March 5, 2016

This week in our continuing Foreigners Through Brazilian Eyes series we have an interview with Maggie Parra. Read on as Maggie tells us about her impressions of foreigners, and gives some helpful advice also.

1. Where are you from in Brazil and what do you do?

I am from São Paulo. I have worked as a bilingual executive secretary for 38 years working mainly with expatriates. I have also a degree in Psychology.

2. What are the main obstacles for foreigners in Brazil?

Number 1 always – the language. The huge amount of red tape also may pose a frustrating experience for most foreigners.

3. What are common mistakes that foreigners make in Brazil?

Some do not try to research about the culture of the country they are going to live in, which may prove to be annoying for them when living here. Another issue is to believe in what friends say about the country without checking the story. Once I had to drag an English gentleman, who lost his wallet, to a police station to file a report. He was freaking out since his best friend told him he might be be arrested (since his work permit was being processed), and also that the police are totally corrupt and he could be fined for no reason… LOL. Eventually, he understood my arguments and he finally had his "B.O" in hands to get new documents i.e. temporary foreigners ID card, drivers license, etc.

4. What characteristic of other nationalities strikes you as the most different (eg. sense of humour, formality, dress)?

British and Asians are very formal. On the other hand, French, Dutch, Italians are the least formal and mostly with a great sense of humor.

5. Which English accent do you prefer and why (eg. Scottish, American, Australian)?

Since Ive lived in the US, I prefer the American one.

6. Favourite place travelled abroad and why?

Barbados. It’s a beautiful tiny island with marvelous beaches hwith awesome sunsets. The locals are extremely welcoming and helpful. It’s also a place where you can mingle with a great variety of nationalities.

7. Favourite foreign food?

Mexican and Italian.

8. Favourite foreign band, book and movie?

Band = Rolling Stones & Alan Parsons Project. Book = Conversations with Morrie. Movie = City of Joy.

9. What is the difference between dating a Brazilian and Foreigner (if this applies to you or perhaps a friend)?

Dating a Brazilian is like driving a new car for the first time – it is hard to find the right buttons (ha, ha). There are exceptions, of course! The foreigner, on the other hand, usually is more attentive and more respectful, he tries to understand our culture and adapt to it and does not take the relationship for granted.

10. Can you share an incident, misunderstanding or culture shock that you have experienced with a foreigner?

When working at a British company, there was a scheduled visit of the British Consul and his aides, which demanded a lot of planning for the meeting arrangements. Everything was completed to the tiniest detail. When introducing him to the employees, I was the last one. When I was greeting him as formally as the situation demanded, my boss "poked" me and said rudely "Come on, give him your hand!". I was shocked at first and tried to sheepishly smile when shaking the visitor’s hand. Later on, an Irish manager, who noticed how bad I felt tried to explain the boss "culture" and the "why" he acted like that. I managed to say thanks and left. Honestly, it is not fun to be treated like a second class citizen…

11. What are 2 things you would recommend for a visitor to do in Brazil to better understand Brazilian people and their culture?

Learn a bit of Portuguese, although everybody in Brazil say they speak English, when looking for directions you will see that it is isn’t exactly true. Bear in mind that punctuality is not the best Brazilian distinguished quality, so do not get upset when a meeting, dinner party do not start at the set time. Go with the flow and enjoy it.

If you are Brazilian, or know a Brazilian, who has traveled abroad or has considerable experience with different nationalities here in Brazil, we would like to hear from you. Please send an email with contact details and a brief description of yourself to


By Marilyn Diggs
March 5, 2016

In February, while revelers in Brazil delighted in carnival delirium, the Chinese had their own celebrating to do. This year the Chinese New Year arrived on February 8th. The very day samba schools were shimmering down Av. Marques de Sapuca in Rio, the Chinese were welcoming in the Year of the Monkey with firecrackers, drums, red lanterns and of course, dragons on parade. Based on the Chinese lunar calendar, New Years Day can fall any time between January 21st and February 20th. Also known as the Spring Festival, it is the most important traditional celebration of the year.

