By Pedro Souza
December 27th, 2016

If you are planning on living in Brazil, it is essential that you understand how the healthcare system works here. The country offers a free Unified Health System funded by the government and known locally as SUS (Sistema Ùnico de Saúde). Hospitals that are covered by this system are known as municipal hospitals. Both Brazilians and foreigners can get access to the services offered by these hospitals by showing an ID and a SUS card (Cartão SUS), which is issued by all Brazilian municipal offices, health centers, hospitals and clinics. You can also order one online at this link.

While the healthcare offered by SUS is decent, it has its share of problems, and for many foreigners it will not be able to meet their standards. Municipal hospitals are good at dealing with emergencies, but when it comes to nursing care, they leave a lot to be desired. This is particularly true in areas away from urban centers. They are also often crowded, which means that you might have to deal with long waits.

If you don’t wish to make use of the healthcare offered by the government, you can opt for the private sector. If you intend to do this, you can choose between a health plan (plano de saúde) or health insurance (seguro de saúde). A health plan is restricted to a certain geographic region, while health insurances usually cover medical care in the whole country. Health plans are usually more expensive, but unlike health insurance it covers all of your costs. Another difference is that health insurance also offers more choices of doctors.

In order to apply for either of these forms of insurance you need to have your passport, a local ID and a CPF, which is a taxpayer registry number. If you attempt to be treated at a private hospital without being insured, they might ask you to make a large deposit before being treated. If you are insured however, the hospital will usually contact your insurance company, which will then pay it directly. If your bill is higher than your health plan can cover, you have to pay the balance before being discharged by the hospital.

Before getting a health insurance, you should check its terms and conditions, which can vary a lot. Some companies for example, might require you to pay the hospital directly and then obtain reimbursement from them. Others do not cover chronic or pre-existing medical conditions. By being aware of the policies of the company from which you plan to buy insurance, you might avoid unpleasant surprises.

Another thing you should be aware of is that the Ministry of Social Welfare (Ministério da Previdência Social) has benefits available for foreigners as well. These benefits include maternity benefit, sickness or injury benefit, invalidity benefit, unemployment benefit and survivor benefit. In order to qualify for the benefits, you need make a certain number of contributions that the ministry requires, as well as having a valid work permit.

bankaccount222By Pedro Souza
October 30th, 2016

If you are planning on living in Brazil, you will probably need to have a bank account here. Opening a bank account in Brazil can be tricky because banks are free to create their own interpretation of policies and rules. That being said, the process is straightforward.

First you need to decide in which bank you want to open an account. Caixa Economica Federal and Banco do Brazil are two government-owned banks that are among the largest banks in Brazil. Other banks that have a strong presence in Brazil are Itaú, Bradesco and Santander. Bradesco however, only allows permanent residents to open a bank account there. One can also open a bank account on Citibank or HSBC. Although these last two have less branches than the others mentioned, they are more used to dealing with foreigners.

Once you have decided which bank you want to open an account in, you need to gather the required documentation. You need to have a permanent or a temporary visa. A tourist visa however, is not accepted, and the duration of your stay needs to be at least one year. You also need to have your passport, the RNE protocol that you received when you registered at the Federal Police and your CPF number, which is your tax ID. Finally, bring a proof of residence such as an electricity bill and a proof of income if you are opening a salary payment account.

With all the necessary documents in hand, go to the nearest branch of the bank of choice and request an account. If you want to open a current account, you should ask for “conta corrente”. For a savings account, ask for a “conta de poupança”. If you have a job in Brazil, you can also get benefits such as lower fees in transactions by opening a salary payment account, known as “conta salário”.

During the process, expect to answer many questions and sign a lot of documents. At this stage, you might experience some problems because most bank workers do not speak english, or speak very poor english. You might consider bringing a translator to help you with this process. Once you are done with the bureaucracy, you finally have your bank account. Congratulations! Now you are eligible to use the banking services of the bank of your choice.

By Pedro Souza, Staff Writer
April 5, 2016

CPF250b

If you intend to live in Brazil, you will need to get a CPF (Cadastro de Pessoas Físicas) among other documents. The CPF is used by the Receita Federal, which is the Brazilian Tax Authority, in order to store information about citizens in a database. You will need a CPF number in order to buy pretty much everything beyond basic items. When buying a car, a house, a plane ticket or when opening a bank account, your CPF number will be requested.

