July 26, 2007

This is the first edition of our new column called Ask a Brazilian”. 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.

Here is the first question from one of our readers.

What a great idea for a column!! I read in www.gringoes.com about Brazilian showers and that live electrical wires next to the shower head can give an electrical shock while taking a shower. Is this true and if so, then why doesn’t this change? I want to visit friends in Brazil without anything shocking in their bathroom and I want to be prepared. Thanks.

Oi Marion,

That is an interesting question. It’s not very easy to answer, but we are here to help, so let’s talk about the Brazilian shower.

First of all remember we are in a tropical country, and temperatures here are high, so this kind of system, whereby water is heated as it passes through an electric coil in the shower head, would probably not work in the colder northern hemisphere.

The electrical shower head system is common in Brazil, for the simple reason that it is very cheap. You can get a basic model for around $20.00
While they might seem strange at first, you shouldn’t be afraid of them. There are very few cases of people getting serious shocks or injury from showers. Mostly if the equipment is properly installed and maintained you will never have any problems.
Showers have three electrical wires, one of them, usually yellow and green, is the earth wire, called “fio-terra”, and is responsible for conducting electricity out, avoiding any serious risk. If your shower is properly earthed then you won’t have a problem. Also the wires should be isolated and not exposed. Pay attention to that.
Also you should avoid adjusting the shower settings while the shower is switched on. Wearing flip-flops while taking a shower is also a good idea.
Also according to advice from an electrician it is difficult to be electrocuted through contact from falling water (as in the case of a shower) as the water meets the air before hitting you, which isolates electricity (maybe we could get some confirmation on this from our physics readers!!).

If you’re still afraid, come to Brazil and ask your friends to take you to the Northeast – you won’t need any electrically heated water there!!

Vanessa T. Bauer

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

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