10 things you might not know about Brazil

1. Kissing culture

Brazilians kiss - a lot, as a form of greeting or as an affectionate gesture. An introductory greeting involves giving two kisses, one on each cheek. It's very European but in Brazil, both kisses are made to be heard clearly.

2. Knitting prisoners

Last year, inmates in Brazil's Arisvaldo de Campos Pires maximum security jail were taught how to knit and crochet in a collaboration with a local fashion designer.

The deal provided the inmates new skills and a wage. They can even earn one day off their sentence for every three days spent knitting.

3. Signing off with a kiss

A Brazilian may sign off their e-mails with the word "beijo", which means kiss in Portuguese. Yes. They like their kisses there.

4. City within a city

Poverty is a huge issue in Brazil, especially in the cities which contain huge sprawling slums known as favelas.

In April, the BBC reported that in Rio de Janeiro alone, some 160,000 people live in the Favela district there.

5. Miss BumBum

It's the country that popularised the thong and yet it was only last year that saw its first competition to find the most beautiful backside in Brazil. From 15 finalists, Ms Dai Macelo, 25, took the crown.

6. Mind Your English

In anticipation of the tourist influx for the World Cup, CNN reported that the Association of Prostitution in Brazil was offering free English classes for prostitutes ahead of the World Cup.

The association chief said that English skills will help with financial deals and discussion of "ideas" with clients.

7. Japanese in Brazil

Brazil has probably the largest Japanese population outside of Japan.

The influx began in 1908 when 165 pioneering Japanese families arrived in the port of Santos. The demand for workers in Brazil's coffee plantations provided an escape from the widespread unemployment and poverty that Japan was suffering at the time.

Brazil's Japanese population is now estimated at 1.5 million.

8. Cornmeal cake

Cornmeal cake is a beloved traditional food in Brazil. The cake, called bolo de fubá, is yellow, with a light and sweet taste. It is said to go well with a cup of coffee.

9. Juice bars

Many countries have fruit juice bars, but they are exceptionally commonplace in Brazilian towns.

There, you can try exotic fruits such as graviola, the South American soursop. Or maybe try the very popular caju juice, which comes from the same tree that produces cashew nuts.

There's also camu-camu juice, a vitamin C-rich drink made from a cherry-like fruit found in the Amazon.

10. Be the best guest

Whether it's a dinner or an event, go dressed in your best. It's better to go overdressed as appearing too casual is frowned upon. And if you are buying a present for a Brazilian friend, make sure it's not in either black or purple - both are mourning colours.

This article was first published on June 22, 2014.
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