In order to get a CPF number, you first need to fill out an online form, which can be found at this link:http://www.receita.fazenda.gov.br/Aplicacoes/Atcta/cpfEstrangeiro/Fcpf.asp. Unfortunately, the form is available only in Portuguese, but this obstacle can be overcome with the help of a Brazilian or using Google Translate. When you are done filling the form for your application, print it out and take it to a bank or post office so you can pay for your CPF. It is recommended to do it in a post office, as the lines are shorter and the process is simpler.

When going to the bank or post office, remember to bring a passport and a proof of residence. Once there, you will be asked a bunch of questions. After answering them and paying R$5.70, you will be given a yellow receipt. Next, you should bring both your passport and the yellow receipt to the Receita Federal, where your CPF will be issued. Once there, you have to take a password and wait for your number to be called. The wait is quite lengthy, and can take up to a few hours in some cases, so it is recommended to bring a book or some other reading material to make the process less boring. Once your number is called, tell the attendant that you want your CPF number. They will ask for your passport and yellow receipt. If you have both of them, your number will be issued and given to you. Now that you finished the process you have your own CPF number. Congratulations, and enjoy your stay!

You can contact Pedro via pedro@gringoes.com.

Botecos250

By Pedro Souza, Staff Writer
April 5, 2016

Brazilians have a reputation as a merry and easygoing people. These characteristics manifest themselves in many aspects of Brazilian culture, from parties and celebrations to Brazilian music and art. They are also very evident in the famous "botecos", unpretentious bars that have become one of the main staples of Brazilian social life.

Botecos started as dry good stores where people occasionally stopped for a beer, developing soon into low-end bars. Nowadays, they come in all shapes and prices, and are enjoyed by people from all generations and social classes. Throughout the cities, you can expect to see botecos in almost every corner, with tables and chairs out in the streets where people sit in groups or by themselves. Some go there to have a full meal, some just want a coffee and a snack. Others gather there with their friends to socialize over a cold beer and fried appetizers.

Nowadays, one of the most common places to socialize is the boteco. When going to one, expect to drink ice-cold pilsner beers such as Antartica, Bohemia, Itaipava or Skol, which are close in taste to North American beers. Brazilians will not ask for individual beers, but will buy one liter bottles known as "litrão" (big liter) and share them amongst the table, so the beer goes down quickly and doesn‘t get warm. Bottles are served inside a "camizinha", a plastic insulator that keeps it cold.

Apart from the beer, you can also spice things up by ordering individual liquor shots or drinks. The most sought-after liquor in botecos is cachaça, a sugar cane based liquor that is as delicious as it is strong. Some foreigners do not like cachaça at first, but like whiskey, it is an acquired taste. Another common drink is the caipirinha, a mix of cachaça, sugar and fruits.

Snacks will come in all shapes and sizes, but plates of fritters are a favorite. French fries, fried yucca, "coxinhas" (shredded chicken meat and catupiry cheese fried in batter), croquettes, "linguiças" (spicy sausages), fried gorgonzola cheese or pieces of "picanha" (a meat cut) are some of the best. While these are all delicious snacks on their own, they go down really well with cold beer and the merry company of friends.

One thing foreigners should be aware of is the payment method used at botecos. When arriving, your table will be given a "comanda", which is a slip of paper that keeps track of the orders. Whenever someone makes an order, it is written there. When leaving, the comanda is then brought to the register and the customers sort out how they are going to pay. When going to a boteco, always remember to not lose your comanda.

With these things in mind, you are now ready for the "boteco experience". If you enjoy a good bar, you will soon become fond of spending an afternoon at a boteco sharing beers, fritters and good times with your friends. Maybe all you want is to sit at a table in the street eating your lunch as you watch people passing by. Whatever rocks your boat, I‘m sure you will enjoy our botecos!

You can contact Pedro via pedro@gringoes.com.

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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 So 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 gringoes@gringoes.com

By Pedro Souza, Staff Writer
December 12, 2015

Important Note: Although this information should be correct at the time of publishing, you should always check immigration information with your local Brazilian consulate.

After all you heard about Brazil you have decided it is finally time to pay a visit and enjoy what the country has to offer. But before you get onto the plane and set out for Brazil you should check whether you need a tourist visa. Some countries are exempt, as per this list at Wikipedia, based on recopricity. If your country is not exempt the process for tourist visa application is quite straightforward, and involves applying at your local Brazilian consulate with all the required documents and sending a filled internet application.

