Overcoming Brazilian Stereotypes and Language Barriers

Alex Henley completed her practicum experience abroad in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil and was able to overcome her fear of the city’s stereotype as being unsafe, as well as her frustration with the local language, in order to enjoy Rio for the bright and vivacious city that it really is.

Before I left for Rio, everyone told me to be incredibly careful. I was very nervous about being mugged. I was told not to wear much jewelry, as people would come up and grab a necklace off of you. While I wore a watch to work during the day, I would only wear earrings out at night. I always kept my purse on me, with my hand holding the bag as well. That being said, I had no negative experiences in Rio and I was very cautious even when there were a lot of people around. I took the advice of not going anywhere alone and to take cabs instead of walk at night. During the day, I would go places alone, like to the store, pharmacy, shop, café, or an ATM. However, I also wish I did know more Portuguese. The language barrier was probably my biggest frustration. I know Spanish and English, but when I tried to explain this to the locals, they would just keep speaking in Portuguese. Fortunately, most restaurants have an English menu, so you kind of know what you are ordering.

image009

During the city tour, we saw Sugar Loaf, the Christ statue, the Cathedral, and the Santa Marta Favela. Taking a guided tour through the favela was life changing. Just like with Argentina, where I also partook in my practicum, the disparity between the rich and the poor in Rio is apparent. While walking through the favela, we were able to purchase art made by the locals in order to benefit the community. I would not recommend trying to navigate a favela alone. The Sugar Loaf was my favorite, as the views were absolutely incredible. We went on a rainy/cloudy day, but I still enjoyed every moment. We also went inside the Cathedral and the stained glass windows were absolutely beautiful, a site worth seeing for those that appreciate the timelessness of artwork.

image016

I probably had acai or a fresh juice once a day. The produce in Rio is so fresh, so I highly recommend that you take advantage of it while you are there. Rio is known for its steakhouses, known in Portuguese as churrascarias. I recommend you go to Churrascaria Palace. Although pretty expensive, the restaurant has exceptional service and side dishes. We also went to Pavao Azul and I ordered the bean stew, or feijoada, and was incredibly satisfied. It is a small, hole-in-the-wall type of place where the locals go, but it’s totally worth a try, even if there is a wait.image014

I also loved the beach in Rio, although it rained most of the time we were there. However, when you go to the beach, make sure you have cash, as everything you could possibly need you can find for sale at the beach. There are people carting around everything, from drinks to sunscreen, snacks to swim suits. Also, trying the street food is a must, even if you are not the biggest fan of fried foods!

image012

During the practicum, my patience was tested on many levels. Brazil, along with many other countries, is much slower paced than the United States. Nothing happens quickly, even in business. We spent a lot of time waiting for our client because they were behind schedule. I would say just be prepared to wait and don’t expect business transactions to happen overnight. I would also suggest checking in with your client and teammates regularly. I would say this is very important in order to stay on track and make sure that everyone understands what is expected of him or her. Also, because of the language barrier, we would sometimes misconstrue some of the things that the Brazilians said, because it wouldn’t translate into English in the intended way they wanted. Be comfortable with asking questions in order to clarify what is really meant.

To check out more student experiences, visit our Study Abroad blog page.

Information on international opportunities can also be found on our website.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

*