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I’ve recently encountered a great new site, called Gringoes. Gringoes is the “first portal for the foreign community. Traveling to, or living in, a new country can often be a harrowing experience so what you’ll need most is information, and lots of it. For many, this lack of information can result in an unpleasant move, culture shock and even psychological and physical discomfort. Things like, finding a place to live, putting your children in a good school, public transport, buying a car, opening a bank account, etc., are all essential to making a smooth transition to your new environment. 

Gringoes.com was set up to provide a one-stop source of information for the growing foreign community in Brazil.”

This site has useful information for people living in Brazil, or who might travel to Brazil, including Useful Info, Entertainment, Travel, Services, and Sport.

The Travel tab is chockfull of information about different locales in Brazil, with reviews of accommodations and tips on how to get to places off the main drag. It also has a list of flats and youth hostels available in Sao Paulo, as an alternative to the hotels in the city.

The Useful Info tab has information on a variety of items, including banks, car rentals, consulates, taxis, foreign schools, and safety tips.

The Services tab has information on doctors and dentists, beauty salons and language schools, travel agencies and visas documents, and much more.

I particularly enjoy the Ask a Brazilian section, wherein people write questions or concerns, and Brazilians respond. For example, why do Brazilian dogs bark so much, and why don’t the owners control them better? The answer: “In regards to the barking, you are correct, brazillians talk to their pets, and since they do not care much about the barking bothering others, they just talk louder to their pets. It is really another cultural fact, just like raising the children, brazillians raise their kids and dogs differently.” There you have it.

And why do many Brazilians yawn without covering their mouths? The answer: “I have found that many Brazilians do not have as good habits as the average American has. In Brazil you can see people sneezing and coughing without covering their faces.
It is really a cultural issue, and less to do with politeness. Sometimes it impresses me in a bad way to see educated people in Brazil doing the same. Nevertheless, you will see some more educated people covering their mouths when sneezing, yawning and coughing.
Although it is not all Brazilians, I think it is part of a certain disregard to the others close to you, which is, in part cultural.”

Again, from the Brazilian horse’s mouth.

And as to not flushing toilet paper in most Brazilian homes, offices, or restaurants, here is the reason: “Brazilian toilets clog! Typically if you go to to the toilet in Brazil and flush the toilet paper it will eventually all emerge back and… well, you will not flush your toilet paper anymore.”

One question we had was answered for us on the site: when do you tip in Brazil, and how much do you tip? “Taxi drivers don‘t receive a tip, but it‘s nice to leave the change. Normally you tip waiters 10%, but be aware that it‘s often already included in the bill. Delivery drivers should be tipped also, usually R$5 is good enough. Similarly for the gas station attendant. As for the rest, you should evaluate if there‘s a need to tip or not. I try to tip everyone I can, of course if I‘m already paying a good price for the service I don‘t bother, for example the people that come to fix the Internet, but everyone else expect some change. There‘s no-one you should not tip.”

Now we know.

They also have a feature called “Brazil Through Foreign Eyes,” and its counterpart, “Foreigners Through Brazilian Eyes,” both of which are very entertaining.

One newcomer’s observations about Brazil’s frustrations will be quickly “seconded” by most people who move here: “There hasn’t been ONE single frustrating thing, more like death by a thousand cuts. Littering, loud funk music, people showing up late, long lines, etc. tend to get on my nerves. Sometimes I have my bad days where it really gets to me, but the majority of the time I try to stay positive.”

Or this one: “The absurd 20th century bureaucracy. Sometimes it makes me feel like the early 80’s are back. Don’t get me wrong, but certain things do take time and patience to get used to. The other thing I find illogical is the feeling of Brazil somehow having way too many unnecessary laws and as many ways to go around them, but only inconsequential things are actually verified by the proper authorities.”

This Brazilian observation of foreigners was interesting: “I like British irony and sarcasm, and I love how practical Germans can be when planning a trip. Italians can be a bit confusing and too laid-back for my taste (and I am Brazilian!) but I have heard that Italians are the Brazilians of Europe! (Ha!). I love the politeness of Scandinavians and their love and appreciation for good weather. I was just talking to my husband about how nice and appreciative Americans can be. They are just genuinely nice people and don‘t normally envy others… they are usually focused on their goals and work hard for them, without paying attention to how well their neighbors are doing. At least this has been my experience with them.”

The site explains so much about Brazilian culture and psychology (why they just drop trash on the road or sidewalk and couldn’t care less). It’s a “must read” for anyone living in Brazil.