Until you’ve lived in Rio, you don’t realise quite what a breathtaking, unique place it is. The little things are what I will miss the most when I leave after a year living here, such as…
The guys at the beach selling you drinks, coco gelada, açaí or grilled cheese singing ‘bebe bebe bebe bebe mate, você quer limão você quer mate…’ Drinking out of a coconut on the beach joins greasy fry ups, sex and surfing in the pantheon of great hangover cures. Also, shoutout to the guys at the traffic lights juggling. This hustle attitude keeps the economy going; I have so much more respect for these guys than people at home on benefits.
Seeing mountains everywhere you turn. I used to think a city centre mountain like Arthur’s Seat in Edinburgh was cool, then I came to Rio. Nothing will ever beat this place for sheer beauty.
The only thing better than looking up at Rio’s mountains? Looking down from them. Nowhere takes my breath away more than Pedra da Gávea, Pedra Bonita, Dois Irmãos, Corcovado, Urca etc.
Stunning ocean sunrises on the way to work. Is there a better commute than the Barra road in the world (traffic aside)?
The way Cariocas pronounce ‘Faceybooky’ ‘Hippy-Hoppy’ ‘Piccy-Niccy’ and ‘Lappytoppy’.
Mix 102.1 and Cidade – Brazilian radio stations break every rule in how radio should work (five consecutive jingles anyone?) but spending five hours a day in the car meant these stations soon became like best friends. I genuinely learnt a lot of Portuguese by learning the lyrics to Biel, Anitta, Ludmilla et al.
My crew at work. Most of these guys could barely afford the bus to work, got screwed over by their agency and even those with degrees were stuck in a poverty trap. And yet they welcomed me with open arms, bonded with us Gringos over football, taught me all the necessary Portuguese swear words and couldn’t do enough for me. Compare that to the embarrassing ‘go back where you came from’ attitude in first world countries. These cheeky opportunistic favela kids would probably be the first to nick your wallet at the beach, but they taught me so much about appreciating what matters in life, working hard and being a decent human being.
Midwinter days on the beach that feel like midsummer on the Med. As a pasty Brit, I will not miss so much the oh-so-hot and humid sticky days of January and February.
Everything about the food. The world class picanha, bananadas, and Kilo restaurants – the whole pay what your plate weighs concept is awesome. Also having a beer and a pastel on red chairs on a street corner watching a small TV showing football on a hot evening is unbeatable.
Surfing Barra beaches. Just the best place whether you’re a beginner, pro surfer or anything in between.
Weekends in places like Arraial do Cabo, Niterói or our old favourite Ilha Grande – squeaky sand underfoot and creaking bamboo forests.
Thinking I’m rubbish at Portuguese then having a 15 minute fluent conversation with a taxi driver or new acquaintance and getting better speaking practice than I ever would in a country where the locals aren’t so brilliantly friendly.
Magnificent Frigatebirds (Fregata magnificens, see below) soaring overhead, the ultimate symbol of freedom and something I will forever associate with Rio.
JP, you said everything I would of said. I love Rio as well, I’m an American and have been many times to RIO, and other locals in brasil. My new favorite is Praia Pipa in the northeast, but RIO will always hold a special place for all the things you’ve mentioned plus more…. I return in two weeks for a three month holiday. I will split my time between Rio and pipa…. thanks for reminding me of one of my favorite places on earth 🌏
Thanks Bill! That’s so nice to hear. Enjoy your trip!