We meet locals in many different ways when we travel. Sometimes the people we connect with are friends of friends, sometimes we meet them in restaurants or bars, occasionally we meet them through the owners of the places we’re staying, and at other times we connect through social media channels such as Twitter. That’s how we met Manoela, our local expert from Rio de Janeiro.
We admit that meeting people can be hard when you travel. One of our main aims with Grantourismo is to inspire people to connect more with locals when they go places (hence our Local Knowledge series), but trust us, we know it can be tricky. Often it’s a matter of confidence, but sometimes that pesky little issue of finding a common language to communicate in is what gets in the way of a good friendship. (See our tips for meeting locals here.)
Twitter is fantastic for travellers because you can reach out to people in places ahead of your trip and research potential ‘friends’ in a way that doesn’t require a huge commitment or much at all in the way of confidence. If you strike up a fun conversation online and find you have something in common, then you can follow up with the suggestion of a drink when you get to town. If you like the person, you can take it further. Let them show you their hometown. If you don’t, say “it was great to meet you” and move onto your dinner reservation, no harm done.
Twitter enabled us to meet Manoela Gentil, a 25 year-old Carioca (Rio local), an Ipanema resident, and a PR coordinator working with clients in, among other areas, travel and tourism. We had initially connected with her London-based friend on Twitter through a shared interest in travel and food, who, upon discovering we were in Rio, introduced us to Manoela.
As often happens when we travel, we got busy and didn’t connect with Manoela until our second week in Rio and didn’t meet her in the flesh until the end of our stay. In this case, as in many, it was better late than never. We met ‘Manu’ at Ipanema beach, one of her favourite places, and one of ours.
“I work in Ipanema, so I spend more or less 12 hours of my day here and I do everything in this neighbourhood,” she told us. “What I love about Ipanema is that you can see all kinds of people here. Some people are chilling and spending quality time at the beach. Some people are working out, running on the beach or cycling. Some people are shopping, some are having lunch, others are working. Ipanema has everything I need!”
“For me, Rio is so special because it is very diverse. It has a lot of natural beauties, cultural history, and such unique people — the Cariocas are very friendly and always happy, no matter what.” Manu said. “To be a Carioca is to be someone very easygoing and very natural to their roots. The Cariocas are all about having fun and enjoying moments in life as if they are the last ones.”
Q. So what do you most love about your work in public relations?
In my job I get the chance to have a lot of contact with many different people, but what I love the most about my work is to be able to show my country to the world and share what amazing experience people can have here.
Q. Why should people come here?
A. Rio is an amazing place to visit. It has much diversity. Here we have friendly people, the most beautiful beaches, and the best cultural events. Rio is an incomparable city with a unique atmosphere that it’s hard to find anywhere else.
Q. 3 words to describe Rio?
A. Unique, fun and breathtaking.
Q. 3 ways to describe the people?
A. Friendly, joyful and hard workers.
Q. Your top tips for visitors to Rio?
A. There are some experiences I always recommend. I think everyone who comes to Rio should go up to Christ the Redeemer and see the amazing view from up there. Go relax at Ipanema Beach, at Posto 9, and while you are at it have some coconut water and eat biscoito globo. Another must-do is to go dancing at the Lapa neighborhood. There are plenty of bars there with live music and it’s really fun. Also experience the ride to Sugar Loaf on the Bondinho cable car. And last but not least, go hang-gliding off the Pedra da Gávea in São Conrado.
Q. Best souvenir?
A. You cannot leave Rio without a pair of the comfortable Havaianas (flip flops), a bottle of our traditional liquor Cachaça, a souvenir miniature of Christ the Redeemer, and some delicious Brazilian nuts, Castanha de Cajú.
Q. Must-do eating experiences?
A. Have lunch at Aprazivel restaurant, have a drink at Bar d´Hotel in Leblon, and have a beer at Jobi Bar or Garota de Ipanema (Editor’s note: the restaurant-bar we mention in this post). Don’t leave Rio without tasting our finger food, pão de queijo (cheese bread), some coconut water, feijoada (a traditional main dish), a caipirinha (cocktail), and brigadeiro (dessert). Not necessarily in that order!
Q. An essential thing to know before coming to Rio?
A. Most visitors arrive in Rio and on their first night out they order caipirinhas, which are the traditional drink of Brazil, but I have to warn people that caipirinhas are made with cachaça, which is very strong, so I recommend starting with a Caipivodka, made with vodka instead.
Q. Most important phrase to learn?
A. Because Portuguese is hard for foreigners to learn I think they should just focus on the basic stuff such as: obrigada (thank you), por favor (please), bom dia (good morning), boa noite (good night), and muito bom (very good).
Q. Any other advice?
A. Prepare yourselves for the Brazilian sun! Bring lots of sunscreen, a hat and sunglasses.