The first and most important document you need to bring is your passport, which shouldn’t be torn or significantly damaged. Remember that it needs to be valid for the next six months, and it should have at least two blank visa pages for the stamp. You should also bring a 5 X 5 cm photo of yourself taken within the last three months and printed in high quality paper. The photo must display a full frontal view of your face. Your expression must be neutral, and glasses and headgear aren’t allowed, except for religious purposes. Also, the photo should not be affixed to your application, and it shouldn’t have evidence that it was taped or glued anywhere. Another document that is required is your driver’s ID if you have one, so don’t forget to bring it!

Next, you should fill and print the online visa application, which can be found in the following address: scedv.serpro.gov.br. The page that will open will be in Portuguese, but you can choose a language of your liking by clicking on one of the flags on the left side of the screen. When filling out the application, you should fill all fields in it. Remember to write your full name exactly like it is in your passport. Towards the end of the process, you will be given a code number, which you should include as well. After you are done with the application, you should sign it and send it to the Brazilian consulate within 30 days.

When going to the consulate, you will be require to present a proof of your travel arrangements for the full trip. These arrangements must include a copy of an itinerary or an e-ticket with your entry and exit dates and location. If you are bringing any minors, some additional documents need to be brought for their application. These include an attached minor authorization form, a letter of consent from both parents or legal guardian, a birth certificate and a copy of both parent’s photo IDs. If that minor has a guardian, a legal proof of guardianship is required as well. All of these extra documents needed by minors have to be notarized.

After you have sent the application and gathered the necessary documents, all you need to do is go to the consulate and apply for your visa. After going through the process, you have to leave your passport at the consulate, and after a few weeks it will be returned to you with your tourist visa. Once it gets back, you are all set to visit Brazil and enjoy your stay over here.

Are you a Gringo” (foreigner) living in or travelling around Brazil with experiences you would like to write about, or with advice to offer? Are you a Brazilian who would like to explain about Brazil to foreigners, and help give advice on what to do, and where to go? Perhaps you just write a frequent blog about Brazil, and would be interested in publishing some of this on our site?

If you are interested in writing an article, or series of articles, or posting your blog content on www.gringoes.com we are interested in hearing from you! Don&rsquot;t be shy! All we ask is that the articles are focused on Brazil, will be of interest to foreigners either travelling or living here, and are written in English. If you are unsure about a topic then drop us an email or a draft article. Unfortunately we can&rsquot;t offer payment for any article, but if you offer a service or have a website we can give you a free plug within the article. Send your articles or any questions to gringoes@www.gringoes.com with “articles” in the subject.”

By Alastair Kinghorn
October 6, 2014

Known more correctly as cachaca or aguardente de cana-de-acucar, this is Brazil`s national tipple, and many an ardent fan has been toppled by this potent brew.

Distilled from sugar cane juice, traditionally in a small pot still whereas it is known as artesanal”, and sometimes sweetened, or aged in barrels, or steeped in a variety of fruits, it is much more than the main ingredient in Brazil&rsquot;s national cocktail; caipirinha.

To begin with I could not own up to the fact that I disliked the taste of pinga. It was just too much for my Brazilian drinking companions to take on board, as they obviously simply adored the stuff judging by the vast quantities that they were capable of consuming at all hours of the day. Not that all of them were alcoholics you know, but shall we say, aficionados.

Accustomed as I was to opening hours kept by public houses in Great Britain, I found it pass to say the least, that pinga is consumed by many a Brazilian workman at breakfast time on cold winter mornings. It remains my opinion to this day that alcohol should not be consumed until the sun has passed the yard arm. The afternoon should be reserved for drinking tea, and not until 5:30pm should a glass of sherry be offered.

It is said that Campari, the Italian bitter tasting vermouth, has to be tried three times before you develop an appreciation of it. I found that it took much longer than that to appreciate pinga, unless its strong fiery taste of raw sugar was heavily disguised with lime juice, refined sugar and diluted with plenty of ice.

It is in that fashion it is easy to develop a liking for pinga when it is contained within a caipirinha, and although I prefer my own mix, which uses Sagitaba cachaca, sugar syrup instead of granulated, and lime juice, instead of mashed whole fruit, there are many varieties that I have tasted that are just as delicious, including the use of caju (cashew) fruit instead of lime.

