November 15, 2007

This is our regular column called Ask a Brazilian”, the idea being that you can quite literally ask a question of a Brazilian for those issues you aren’t sure about but perhaps dare not ask someone else. It is meant as a bit of fun and answers should not be construed as expert opinion or the definitive reply on the matter. For that reason we ask you to please send comments and experiences in order to add to our replies.

Most questions I have had, have been covered in this section. But one still puzzles me. Picking Your teeth. This is no big deal, certainly in western Europe and certainly in the UK, in normal society any, you can pick your teeth openly, maybe not in high society. Here in Brazil it seems to be an art form involving both hands to cover the mouth. People are obviously picking there teeth so what’s the reason.

All the best


Oi, John

First of all I’m glad most of your doubts have been covered in this section. But now let’s try to answer this one.

I know for sure that picking teeth is considered bad manners in Brazil, really bad and that’s why you see people trying to hide it from others even if, as you well said, it’s obvious to anyone what they’re doing.

You’ve mentioned the rest of the world and I did some research. From what I’ve read picking teeth was a rule of manner from early Renaissance! Or we could say since when table manners didn’t seem to exist at all there were a few rules of etiquette that were expected of diners, such as:

No spitting across the table.
No dipping meat directly into the salt dish.
No picking ones teeth with a finger or knife.

Fair enough, aren’t they?

John, again, thanks for being here.

Volta sempre,

Are there any burning questions you have about Brazil, or other issues that you’re curious about, such as Brazilian culture? If so, send your questions to with “Ask a Brazilian” in the subject. We will forward to our Brazilian experts, and publish the best questions (and replies) on the site.

Previous questions in this article series:

Ask a Brazilian: Lozenge or Candy?
Ask a Brazilian: Liberal or Jealous?
Ask a Brazilian: Truck Wheels
Ask a Brazilian: Tolerance
Ask a Brazilian: Screens
Ask a Brazilian: Brazilian Wax
Ask a Brazilian: Flashing Lights
Ask a Brazilian: Lemon and Limes
Ask a Brazilian: Shocking Showers

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