O Português na Rua (Portuguese in the Street) | Fun Portuguese | Learn Brazilian PortugueseFun Portuguese | Learn Brazilian Portuguese

O Português na Rua (Portuguese in the Street)

Print Friendly
Imagine yourself walking down a street in Brazil. What would you expect to see?  Pretty much the same basic things as you would in any city in the world, right? But with a Brazilian touch, and Brazilian names, of course.  Let’s learn some of those names:

To begin with, there are a few things in Brazil that probably won’t be found in your home town.

Street vendors (camelôs, not to be confused with camelos, camels) are common in many cities. They usually spread their wares out on top of a blanket on the sidewalk. Camelôs sell watches (relógios), umbrellas (guarda-chuvas), toys (brinquedos), fresh fruit (fruta fresca), cell phone cases (capas de telefones celulares), and much more.

Sellers of small meat or shrimp pies (pastéis de carne                          

Cameló oferecendo brinquedos
Street seller offering toys

ou de camarão)
 walk around with a big basket
offering their homemade food, even to people
already sitting at a sidewalk café.

Many street vendors work without permits,
and the guardas municipais (municipal guards)
spend a lot of time, effort, and patience trying
to control them.

In busy parts of town, you used to be able to find a bicheiro on almost every block. These are “bookies” who take and pay bets for the illegal, but universal, game of jogo do bicho, “the animal game”, which we will describe in another article. Founded in 1892 to support the local zoo, the game was alive and thriving in the 1920′s, as evidenced in Nöel Rosa’s song “Conversa de Botequim” (see separate article on this site).

When I first came to Brazil I never noticed the bicheiros, who have a way of being inconspicuous, even though everyone knows where to find one when they want to place a bet. But I eventually spotted one and succumbed to tentation once or twice, betting a real (Brazil’s currency, pronounced hay-ALL) on the horse (o cavalo) and the snake (a cobra), but my “bicho” never won.

However, since June of 2012 it’s been hard to find a bicheiro, due to a crackdown by law enforcement. The most famous bicheiro in the country, Carlinhos Cachoeira (Charley Waterfall) is on trial for bribing federal legislators. Even some of the apontadores, the bet-takers on the street, have been arrested. It will be interesting to see how and how soon the 120 year-old jogo do bicho resurfaces in Brazil.


One of the things I like about Brazil is the reminder of things that existed in the pre-suburban U.S. Even in large cities, donkey or horse carts are still occasionally seen on the streets next to huge trucks (caminhões).

Delivery is a still way of doing business for restaurants (restaurantes), grocery stores (mercearias, supermercados), bookstores (livrarias), and other retailers (varejistas). They send a “boy” (that’s what they call him) on a bicycle (bicicleta or magrela), motorcycle (moto), or on foot (a pé) with your purchase, ordered by phone or in person. A small tip (gorgeta) is appreciated.

In many residential areas you can still find pregoeiros (like the old “town criers”), walking down the street and calling out the product or service they offer, often in a sing-song, rhythmic chant: “Pamonhas fresquiiiiinhas!” (fresh corn cakes), “Tortiiiiinha de limããããooo!” (little lemon pies), “Beijiiiinho de cooooco!” (little coconut kisses).

Local residents count on the regular visit of the amolador de facas (knife and scissors sharpener) who sets up his grinding wheel right on the sidewalk in front of your house. Also the vassoureiro (broom seller) who calls out loud and clear “Vassooooouuuras!”, and others who offer consertos (repairs) of watches, clocks (relógios), pots (panelas), and pans (frigideiras).

(People who work in the street)

 The streets are kept clean by street sweepers (garis),
who dress in orange suits and, according to my sources,
earn more than school teachers.  Most of the ones

Renato Sorriso

I have seen are friendly and very hard-workers.
A famous one, Renato Sorriso (sorriso means “smile”),
played the leading part in the closing ceremony of the
2012 Olympics, when the flag was passed to
Brazil in anticipation of the 2016 games in Rio.

You may also see a member of the polícia militar
(military police, who act as the main law enforcers for
serious crime), um guarda municipal (a municipal
guard, unarmed and generally on foot, who takes care
of illegal street vendors, vagrants, and other minor crimes),
or a bombeiro (fireman). If you mind your own business, you will probably never have any contact with these authorities. If you need one in a hurry, dial 190, the equivalent of 911 in the States.

(The Bad Guys

In the youtube video of  “Imagina na Copa” on this site, you can see an episode of a couple trying to avoid paying a flanelinha.

