What is it to be a Carioca? More than an accident of birth. It is an impression, an attitude, an exuberant vitality that is beautifully, intrinsically and deliciously entwined with the incomparable Rio way of life. A state of being and doing- to live like a Carioca is to submit to the profuse sensory pleasures proposed by the city: to blithely languish in the brilliant and bright Rio sun; to enjoy a coconut water with friends after a game of frescobol; to relish good food and revel in good company; to hedonistically lose a night to the seduction of samba. These are the ways of the Carioca. Yet more than that, it is to live the quotidian nuance of sex that hangs in the air, for the true Carioca knows that delectable diversion is as inevitable as sun and sungas, breath and death.
Effortlessly charming, uninhibited and laid back, Carioca’s exude an inexplicable joie de vivre- it is rare to see a Carioca de gema without a smile, for to Cariocas life is always an exquisite adventure, each moment an opportunity to savour the city they are so proud of and to court excitement. Friendly and open, Cariocas welcome gringos and make amigos easily- you’ll know you’ve won over a Carioca and become their irmão when they add a diminutive to your name. To be in Rio is to adopt the Carioca lifestyle. This is how.
The Call of the Sea
One cannot visit Rio and escape the lure of the beach, for not only are the city’s ribbons of white sand as iconic as Christ the Redeemer, they are also the physical and spiritual home of the Carioca. Flanked by mountains, architecture and the bustling calçadão, to stay on the beach till the sun goes down is to bear witness to a spectrum of Carioca life: sport, leisure, pleasure, fun, bronzed flesh, tight sungas, and tiny bikinis- when the body is the star attraction could it be any other way?
For gringos, the beach is the ultimate Rio experience, where every jet lagged sense is awakened by a bonanza of colours, flavours, smells, sounds and the cool touch of the Atlantic vaporised by the kiss of the sun.
Rio’s beaches are always dense with people, but if one arrives in the early morning, a good spot close to the water can be claimed. Stylish swimwear, sunscreen and a pair of frescobol bats are beach essentials, along with an open mind and a healthy attitude, for the beach is a visual playground and people-watching a favourite pastime. The beach is a place where anything can happen in Rio- from a quick game of football to an impromptu dance party.
The Food of Life
In Rio, eating and drinking is not a passive act. More than simply gratifying hunger, food and drink provide moments for enjoyment and socialising. So how to comer and beber like a Carioca? If there is one thing to try, even above the famous caipirinha, it is the chilled açai, a blend of crushed ice and Amazonian berries and one of the most popular ways to cool down on a hot day. For those too languid to leave their linen towels, Rio’s famous beach sellers provide endless snacking opportunities, bringing you açai and agua de coco straight to your tanning spot.
Rio’s laid back Carioca bars, known as botecos, have the perfect combination of alcohol and small plates down to a fine art- order cerveja alongside the tapas-style servings, and enjoy as you watch Cariocas and gringos alike, all eating, imbibing, paquerar (flirting) and searching for their very own girl from Ipanema.
The Art of Jeitinho
Upon a visit to Rio, one quickly comes to understand the deep rooted cultural practice of jeitinho. Broadly translated as the Brazilian-way of doing things, it is the essential and constant manner in which Cariocaa convince, chat and charm to get what they want without breaking the rules- for in the mind if the carioca, “no” does not exist.
On occasion, jeitinho is an exchange of favours, but more commonly, it is a quick-witted, clever and creative way to solve seemingly unsolvable problems and conduct everyday life - do not be surprised if on a trip to Rio you unwittingly bend to the will of a Carioca acquaintance through eloquence and charisma.
Jeitinho comes in many forms: it can be talking one’s way into the best seat in a restaurant without a booking; jumping a queue without offending a soul; charming one’s way out of a parking ticket; arriving late for an event and rallying strangers to get help with admission; finding a way to use the Internet for free and no one objecting; attaching a skateboard to a bike with an absent wheel. Most of all, it is using one’s talent and resources to make the best of any situation in an endearing and peculiarly Brazilian way.