Brazil is one of a few countries that uses both 120 and 240 volts for everyday appliances. Expect the voltage to change back and forth as you travel from one place to the next -- even within the same Brazilian state, sometimes even within the same building. There is no physical difference in the electric outlets power mains for the two voltages.
Electric outlets usually accept both flat North American, and round European plugs. Otherwise adaptors from flat blades to round pins are easy to find in any supermarket or hardware shop. Some outlets are too narrow for the German "Schuko" plugs. The best makeshift solution is to buy a cheap T-connection and just force your "Schuko" in, -the T will break, but it will work. Very few outlets have a grounding point, and some might not accept newer North American polarized plugs, where one pin is slightly larger. Again, use the cheap T. Near the border with Argentina, you might occasionally find outlets for the Australia/New Zealand-type plug. If crossing the border, you'll probably need this adapter as well.
In 2009/2010, a the IEC 60906-1 was introduced to Brazil and some newer buildings already have it. It is backwards compatible with the Europlug, but it has a receded socket. Again, T-plugs can be used as adapters for other common formats.
Frequency is 60Hz, which may disturb 50 Hz electric clocks. Blackouts are less and less frequent, but you always run a risk at peak of high season in small tourist towns.
See also: Travel topics -- Electrical systems
Holidays and working hours
Brazil observes the following 13 national holidays:
New Year - 1st January
Carnival - February/March Movable - 7 weeks before Easter. Monday and Tuesday are the actual holidays, but celebrations usually begin on Saturday and last until 12PM of Ash Wednesday, when shops and services re-open.
Good Friday - March/April movable two days before Easter Sunday
Tiradentes - 21st April
Labour Day - 1st May
Corpus Christi - May/June movable sixty days after Easter Sunday
Independence Day - 7th September
Patroness of Brazil - 12th October
All Souls' Day Finados - 2nd November
Republic - 15th November
Christmas - 25th December
Working hours are usually from 8AM or 9AM to 5PM or 6PM. Banks open Monday to Friday, from 10AM to 4PM. Street shops tend to close at noon on Saturday and only re-open on Monday. Shopping malls normally open from 10AM to 10PM, Monday to Saturday, and from 3PM to 9PM on Sundays. Some malls, especially in large cities, are also open on Sundays, although not all the stores may be open. It is also possible to find 24-hour stores and small markets that are open even on Sundays.
History and economy
Until 1500, Brazil was inhabited solely by indigenous people, mainly of the Tupi and Guarani ethnic groups. Actual settling by the Portuguese began later that century, with the extraction of valuable "poperie" wood, from which the country draws its name. Brazil was settled by the Portugese and not the Spanish as the rest of Central, South and parts of North America in the New World, because of the Papal Line of Demarcation. Despite Portugese rule, some parts of Brasil formed a Dutch colony between 1630 and 1654. They founded several cities Mauritsville and many sugar reed plantations. The Dutch fought a grim jungle war with the Portugese, and without the support of the Republic of the Seven United Provinces The Netherlands because of the war with England, the Dutch surrendered to Portugese, though they did not officially recognize Portugese rule, which led to an all-out war with Portugal off the coast of Portugal in 1656. In 1665 the Peace Treaty of The Hague was signed, Portugal lost its Asian colonies and had to pay 63 tons of gold to compensate the Dutch Republic for its losing its colony. The following four centuries saw further exploitation of the country's natural riches gold and rubber besides the rise of an economy based on agriculture sugar and coffee and slave labor, millions of Africans taken to the new world in a forced diaspora. Meanwhile, extermination or Christianizing of natives kept its pace, and the 19th Century saw a second wave of European mainly Italian and German immigration, adding to this unique and complex set of factors that generated today's equally complex and unique Brazilian culture and society.
Following three centuries under the rule of Portugal, Brazil became an independent nation on September 7th, 1822. By far the largest and most populous country in South America, it has also overcome more than two decades 1964-1988 of military intervention in the governance of the country to pursue a democratic ruling, while facing the challenge of keeping its industrial and agricultural growth and developing its interior. Exploiting vast natural resources and a large labor pool, today Brazil is South America's leading economic power and a regional leader. Highly unequal income distribution remains a pressing problem. A consequence of this is a high crime rate, specifically in large cities.
After 20 years of democracy, the country has grown strong, and despite the social problems of the unequal income distribution, the people have remained happy and festive.
Throughout its history, Brazil has welcomed several different peoples and practices. Brazil constitutes a melting pot of the most diverse ethnic groups thus mitigating ethnic prejudices and preventing racial conflicts, though long-lasting slavery and genocide among indigenous populations have taken their toll. Prejudice is generally directed towards different social classes rather than between races. Nevertheless, race, or simply skin colour, is still a dividing factor in Brazilian society and you will notice the skin typically darkens as the social class gets lower: wealthy upper-class people are mostly white; many middle-class are mixed; and the majority of poor people are black. Nowadays, however, Afro-Brazilians and Amerindian populations are increasingly aware of their civil rights and of their rich cultural heritage, and social mobility is achievable through education.
In general, Brazilians are a fun-loving people. While Southerners may be somewhat colder and more reserved, from Rio upwards people usually boast a captivating attitude towards life and truly enjoy having a good time. Some may even tell you that beer, football, samba, barbecue and woman is all they could crave for.
