Common in the USA and Canada but rare in Brazil
These items and foods are common in the USA and Canada but uncommon in Brazil:
- Garbage disposal units are standard in US and Canadian kitchens but almost non-existent in Brazil. (This is a device under the drain of the kitchen sink that shreds food waste directly into the plumbing; also known as a garburator.)
- Marshmallows are uncommon. Toasted marshmallows are completely unknown except perhaps as seen in Hollywood movies.
- Peanut butter is rare and peanut butter cookies are very hard to find. The cookies would be a good and inexpensive gift to take to Brazil.
- Eggs Benedict.
- Convenience stores. The absence of 24-hour convenience stores is especially puzzling. Where do you go if you want a loaf of bread, a carton of milk, or munchies at midnight? The only options are gasoline stations, with a tiny selection of items like Coke and chips, and 24-hour supermarkets, which are few and far between even in a super city like Sao Paulo. Funnily enough, 24-hour pharmacies are everywhere, but they seem to be strictly regulated in what they can sell. Pharmacies sell medicines, shampoo, toothpaste, perfumes, energy bars, and in some states, including Sao Paulo, bottled water. They never sell soft drinks, junk food, regular food, or any of thousands of random items you find in North American pharmacies like greeting cards, pet food, stationery, exercise equipment. I don't see any reason why a convenience store chain wouldn't thrive in Brazil; it's an idea waiting for the right entrepreneur.
- Ice-cream trucks referring to ice cream sold from decorated trucks in parks or at the side of a street. Ice cream is very popular, and there's a current mania for yogurt as a low calorie alternative, but Brazilians know ice-cream trucks only from movies.
- Bathtubs and the act of taking a bath in a bathtub. Brazilians love showers (twice a day is common), but houses and hotels almost never have a bathtub. Jacuzzis and hot tubs are found at spas however.
- Blueberries. Most Brazilian wouldn't recognize the Portuguese word for blueberry (mirtilo). But raspberries are common and blackberries are also well known.
- Root beer.
- Evaporated milk which is dehydrated milk without sugar. Brazil has condensed milk — thick and sticky due to sugar added to inhibit bacteria.
- Waffles. Though waffle ice-cream cones are common.
- Maple syrup and maple cookies. These are especially rare and therefore would be inexpensive but interesting gifts.
- Pecans and pecan pie.
- Iced coffee.
- Seedless watermelon. Seedless fruits in general are less common.
- Shortbread, as in the butter cookie, isn't available, and nor does it have a Portuguese name.
- Limousines are a very rare sight in Brazil. I don't know the reason, but it's neither due road width nor the desire to remain discreet. Brazil does not suffer from the narrow twisty streets of old Europe and luxury cars are very popular among the rich.
- Letter-size paper, meaning 8.5 x 11 inch paper, is never used in Brazil. Printer and copier paper is all A4, which is slightly longer and a bit narrower. The United States and Canada are among the last remaining countries that haven't adopted the ISO paper sizes. Fortunately, if you're taking a portable printer to Brazil, you don't have to worry. Every printer, scanner, or copier I've seen that takes either letter-size or A4 also works with the other.
- Dr Pepper is unknown in Brazil, though Coke and Pepsi are common. It's not that Dr Pepper is so big in the US and Canada, but it's something that everyone would know.
- Lemons are much less common than limes. Since lemons are somewhat uncommon, Brazilians think of it as another kind of lime (limão) and most don't know the precise name for lemon, the name being limão-siciliano, which reflects the idea that it's a variety of lime. When a Brazilian says limão, they almost always mean one of the green citrus fruits that English speakers call "lime". Particularly confusing to English speakers is that the pronunciation of limão sounds a lot more like "lemon" than "lime". Adding yet more confusion, every English-Portuguese dictionary I've seen makes a mess of the translations: typically translating "lemon" as limão which is imprecise, as though one translated "hammer" as "tool", and translating "lime" as lima, a word that is used in Portugal but not at all by Brazilians.
- Cream soda, the carbonated, vanilla-flavored soft drink doesn't exist.
- Coffee cream, meaning the cream that is 10-15% fat suitable for coffee. Brazilians use milk in coffee, never cream. Large supermarkets do sell cream, known as chantilly, but workers sometimes don't know the word. It's normally used to make fancy cakes or foam to decorate drinks. Note that "chantilly" in English means whipped cream, but the chantilly in Brazil (if you can find it) is closer to coffee cream.
- Apartment buildings don't exist. In Brazil, everything is a condo. To a Brazilian, apartmento and condomínio are the same thing; Brazilians are not aware of the distinction that Americans and Canadians make. The thousands of residential buildings you see in Sao Paulo are all condominiums. Each owner may live in his unit or he may rent it out. Lots of people rent, but they rent from individual owners, not from a corporation that owns an entire residential building.
- Clothes dryers are rare. Brazilians use clotheslines in the yard or clothes drying racks indoors. Washing machines are standard but clothes dryers are seen as an unneeded luxury. Yet a dryer would be welcome when it takes 3 days for blue jeans to dry on a clothesline during a stretch of rainy days in Sao Paulo. I expect that eventually Brazilians will want the luxury and dryers will become standard appliances, especially in cities like Sao Paulo that aren't always hot.
- Chimneys and fireplaces inside homes. Next time you fly into Sao Paulo or Rio, take a good look from the air at the thousands of houses: no chimneys. Parts of Brazil, including Sao Paulo, do get quite cool in winter, but heating (of any kind) in houses is not especially common.
- Houses made of wood are a rare sight. Wood is the standard construction material for individual family homes in the United States and Canada, but most houses are made of concrete in Brazil.
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