Undaunted by my earlier distaste, I continued to experiment with pinga, purely in the interest of scientific and literary research you understand. I moved on from 51 (the most popular brand), to São Fransisco, and Ypioca. Both of these produce cachaca aged in barrels and it was this “sipping” cachaca that I became fonder of, although I have to admit that it was rather more the effect that attracted me, rather than the taste, which was only slightly more palatable than the cheaper brands.

Curiosity and encouragement to experiment further, from friends and acquaintances, led me into what I would describe as a Pingeria or Cachaca emporium during a visit to Paraty. The place was literally wall to wall and floor to ceiling in the stuff! My enquiries brought further questions to be answered, “How much did I want to spend?… “Did I want a recent bottling or something more than ten years old?”.

I was astonished! Here were bottles of pinga that had price tags equivalent to those on rare bottlings of Scotch Single Malts! But would the taste be in the same league?

I wrestled with temptation to exceed the limit on my credit card and opted for a variety of miniatures, explaining my intent to the sales assistant and requesting his expertise in making a representative selection. After much haggling the price came down to R$100 for ten very small bottles. I could have stocked myself up with 51 for nearly a year!

Several days later in my kitchen at home I sat down with my son and daughter to a little experimentation.

Shot glasses were labelled, a list of subjects tallied, and we turned our backs as my son poured.

Our rules were simple;- each tasting was to be described and then given points out of ten. Once my daughter and I had sampled the first five, my son took his turn. Then we repeated the process with the final batch. Bottled water was on hand for rinsing of glasses and throats.

The subjects tasted, in order, were as follows:-

No.1 Minha Deusa, Prata, Betin MG, 40%
No.2 Claudionor, Prata, Januaria MG, 48%
No.3 Pedra Branca, Ouro, Paraty RJ, 42%
No.4 Matodentro, Ouro, Paraitinga SP, 42%
No.5 Engenho D`Ouro, Prata, Paraty RJ, 45%
No.6 Rochina, Prata, Mansa RJ, 46%
No.7 Seleta, Prata, Salinhas MG, 42%
No.8 Reserva Do Gerente, Prata, Guarapari ES, 42%
No.9 Vale Verde, Ouro, Betin MG, 40%
No.10 Boazinha, Ouro, Salinas MG, 42%

I heartily recommend spending an evening such as we had that night! It was hilarious to say the least, and although we cannot claim to be experts in the finer points of pinga, our conclusions were surprisingly similar, even if our descriptions were sometimes less than scientific!

The results were as follows:

1st – 28 points – Pedra Branca – “soft and creamy with tobacco notes”
2nd – 26 points – Vale Verde – “suave with tobacco and vanilla notes”
3rd – 22 points – Matodentro – “smooth with fruit and banana notes”
4th- 20 points – Seleta – “smooth with vanilla and olive notes”
5th – 19 points – Engenho D`Ouro – “smooth with salty notes”
6th – 18 points – Reserva Do Gerente – “dry with smoky notes”
7th – 17 points – Claudionor – “smooth with honey notes”
8th – 14 points – Boazinha – “smoky”
9th – 13 points – Minha Deusa – “smoky”
The wooden spoon with only 4 points – Rochina – “!”

I have been kind enough to omit some of the more critical remarks such as: “metallic, paraffin, cream soda, nail varnish, plasticy, harsh and raw dung”!

What, might you ask, is my opinion now of the national drink of Brazil?

Well, I certainly have a much better appreciation of the range of quality on offer, and some of it is very good indeed. However, although I would rather drink pinga on a cold rainy day than Coca Cola, in preference I would rather stick to Scotch, especially since I can safely say that I like its flavour, and I can pick up a litre of Bells for under R$40, compared to over R$200 for some of those in the list above!

We did however, sleep very well that night!