Named for the little piece of flannel cloth (flanela) sometimes used to wave in the air or to dust off cars, these illegal “parking attendants” thrive wherever parking spots are hard to find. Each one sets up his territory (they are almost always men), and stands in the street, gesturing drivers (motoristas) towards an empty parking space that he has “saved” for his “customers”. The flanelinha will then very ostentatiously “help” the driver maneuver into the parking space (a vaga), often encouraging him or her to park illegally on a sidewalk (calçada)  or a crosswalk (faixa de pedestres).

When you get out of the car the flanelinha approaches, expecting his “tip” for “protecting” your car while you are gone.  Um flanelinha can charge anything from R$2 (2 reals, about a dollar), to R$50 for big events. They sometimes fight among themselves, even in front of the “customer,” for the right to their “pay”. The protection they offer is hard to prove, since they often walk away as soon as they have enough in their pocket to pay for their evening of fun. If you don’t pay, you may find ugly scratches (riscos) on you vehicle when you return. Guess what? The person you needed protection from was the flaneliinha himself—it’s really a “protection” scam. They seem to think that the world owes them a living.

Everyone complains about these bothersome pests but they seem to magically disappear whenever um policial (a policeman) or guarda municipal gets close. Some cynics even say that the guarda deliberately stays at a distance to let the flanelinha ply his lucrative trade. I wonder why he would do that?

The only way to avoid a flanelinha in Brazilian cities is not to own a car.

Here’s a link to a photo of a flanelinha in action, along with a description in Portuguese: http://portuguesparaconcursos.damasio.com.br/?p=417



Comprando na feira (buying at the “feira”)

Almost every neighborhood has a weekly feira (pronounced FAY-rah), an open-air market similar to the farmers’ markets in many U.S. towns. Each feirante (vendor) sets up his or her barraca (tent, stand) offering fresh fruit and vegetables (frutas e verduras frescas–some you’ve never seen before!), spices (temperos), eggs (ovos), whole chickens (frangos inteiros), sausage (salchicha, lingüiça), fish (peixe ), cheese (queijo), or kitchen aids (artigos
de cozinha
). As a break during your shopping, you may want to try
a cup of sugar cane juice (caldo de cana), fresh squeezed from the
raw cane while you watch.

Practice the following phrases and you’ll have
the basis for a good shopping experience

 Bom dia. Tudo bem? Good morning. How are you?

Quanto é? How much is it?

Quanto custa uma dúzia? How much for a dozen?

Meia dúzia: half a dozen

Quinhentos gramas: 500 grams (about one pound)

O abacaxi está maduro? Is the pineapple ripe?

Pode descascar e fatiar? Can you peel and slice it?

Preciso de dois quilos de tomate fresquinho:  I need 2 kilos (4.4 pounds) of very fresh tomatoes.

Tem alface romana?  Do you have any romaine lettuce?

Coloque na minha bolsa, por favor: Put it in my bag, please.

Tem troco para vinte reais? Do you have change for 20 reals?

Até semana que vem: See you next week.

(Word List)

Here are terms for other common items you’ll see as you walk around. You’ll want to know most of these before arriving in Brazil. A good learning method is to concentrate on four or five words at a time. Some people write a short list on post-it notes, which they stick to the bathroom mirror for a week, pronouncing each word several times a day until it is firm in their memory.

Aberto: open

A academia: gym, exercise club

O açogue: meat market, butcher shop

A agência dos correios (or simply
correios): postoffice

A água: water

O andaime: scaffolding

A árvore: tree

Atacado: wholesale

A banca de jornal: newspaper stand, where you can buy a newspaper (um jornal), magazine (uma revista), or a postcard (um cartão postal)

O banco: stool, bench (to sit on); also bank (financial)

O bar, barzinho, botequim: small bar that serves meals and functions as a neighborhood social center

O pé sujo (“dirty foot”): a small working -class bar, often with inexpensive meals and great atmosphere, a popular institution in Rio de Janeiro. Compare the American term “greasy spoon”.

O balcão: store counter, bar

O balconista: counter person in store or bar

O barbeiro: barber

A barraca:  tent, stand, booth; large umbrella on the beach or sidewalk

A bicicleta/a magrela: bicycle, bike

A boate: nightclub

O beco: alley

O bonde: streetcar, cable car

O bueiro: manhole, manhole cover

O cabeleireiro: hairdresser

O cachorro: dog

A cadeira: chair

O caixa automático: automatic teller, ATM

O calçadão de Copacabana

A calçada: sidewalkO calçadão: very wide sidewalk

In Rio the famous beach calçadões are paved
with black and white mosaic rock designs.