A Festival for Family, Food and Fun
The two main reasons for the festival are to wish for a lucky and prosperous upcoming year, and also to commemorate accomplishments, rest up and relax with family. Besides wearing new clothes, decorating with red and shooting off fireworks, one of the main traditional ways to bring in the New Year is eating a "reunion dinner" with family. This smacks of our Thanksgiving meal, where family members try their best to reunite and savor the feast together.

P.F. Changs, the internationally-renowned Asian cuisine restaurant, is the official sponsor of events that focus on the Chinese New Year in Brazil. If you missed the dancing dragon and drums in its front entrance, dont fret. Until April 8th you can partake of P.F. Changs special Chinese New Years Menu, consisting of eight recipes to bring you luck in 2016.

Spicy Firecracker Chicken symbolizes firecrackers used in a ritual to scare away evil spirits and open the door to fortune. Crab Wontons are in the shape of ancient coins and symbolize prosperity and a new start. They are served with chives for protection, and plum sauce for long life, youth and beauty. Continue with seafood, which brings abundance and prosperity. Since shrimp brings happiness Ma La Shrimp is a perfect choice. The Apple Crunch dessert helps new opportunities arrive to you. Just decide what you desire and choose the delectable dish symbolizing your wish for vitality, protection, communication skills, spiritual cleaning, happiness, good health, mind expansion, love, harmony, power, long life or even an aphrodisiac. Choosing the dish is half the fun and you cant go wrong because they are all winners.

If you still want more, request a red piece of paper (representing fire), then write your wish with black ink (representing water) and tie it onto the "Tree of Wishes" (a.k.a. decorative room partitions inside the restaurant). At the end of the Year of the Monkey, P.F. Changs will host a ceremony in which a Buddhist monk will bless the notes before burning them so they can be received by the universe and granted.

The Chinese New Year is a Season of Superstitions – Taboos
These measures will be especially helpful for those who were born in former Years of the Monkey (1944, 1956, 1968, 1980, 1992, 2004, etc.), washed your hair on Feb. 8th, and/or cleaned your house on Feb. 8th and 9th. It also goes for those who before Feb. 15th did not pray in a temple, asked for a loan, allowed your child to cry, did not have a girl/boyfriend and/or did not wear red underwear. It certainly makes the American tradition of eating black-eyed peas on New Years Day for good luck, seem trivial, doesnt it?

These dishes and wishes activity will be available at the four restaurants located in Rio de Janeiro and São Paulo state: Av. Juscelino Kubitschek, 627 in Vila Nova Conceio, S.P. city; Alphaville and Campinas. Until April 8.

Further information:

Marilyn Diggs is an American living in Brazil for over twenty-five years. She is a freelance writer, artist, lecturer and author of nine books – two about Brazilian art history. As an art reporter and travel writer she has written for the Miami Herald and Museum International (a UNESCO publication) as well as newspapers and inflight magazines. Marilyn has a degree in Latin American Studies and is often contracted by intercultural training services to give talks on expat challenges.

By Pedro Souza, Staff Writer
March 5, 2016

Brazil is a country with a very rich folklore. Originally inhabited by hunter-gatherer tribes, the national mythology and folklore is still imbued with tales that have been passed down generation after generation from ancient times. When settlers came, the tales and myths of Europeans and Africans mingled with the native mythology to create a unique folklore that is ingrained in the culture of Brazil. As an introduction to Brazilian folklore, we have prepared this guide.

Saci Perer: Probably the most recognizable Brazilian myth, the Saci Perer has been depicted in countless movies, cartoons, comics and other forms of media. The Saci even has a national day, which is the 31st October. No one knows exactly the origins of the myth, but experts believe that it originated from the indigenous people of the south of the country, migrating later to the north. In the north, the myth of Saci was strongly shaped by African influences. Nowadays, he is depicted as a one-legged black boy that wears a red cap and is always smoking a pipe. According to legend, he rides around on dust devils and enjoys playing tricks such as letting animals loose, misplacing things and tying knots in manes and hairs. Supposedly, an offering of cachaa or tobacco pipe can stop his antics. Despite his liking for pranks, he is also said to be a connoisseur of forest herbs, and in some places it is said that one should ask the Saci for permission before collecting herbs. Folks also say that if the Saci decides to chase you, you can escape by crossing a stream, as water makes him lose his power.

