The day that I left for Brazil, I frantically searched for all of my (American) swimsuits. Realizing I only had two, I decided to splurge and buy a third swimsuit at Target. I’d resolved to spend as much time as I could at the beach, which was only about a 3 minute walk from my house. I only had one rule for myself when I left my house for Brazil:
I will NOT, under any circumstances, wear one of those tiny revealing Brazilian thong bikinis!
I was adamant about my choice. I felt perfectly comfortable wearing my normal American bikinis, but I wasn’t about to show even MORE rear end than I needed to. After all, I was nowhere near in shape to wear a Brazilian “dental floss” fixture on my behind.
The Bikini Dilemma
The first sunny day in Rio de Janeiro, my friends and I decided to hit the beach. We all wore our swimsuits to school then walked to the beach right after classes finished. We were ready, sunglasses and sunblock in hand, not a single cloud in the sky.
Let me just say, when we walked out onto the sand, there were more bundas (Portuguese for butts) in plain sight than I have ever seen in my life.
In Brazil, no one uses regular beach towels, since they get sandy and gross and they’re hard to carry around. The group of exchange students I was with decided we wanted to minimize looking like tourists, so we purchased these sarong-like beach blankets called cangas. The cangas are everywhere on the beach, with several different designs and colors on them. On hot summer days, you’ll see them line the sad on the beach, leaving barely any room to walk!
We must have looked like such foreigners because when the vendors passed by us, they started speaking English. American swimsuits in tow, we were the only people not showing off our Brazilian rear ends. Unfortunately enough, this awkward situation called attention to us. People stared and laughed about the grande biquinis that we were wearing.
My female friends and I all gave in and ended up buying Brazilian bikini bottoms to match our American tops, thus breaking the only rule I set for myself to begin with. We didn’t want to look like tourists, or even worse, American tourists any longer, so one afternoon we all went and tried on some Brazilian-style bikinis.
It took some getting used to. I ended up buying a more conservative choice, but even that was about half as small as my normal bikini bottom. Not only that, but wearing the Brazilian bikini initially left me and my friends with the most AWKWARD tans. Teenage boys walking around the beach would cat call or make jokes about some of my friends’ “bum buns brancas.” What pigs!
Luckily, my Filipino genes saved my butt (literally) and my tan went away after the first few days.
Debriefing Bikini (And Beach) Culture
If there’s one thing women in Brazil love to do, it’s showing off their butts to the rest of the world. (Cue: I like big butts and I cannot lie…) The beach is the perfect place to find this phenomenon – the bikinis here cost the same but show 75% more skin than any others. There are three main kinds of bikinis: normal bikinis, triangle bikinis, and dental floss bikinis. I’ll spare you the details, but they are quite EXACTLY how they sound.
Men, too, often like to show off their rear ends – but in a little bit more conservative fashion. The Brazilian men’s speedo, called a sunga, is an extremely popular option for men at the beach. Not only do men like to wear these at the beach, but also take pride in walking the streets of Rio back to their homes in only their sungas also. While the sunga definitely covers more than the female swimsuit, it was still a huge shock to us when we arrived in Brazil, as opposed to the large swim trunks used in America.
Some other things you’ll see at a Brazilian beach that you won’t in other beaches:
- Agua de coco natural (natural coconut water straight from the coconut!)
- Beach vendors yelling at the top of their lungs (or sometimes even with a megaphone)
- PDA. Looooots of PDA. (See my article about Brazilian kissing culture to find out more about this one.)
- Beer! In Brazil it’s legal to drink alcohol outdoors, so many people drink beer and caipirinhas at the beach.
- Futevolei. This is a game played with a soccer ball, kind of like juggling except people can use arms and shoulders too.
- Helicopter rescues. Cool to watch, scary to think about.
- Butts, all kinds of butts, all SIZES of butts…enough butts to last you the rest of your life.
And so, another culture shock moment in my life ensued and consequently resolved itself. Brazil, you’ve definitely thrown me a loop in terms of what you’ve shown me and given me. Soooo, with that said…who’s ready to hit the beach?
Have you ever been to a beach where people showed a lot of skin? Where? Tell me your stories (and your opinions) in the comments!