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Cariocas, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

“Cariocas sao bonitos, cariocas sao bacanas

cariocas sao sacanas, cariocas sao dourados,

cariocas sao modernos, cariocas sao espertos,

cariocas sao diretos, cariocas nao gostam de dias nublados.”(Adriana Calcanhoto?

(“Cariocas are good-looking, Cariocas are cool,

Cariocas are dirty-minded, Cariocas are tanned,

Cariocas are modern, Cariocas are streetwise,

Cariocas are direct, Cariocas don’t like cloudy days.” )

The people of Rio de Janeiro, the cariocas, are a special breed of Brazilian and everyone knows it. They have their own accent which is heavy on the ‘sh’ sound which makes everything they say sound relaxing. Rio is a beach city and that suits the locals just fine as they get to hang about on the sands whenever they can, drinking ‘stupidly-chilled’ beer and hitting on each other.

Cariocas have a reputation for loving to party and perhaps being a little superficial. Everyone is always in the mood to go out and have a good time and it’s fairly easy to meet new people. Just don’t expect to make any lasting friends on a night on the town.

“Te Ligo!” I’ll call you, they say. They don’t even have your number.

“A gente se ve!” We’ll see each other soon, they say. If by some chance you do they’ll have forgotten your name.

The cariocas are perhaps the most image conscious of all the Brazilians and worship of the body is practically a religion in Rio de Janeiro. In neighbourhoods like Ipanema you’ll see a greater concentration of beauty salons and gymnasiums than just about anywhere else on the planet. After all, they have to look good when they get to the beach.

Those who have the time to hang around on the beaches of Ipanema and Copacabana are most likely the lighter-skinned Brazilians who have enough money that they don’t have to worry about work. As a rule the poorer the area the darker the skin colour gets and the life of the poor in Rio de Janeiro is worlds apart. It’s bizarre to see the rich chicks trotting along with their poodles, while the black kids from the favelas play chicken with the oncoming buses in nothing more than a torn pair of shorts.

But the rich couldn’t be more indifferent to the differences. The poor exist in as much as they represent a potential threat with a knife late at night. The black boys pass out on glue in the gutter and the bourgeois step over them without a thought on their way into a chic Irish pub. Try and get in a conversation with them about it and you’ll be brushed off with a few lame platitudes. Rio de Janeiro is all about having fun and, let’s face it, reality just brings you down.

You will also find more educated people in Rio than in most places in Brazil, it just takes a while to meet them. Many people are aware of the social hypocrisy and volunteer in the favelas as teachers. Rio de Janeiro is big enough to have a good alternative scene but you’ll have to stray out of the richer areas to find it.