Tuesday, September 09, 2008

Karen's Observations after One Week in Sao Paulo, Brazil

Lunch is the big, sit-down meal in Brazil.
Dinner is sometimes just soup and sandwiches.
Dinner Time: 10 p.m. and 11 p.m. is when I have dined on weekends and weeknights in packed restaurants. The average dinner time? Still not sure - Late! Been going to sleep about 1 a.m. nightly.
Breakfast is light.
Vegetarian WARNING - menus often revolve around meat and starch. Yesterday, I noticed I had rice, pasta and potatoes on my plate. I try to eat fish when available. Food is frequently too salty for my taste.
Favorite meals: casual, self-serve lunch buffets. Price determined by weight of the plate.
Beverages: Sparkling water. I have tried some exotic and delicious fruit drinks and of course, the powerful cocktail made with sugar cane, caipirinha.
Best dessert: Besides dark chocolate, I like "milk pudding," a custard which tastes like flan. Pudim de leite, as it is called, is made from condensed milk.

I have not yet figured this out: At a live music/restaurant place last Friday night, I was asked to pay a fee to the musicians - on the way out, at the end of the evening. (So was everyone else.) I was confused. Seemed the idea was to pay the cover charge at the end of the night?

Women: wear tight, straight-legged jeans (no matter what body type), spike heels and plunging necklines for casual-wear. Long hair. Work apparel is far more conservative. Leather shoes and purses.
Men: Leather shoes, short hair, clean shaven, dress slacks and casual jackets. No grunge look!
Unlike the USA: Only a few baseball caps here and there. Very few hats of any kind for that matter. Sunglasses are not as prevalent here either. The sporty, urban-chic, yoga-class look seems to be absent; perhaps it remains in the gym? Soccer jerseys are popular.

Horrendous. Just as everyone warned. The snarl of cars leads to horrible smog.

I have not noticed anyone commuting by bike. I have seen adults riding bikes in parks for exercise.

I have been surprised by how few people speak any English. After about 16 cab rides, I have found only one driver who spoke some English; another could speak Spanish quite well. Most of the front desk at this large, high-rise hotel can not speak English; same with restaurant staff.

My speaking Spanish has not helped much. I can read Portuguese somewhat but its pronunciation is quite different than Spanish. Portuguese sounds very soft and swishy; there are many "shhh" sounding words and long vowels as in Saaaaoooo Paaaauloooo. The overall effect is a language largely without the staccato beat of consonants.

PEOPLE Despite language barriers, I have encountered friendly, helpful people in Brazil who are patient with my not speaking Portuguese!