*disclaimer* This article is based only on the experiences in Fortaleza and Recife, Brazil is a HUGE country and from what I have heard the South is very different, and also safer.
Before I arrived I had a lot of ideas about what Brazil would be like, a few of them were true but as soon as I got off the plane I started to realize how many were not!
I’ll start with the negatives, and the first thing I realized is how dangerous this country is! At least in the cities I’ve visited so far. I’ve been to quite a few countries since I started travelling but this is the first time I’ve actually felt scared.
Within 5 minutes of arriving our first host told us how they don't stop at red lights at night because someone might carjack them. It’s also hard not to notice the sharp metal spikes along the top of almost every wall, if not an electric fence. My second host in Fortaleza was robbed at gunpoint while we were staying with him, and it seems like everyone in this part of Brazil has a story about being robbed.
On the other hand, these robberies rarely seem to turn violent. People are used to it, they hand over their stuff and just walk away. But it was still quite a shock for me, and so was their driving... Most people drive like they are in a computer game, especially the bus drivers! I literally had blisters from holding on so tight on a long local bus ride one time.
Another that shocked me was the prices! Especially for basic things like groceries! Before arriving I always had the image that Brazil was a poor country, so I was expecting the prices to reflect that… But this is really not the case, especially in large supermarkets you can be expected to pay €2 for a loaf of bread, or €20 per kilo for local cheese! I was actually spending less money in Rome or Venice than I am here now! Buses are also similar price to western Europe! From Fortaleza to the next major city of Natal will cost you around €35. For longer distances than that it’s actually often cheaper to fly!
Ok, enough of the negatives, there are also a lot of great things about this country too. The beaches are amazing, even in the city centre you can find beautiful white sand and very few people, something especially nice when you compare to beaches in Europe where people sometimes sit almost shoulder to shoulder!
The food is also great, unless you're trying to lose weight which I'm obviously not! Most meals come with very generous amounts of meat in a heavy sauce with beans or a type of yam. You can also try a frozen blended fruit desert called acai which is very popular here. Or grab a salgado (deep fried snack) if you get hungry when your out.
But the best thing about Brazil is the people! (excluding the ones who want to rob you).
Brazilians are maybe the most crazy and care free people I have ever met anywhere in the world! They are also extremely welcoming and very hospitable.
They absolutely love to party, even when they have work the next day. In fact I realized yesterday that out of five Brazilian hosts who had to work the day after we arrived NONE of them went! And for my birthday we actually partied until 2pm, slept a few hours then continued partying again!
I also love their drinking style, they share from the same bottle, and when the bottle is empty another magically appears without being ordered! The empty ones gather under the table and this later becomes your bill. Alcohol is also one of the only things that is reasonably cheap here (thank god!)
So overall, while Brazil does have A LOT of problems I am still really enjoying this place, and hopefully the south will have even more excitement and craziness awaiting me!