Friendship and hospitality are highly praised traits, and family and social connections are strongly valued. To people they have met, or at least know by name, Brazilians are usually very open, friendly and sometimes quite generous. Once introduced, until getting a good reason not to, a typical Brazilian may treat you as warmly as he would treat a best friend. Brazilians are reputedly one of the most hospitable people in the world and foreigners are usually treated with respect and often with true admiration.
Attitudes towards foreigners may also be subject to regional differences:
The state of Santa Catarina welcomes their Spanish-speaking tourists with bilingual signs and welcome committees.
In Salvador, the largest city of the Northeast, anyone talking, acting or looking like a tourist even other Brazilians! could be charged higher prices, such as in parking lots, in restaurants, etc.
Most Brazilians are honest and genuinely friendly, but many are used to small acts of corruption in their everyday lives, the so-called jeitinho brasileiro. If you obviously look like a tourist, you are a potential target; for instance, a vendor may try to sell goods at higher prices, or a taxi driver may choose the longest route to the destination. It doesn't mean that you can't trust anyone, just that you have to be a bit more alert and careful, particularly if someone seems too friendly.
Whereas the "Western" roots of Brazilian culture are largely European, especially Iberian, as evidenced by its colonial towns and even sporadic historic buildings between the skyscrapers, there has been a strong tendency in recent decades to adopt a more "American way of life" which is found in urban culture and architecture, mass media, consumerism and a strongly positive feeling towards technical progress. In spite of that, Brazil is still a nation faced towards the Atlantic, not towards Hispanic America, and the intellectual elites are likely to look up to Europe, especially France, as source of inspiration, rather than the US. Many aspects in Brazilian society, such as the educational system, are inspired by the French, and may seem strange at first to Anglo-Saxon visitors.
Brazilians ARE NOT HISPANIC. Some may be offended if a visitor openly says that, or tends to believe that Brazilians have Spanish as a primary or secondary language, visitors will receive a warmer welcome if they try to start conversations in Portuguese, but even if the visitor speaks Spanish towards Brazilians, they're likely to answer in Portuguese.
The contrasts in this huge country equally fascinates and shocks most visitors, especially Europeans, as well as the indifference of many locals towards the social, economic and ecological problems. Whereas an emerging elite of young, well-educated professionals indulge in amenities of modern society, child labor, illiteracy and subhuman housing conditions still exist even in regions blessed by economic growth and huge foreign investments such as SÃ£o Paulo or Rio.
As much as Brazilians acknowledge their self-sustainability in raw materials, agriculture, and energy sources as an enormous benefit for the future, most of them agree that without huge efforts in education there will hardly be a way out of poverty and underdevelopment.
Since the beginning of the 21st century, Brazil has faced an increasing wave of immigration from China, Bolivia and Haiti.
Owing to Brazilâs continental dimensions, varied geography, history and people, the countryâs culture is rich and diverse. It has several regional variations, and in spite of being mostly unified by a single language, some regions are so different from each other that they look like different countries altogether.
Music plays an important part in Brazilian identity. Styles like choro, samba and bossa nova are considered genuinely Brazilian. Caipira music is also in the roots of sertanejo, the national equivalent to country music. MPB stands for Brazilian Popular Music, which mixes several national styles under a single concept. ForrÃ³, a north-eastern happy dancing music style, has also become common nationwide. New urban styles include funk - name given to a dance music genre from Rio's favelas that mixes heavy electronic beats and often raunchy rapping - and techno-brega, a crowd-pleaser in northern states, that fuses romantic pop, dance music and caribbean rhythms.
A mixture of martial arts, dance, music and game, capoeira was brought to Brazil by African slaves, mainly from Portuguese Angola. Distinguished by vivacious complicated movements and accompanying music, it can be seen and practiced in many Brazilian cities.
In the classical music, the Modern Period is particularly notable, due to the works of composers like Heitor Villa-Lobos and Camargo Guarnieri, who created a typical Brazilian school, mixing elements of the traditional European classical music to the Brazilian rhythms, while other composers like ClÃ¡udio Santoro followed the guidelines of the Second School of Vienna. In the Romantic Period, the greatest name was Antonio Carlos Gomes, author of some Italian-styled operas with typical Brazilian themes, like Il Guarany and Lo Schiavo. In the Classical Period, the most prominent name is JosÃ© MaurÃcio Nunes Garcia, a priest who wrote both sacred and secular music and was very influenced by the Viennese classical style of the 18th and early 19th century.
Candomble and Umbanda are religions with African roots that have survived prejudice and persecution and still have a significant following in Brazil. Their places of cult are called terreiros and many are open to visit.
Indigenous traits can be found everywhere in Brazilian culture, from cuisine to vocabulary. There are still many indigenous groups and tribes living in all Brazilian regions, although many have been deeply influenced by Western culture, and several of the country's surviving indigenous languages are in danger of disappearing completely. The traditional lifestyle and graphic expressions of the WajÃ£pi indigenous group from the state of AmapÃ¡ were proclaimed a Masterpiece of the World's Intangible Heritage (http://www.unesco.org/cul...) by UNESCO.
Globo, the largest national television network, also plays an important role in shaping the national identity. Nine out of ten households have a TV set, which is the most important source of information and entertainment for most Brazilians, followed by the radio broadcast. TVs broadcast sports, movies, local and national news and telenovelas soap operasâ 6-10 month-long series that have become one of the countryâs main cultural exports.