Gringo Beach Guide

Rato de praia is the word for “beach bum” in Portuguese.  But while the English word for this tends to have a more negative connotation, I was assured by two Brazilians that the Portuguese word has no negative connotation whatsoever; it is simply someone who loves to spend time on the beach! Brazilians do not see it as a bad thing to be a “beach bum.” I don’t think it’s an exaggeration to say that Brazilians prescribe a whole new, positive meaning to this word…

For those who live on the coast of Brazil, going to the beach is like brushing one’s teeth; it is simply a part of daily life. It is also a place that people go to see and be seen. They often resemble massive parties, packed year-round with sunbathers and sports enthusiasts alike.  So if you are a gringo (a non-Brazilian), you might want to keep in mind a few things before hitting up the beaches of Brazil…


Contrary to popular belief, it is actually forbidden to go topless to beaches in Brazil.  Not to mention, it is simply unfashionable.  That being said, girls should definitely keep in mind the following: the smaller the maiô (bathing suit), the better.  So ladies, leave your modesty at home. The butt is the most venerated body part in Brazil; it is not uncommon for women to augment their derrieres (hence where the “Brazilian butt lift” was derived).  So understandably, the fio dental (thong) bikinis are very popular and are worn by most women on the beach.

“Fio dental” style – worn by approximately 90% of Brazilian women.

For guys, sunga (which are like small booty shorts) or bermuda (basic trunks) are recommended. You will see an equal amount of both; most men prefer one or the other.

The “sunga” style-very popular in Brazil

Tan Lines

Perhaps one of the reasons Brazilian women don’t go topless is because otherwise they wouldn’t have any marcas de biquini (tan lines) to show off.  Which would pose a problem for many because in Brazil, the deeper your tan line, the better.  Unlike in the US where sun worshippers do everything to prevent and eliminate tan lines, one Brazilian I recently spoke with said that women in Brazil actually go to the beach just so that they can improve their tan lines.  He said that it’s seen as very “sexy” by both genders;  most Brazilian men go gaga over women’s tan lines and many women go crazy over men’s tan lines as well. In fact, many men like tan women solely because of the tan lines that result.

Want to compliment someone on their tan line? Say, “Que marca/marquinha linda!” (“Nice tan line!”) You can rest assured that this compliment will be well appreciated.

Beach Life

In addition to tan lines and minuscule bathing suits, it is common to see people walking up and down the beach, selling ice cream, sandwiches, cookies and other snacks.  There are also barracas (tents) set up on the beach that rent chairs and sell agua de coco (coconut water), soft drinks and beer.

Typical beach tent

Agua de coco is one of the most common drinks in Brazil.  Just as the name suggests, it is coconut juice, drunken straight from cut coconuts. Drink one of these and at the very least, you will feel like a local.

Agua de coco

But Brazilians do more than just work on their tan lines and sip coconut juice.  The beach is also a place where many love to get active; it is common to see people playing beach volleyball, soccer and jogging.  While many play for fun, there are competitions frequently held on the beaches, as well.  So it makes sense that Brazil’s female beach volleyball team is one of the best in the world, and as The Telegraph pointed out, it would be no surprise if they stole the gold at the next Olympics (which will of course take place in Rio!).

The video below provides a good illustration of some of the friendly beach competition in Rio:

Now those are true “ratos de praia…”


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