Carioca Poker Face


Blending in is Hardly an Option

Do even the best poker players have tells? One thing's for sure... I was bluffing and everyone knew.

I am not your typical 1)gringa. I was blessed with skin that doesn´t burn. If it does, I like to tell myself like many young women do, ´´It will turn into a tan by tomorrow. Ahem.“ I have dark hair and hazel eyes. They´re somewhere between dark green and brown on most days. I have been accused of being latina–even Brazilian!– by countless drunkards on my former college campus. Needless to say, when I boarded the flight to Rio, I was pretty sure upon arrival I would look like I belonged–at least a little. WRONG.

The first time I was noticed, it was a doozy. When I exited the airplane, a security guard spoke to me in Brazilian Portuguese. I thought, ´´Great! I know what he´s saying!“  ´´Bom dia,“  he said.  ´´Tudo bem?“ Nothing could be simpler than ´´Good day. Are you well?“ I returned with my well rehearsed ´´Tudo bom. E você?“ This would have been fine, except that the gesture I coupled it with was off. Waaay off. Despite advice from my family members about the American gesture for ´´okay,“ it was a natural thing for me to raise my hand and sign it, though I never recalled using it in the U.S. Well, that was it. I flicked a guard off in Brazilian sign language. And I knew it. Thank goodness he laughed as I tried to play it off like I was…stretching my hand?

I believe if you´re considering visiting Rio, you´ve done some homework. And it will help you to have a wonderful experience! But face it. If you´ve never been to Brazil, you´re going to look different to every 2)Carioca no matter how great your disguise. Perhaps not at first glance, but we all have tells. Put the 3)havaianas away and pay attention. The moment the sun rises and beams through the window shade that you forgot to close when your overnight flight took off, you will experience sensory overload. That feeling will not cease until you board another flight back to the U.S.  Your facial expressions, body language, and unfamiliarity with social norms will out you.  Your height (if it exceeds 5`6“) will out you. The way you walk will out you.

Tells. Even when we know better. The great part is, you can be American. Just be an alert, well-informed American. I am hoping that my experiences (mostly the things I´ve learned by trial and multiple error) will help you answer questions like how to pack, how to get around once you´re here, and how to communicate when you aren´t fluent in Brazilian portuguese. Stick around and we´ll learn together.

1)Gringo/a–´´And all the girls say I´m pretty fly FOR A WHITE GUY.“  Or girl. Note: some Brazilians now use this for ALL non-natives–not just the fair skinned ones.

2)Carioca–someone from Rio

3)Havaianas–really comfortable flip flops that are Brazilian made and very popular here. You can buy them in the US but they´ll be more expensive. I would suggest purchasing some as soon as you get to Rio. Your feet will thank you. Rio requires a lot of walking.


About Criocana

Oi os leitores! My name is Diana, and I am not from Rio. Lucky for you, I am an American who got an itch to move to Rio for six months without ever having been, previously. So on June 23, 2011, I boarded a flight with my big, bright pink bags and took off to paradise. The reason for my blog? Let`s just say there are a few things I wish I had known before I got there that I think you may find useful on your first visit. Don´t worry--the majority of this will still apply to you even if your visit is much shorter than mine. Comments are encouraged, even if you think I´m wrong about something. This is a play-by-play of my experience and advice to potential tourist to go with it. I, too, still have a lot to learn! Six months, you'll learn, is not very much time.
This entry was posted in Behavior 101 and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to Carioca Poker Face

  1. recifedaniel says:

    This is Danny, I can to Brazil in 1964 on the same ship as your Mom Cheryl and Uncles Charlie and Ronnie. I now live in Recife, married to a Brasileira, teaching English and also writing a book. Your blog is Maravilhoso, keep up the pioneering work!
    “‘Tio” Daniel Hickey

    • Criocana says:

      Hi Danny!
      Thanks for visiting the blog. I got a little side-tracked with some other projects I was working on, but I’ve decided to make this my main focus for the next few months, so you should see many more posts soon!
      On another note, I hope you’ve stayed in touch with my Mom. I’d love to drag her to see other parts of Brazil. Maybe next we can visit Recife!
      Obrigada de novo!

      • Daniel Hickey says:

        “Prima” Cheryl is way overdue in a visit to the Nordeste, your Mom and family would be most welcome next year. We should have a great set up to receive guests by then. Tambem, aguardo sua proxima publicação!

  2. Pingback: Read My Body | survivingrio

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s