“Tudo bem” literally means “everything well” or, if phrased as a question, “everything well?”. Brazilians love saying this as a form of informal greeting. However, it is not always easy to distinguish the phrase because it is usually uttered so fast that it sounds like the speaker is trying to mimic the sound of a drum roll: “Tuh-duh-bum!”. Moreover, while it usually sounds like a question: “Tudo bem?”, we have discovered that it is actually a statement in most cases. Generally, when a Brazilian says “Tudo bem”, he or she is not asking you if everything is well, although it may seem like that. Rather, he or she is simply telling you that everything is well. This also means that you are not expected to respond by explaining how things are and to what extent you consider this to qualify as “well”. Instead, it is often more appropriate to simply return the favor and make the same statement by announcing that everything is well. Tudo bem? Tudo bem!
Sugary fruit juice
One of the first striking things we noticed here in Brazil was that most Brazilians seem to have a really sweet tooth, since they like to add tremendous amounts of sugar to almost everything, even to their fruit juice! While we absolutely love eating fruits, we do not drink too much fruit juice because of the highly concentrated (natural) sugars it contains. If we do drink juice, we prefer to mix it with some water diminish the sweetness. Brazilians, on the other hand, seem to love juice a lot and rather than drinking water to quench their thirst, they often go for a glass of fruit juice with a few table spoons of sugar added to it!
Diet products full of terrible additives
Ironically, we have also observed that many Brazilians seem to express a concern regarding their bodyweight and therefore tend to buy products marketed as “diet”, “light”, “sugar free” and such. However, it seems that that they don’t read the labels of these products and thereby miss out on the fact that these products contain lots of artificial sweeteners, preservatives and other additives, which in Europe are notorious because of their cancerous, appetite-stimulating and weight-gain properties. We have not yet found a single “diet” and/or “sugar free” product that did not contain at least one such additive, like aspartame, maltitol, sorbitol, xylitol, sodium benzoate, etc. In several conversations with local people we discovered that those who are on a “weight-loss” journey are afraid of natural products like coconut water, açai, seeds and nuts because they contain calories and instead prefer products full of chemicals, but labelled as “diet” .
Super slow-moving checkout queues
In Europe, supermarkets and stores in general are usually filled with impatient customers, stressed cashiers and nearly burned-out managers. In other words, with people that cannot wait to leave the shop. In great contrast to this, Brazilian supermarkets and other stores seem to be places for relaxation, full of daydreaming people engaged in quiet contemplation, internal reflection and even meditation. This is most notable when looking at the checkout queues. Much to our surprise, cashiers here are rather laid back and take their time with everything they do, and few customers seem to mind. As a consequence, checkout queues appear to move in slow-motion to us. The explanation for this is actually very simple: air-conditioning. Supermarkets and stores here are usually air-conditioned, and thereby provide their customers with a much appreciated opportunity to escape the Brazilian heat for a while. That is why hardly anyone is in a rush to get past the checkout counter. Who cares if you have to wait five minutes for the man in the front of the queue to find the perfect set of bills and coins that he seems to have purposely hidden in the furthest corner of his gigantic wallet; and then ten minutes more for the woman behind him to get her debit card to work; and a final 15 minutes for the cashier to find a colleague to help him cancel the shockingly expensive exotic fruit that you already told him you didn’t want, but that he rung up anyway? Really, why get bothered about that as long as you are protected from the scorching heat of an average afternoon in central-west Brazil?
Strange shower settings
If they are not simply cold, Brazilian showers often have three settings: inverno, desliga and verão. Desliga involves cold water only and this is usually our preferred option given the ridiculously hot Brazilian weather. Verão, which means summer, is a combination of cold and hot water. This setting seems rather useless to us, since the water is sort of tepid, that is, not cool enough for hot weather and not warm enough for cold weather. Inverno is by far the most interesting setting however. Inverno means winter, which makesa lot of sense since it involves near-boiling water that is perfect for making tea in winter. It is however less appropriate for taking showers, unless one doesn’t mind the occasional third-degree burn.
Unlike we implied in the previous paragraph, Brazil does not actually have a proper “winter” season. Neither does it have “spring” or “autumn”. It does have summer though, and lots of it, especially in the central-west region where we have been residing. To a certain extent a distinction can be made between a dry season and a rainy season. However, we prefer a different unofficial approach, one that a Brazilian friend informed us about. According to this view, to which we can relate completely, there actually are only three seasons in Brazil: summer, hot and hell.