I just spent two weeks in Brazil - I had only been to Rio de Janeiro before. This time I visited Rio de Janeiro
, Belem and Manaus (both guides to come). Here are my observations.
Shockingly high crime rate
The US is no stranger to violent crime but Brazilian cities have shockingly bad statistics. While you wont be exposed to the worst as a visitor - some cities seem to have given up and the minimal police presence does not help safeguard life (and property) of citizens.
Very suburban lifestyle
Brazilians love a suburban lifestyle with all the good and bad things that come with it - long commutes, bad traffic, boring inner city neighborhoods and chain restaurants. I was expecting a more urban experience but that did not happen.
As with America, Brazil has bought into consumerism full throttle. Brazil is supposedly more socialist but this does not deter the consumerism.
No speak English
It's hard to find countries with so little English skills. When I was in Fortaleza my fellow tour members to Aracati
could not believe there are people in this world who do not speak Portuguese - it blew their mind.
Brazil is largely sheltered (as with other South American countries) from the English language influence. This potentially makes things more interesting for a traveler - in the case of Brazil - I'm not so sure that is the case though.
There is a good amount of Anti-American sentiment - it's nothing violent - but it is there.
Not everyone is friendly
Brazilian are often friendly and easy going - until they realize you speak no Portuguese...
The best coffee is at airports and book stores
From all the cities and places I tried the coffee at airports (Recife, Fortaleza especially) and book stores (Livraria Leitura was much better than any downtown coffee I tried). Never saw that coming!
Brazil has good airports too
Rio de Janeiro and Sao Paulo airports
are often described as some of the worst major airports in the world - for good reason! However Recife and Fortaleza have pretty modern looking, very well working airports that feel more like Norway than Brazil.
The Brazilian Real isn't undervalued
Prices in Brazil aren't that low even after the tumbling of the Real to R$ 4:1 US$. Yes there are some steals now but it's not an Economy that is up for grabs. The Brazilian Real has much more room to sink - likely another 30-50% before it bounces back.
There is a lot of tourism!
I had never really heard of Fortaleza and Recife before this trip and thought they were backwaters. Don't be fooled Fortaleza is a major tourist destinations for Brazilians and Europeans. It's anything but undiscovered!
The Amazon jungle is huge (and no its not really shrinking anymore!)
It takes 4 hours to fly from Sao Paulo to Manaus and you haven't even covered the whole length of the Amazon jungle. It's like flying from Chicago to L.A. with no real city in between - just jungle. Deforestation has thankfully declined a lot since the 2005 peak.
Brazil needs to get better at protecting the environment
Car pollution isn't a big issue (unlike Bogota!) but Brazil has this wonderful tropical climate, tropical vegetation and coastline but it hasn't been able to protect the environment properly. It's really not that difficult if you make it a priority. Brazil is also rich enough to afford a protection in urban areas.
The famous Brazilian 'joie vivre'
This is a famous traveler myth I feel - and it is just that - a myth. Yes Brazilian smile a bit more often and some actually spontaneously start dancing. Is it a different lifestyle altogether? No.