2014 Alastair Kinghorn

Alastair is an expat originally from Scotland now living in rural Southeastern Brazil close to the city of São Paulo. He has led a variety of lives since leaving school at the tender age of seventeen. In the merchant navy he spent six years travelling the world including a trip to Rio and Santos in 1971. He then tried his hand doing a series of jobs in London as;- Mini Cab driver, Fashion allocator, Warehouse manager, Meat factory worker, before deciding to become an architect. He then went north to the Scottish Highlands for the next six years. Worked there as an architect, and as skipper of a pollution control vessel on the Moray Firth. He opened a shop selling stationary and art supplies. Started an arts group with an annual exhibition, became a member of the Community Council and ran as candidate in local elections, before returning south to London in &rsquot;86; due to recession in the Highlands. Worked in commercial architects practices in London during the ‘Yuppie’ years, before yet another recession hit the construction industry. Entered Local Government as an Estate Surveyor for Westminster City Council, then as Technical Manager for Camden and finally Repair Centre Manager for Greenwich. Took early retirement in 2006 and emigrated here to Brazil. Settled in Peruibe SP for three years before moving to Pedro de Toledo in the foothills of the Jureia mountains. Married and divorced three times he spends his time between his sitio, working part-time in a local imobiliaria, writing, photography and listening to classical music. Alastair decided to create AlastairsBrazilianBlog because there is so much to tell about this beautiful land and its wonderful people.

Previous articles by Alastair:

Brazil: Alco and Bebidas
Brazil: Abelhas
Brazil: Copo de Vagabundos
Brazil: Seguranca
Brazil: Modestia
Brazil: The Ghost of Ayrton Senna
A Fora de Prazo
A Scotsman in Brazil

September 8, 2014

So, you&rsquot;ve made the decision to start looking for a job in Brazil, now what? The following guide suggests five of the best ways to improve your chances of getting a job in Brazil.

After a decade of low unemployment, decreasing income inequality, a growing middle class, a quicker recovery from the Global Financial Crisis than any other emerging market, and sky-rocketing hiring of foreign workers, Brazil&rsquot;s economy seems to have slowed down and stagnated. This is particularly apparent in the job market.

Further, bureaucracy is slow and complex, which negatively impacts visa applications and taxes. Nevertheless, there are opportunities if you&rsquot;re prepared to make the effort to find them. Read on to find out where to look.

1. TRANSFER TO YOUR COMPANY&rsquot;S BRAZILIAN OFFICE

If you&rsquot;re lucky enough to work for an international company that has offices in Brazil, this is the easiest way into the Brazilian workforce. The visa process is much simpler for a transfer employee than if you move to Brazil without a job. Moreover, your employer will usually help you with things such as finding accommodation, transportation, and health insurance.

2. GET SOME EXPERIENCE

Brazil&rsquot;s younger population is becoming increasingly educated so the competition for graduate positions is intensifying. If you&rsquot;ve worked and gained some experience before moving to Brazil, it will be a huge asset. The major industries in Brazil are the large and well-developed agricultural, mining, manufacturing, and service sectors.

The growth industries include the renewable energy sector (in particular biofuel), water and waste management, and the automotive industry. Appropriate qualifications and work-experience in any of these industries should serve you well. More so if your occupation is one of those in short supply: engineers, environmental management consultants, and IT professionals.

3. LEARN SOME PORTUGUESE

While the international companies in Brazil often use English as their company language, you may have to deal with Portuguese-speaking clients, partners, advertisers, etc. Furthermore, knowing how to speak the country&rsquot;s language is greatly beneficial outside of the office.

Don&rsquot;t forget: even though the written language is very similar to European Portuguese, the spoken language is different, and unique to Brazil.

4. CONNECT WITH LOCAL EXPATRIATES

If you aren&rsquot;t able to simply transfer to a position in Brazil, then networking with the expat community in Brazil is the second best thing. Connecting with expats in your industry will give you an idea of what local demand is like, what positions are available, and which companies are currently hiring. They may even be able to personally submit your CV to their company&rsquot;s HR department.

From a social point of view, fellow expats can also help you settle into the Brazilian lifestyle, deal with any culture-shock you might experience, and meet other friendly expats and locals.

5. TALK TO A RECRUITER

Some industries, such as oil and gas, are big recruiters in the region. Others, requiring specialists to operate modern technical equipment, also make an effort to recruit foreigners. Current growth areas for foreign recruitment include: 4G telecommunications, business development, industry, and insurance and reinsurance.

Nevertheless, finding a job in Brazil as a foreigner is difficult. If you don&rsquot;t fall into these categories, consider submitting your CV to a global recruitment agency. The labor laws are rather strict in Brazil so make sure the agency has offices in Brazil or a good understanding of the relevant legislation.

By Alastair Kinghorn
September 8, 2014

There are pubs in São Paulo, or so they tell me, because I have never been inside one since coming to live here six years ago.

