Tuesday, April 5, 2011

The Carioca Invitation

My 86 year old English student asked me to explain the meaning of 'next time.'  As I started to explain, she interrupted me and asked

"Is it like a Carioca invitation?"
Me. "Carioca invitation?"
Her. "You know, let's meet up soon. I can't wait to see you! And life goes on, you buy bread, and you die."

This started an entire mini-discussion with this very interesting woman. She went on to explain how Cariocas truly are flakes and really do have a difficult time adding in new people to 'allowed in my home' list. She told me that people in Bahia and São Paulo will invite people over and then follow it up by saying "That is not a Carioca invitation! Please show up!"

And it is so true! I will never forget the first time a new acquaintance suggested we meet up for beers. She said she was going to call me. I was new in town and was so freaking excited! I ran home and told my husband.

The poor guy sighed and asked, "Did you get her phone number?"

No. There had been no exchange in numbers or information. Being the truly sheltered little American that I was, I asked him "Then how is she going to get a hold of me?!"

Daniel: "I'm afraid she's not going to."


So I explained to my student that next time simply means the next time you get together. No promise and no lack of promise.

As for the Carioca invitation, I can say I am now fully adapted. I do the same thing to other people!


  1. I'll never get it. Isn't it easier to just not invite people over/to do things? They wanna come across as polite and welcoming, but it's the complete opposite. It's not only a carioca thing btw, it's the same in BH! Coming from a small town where everybody knows everybody and "come over" really means "come over" (you'll whether they want it or not because you know where they live hahaha) it's extremely hard for me to accept this idea of inviting people over when you don't mean it.

  2. Suddenly this makes sense! Since most of my time is in SP when we are in Brazil (my in-laws, best friend from college, husband's friends, etc...) I always found Brazilians to be so welcoming and great at following through with invitations. Then, here in CA, I am so excited to find new Brazilian friends (From Rio), we have a great time, we all make promises to get together again, and then NOTHING. I was so bummed. What happened? Why didn't they do anything about it? Well, apparently that is how they roll in Rio. Good to know. Next time I won't take it personally! (FYI - same thing happens in Palau. Oh my goodness, drove me crazy when I lived there until I learned to just accept it and not care. Funny the ways we learn to "be polite" and how that can be so impolite in other cultures!)

  3. Hey Rachel,
    Just wanted to say hi!
    I've been "lurking" on your blog for awhile now, loving the little insights (like this!) into your life as a sassy American living in Rio.

    Thanks for sharing your stories -- I'm trying to get back to Rio asap after a too-short first time visit last summer, and your rants keep me motivated!

  4. The "Carioca invitation" even extends to Manaus.

  5. I'll never forget my first year here, people would invite me/us to do things...wow, I'd say there was a 70% failure rate. I remember once we were at a bar with a girlfriend of ours, she was going on and on about prainha and invited me to go with her the following morning, 11am sharp, she'd be picking me up and we'd be off to enjoy. The next morning my husband wakes up, seeing me getting ready and says "what are you doing?" and I explained, "remember, Paula said we'd go to Prainha today?" And he laughed and said, "Luv, she was drunk, NO WAY she's going to go and no way she will remember that conversation"... and so it was and so it usually is. Don't put faith in casual invitations, while they might be sincere when made, they don't always happen. And sober or not I might add. But this is not always such a bad thing either. I don't mind, perhaps I was meant to be here afterall. I'm meia flaky myself.

  6. Rachel,

    I am so glad you clarifyed this point, I have written a whole post about it sometime back. I have seen people describe this "CARIOCA" behavior as a "BRAZILIAN" thing and I clinged everytime and had no clue what this people were talking about.
    Even Jim had described people inviting him for this or for that on the beach and than never showing up and I thought it was the specific group or person he had met...
    I never heard of this "Carioca" invitation expression before, maybe it's only popular in Rio, that would explain a lot...
    Sao Paulo has many similarities to Rio due to the fact that both are large cosmopolitan cities, but this is not one of them.
    Actually, inviting someone for some meeting or event and not showing up is the fastest way to be excluded from anyone's social circle in Sao Paulo, and I can say the same goes for Curitiba and other parts of Southern Brazil, this trick just doesn't fly.
    I have some GREAT Carioca friends that really mean what they say, Thank God!
    I am not good with these games of being political, fake or a flake when it comes to friends or social circles, you better mean what you say and say what you mean or you are out.
    Cariocas do have a fame for being "jokers", for taking life on a more laid back sort of way...however, I have learned over the years that it's only that, a fame, not reality, most Cariocas I know are hard working serious folks who show up on time for appoitments.
    Rio didn't became what it is today with lazy, flake, jokers and pagode players...it is a land of honest hard working people, for the most part anyway.
    We need to keep in mind that the flakes are a minority, but they make a big splash when it comes to selling the city's image, unfortunately in a bad way.


  7. Hi Rachel,

    I'm extending a non-flaky invite to meet up if you have a free night--I arrived in Rio a few days ago. Or, as mentioned before, a blogger meetup! Whichever!


  8. I have to second Ray's comments. Being a newly adopted "Paulista", I was informed of this "Carioca (fake) Invitation" and told that if I was ever invited to an event or social gathering by someone from Rio to not get my hopes up because mostly they were not sincere in their plans or they were just talking out of their butts with no real plan on the horizon. If I were living in Rio, I think this would drive me nuts for a while until I got used to it. Thankfully I'm in SP and punctuality and solid, honest plans are more the norm and not the exception. This fits more to my demeanor.


  9. p.s. my email is: meilinawilkinson@gmail.com

  10. Great idea Meilina. I have mentioned it to Jim. Maybe we'll come up with something after Easter!

  11. After Easter really? Vamos ver...