Bathroom DOs and DON'Ts in Brazil

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Well, this is sort of a delicate (but very essential) subject that somehow I've overlooked for quite some time, so here goes...

1. DON'T flush toilet paper, throw it into the wastebasket provided next to the toilet. I know that this sounds gross to most of us who come from developed nations, but that's the way it is here in Brazil. If just the thought of this grosses you out, then perhaps you should re-think coming to Brazil completely, it is this way all over South America. Even the major cities don't have adequate sewage treatment facilities, most in fact have only primary sewage treatment if at all. Also, their systems are extremely old and poorly maintained, so they can't handle toilet paper. You don't want everything you've flushed recently coming back for a visit, trust me.

2.  DO wash your hands BEFORE and AFTER doing your necessities, at least in public washrooms. Brazilians are obsessive about personal hygiene. You'll get the strangest looks if you head to a toilet stall or the urinal without heading for the sink first. Brazilians will avoid you completely if you don't wash your hands thoroughly immediately afterwards.

3.  DO get into the habit of always carrying a reasonable amount of toilet paper in your briefcase, purse, backpack, or your car's glove compartment. Public washrooms in Brazil rarely have toilet paper, you don't want to be stuck in there trying to figure out what to do when you find out too late that there's no TP in there. I've even been into major hospitals in São Paulo where there was no TP or paper towels in the washrooms.

4.  DO "liberate" a few paper toilet seat protectors from your office building and follow the same advice as in No. 3. If you ever need to use a toilet in a gas station or other public places you'll be very glad you heeded this advice. For a nation of people who are so obsessive about personal hygiene, it's hard to understand how some washrooms can be so filthy.

5.  DO exercise extreme caution when taking a shower if there is one of the typical electric shower heads. These are rarely if ever installed correctly so in most cases they are not grounded. NEVER attempt to change the temperature setting or disconnect/connect the heat with the shower flowing. Also be extemely careful not to just grab the shower valve handle, always touch test it first. There may only be a slight tingle which means the current is flowing through the water. If you're in an older building with iron pipes you could get a very serious shock especially if the shower is 220V.

6.  DON'T swallow the tap water when you're rinsing after brushing your teeth, or only use bottled water for brushing. Don't drink tap water period, unless it is coming from a secondary filtration system.

7.  DON'T laugh out loud when somebody almost faints at the idea you're going to take a shower after a meal. They absolutely freak out at the idea here. For some strange reason there is an insane urban myth here that if you shower after a meal you could die. (Especially common in the state of Bahia)

8.  DO make certain to open a window if you're taking a shower where there is one of the small (in room) water heaters in the bathroom. They're rarely properly installed and vented. There have been a number of deaths due to carbon monoxide poisoning caused by faulty water heaters or improper installation.

Cheers,
James       Expat-blog Experts Team

Thanks James, that's a lot to digest!

henrystolive :

Thanks James, that's a lot to digest!

Good one Henry!  :lol:

Thank you for the tips!  I totally agree with most of them and have had a personal electrifying experience similar to what's mentioned in point # 5!!

stanza51 :

Thank you for the tips!  I totally agree with most of them and have had a personal electrifying experience similar to what's mentioned in point # 5!!

Yikes, that's "shocking" news!   :o

Sadly, I think most of us in Brazil have experienced it once or twice if we've been here for any length of time. It must be a fairly big boat, because we're all in the same one.

Cheers,
James

Hehe! Truly "shocking" indeed, the funny part was I had to stay for another 2 weeks in the same house hence I went the extra mile and had put a plastic grocery bag on top of the valve! Hehe!

I guess everyone has there own adventures but this is one that all of us can relate to :)

Latin American Suicide showers .....has anyone ever died from one of those things

on point 3. if you get really lucky you'll find the toilet has one of those spay hose things that will literally save your ass!

Do   be prepared to use a toilet that doesn't have a seat.  More than half of the toilets don't have seats.  Soap is hard to find at a lot of places.  Do be prepared to find that the locks don't work.

I always have to remember not to flush toilet paper when I come to visit my wife's family. Also I am trying to figure how to get a tankless water heater from the US to them so they can have hot water all the time.

Roadtripking :

I always have to remember not to flush toilet paper when I come to visit my wife's family. Also I am trying to figure how to get a tankless water heater from the US to them so they can have hot water all the time.

