February 20, 2013

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 your own comments and experiences in order to add to our replies.

Why don’t Brazilian cover their mouths when yawning… it is so unpleasant to see someone with their ‘pie hole’ wide open and I have to look the other way so as not to see the inside of their mouths.

— Robert

Hi Robert,

I have found that many Brazilians do not have as good habits as the average American has. In Brazil you can see people sneezing and coughing without covering their faces.

It is really a cultural issue, and less to do with politeness. Sometimes it impresses me in a bad way to see educated people in Brazil doing the same. Nevertheless, you will see some more educated people covering their mouths when sneezing, yawning and coughing.

Although it is not all Brazilians, I think it is part of a certain disregard to the others close to you, which is, in part cultural.


Our Brazilian-You-Can-Ask is Teresa Cristina Asfour, a graduate in Computer Science and Post-Graduate in Project Management. She lived for 12 years in the USA working for a multinational IT company, and now lives in Brasilia – DF, working for the federal government. She can be reached by email at tecris@hotmail.com.

And an alternative response:

Brazilians do have some strange habits and this one is just part of a wide array of behaviors that seem to have no apparent reason but date back from the 17th century when many latin europeans – especially the portuguese – immigrated to the country.

The process started with the transference of the Portuguese Court to Brazil in 1808 – escaping from the Napoleonic invasion – that brought about 15,000 nobles to Brazil only in first months.

Different from the anglo-saxon tradition, the portuguese nobility did not see Work as a noble thing and being a lazy person with careless behavior was fashionable by that time. As a noble you would have many servants to do all the job and even Dom Joao VI, the emperor of Portugal who left his son in Brazil to be our first emperor was famous for his disgusting habits like keeping baked chicken inside his pockets.

Although most followers of the crown returned to Portugal after 1820 many brazilians were influenced by the laid-back style of the court which became widespread till nowadays.


Our Brazilian-You-Can-Ask is Rodrigo, the Academic Director of

Previous articles in this series:

Ask a Brazilian: Meu Amor
Ask a Brazilian: Tourism and Gestures
Ask a Brazilian: Hotels and Missed Dates
Ask a Brazilian: Couples and Separate Rooms
Ask a Brazilian: São Paulo Safety
Ask a Brazilian: Jealousy
Ask a Brazilian: Nails and Spanish
Ask a Brazilian: Tipping
Ask a Brazilian: UK Visa Issues
Ask a Brazilian: Gossip
Ask a Brazilian: Real Estate Scam
Ask a Brazilian: Lacking Change and I Touch Myself
Ask a Brazilian: Tampons
Ask a Brazilian: A Brazilian CV
Ask a Brazilian: Gender Stereotypes
Ask a Brazilian: Answering a Question
Ask a Brazilian: Revoked Visa
Ask a Brazilian: Pedestrian Problems
Ask a Brazilian: Trash
Ask a Brazilian: Tiles
Ask a Brazilian: Headlights
Ask a Brazilian: Differences and Love
Ask a Brazilian: What Do the Police Do?
Ask a Brazilian: Contractor Frustrations
Ask a Brazilian: English Books and Brazilian Boys
Ask a Brazilian: Cold Cahaca
Ask a Brazilian: Interruptions
Ask a Brazilian: Travel and Security Concerns
Ask a Brazilian: Gestures and Toys
Ask a Brazilian: Hispanics or Latinos, and Duvets
Ask a Brazilian: Overbearing Sogros
Ask a Brazilian: Hotels and Bank Transfers
Ask a Brazilian: Swimming, Showers and New Year’s
Ask a Brazilian: Making Friends
Ask a Brazilian: Female Etiquette
Ask a Brazilian: Washing Machines
Ask a Brazilian: Picking Teeth
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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