O caminhão: truck (plural os caminhões)

A caminhonete: pickup truck, station wagon, van

O canteiro: flower bed; middle “island” in a street

O carrinho: cart (for shopping or  baby)

A casa: house

O chão:  floor, ground (no chão: on the floor, on the ground)

A ciclovia: bike lane

O cinema: movie theater

A confeitaria: fancy bakery selling cakes and other sweets, often with tables.

In downtown Rio don’t miss the famous Confeitaria Colombo, which has a branch
at the Forte de Copacabana, the military fort at the west end of Copacabana Beach.

A creche: nursery school, day care center

Cuidado! Careful!

O degrau: step

A delegacia: police station

O edifício: building (also: o prédio)

O elevador: elevator

Empurrar/Empurre: PUSH (written on door)

O endereço: address

A entrada: entrance

A escada, a escadaria: stairs, staircase

A farmácia

A escada rolante: escalatorA escola: school

O escritório: office

A estação do metrô: subway station

O estacionamento: parking lot

O extintor de incêndios: fire extinguisher

A faixa de pedestres: crosswalk

A farmácia, a drogaria: pharmacy or drug store

Fechado: closed

A floricultura: florist shop

O fradinho: a cement post in the sidewalk to discourage cars from parking.

Watch out for these waist-high menaces, which tend to hit you in a
“inconvenient” place. I’ve bumped into a few when not paying attention.

O garçom, a garçonete: waiter, waitress

O gato: cat

A gráfica: print shop

O hospital: hospital

O hotel: hotel

A igreja: church

Roberto, o chaveiro carioca
The locksmith from Rio

A janela: window

A lama: mud

LANLAN House: Store where you can rent a
computer by the hour to access the internet,
very popular in Brazil.

A livraria: bookstore

A lixeira: trash can

O lixo: trash

A loja: store

A loja de ferragens: hardware store

A madeireira: lumber yard

A marquise: canopy, awning

O meio-fio: curb

O mercado: market

A mercearia: grocery store

A mesa: table

O motel: not like an American motel, mostly rooms by the hour
for amorous encounters.

O ônibus: bus


O orelhão: public phone booth shaped somewhat like
a huge human earA padaria: bakery, often selling other groceries

A papelaria: stationery store, selling paper, pens, notebooks, books

O paralelepípedo: cobblestone paving on street or sidewalk.

I love the sound of this word! paralelePIpedo

A parede: wall

O parque: the park

O pássaro: bird

A pizzaria: pizza parlor

A placa: sign

A placa de PARE: stop sign

A placa do carro: car license plate

O pombo: pigeon

O ponto de ônibus: bus stop (also a parada de ônibus)

O ponto de taxi: taxi stand

A porta: door

O portão: gate

O porteiro: doorman of a building, he usually sits or stands near the entrance

O posto de bombeiros: fire station

O posto de gasolina: gas station

A privada, o sanitário, o banheiro: bathroom, restroom

O pronto-socorro: emergency room or emergency hospital

Puxar/Puxe: PUSH (written on door)

A quitanda: fruit store

O restaurante: restaurant

A rodovia: highway

A rua: street

A saída: exit

A sapataria: shoe store

A sarjeta: gutter

O segurança: security guard

O sem-teto: homeless (literally “roofless”)

O sinal: stoplight (also “down payment” or “deposit”)

The plural of sinal is sinais

O sol: sun

A sombra: shadow, shade

O sinal de PARE

O supermercado: supermarketo tapume: solid wooden fence around a construction project
(found all over Rio these days, in preparation for the World Cup
and other municipal works).O telefone: telephone (see “orelhão”)

A van: van, especially when used for public transportation

Vou ir de van: I’m going to take the van.

Varejo: retail

O vendedor: seller

O vaso: flowerpot

O vaso sanitário: toilet bowl

W.C.: restroom (water closet)

Once you know a few words, make a point of saying them out loud as you move around your own neighborhood at home. When you come to a stop light say “o sinal”. Before you park (estacionar) your car (carro) next to the sidewalk (calçada), you can practice several words at once: Vou estacionar meu carro ao lado da calçada (I’m going to park my car beside the sidewalk). After a while you’ll be able to name almost all the places and things that are part of your daily life.

Abaixo tem a foto do melhor amigo de qualquer pessoa que quer aprender português.
Below is the photo of the best friend of anyone who wants to learn Portuguese:


O jornaleiro na sua banca

O jornaleiro Salvador na sua banca.
Salvador the newspaper seller at his newsstand



Print Friendly

Add a Comment