Lessons from Brazil – Showering


If you’re lucky, your chuveiro looks something like this in Brazil. I say lucky because you see little wiring, but in most situations I’ve encountered the wiring is showing. I’ve had chuveiros explode on me (think sparks and smoke) more than once and what that means is no more hot water until it’s fixed. There’s a work-around for that, though, and it’s called taking a bath with a pot of warm water from the stove. Surprisingly, I really don’t mind this method and it uses much less water. To be clear, in the year and a half (over the years) in total that I’ve been in Brazil, I only had the shower head at one location explode repeatedly and I blame the older building’s wiring. On the other hand, sometimes it explodes (or simply stops giving you hot water) because the breaker in the breaker box doesn’t have sufficient voltage to power the shower head to give you hot water.

Shower head’s here also have a switch with three settings on them (winter, off, summer) which I believe means, for example, that you choose ‘winter’ if you are in the winter season and therefore want hot water. I’ve been places where this was reversed (read: confusing) or, due to unfamiliarity, where you think you should switch it to the season you are in. Where I live now, both winter and summer means really hot water and off, well, that means really cold water. I sometimes alternate in order to catch a few moments of lukewarm water for rinsing off shampoo. Important to note that when you switch from one setting to the other, you have to turn off the shower first, then switch it, then turn it back on…otherwise you run the risk of getting shocked.


This is a normal shower head in the US. Nothin’ special. Knobs lower down allow for deciding the combination of hot water vs. cold water needed. There’s a little wait involved to get it just right but other than that, it’s pretty straight forward. The only time you’ll have to take a cold shower is if the pilot light in the furnace went out and you don’t know how to light it again.


15 thoughts on “Lessons from Brazil – Showering

  1. I’m still afraid of the showers here! We have a rubber mat- more for slipping- but I always stand on it when I’m switching the ‘saesons’. When we lived in the US, I always thought my husband was being dramatic about how hot the shower felt to him. Now I understand that he ALWAYS takes what I call ‘cold’ showers.

  2. I remember my surprise when I first saw an electric shower head there. I was never shocked (and hope never to be) but I had a friend on my first trip to Brazil in the 1990s who took a mild shock. I felt like I’d “arrived” as a real resident of the country the first time I successfully installed one of those….

  3. The summer/winter switch is pretty hellish, indeed. It happens every time: once under the water, you realize it is too cold and decide to switch it to winter mode, with your wet hands. Scary!

  4. I m sure we have all types, and remember if it Explodes the reason is eletrical instalation problems.
    You Can find in any store of the city from cheap ( the one you have) to the very expensive.
    If you dont find you gotta be lost in the amazon.
    Use your hate for something more productive, like import US products to sell in Brazil if you think it is bad quality.

    Good luck

  5. When I first travelled around South America I dreaded finding one of those in my bathroom. I got shocks from these things on countless times and they scared the life out of me!

  6. Give me a break…
    Even in favelas there are people with life style that you wouldnt believe. You guys watch too much city of gods. People have cars, plasma tv, food, freezer, everything they need. I am not saying that they all have, but favela is very different than what you have seen.
    Btw this is an eletrical problem, an issue that in most of places have because of bad installation. If it is that bad spend some thousands and do some new eletrical installation in the hole house/apartment.
    If not, everytime you shower make sure you have an extra so you can install because it will explode, specially if you have tv, freezer, lights…. Air conditionair all on at same time.
    I wonder in what city you are living in, countryside? I think not even in The countryside…you find this. Obviously bad choices and really cheap apartments you are staying at.

    • I’m not sure if the “give me a break” was for me but I’m well aware of how favelas are, more aware than most gringos and most Brazilians. I’ve lived in two well-known favelas, one semi-favela as well as in the ‘boca de fumo’ of yet another (which is not well-known).

      In general, aside from the favelas, I’ve lived in capital cities, other big cities, suburbs and small towns (I think that only leaves the deep jungle as a place I haven’t lived). As I already mentioned, most were with showers that had wires showing.

    • Actually these type of showers are installed in very upmarket apartments all over Rio. In themselves are perfectly safe if installed correctly as has been mentioned but in reality they are not in almost all instances – the manufacturer categorically states that they must be grounded and in all cases I have seen they have not……therefore the only route for the electricity to go to earth is through the unfortunate person who happens to be in it at the time.
      The writer should do their homework first before writing silly statements about something they obviously know nothing about……

  7. Yes, the neat metal shower head does look much better and safer than the electrical shower, and I certainly do miss being able to set the exact temperature I wanted, but danger is everywhere, you just get used to it. This is basic situational awareness. I am brazilian, and when I lived in US and Europe I was a lot more scared by the water heater in the attic and garage than I ever was with an electrical shower in Brazil.

    Let’s face it. If the electrical shower isn’t properly installed and maintained, you may get a shock, but it’s very unlikely you’ll get killed or seriously injured. If the water heater isn’t properly installed and that pressure relief valve is damaged, that thing will blow up!

    I’m sure you’re now thinking this almost never happens, but I guess that’s also the same thing people in Brazil said when you told them your concerns about that electrical shower, isn’t it?

    Most of the deaths related to electrical showers in Brazil are not by electrocution while showering. That’s very, very unlikely to happen. Most often is someone untrained trying to repair or replace it. I bet there’s a lot more people who die electrocuted by an electrical appliance dropped in a bathtub than by electrical showers.

    • Hi Pedro,

      Thanks for your comment.

      Re: “but it’s very unlikely you’ll get killed or seriously injured”

      I’m not sure where getting killed was mentioned but yes I also think it would be very hard to be injured by shock in the shower here.

      • You don’t mention getting killed, I just set that as a comparison with a faulty water heater and how they are actually more dangerous than the electrical shower. An exploding water heater can not only kill, but take a whole house down.

        Yet foreigners who are used to these at home are paranoid at the showers when they come to Brazil, which are probably safer.

        People just get used to danger, in whatever form it presents itself. That’s the point.

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