As the Olympics kick off this month, all eyes will fall on host country, Brazil. But how much do you really know about this South American nation? Famous for its beautiful people, vibrant festivities and stunning landscapes, it boasts a lot more than meets the eye. Here are 10 fun facts to put you in a ‘Rio’ state of mind.
1. Brazil is huge
Spanning more than 8.5 million square kilometres, Brazil is the largest country in South America and the fourth largest in the world. It borders every country on the continent, except Ecuador and Chile, and covers three time zones.
2. Coffee is king
Brazil has been the world’s largest coffee producer for 150 years and has approximately 220,000 farms across the country. So it should come as no surprise that Brazilians are also the biggest consumers of coffee. When the quality is so good, why wouldn’t you?
3. Rio was once the capital of Portugal
Just before Napoleonic forces invaded Lisbon in 1807, the Portuguese royal family fled to Brazil, from where they ruled for 13 years in exile. Rio functioned as the capital of the ‘Kingdom of Portugal’ until 1821. Brazil is the only South American country that speaks Portuguese, not Spanish.
4. Kissing is a national pastime
Brazilians are an extroverted bunch so, if you ever visit, don’t be surprised if you cop a smooch from a stranger. Both men and women often greet and celebrate with a kiss on each cheek.
5. It has the largest Japanese population outside of Japan
The first Japanese immigrants moved to Brazil in 1908, which now has an estimated 1.6 million residents of Japanese descent.
6. There’s a ‘river’ beneath the Amazon
In 2011, the Brazilian National Observatory reported the discovery of an underground flow beneath the Amazon – unofficially known as the Hamza River – which stretches for about 6000km.
7. The macaw is the national animal
Given Brazil’s bright and exciting culture, this colourful bird seems to be a fitting choice.
8. Football is a religion
Soccer is a sacred sport in Brazil. Its national team is the only one to have played in every FIFA World Cup, claiming victory a record five times.
9. Billboard ban
In 2006, major city Sao Paolo banned outdoor advertising under the ‘Clean City Law’, including on billboards, transit and storefronts. A lively culture of street art has taken its place.
10. Olympic achievements
Brazil is the first South American country to win the right to host the Olympics – an impressive achievement when compared to the experience of its athletes in 1932, who self-funded their trip to the Games by selling coffee along the way.
Planning a trip to Brazil? Click here for information and travel warnings.