Rio de Janeiro at a Glance
Living in Rio de Janeiro
People living in Rio de Janeiro are commonly referred to as Cariocas, a term derived from the name which Tupi Indians gave the houses first built by Portuguese settlers. The term does not only refer to the local population but includes everybody who has settled down in Rio and has taken up the relaxed way of life in Rio de Janeiro. However, expats living in Rio de Janeiro often take a while to get used to said lifestyle. This is particularly the case if you value punctuality. Time is a rather flexible concept and arriving half an hour late is quite common.
Another aspect of life in Rio de Janeiro you need to get used to when making friends with Cariocas is that touching and kissing is a typical aspect of friendly interaction. Both men and women living in Rio de Janeiro tend to greet each other with kisses on the cheeks. Although this has no romantic or sexual connotation whatsoever, it may take some time for you to adjust. It does not come as a surprise that Rio has been deemed the friendliest city in the world, according to a survey in 2003. People are indeed open and welcoming, always going out of their way to help expats settle in.
Rio’s working class districts, the Favelas, exist in almost all neighborhoods of the city. Some of them grow into giant communities with up to 500,000 residents or more living in Rio de Janeiro’s poorer neighborhoods, such as Rocinha or São Conrado. Favelas are home to exceptionally vibrant and diverse communities and the place of origin of most of Rio’s Samba schools.
Unfortunately, the Favelas are also rather problematic areas. The districts are constantly battling drug use, police brutality, and shootings. The latter are particularly dangerous as stray bullets tend to cause major damage. Despite their shaky reputation, the Favelas are still home to working families who simply try to make a living.
But because of their reputation, even the term Favela is not considered to be exactly politically correct. Instead these districts are often referred to as morro (hill), in contrast to asfalto (asphalt), the richer and safer areas of Rio. As a consequence, the term favelado (favela resident) also sounds rather derogatory. It is advisable to use the term morador da comunidade instead.
Carnival in Rio
You cannot spend your life in Rio de Janeiro without getting sucked into the city’s Carnival extravaganza. Carnival in Rio is probably the most famous and exciting event of the entire year. People from around the world come to visit for this annual event and local Samba schools prepare for it all year. The Samba parade is the true highlight of life in Rio de Janeiro. It first started in the 1930s and grew rapidly to the show it is today.
However, there is much more to Carnival in Rio than the Samba parade. You should make sure to also attend street carnival festivities which take place all over the city. They are free and open to anybody who wishes to participate. In addition to the parade and street festivities, there are numerous balls and parties before, during and after Carnival.