Tuesday, November 1, 2016

Don't Sweat the Small Stuff

You know when you travel someplace and they have a product you're familiar with but it's just...off? A lot of things here are like that. Although a lot of things are surprisingly familiar! Coca Cola tastes the same. Hellman's mayo is available as well as Heinz BBQ sauce. They are notably the more expensive brands, but they're available. Here's a run down of some of the familiar, but strange items and ways of doing things that you'll find in Brazil.

Ketchup - It's much sweeter than ketchup in the States. It also appears pinker than the deep red I'm accustomed to. I wasn't a big fan at first, but it's grown on me. (Although Tony is probably shaking his head at adults consuming ketchup. I even put it on my mac and cheese, Tony. Blasphemy!) Also, hamburgers are served without ketchup. It's offered in to-go packets, but you won't find it on your patty.

Mayo - As someone with fat girl tastes, I love mayonnaise. Brazil takes mayo to another level with mayo sauces. Every restaurant has their own "molho." Our local burger joint issues a packet of white, green, and pink molho in each container. The restaurant across the street issues a green molho with their meals. Some of them have onions, carrots, lime juice, or a mix of spices. And they go on everything - rice and beans, meat, bread. Soooo delicious. Praise be to the mayo gods.

Returnable Coke Bottles - This is actually a great idea to promote recycling in a country with a serious garbage problem. For a few reais, you can pay a deposit for a returnable Coke bottle. They're much thicker than normal Coke bottles and feature a yellow top, so there's no confusion about which bottles are one time use and which are returnable. They're available for two liter bottles, so when I'm out of soda, I simply grab a full returnable bottle and present it to a cashier with my empty reusable bottle. It's cheaper than a non-returnable two liter bottle and eliminates waste. Win-win.

Bacon - At the deli, you can purchase small amounts of thinly sliced bacon, but most bacon is sold in solid blocks. Instead of frying the thin slices, the blocks are cut into small chunks and cooked in a pan or grill. It's often added to beans or to a quiche. I miss crispy bacon, but the bacon chunks are delicious nonetheless. (You can get thin slices of bacon here, but it's expensive and full of fat. Not the best for frying.)

Ground Meat - In the States I rarely bought ground meat because I'm really turned off at the idea of the way it's produced (I'm not righteous, I just get grossed out easily). Here in Brazil, meat is ground right in front of you! (I'm sure you can get it this way in the States as well, but the norm is to buy it in pre-packaged containers). I was pretty surprised the first time I asked for hamburger and the guy behind the counter asked me which chunk of beef I wanted ground. The taste is much fresher than packaged ground beef. Another win in my book.

Bottled Water/Gas Delivery - Tap water is sketchy so most people have large containers of water delivered to their houses. Think of those water cooler bottles - basically that. And since most stoves run on gas, but there are no gas lines to houses, bottled gas is also delivered. I imagine it's probably safer than the gas lines in the US. At least a couple times a year I'd see news reports of a gas line explosion.

Utility Sinks - Every house has a clothes washing area and those areas also have a utility sink. The washers here are much less adapt at getting clothes clean than the heavy duty washers I'm used to. A lot of hand scrubbing goes on to get the kids' clothes clean.

Sundays - Ain't no part like a Sunday night party 'cause a Sunday night party don't stop. Seriously. Brazilians carry the weekend far into Sunday night - technically into the early Monday hours. I'm convinced Brazilians don't sleep.

"Half" - In the States we think of half as the number 5, but in Brazil it's 6! This is especially noticeable when someone quotes a phone number and says "meio" (middle/center/half) instead of "seis" (six).

Junk Mail - One thing I loathe is a mailbox full of junk mail every day. Here the post office does not deliver junk mail, although you might find a flyer or two under your door.

Born in a Barn - I don't know if it's just my city, but everyone we encounter leaves doors wide open. Even if the door was closed when they got to it. I get that very few houses have screens on the windows, so leaving the door open isn't really a big deal. I, however, have both a run-away prone toddler and screens on my windows.

Burning Trash - A few of our neighbors are really on top of keeping our street clean. They are the real Brazilian heroes. Um, the thing is, they sweep all of the trash into piles and then let it burn. It's not uncommon to see someone light a fire and then just walk away from it. It stinks, it's bad for the environment, but it keeps the street clean.

There you have it guys! By no means a comprehensive list and nothing earth shattering, but those a few of the things you might notice here in Brazil.


  1. One thing that I find very useful here (in Brazil, because it was the same in the two last towns we lived in) is the DELIVERY service. Sure, in North America, people often get pizza or Chinese food delivered to your door, but over here I have weekly deliveries of milk, eggs, groceries (if I ask for it a the supermarket), and gaz (that's more like once every one month and a half for me, but the truck randomly passed by the street every few days with a little jingle). And at no extra cost! (It's even cheaper than if you go buy it yourself if you count the extra time it takes out of your day). I find it very practical.

    1. That's so true! In the States I had monthly deliveries from Amazon of diapers, wipes, toilet paper - things like that. But the grocery delivery here is fantastic! When we left the States, I knew a few stores that had it, but since I bought all my groceries on base, I never took advantage of it. And admittedly, we live about five buildings down from the grocery store now, so I haven't used it here either. We DO get gas delivered, which is wonderful. And my husband has a parking lot/car wash/water delivery service, so he just brings home water whenever we need it. When you have small kids (or no vehicle as most people have motos), delivery is a godsend!

  2. A note about the use of "meia" for the number 6. It actually comes from "meia dúzia" or "half-dozen". And, yeah, it's used when you're referring to the number itself, usually in a series of numbers, like a phone number or reading off a serial number. First time I heard it, I wondered what socks had to do with anything! :-) ("Meia" is also the word for sock or stocking.)