Thumbs up Rio

Like many other international cities, the local residents communicate with both words and gestures. It is very important to understand how they communicate with each other so there will be no misunderstandings.


Greetings in Rio

Men usually greet each other in Rio with a soft handshake. It is not as vigorous or firm as a handshake between Americans so go easy when meeting someone. Women will usually kiss the air on either side of the cheeks. Close friends will hug. Don’t be surprised if a native kisses you in both checks. It’s a common way of greeting, between man and woman, and woman-woman, rarely by man-man.


Do not use the OK sign common in the United States. This is considered rude and obscene. Instead use a thumb up to signal approval. To beckon someone face your palm down or crook your finger. When you see someone pulling their eyelid down this means either “be cautious” or “do you think I am stupid enough to believe you”. If someone is tapping their fingers under their chin it means someone does not know what they are talking about. If someone is holding their hand in front of their mouth and shaking their fingers up and down it means it is time to eat.


The official language is Portuguese although many locals understand some Spanish or English. Try and learn a few common Portuguese phrases to get you through your visit. If you must speak English use short sentences with very simple words. You may need to repeat yourself or try to say something in a different way if you are not being understood.

Keep in mind that many of the gestures and phrases used by the locals will not be familiar. Therefore, it is a good idea to do your homework and learn a little about how Cariocas communicate with each other. It is especially important to understand their common gestures to minimize misunderstandings.