Brazil is the only Portuguese-speaking country in South America. But the dialect here varies from its origins across the Atlantic. Mixed with the tongues of ancient tribes and influenced by the expressions of African slaves, Brazilian Portuguese is delightful to listen to but impossible for untrained ears to understand.
Any guidebook will teach you the “ola“s and “por favor“s that lubricate your exchanges with locals. But to get the most out of your trip to Rio, use these five phrases to look like a local on the beach, ensure your glass never goes empty, and recover from a night of dancing.
1) “Mais chopp!”
Chopp is a light and refreshing draft beer that’s served at Rio’s botecos. In these open-air bars, the chopp is served in small glasses so it won’t get warm in your hand. For a refill, tell the waiter you want “mais chopp.”
2)“Vamos comer juntos a feijoada”
“We will share the feijoada”
Rio’s weekend dinner staple is feijoada, a stew of black beans, pork parts and garlic accompanied by rice, toasted manioc flour and orange slices. And bits of pork fat. And kale.
It’s enough to feed a soccer team, or at least a vacationing family. When you tell the waiter “vamos comer juntos a feijoada” you’re saying everyone at the table will share the overflowing platter of food.
3) “Quanto custa a canga?”
“How much is a sarong”
To blend in with the local ladies on the beaches of Rio, buy a sarong from one of the vendors patrolling the shores. These five-or-so foot long swatches of colorful cloth can be worn as a dress, a skirt or a head wrap. The sarongs can also serve as a beach blanket or, with a few well-placed knots, a beach bag.
Ask the vendors “quanto custa a canga?” to find out how much their sarongs cost. You’ll likely be able to haggle it down a few Brazilian reals.
4) “Para o bondinho do Cristo, por favor”
“To the train to Christ the Redeemer please”
Standing more than 2,000 feet above the city, Christ the Redeemer is perhaps Rio’s most recognizable landmark. From here you can see the span of the city’s beaches and the spike of Sugarloaf Mountain poking through the clouds.
To avoid the crowds, get there early. After breakfast, pop into a cab and tell the driver “para o bondinho do Cristo, por favor.” These directions will get you to the train that takes visitors up the craggy side of Corcovado, the mountain that Christ the Redeemer calls home.
5) “Eu bebi caipirinha demais”
“I drank too many caipirinhas”
Say hello to the caipirinha, Rio’s most popular cocktail. Made from muddled lime, sugar and a local sugar cane liquor called cachaça, these giddying drinks start the evening off with a kick.
If you’re in pain the next morning, admit you drank too many caipirinhas by saying “eu bebi caipirinha demais”. Ice cold açaí, available at any juice stand, is a popular hangover cure.