Let Rio Conquer You

Let Rio conquer you

What does it mean to be a Carioca? More than an accident of birth, it’s an exuberant vitality intrinsic to the Rio way of life. A state of being and doing, to live like a Carioca is to submit to the myriad of sensory pleasures proposed by the city: to languish in the brilliant Rio sun; to enjoy a coconut water with friends after a game of frescobol; to relish good food and revel in good company; to lose a night and your heart to the seduction of samba. These are the ways of the Carioca. Yet more than that, it is to live with the suggestion of sex that hangs in the air as light as dust motes and as powerful as a sledgehammer, for the true Carioca knows that seductive diversion is as inevitable as sun and sungas, life and death.

Effortlessly charming, uninhibited, and laid back, cariocas exude an inexplicable joie de vivre – it is rare to see a Carioca de gema without a smile on their face. For to Cariocas, life is an exquisite adventure, each moment an opportunity to savour the city they are so proud of, and to court excitement. They welcome gringos and make amigos easily – you’ll know you’ve won over a Carioca and become their irmão when they add a diminutive like pouquinho or beijinho to your name. If you surf, you will undoubtedly be called brother. To be in Rio is to adopt the Carioca lifestyle – here’s how.

 

The call of the sea

The beach, oh the beach. One cannot visit Rio and escape its lure, for not only are the capital’s ribbons of white sand as iconic as Christ the Redeemer, they are also the physical and spiritual home of the Carioca. Flanked by mountains, architecture, and the bustling calçadão, to stay on the beach ‘til the sun goes down is to bear witness to a spectrum of Carioca life: sport, leisure, pleasure, lissom bodies, bronzed flesh, sexual tension, mischievous invitations, insouciant shrugs, tight sungas, tiny bikinis and unabashed appreciation for the soft curves of the bunda – when the body is the star attraction, could it be any other way?

Rio’s beaches are always dense with people but if one arrives in the early morning, a good spot in the areia close to the water can be claimed. Chinelos, sunscreen and a pair of frescobol bats are essential along with an open mind, for the beach is a visual playground and people-watching its pastime, quite possibly with a roving eye and a cheeky grin from the malandros. Discretion does not exist in Rio. Neither does the concept of “a quiet day on the beach”. It is a space where anything can happen, from games of soccer to impromptu dance parties. The beach is also where everyone wants to sell you something and everyone has a story. Far from being a nuisance, Rio’s famous beach sellers are always tranquilo and add a colourful, unique flavour to daily beach life. Where else could you buy trinkets, handicrafts, soccer balls, books, bathing suits, beach towels, hats, souvenirs or matcha and have a soulful story sung to you by a wizened beach character?

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The food of life

In Rio, eating and drinking is not a passive experience. More than simply gratifying hunger, food and drink provide moments for enjoyment and satisfaction. So how to comer and beber like a Carioca? If there is one drink to try above even the infamous caipirinha, it is the beloved chilled açaí. A blend of copious amounts of crushed ice and handfuls of the antioxidant-rich purple Amazonian berry, it’s one of the most popular ways to cool down on a hot day. For a tasty dinner try feijoada, a delicious local dish of spicy stewed beef or pork with rice and black beans; bobó de camarão a shrimp and coconut chowder that’s as hearty as it is delicious; or churrasco – Brazil’s quintessential barbeque grill for meat that simply falls off the bone. For a lighter repast, Rio’s laidback carioca bars, known as botecos, have the combination of alcohol and small plates down to a fine art – order cerveja or chope paired with tapas-style servings of bolinho de bacalhau, empadinha or coxinha de galinha.

 

The art of jeitinho

Upon a visit to Rio, one quickly comes to understand the deep-rooted cultural practice of jeitinho. Broadly translated it is the Brazilian way of doing things, the constant way Cariocas convince and charm to get what they want. On occasion, jeitinho is an exchange of favours, but more commonly, it is a quick-witted, clever and creative way to solve seemingly impossible problems and conduct everyday life to best advantage – do not be surprised if on a trip to the capital, you unwittingly bend to the will of a carioca acquaintance through eloquence and charisma.

 

GLOSSARY

Açaí – an Amazonian berry fruit

Água de côco – coconut water

Areia – sand

Beber – drink

Beijinho – a little kiss

Bobó de camarão – a Brazilian dish of shrimp in a purée of cassava, coconut milk and spices

Bolinho de bacalhau – a small cod cake

Bunda – a woman’s buttocks

Caipirinha – a Brazilian cocktail made with cachaça (sugarcane hard liquor), sugar and lime

Carioca da gema – one born and raised in Rio de Janeiro

Chinelos – flip flops

Chope – unpasteurised beer served from pressurised kegs

Churrasco – barbecue

Comer – eat

Coxinha de galinha – a popular Brazilian appetiser made of deep-fried wheat-flour dough stuffed with chicken and shaped into a little drumstick

Empadinha – small pot pie

Feijoada – a typical Brazilian stew of beans, beef and pork

Irmão – brother

Malandro – a shameless rascal, to be naughty

Pouquinho – little, or a little bit

Tranquilo – to be calm