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Understanding Brazilian “Boteco” Culture
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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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