stress of not knowing if we’ll be able to. Time is precious, for us at least, and for all the other part-time travellers out there. Anyway, it’s all been said before, so I’m not going to keep repeating myself. Everyone is different (thank goodness) and I’m truly glad your perspective on Brazil is different from ours!

  • Samantha says:

    So sorry your experience wasn’t as you had exactly planned! I’d love to visit Brazil but your story isn’t the first I have heard about their service and “slow way of life”. It is kind of off-putting in a way…

    • Heather Cole says:

      If I’d have known beforehand I probably would have gone somewhere else to be honest, but I’m glad I didn’t know, because despite all this, it is a beautiful place!

  • Frank says:

    Actually this was back before we started travelling full-time. We were travelling like you back then (and had never heard of Airbnb at the time). $260/night was way more than I enjoyed paying for a room but with the security concerns in Rio I wanted to be on the safe side. But I hate nickel and diming on the little things, if I’m paying that kind of money don’t treat me like crap or charge me exorbitant amounts for stuff like laundry…

    Frank

  • Jess P says:

    I’ve heard so many mixed views of Brazil, can’t make up my mind whether to go or not. Seems to be a bit of a love or hate thing going on and nothing in between. Looks beautiful though, so maybe worth going just for that. Thanks for another great read.

  • Frank says:

    Thanks so much for the mention Heather. Actually you bring back another memory.
    So we’re in this $260/night hotel on Ipanema. Staff is horrible, as unfriendly and useless as fuck. We want to get some laundry done, a bag load. After all, we’ve been there 5 nights. So you figure out how much we’ve been paying at this hotel. Guy gives me a form to fill out. It’s a laundry form, asking me to itemized every item: pants, shorts, socks, underwear…”Can’t you have it put in the washer and the dryer” I asked him, “We just want it washed, it doesn’t even have to be folded”. No not possible. I look at the costs: $5 for a pair of pants, $3 for a shirt, $2 for underwear. “Screw it, let’s find a laundromat” I tell Lissette, “I’m not going to pay $100 to get a load of laundry done”. We walked out of the Sol Ipanema with a garbage bag of laundry slung over my shoulder and the guy behind the desk has the nerve to give me a dirty look. We walk down the street looking for a laundromat. Lissette had thought she had seen one before. No laundromat. I ask a couple of people and get the usual offhanded mutter basically saying they don’t know/just don’t care. I’m getting pissed off, it’s hot and I’m carrying a black plastic garbage bag that’s sticking to me. Half an hour we walk around, looking and asking people. Not one damn laundromat, not one helpful person who can guide us the right way (and between our English/Spanish and an obvious laundry bag people are understanding us, so it’s not a matter of not understanding).
    We ended up back at the hotel and just decided that we’d do our washing by hand using shampoo. We had a strap that we slung across the room and used that to dry. There’s no way I was going to give that hotel another cent. I was pissed off to shit having wasted a couple of hours of the day just trying to do laundry.

    Anyway, just a typical day in Rio for us. I’m sorry you didn’t enjoy Brazil but at the same time I’m glad to see that it’s not just us – there’s more to it than just us. So love the title and glad you had the nerve to say it as it was for you.

    Frank (bbqboy)

    • Heather Cole says:

      Wow, that’s a whole lotta effort just to fail getting your laundry done. ‘Unhelpful’ really does seem to be the core of existence doesn’t it. We often just do our washing in the bathroom sink (and even take washing liquid and a plug – one size doesn’t fit all by the way) but then we’re not slow travellers like you and so can cope without being squeaky clean for a couple of weeks. Think it always gives the housekeepers a bit of a shock though, leaving our rooms looking like certain east asian laundries. Makes me miss SE Asia where laundry is so cheap, even your pants come back ironed, and each item has a coloured thread in it to ensure nothing gets mixed up. They really know how to do service over there!

      Anyway, it’s a shame you didn’t have a great time either, but glad it’s not just us, and of course you can’t win ’em all.

    • George says:

      Hey Frank, I’ve just saw your comment now. It has been a few months but I think I might try to explain it to you.

      “I ask a couple of people and get the usual offhanded mutter basically saying they don’t know/just don’t care.” – What happens is that brazillian people simply don’t know how to understand english. Specially people on the street. Working class people. Yeap. I know it’s 2016 but this simply don’t happen here. They simply don’t know what you are asking.
      The second thing you have to take into consideration is that we, as brazillians, are genuinely afraid of random people calling us on street. I feel that as safety measure, we tend to immerse ourselves into whatever layer of security we can find whenever we are “exposed”, like walking in a crowd or in the metro.
      Let’s say that I am walking in the streets and some random guy approached me talking in a different language (finnish, for instance) holding a black garbage bag. My survivor mode would trigger immediately and I would try to look this at guy in the eyes and pay attention to what he is saying, but the other part of me would be prepared to run away from this possible “dangerous situation”. Being robbed or killed or scammed are possibilities that may happen in the streets, right? So people may have perceived your need for help as a threat.

      About the “laundromat situation”. It is simply not an option in Brazil. In most brazilian homes there is a proper sink that you can wash your clothes. We called it “service area” which is the place that you store the products that you use to clean your house. It is something that every brazillian house possess. People with more money have this proper sink with a automatic washer/dryer. So for us, it is uncommon to go out home to wash clothes. A few small companies tried to bring this idea here, trying to copycat the american laundromat places/stores, but it did not happen at all. This is something that most tourist are not aware, because it is part of the daily living.

      • Heather Cole says:

        Interesting what you say about washing machines George, I think like Frank I would have thought a laundry wouldn’t be difficult to find, since that’s what we’re used to elsewhere in the world. I guess there aren’t enough expats around to make it worthwhile anyone setting up shop?!

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