Curupira: Another staple of Brazilian folklore, the Curupira is a mythical creature with European and West African influences. According to the legend, the Curupira is a red-haired dwarf with his feet turned backwards that inhabits the forests of Brazil. In most versions of the myth, he rides around on a pig and makes a high-pitched whistling sound, which can drive his victims to madness. He is said to be a guardian of the forest, preying on hunters that take more than what they need. He confuses his victims by placing traps and confusing them by leaving tracks with his backwards feet. Legend goes that if being chased by a Curupira, one should leave a tied knot in a vine, which will distract him. In some places, hunters asked the Curupira for permission before going out hunting.

Boto Cor-de-rosa: The Boto Cor-de rosa is a cetacean found in the Amazon river and known in english as the Amazon river dolphin. According to the folklore of the North of Brazil, the Boto has the power of transforming himself into an attractive human male. Legend says he joins the "Festa Junina" (June parties) disguised as a human male wearing a hat to hide the hole on top of his head. In this form, he is said to seduce and make love to women, disappearing into the waters when morning comes. This is why in some parts of Brazil people will call a child with no father a "child of the boto".

By Pedro Souza, Staff Writer
March 5, 2016

Every country has its own sayings, which pass down from generation from generation. You never know where they come from, but you are always familiar with the ones from your country. Sayings say a lot about the culture from where they originate, and from the mindset of its inhabitants. Below, we have compiled and explained some traditional Brazilian sayings you might hear over here. They may not be unique to Brazil, but might have a Brazilian twist.

De cavalo dado no se olha os dentes (you don’t look at the teeth of a horse that is given to you): One of the most common Brazilian sayings, this one is about gratitude. You might hear someone reprimanding a person who complained about a present with this saying, or someone might say it in a resigned tone after receiving a bad present. In Brazil, gift giving is part of the local culture. Complaining about a gift however, is perceived as a rude behavior.

Ladro endinheirado no more enforcado (A rich thief is never hanged): Sadly, this one says a lot about Brazil. It is a criticism of the privileges and differentiated treatment that those with money receive here. All one needs to do to understand it is look at the news here, where rich people constantly get away with serious crimes while those less fortunate crowd our prisons.

Seja dono da sua boca para no ser escravo das suas palavras (Be the owner of your mouth so you don’t become the slave of your words): Those who don’t watch what they say might become compromised by what comes out of their mouths. This is a warning against those that fall prey to their own words.

<strong>Quando a cabea no pensa o corpo padece</strong> (When the head doesn’t think, the body withers): A warning against intellectual stagnation, which can be the cause of mental and physical decay.

Deus ajuda quem cedo madruga (God helps those who wake up early): Another very common saying, it is a praise of hard work and diligence.

A palavra de prata, o silencio de ouro (Words are made of silver, silence is made of gold): Words have their worth but not as much as silence, at least according to this saying.

A duvida o travesseiro do sabio (Doubt is the wise man’s pillow): A call for questioning things like the wise do.

A ocasio faz o ladro (The occasion makes the thief): According to this saying one does not do bad things because he was born bad, but because the circumstances have pushed him towards doing these things.

aguas passadas no movem moinhos (Waters from the past move no windmills): What is gone is gone, and cannot do anything for you anymore. This is all there is to it.

De grão em grão a galinha enche o papo (Grain by grain, the chicken fills its stomach):Little by little, one can accomplish great things. This is what is being expressed in these words.

dando que se recebe (It is by giving that you receive): A call against stinginess and for generosity.

Na pratica, a teoria outra (In practice, the theory is another): As this saying cleverly expresses, things may work in a different way than we think that they do.

Quem no tem co caa com gato (Those who don’t have a dog hunt with a cat): If you don’t have what you need to accomplish something, you can improvise and use something else.

Rico bebe para comemorar, o pobre para no chorar (The rich one drinks to celebrate, while the poor drinks so he doesn’t cry): In a country with such high inequality, the poor have it hard while the rich have it too easy. This situation finds expression in many sayings such as this one.

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