Rio de Janeiro

Living in Rio de Janeiro?

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Living in Rio de Janeiro

Living in Rio de Janeiro makes for a rich cultural experience between mountains, beaches, and urban cityscapes. To get the best out of your expat experience in tropical Rio, read our guide on Rio de Janeiro for info on the locals, as well as healthcare, education, and transportation.

The Cariocas

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 de Janeiro and has taken up the relaxed lifestyle found 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. Throughout Brazil, 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.  The people themselves are very open and welcoming, always going out of their way to help expats settle in.

The Favelas

A sharp contrast to renowned and affluent areas like Copacabana and Ipanema are 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 180,000 residents or more living in Rio de Janeiro’s poorer neighborhoods, such as Rocinha or São Conrado. They are home to exceptionally vibrant and diverse communities and the place of origin of most of Rio’s Samba schools.

Unfortunately, these slums 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 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 in the entire calendar. 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 ensure you 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.


We do our best to keep this article up to date. However, we cannot guarantee that the information provided is always current or complete. 

Ben F. Bagley

"The offline get-together in Rio really convinced me of InterNations. It is so much more than just an online plattform. "

Marielle Depois

"What I really like about InterNations? It makes meeting other expat women in a pleasant atmosphere so easy."

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