“Sem Vergonhas,” ie, without shame or embarrassment. On the first day I arrived in Rio, our exceptional study abroad program director, Matt Ryan, taught all of the students this key phrase. Although certain precautionary measures to ensure safety were made perfectly explicit, we were also encouraged to fully embrace learning Portuguese, our new home-stays, and the whole trip in general.
It is hard to let go of all reservations and take a dive into the deep end–I have never previously lived in a foreign country, and truth be told, barely spoke any Portuguese before two weeks ago. But, it cannot be overstated that a little effort goes along way. A few cariocas are quick to roll their eyes when Americans, like myself, butcher their sentences when asking for directions or ordering a juice drink. The vast majority, however, genuinely appreciate attempts at Portuguese and more than willing to spend the time deciphering your message and even give you a few tips on how to improve.
Cariocas themselves are famously well-known for wearing tiny thongs or sungas (whether they have a six-pack or potbelly), their flexible sense of time and punctuality, and laid-back lifestyles in general. This friendly and accommodating attitude makes it all the easier to keep speaking, eating, playing, and living, “sem vergonhas“. I have never been happier expanding my navigation skills and familiarity with the geographies and neighborhoods of Rio, knowledge of exotic fruits and juices, and Portuguese Vocabulary.
That being said, I think I took “sem vergonhas”, to a borderline-dangerous new level learning samba at a huge dancing hall last night. I’ve never taken dance lessons before and was a bit reluctant. But after a lesson and caipirinha, I said “fuck it” and went for broke. I sambaed my ass off. Maybe the best night in Brazil thus far.
The lesson; release your preconceived notions and stereotypes, embrace everything new in your surroundings, and don’t hold back.
Live life, “Sem vergonhas”.