Brazlian Culture, Rio and Carnival, Oh My!

After exploring São Paulo and Rio, I find myself to be overwhelmingly, yet pleasantly surprised.  This whirlwind included a visit to the Museu de Arte de São Paulo, block parties and nightlife of Carnival, gazing over Rio de Janeiro from Christ the Redeemer and so much more.  From these initial weeks, I’ve learned how to be friendly, what Brazil has to offer foreigners, and why São Paulo is the actually the city that never sleeps (at least during Carnival).

Brazilian Culture

If you haven’t heard it yet, Brazilian are some of the most friendly people you will encounter.  Aside from the ones who stare when our group speaks in English, I couldn’t agree more.  Here, you can walk up to any stranger and ask a question, ask for advice, or ask for directions when you get lost on your run in São Paulo for an hour and a half.  The genuine caring nature of a Brazilian always shines through during moments like these, and I can’t help but appreciate being here more because of it.  By default, I’ve also learned to share from the Brazilians- someone keeps stealing my food. However, this is the least of my worries! I am too distracted by my surroundings and everything there is to do and see here.

Sugarloaf Mountain
View of Rio de Janeiro from Tijuca National Park. Sugarloaf Mountain is on the right of the photo.

Rio de Janeiro

It tops my list of cities to see by a landslide.  Everyone should experience Rio at least once. Surrounded by overwhelmingly massive rocks and beautiful beaches, the city that lies below Christ is filled with rich culture, intricate buildings and structures, and lively habitants.

As the proud-to-be typical tourist, a visit to Christ the Redeemer was the first on my mind.  My high expectations were blown out of the water once I made it to the top.    The 360-degree view of the city is more than breathtaking, and the massive structure of Christ leaves a person speechless.  Undoubtedly, it is a landmark and view that has left quite a mark on my heart.

Escadaria Selarón
Escadaria Selarón is a famous 250-step stairway that is covered in over 2,000 pieces of tile, mirror and other miscellaneous materials.  The artist, Jorge Selarón created it as a tribute to his country.

Even after my descent from Christ, the head-in-the-clouds feeling still lingered as I continued to explore the city, squishing my toes in the delicate sand of Copacabana beach, hiking to see different views of the rugged beauty of Sugarloaf Mountain, and finding the hidden treasures in Rio like Escadaria Selarón.  It gave me the feeling that Rio was truly the City of God- divinely made, impossible to forget.


Basically my 10th birthday party- except with more elaborate costumes, less clothing, more alcohol, better food, gigantic floats, confetti everywhere, and I invited the entire country of Brazil to come.  I believe that Carnival follows two rules: 1) there are no rules, and 2) bigger is ALWAYS better.  Carnival is everything you think it will be and then some. It lasts two times longer than it technically should and you sleep two times less than you probably should.  “Technically,” Carnival celebrates approximately two weeks leading up to the Christian season of Lent.  However, Carnival lasts about a month and there is nothing I found to be holy about the festivities.  Essentially, Brazilians dance on the streets with costumes and booze and chase after moving buses with bands on them.

One of the many elaborate floats from Carnival- There are typically groups of dancers in front of and behind the float in addition to the dancers on the float.

Concluding the Carnival celebrations for me was the Parade of Champions sambodrome.  It was a night filled with enormous decorated floats, energetic music, and thousands of gaudy, glittery, gorgeous samba dancers.  The endless amount of time and effort from the previous year of preparations was very apparent and very impressive.  It was big.  It was crazy. It was beautiful.

Oh My!

It’s been nearly a month already! My first few weeks here have been nothing short of phenomenal. My Portuguese improves everyday and I continue to acclimate to my new surroundings.  Now that classes have finally started, I’ll traveling less, learning more, and still having fun!

Pedra de Baú- Located on the state lines of Minas Gerais and São Paulo


  • Beijos– Kisses (used as “goodbye” informally)- Give one, two, or three of these as a greeting depending on your location
  • Onde está o banheiro?– Where is the bathroom?
  • Bem-vindo– Welcome
  • Cerveja– Beer
  • Brigadeiro– A delightfully chocolately ball of fudge popular in Brazil (also my favorite part of the Brazilian cuisine)

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