Unfortunately importing such things as electrical and gas appliances can expose you to serious civil liablity, since these kind of products won't have the Brazilian INMETRO certification necessary to make them legal in Brazil, even if they're CSA or Engergy Star approved, they're not legal for use in Brazil. In order to obtain the INMETRO approval it would be necessary to go through the same process that the manufacturer would need to do, and that's cost prohibitive.

For example, if the water heater were to be deemed to be the cause of a fire, the owner of that appliance would be liable for ALL damages caused by the fire, and if that were to be in an apartment building, the damage done to all other apartments in that building. This could wipe one out financially even if they had private insurance.

It's much better in your case to purchase a small gas fired water heater that is wall mounted (usually in the bathroom). Just make sure it is installed by a professional and is properly vented to the outside. Also warn family members that no matter who installs it, they should ALWAYS leave the bathroom window partly open as extra insurance against carbon monoxide poisoning.

Cheers,
James       Expat-blog Experts Team

Our electric shower head stopped working about a year ago. An electrician told us not to bother buying another one since it wasnt an issue with it all, but with the house in general. The wiring was installed all wrong. So yeah... i suffered a great deal this winter having to get through a cold shower every day.
I avoid using public restrooms in general. They are absolutely disgusting. I used to work at the mall, and those were the ones that were kept somewhat clean compared to other public places.
Though I have never seen anyone here wash their hands before using the toilet in my years living here. In fact during the time I worked at the mall, I was disgusted to see how the workers from the food court would use the bathroom and leave without washing their hands. You know... Straight back to cooking. And we pay a pretty penny eating at the mall.

I guess you've lived in Recife the whole time, right? I can tell you that in the states where I've lived (SP, MG, RJ) it is rare indeed to see someone not wash their hands both before and after doing their necessities. Most workplaces in those states also used to have alcohol gel dispensers too, people would rub it all over their hands to sanitize them even after thorough washing. I guess those residing there were a bit more paranoid about personal cleanliness.

Regarding your shower, Have you talked to an electrician to see about the possibility of running a dedicated line from the breaker box directly to the shower? That might be a better situation than the icy showers.

Cheers,
James   Expat-blog Experts Team

Sounds like you need a new electrician , those heads are cheap as well.
Have you considered switching to gas , all the new apartments in São Paulo state are installing gas heaters on the wall and it works great
Way better than the electric shower head

Well We might leave in December so it's not worth the hassle. Besides, it's a rented house and the owner is not willing to fix anything. (Hardly any owner here does the proper maintenance in their tenant's home unless it's of extreme urgency... Like a waterfall coming through the living room ceiling during rainy season)

In that case I would suggest looking for a better place to move to ....maybe even a whole new state :)

I'm glad you put this article out I learned that on my first trip with my at the time fiancé since then I make sure we bring paper towels napkins and extra roll of toilet paper you don't know how many times we went to the beach a restaurant stepped in the bathroom and no toilet paper all and definitely do not drink the water unless it's heated up bottle orunless you have your own filter

1. The reason Brazilians take 3 showers a day has little to do with cleanliness it's more about being cheap due to fact water costs far less then Electric and few houses have airtight doors and windows making air conditioning prohibitively expensive.
Compared to United States Brazil is quite unhygienic, for example I've seen pastels a type of meat pie left out for hours after being cooked In stores without air conditioning.
3. Eggs, Hot Dogs and Bacon are not kept in the refrigerator, gross! and frozen food options here are quite limited, no tv dinners for example. In fact if you're a bacon and eggs breakfast diner lover you going have a rough time of here in Brazil.
Speaking of air conditioning and heaters they are quite rare in most local stores and if they do have one many stores don't use as much as they do in the United States.
4. Siesta, yep they have it here in Brazil too! The annoying habit of where stores closed for about 2 hours every day in the afternoon usually around 12am-2pm, of course few stores here have signs telling you their hours something Brazilian find annoying too.
And this in chains as well not just Mom and Pop stores.  WTF! Was the first thing that came out of my mouth was visiting Vivo a cell phone providor only to discover that they close at from 12 to 2 everyday and all day on Sundays ( Jeses Christ!!! )
Hardware stores: most open at 9am close for 2 hours at lunchtime and then at 5pm every day and none are open on Sundays.
Banks 9am-3pm Monday-Fridays, there is even a local internet bank with a physical branch here that is open on the same hours as the chain Banks; makes you think they would improve their hours and be opened on Saturdays but again this is do the incredible lack of common Sense and environmental awarness Brazilian seem to have. ( Story for another time.)
Even more ironic when Brazilian business owners complain about being poor, go figure!!!

