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More than Rio 2016: it's time to brush up on Brazil

While everyone's cheering on Tom Daley or Jess Ennis-Hill, drop these facts about the 2016 Olympics host nation casually into conversation 

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Brazil is absolutely MASSIVE

It's 23 times bigger than the UK and so big it spans three time zones. It also shares borders with every country on the continent - except Chile and Ecuador. Remember, pop-quizzers, the capital of this huge country is not Rio, or São Paulo - it's the easy-to-remember Brasilia.


Dangerously, food is often sold by weight

The majority of Brazil's restaurants are comida por quilo which translates as 'food by the kilo'. Diners are given a piece of paper (comanda), on which staff note how much they've consumed. You can help yourself to as much or as little food as you like, before getting your plate weighed on the balança (scales). At the end of the meal, everyone has their own personal bill, so there's no need to quibble over who's paying what. Excelente!


Pizza for pudding is a thing

It's not unusual to eat dessert pizza, which can be topped with chocolate, guava paste, cooked apples, strawberries, dulche de leche, Nutella or whipped cream. We know.


You can grab a delicious caipirinha almost anywhere 

Caipirinha, which translates roughly as 'little hillbilly', is Brazil's national cocktail. It's made with cachaca liqueur, sugar and lime - but beware, it's ferociously strong. As one Mumsnetter put it, "If you drink too many caipirinhas, you won't remember anything about Brazil!"


Brazilians have a special term for bending the rules

O Jeitinho Brasileiro, which translates as 'little Brazilian way', is defined by one Mumsnetter as "behaviour most Brits would think of as cheating, but Brazilians seem to view as kind of charmingly bending the rules a little bit. Think queue-jumping and small bribes." 

They also have the infamous favelas

Favelas (the Brazilian term for 'slums'), have existed in Brazil since the end of the 19th century. Today, six percent of the population live in slums, and there are more than 600 favelas in Rio alone.

In 2008, the Brazilian government launched the Pacifying Police Unit (UPPs) project, which placed policemen in slums with the aim of eliminating violence. Their presence has been widely criticised as ineffectual, and an intimidating and violent 'marketing strategy'.

Some 500,000 people are expected to have visited Rio by the end of the Games, and consequently there has been a drive to make favelas more 'attractive'. Many now host boutique hotels, restaurants and tourist facilities - but critics highlight rising levels of eviction, and other problems associated with rapid gentrification.  

Rio is home to that statue

Often described as one of the modern seven wonders of the world, the statue of Christ the Redeemer took five years to construct, spans 28 metres, and is 38 metres tall.

Its image is familiar to us through music videos, film and television - in Baz Luhrmann's 1996 version of Romeo + Juliet, it famously watches over the fictional Verona Beach.

There's more to Rio 2016 than sport

Brazil's Olympic spectacles are cultural as well as sporting. The packed 'Celebra!' schedule is getting the city buzzing with food fairs, street performances, art, and - of course - Brazilian music. 

Inspired yet?

If all this has made you think you'd like nothing more than to be mooching round Rio with your kids, check out our guide to family-friendly holidays in Brazil.

Liked this? Try these:

Why we loved the London 2012 Olympics

Planning a family trip to Brazil

Snacks and dinners for Olympics TV marathons


Last updated: about 2 years ago