I like to take the readers of Impossibly Glamorous across the world every week, and this particular expat blogger — an American in Brazil — caught my eye simply because her blog is so funny. Rachel of Rachel’s Ranting in Rio sits down to have a chat with Impossibly Glamorous today spilling the details on Brazilian beauty secrets, cookin’ for yo’ man and how to raise kids in Brazil without turning them into little Carioca hellions.
Charles (C): What brought you to Rio in the first place?
Rachel (R): I came for the first time for 4 months to meet my Brazilian husband’s family and see his city. We had every intent to go back to the States. We came back another time for 11 months to try and live here but the timing just wasn’t right. The 3rd visit happened after I found out that I was pregnant. We were in the States for Christmas and were planning on spending the winter working in the mountains so that we could go snowboarding whenever we wanted. Oh how that changed. At the time I didn’t have healthcare in either country. It finally came down to the baby, and we were strongly considering Rio because of the public medical system. Days later my husband got a call from a company offering him a damn good job in Rio. That settled that.
C: Most people assume Rio de Janeiro is a tropical paradise. What could you possibly have to rant about?
R: It is a tropical paradise full of inefficiencies that could only belong to Brazil. While they make it incredibly charming, I know Brazilians who rant about things down here. Honestly though, it’s normally expat adaptation issues. I never expected Brazil to be so different. So so different. Also, I take ranting as not just complaining. I discuss everything from sexual habits, hygiene, funny little habits, Brazilian families, culture, etc.
C: Aside from açai juice and football (soccer), Brazil is known for its extraordinary large number of beautiful women. What are some beauty secrets of the Brazilian femme fatales?
R: Upkeep. They do not let their nails, waxes, hair, or anything else go undone. They get that stuff done before it needs to get done. Beauty is important down here and they fit it into their busy schedules! Hell, they enjoy it, the beautifying process and being a woman.
C: What are some delicious Brazilian munchies people can try at their local Brazilian restaurant?
R: Farofa. At first taste we gringos think it tastes like sand. Ok, it kind of does, but that sand is beautifully seasoned! Mix it in with your rice and beans or dip your meat in it. YUM! Also try real fruit juice. Boxed juice is far from a Brazilian’s first choice. The real thing blended up hits the spot exactly. And then there is always coconut water (even better from the coconut).
C: When you really want to please your Brazilian man, what do you cook for him?
R: American cookies or sandwiches. He enjoys the everyday lunch and dinner menu at the house, but these two treats are his favorite. Nothing gets a big smile from my Brazilian’s face more than a plate of my chocolate chip cookies or a big old American sandwich.
C: Latin Americans are known for their close extended families. Do you have any rants about the in-laws?
R: My blog is full of them. For example, this post on family lunch is a favorite among the Brazilian readers. It took me months to figure out the names of all the relatives on the paternal side of my husband’s family. There are so many of them you’d wonder if I had entered into a family of rabbits. Plus they all look similar enough and half the sons have the same name as the father. It’s as if there was a meeting and they tried to figure out how to make things really confusing for a foreigner.
Then there is the cultural way of dealing with children. That is usually the biggest rant with in-laws. In Brazil a child belongs just as much to the family as the parent. As an American I laugh in the face of this. While the vast majority of the family gets that and has the utmost respect for it, there are members who continue on with their cultural ways. I understand that. When in Brazil… None-the-less, there are certain parts I can’t accept, like the lack of discipline. For example, it is not ok for my child to throw a rotten stinking fit and then have a family member try to give them ice cream to make them happy, even though my child is being Satan and would benefit much more from some cool down time in time out. I know in Brazil it is all about making the child happy, but there’s a big risk they will turn into a Veruca Salt type of person. Trust me, I see many of them walking around.
C: In Japan I learned some Japanese words that were hard to express in English. What are some Portuguese words that don’t translate exactly in English?
R: Saudade does not translate. It basically means “missing” but in a much better sense. It is a word to describe the feeling you have when you miss someone. There is also carinho. I know this translates to “caress,” but who asks a child to caress another child? That translation doesn’t quite fit. It’s an “affectionate touch” of sorts. There are a lot of them but I can’t think of them at the moment. I will say though that Portuguese is much more fun to use to describe things. There are so many words and so many ways to combine them. Everything sounds more romantic, dramatic and exciting in Portuguese.
C: What challenges do you have raising children in Brazil?
R: The cost of raising children in Brazil is a challenge. From the private schools to the cost of clothes, having kids down here is far from cheap. Don’t even get me started on the price of airline tickets for a family of 4! We try to get them back home annually. I want them to relate to the American side at least half as much as the Brazilian side. Other than that, raising kids here is great. Brazilians love children and they are welcome everywhere. Of course I did have to get used to the dirty looks that came with me scolding my children in public. Heaven forbid I put my child in time out and lecture him after whacking another child at the park.
C: What would people in the English-speaking world be surprised to know about Brazil?
R: Brazilians are very hard workers. There is this underlying assumption in other countries that Brazilians are a bit lazy, especially those in Rio de Janeiro. I think that has been changing, since Brazil started to be considered a “powerful” country. From the first day I landed I saw how much the vast majority of Brazilians bust their asses at work. They work long hours without much complaint and yet are never too tired for a good bbq on Saturday afternoon.
C: You win $5 million dollars from the publisher’s sweepstakes, and the same day that the Big Ed guy gives you the check, aliens land on the earth and say they are going to blow up the Earth in two days. What do you do?
R: I would pay for all family members to fly to a meeting point. Sure it may take 24 hrs for some but at least we would spend our last day together. Oh, and I’d use the rest to buy some damn good food and drinks!
C: Below is Rachel’s all time favorite Brazilian song, Nando Reis’s “All Star.” Have a listen. Also, go read “Rachel’s Ranting in Rio” HERE.