Agreed, decent hotels tend to have them ( a spray hose with nozzle to wash your backside.) especially USA chain hotels like Holiday Inn here in Porto Alegre.

Sorry Mike I don't know what part of Brazil you live in But I've never seen any of the things you mention, I've spent most of my time in SP and SC states.

First I've never seen this Siesta thing or the shops shutting that you speak of ......?
Is this a Porto Alegre thing?

Also I've always found Brazil super hygenic with food, I've had exactly one mild case of food poisoning here in over 3 years and I think that I picked it up in my own home......I know in the North east things can be a bit worse but even there I've had pretty good luck.....
Sure you can find a sH*tty old salgado in some Cr*appy little shop but it's easy enough to avoid those places, you can usually tell the second you walk in that the place is dodge
But as far as restaurants and street food, my stomach health has never been better than these 3 years in Brazil

I agree about the enviromental thing, way way to much single use plastic, although I've always found the places I've been in Brazil quite clean considering, I've certainly seen much worse litter in Israel, Europe and even Argentina

Here in Manaus, government offices -- including the Federal Police -- close for lunch, but not for-profit businesses, except a few very small ones.
The banks keep to São Paulo time, which is annoying since we're in a different time zone and don't have Daylight Savings Time, but one adjusts.
This is a hot city, and even people of relatively modest means have air conditioners -- universally, in the bedrooms.  Same goes for us:  energy efficient splits in every bedroom, ceiling fans in the rest of the house.  Like the average Manauara, we use AC for sleeping only.
Electric showers in our master and guest baths; in this climate we don't need more, and I'm not even sure that the heaters available down south would find a market here.
Like Stevefunk, I've always found Brazilian hygienic standards acceptable, except maybe in the sketchy places that we'd avoid anyway.

People forget this is a 3rd world country and expect all of the fineries of home! To those I would suggest not going to Brazil!

Been in plenty Brazilian cities and closing at lunch is quite common In many stores even Vivo a large cell phone company shuts down 2 hours every day and don't even get me started on the banks hours here!
Been to Florianópolis and plenty of stores there pulled this same nonsense ( I guess Brazilians hate earning money?) Aside from airline transfers never been in São Paulo city or seen much of that state ( nearest city I visited (Angra do REI) but I hope that a city with 20+ million might actually have a more first world mindset.

I find 3 World is more of a mindset then anything else. Millions of Brasilians visit the US and Europe see how well those countries function yet none ask why Brazil is still Third World nor seem willing to change it for the better. By almost every quality of life metric the USA is the superior country and most Brazilians I meet think I'm crazy for living here.

So why are you living here....you sound pretty miserable about it

Nope not at all but I won't BS people about the adjustments needed to live here in Brazil especially if they are coming from the US and are not on the company sponsered premium expat package deal.
You know the type whom never leave the upper case enclaves as it's usually these types tend the most vocal Pro-Brasil cheer leaders. 
Yet reality is just one armed robbery away.
My wife ( Brasilian) has already visited the USA twice and said" we are definitely living in the USA when I retire. "
Not saying Brasil is a bad place but the USA is just the better country on so many metrics, maybe Bolsonaro Will clean house?

I see you point, I came here from South Africa with 3 Suitcases and about $3000

South Africa and Brazil are pretty equal in many ways, although I find the Brazilian govermental departments, PF , receita Detran everything work much better than any of those in SA, also South Africa has very litle worker protection or much in the way of Minimum wage....I think minimum wage was only recently introduced and it's like R$400 ......although South Africa used to be much less of a rip than Brazil , but it's sadly catching up Rapidly

Strangely though many Brazilians I know who live in South Africa think it's much more "First World" than Brazil.....I guess it's all perception

What pisses me off in Brazil are the stupid rip off prices of consumer goods especially any plastic piece of Junk and the idiotic and dangerous way aholes with fancy cars drive on the highway tailgating and flashing lights etc.....also Brazilian soccer moms and there huge SUV's they use to pick their spoilt and ignorant kids up from school in the citites around Sao Paulo, Hogging two and a half parking spaces with there crappy/inconsiderare parking skills

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