Forget ‘Hooked on Phonics’. Either I never really knew it before or I had just forgot, but Brazil is hooked on hygiene (hey, it works for me!). Yes, that´s right. I know that to some, the word Brazil conjures up images of favelas and possible backdrops for children´s foundation infomercials (that open with “for less than a penny a day…”), but the reality is not so. Brazilians are super-clean people, especially when it comes to their food.
Just this year, the Global Hygiene Council ranked Brazil as the country whose population washes their hands the most. It´s true…just walk into any restaurant and you´ll likely see a sink, mirror and soap dispenser near the entry. Don´t even think about touching your food with your “street hands” (hands you haven´t washed after being out in public) because any Brazilian worth their salt will be sure to remind you of your offense.
If you eat anything that can be consumed with the hands, in the least you should make use of a napkin to separate your fingers from the food. Your other option for finger foods (think pizza, french fries, etc) is to use a fork and knife, though it looks oddly snooty to me still. In the case of drinks, wipe the opening down before you take a sip and if the drink comes with a peel-off top, peel it back so as to use the inside of the top as the contact point to drink it (make sense?).
Fancy buying veggies at the market for a home-made salad? Go right ahead, but remember to scrub them down with soap and water before giving them a final water-only rinse. Seeing the soap foam is a general indicator of a job well done (that goes for doing the dishes, too).
Yep, you got it, living in Brazil means paying attention to just about everything. Be weary of your food, of strangers, and of political promises as they are all likely to be harmful in the absence of due diligence. It´s said that Brazilians are capable of successfully living anywhere in the world due to a combination of their innate social skills, a keen eye and practical nature. In fact, I´m beginning to think the B in Brazil stands for boot-camp because I haven´t stopped learning life´s little, yet important lessons since I got here.