Here we have bars, and every little mercado”, no matter how tatty or remote seems to have at least one white plastic table and chairs where you can squeeze in between the racks of crisps and snacks on sale and sit and drink while the world goes by. These places are a far cry from the social watering holes of my misspent youth. They are not laid out with conviviality in mind or littered with imbibers&rsquot; souvenirs of 101 lagers that can be brought back from the far flung corners of the globe. They do not possess a row of ancient tankards hung from polished brass hooks, or a mahogany bar to lean on. They are simply a place where you can down a quick “cachaa” to set you up for a day’s hard labour or where an ice cold can of beer is available. Nothing even remotely tempting or attractive to beckon you inside, except for the poster of the young girl with a cleavage the size of the Grand Canyon, but they appear to be successful for all that, and they mark the clear division between social drinking and regular drinking that sets men apart in Brazil.

I say men, because women seldom appear to drink alcohol, or when they do it tends to be either a discreet glass of beer, or a tooth dissolving concoction of condensed milk and some sort of sweet liquor, called a “batida”. Not that you would expect to find a lady drinking “batidas” in a bar. She might either be offered one at someone’s “festa” or go with her “namorado” to a “clube” for a night on the tiles, and then sneak back to mum and dad’s house in the breaking dawn to be a nice girl again for the rest of the week. This is because the social classes also mark the division between those who “bebe socialmente” and those who “bebe regularmente”. To be one of the first group marks you as one whose attitude towards alcohol is somewhat of the “dilettante” who prefers to drink Chivas Regal rather than Old Eight. Who would rather have their “caipirinha” made with Socatoba and who certainly wouldn’t be seen dead tossing back a 51 on the way to the office in the morning. To be one of the second group is to fall into the abyss, where hardened fellows will grab a can of beer while inside the bus waiting for a queue of people to board and gulp down the ice cold foam before you can say Brahma.

Like so many aspects of Brazilian life, polarisation is clearly evident when it comes to alcohol and nowhere is it more clearly marked than in the prices charged. A few kilometres from where I am writing can be found a little factory where the proud owner will happily fill up your empty 1 litre bottle of “cachaca artenesal” for the princely sum of R$1.50. That is 50p in real money. Now we are not talking about hooch that is watered down just to fill the bottle. This is 40% alcohol from a pot still as recent as yesterday. Enjoying this potent liquid is perhaps the wrong word to choose. To the aspiring “pinga” addict, it is the effect that is the attraction rather than the taste, and to those who suffer from insomnia, this is a sure fire certain cure, albeit with a sting in the tail similar to a kick from an entire football team.

On the other side of the tracks, I know a “botega” in a nearby town where the proprietor will lovingly cradle a bottle of Vive Cliquot vintage champagne in one arm and an authentic Napoleon Cognac in the other, and enquire if “patron” would like to part with R$2,000 for the pair. Not the kind of stuff to be found on one of those little white plastic tables.

2014 Alastair Kinghorn

Alastair is an expat originally from Scotland now living in rural Southeastern Brazil close to the city of São Paulo. He has led a variety of lives since leaving school at the tender age of seventeen. In the merchant navy he spent six years travelling the world including a trip to Rio and Santos in 1971. He then tried his hand doing a series of jobs in London as;- Mini Cab driver, Fashion allocator, Warehouse manager, Meat factory worker, before deciding to become an architect. He then went north to the Scottish Highlands for the next six years. Worked there as an architect, and as skipper of a pollution control vessel on the Moray Firth. He opened a shop selling stationary and art supplies. Started an arts group with an annual exhibition, became a member of the Community Council and ran as candidate in local elections, before returning south to London in &rsquot;86; due to recession in the Highlands. Worked in commercial architects practices in London during the &rsquot;Yuppie&rsquot; years, before yet another recession hit the construction industry. Entered Local Government as an Estate Surveyor for Westminster City Council, then as Technical Manager for Camden and finally Repair Centre Manager for Greenwich. Took early retirement in 2006 and emigrated here to Brazil. Settled in Peruibe SP for three years before moving to Pedro de Toledo in the foothills of the Jureia mountains. Married and divorced three times he spends his time between his sitio, working part-time in a local imobiliaria, writing, photography and listening to classical music. Alastair decided to create AlastairsBrazilianBlog because there is so much to tell about this beautiful land and its wonderful people.

Previous articles by Alastair:

Brazil: Abelhas
Brazil: Copo de Vagabundos
Brazil: Seguranca
Brazil: Modestia
Brazil: The Ghost of Ayrton Senna
A Fora de Prazo
A Scotsman in Brazil