Why we didn’t like Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

Why we didn't like Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

Why we didn’t like Rio de Janeiro

I expected Brazilians to be like those friendly, beautiful people you see in the travel ads.

My first upfront experience with a Brazilian was at the airport when I was taking my backpack off the luggage carousel. I suddenly felt a whack on the back of my heel. Too pre-occupied to turn around, I felt a second, harder whack. I turn around to see this Brazilian woman – she had hit me in the heel with her luggage cart. By the look on her face she was going to hit me again. There was a little girl on the cart, sitting on a pile of suitcases looking at me. The woman was glaring at me and I felt my blood starting to boil. It was only because of the kid, and the fact that Lissette kind of stepped in and helped me with our bags that I didn’t say anything. Oh, and the woman wasn’t hot and didn’t have a thong riding up over tight jeans. She just had that miserable mean look that reminds me of my ex-wife.

We took the taxi into the city, the taxi driver the silent type. Checked into the Sol Ipanema, a hotel with some of the best views of Rio (Lissette was worried about safety so I had decided to splurge while in Rio). Service at front desk was cold and distant and I wondered if they were judging us because of the backpacks.

We got in our swimsuits and went up to the rooftop swimming pool. Just a gorgeous view of Rio. They had a bartender up there who came up to us. Within 5 seconds he had given me a dismissive glance while at the same time fixating his eyes on Lissette’s cleavage. My blood started to boil again. This was a clear violation of the guy code. You don’t blatently stare at a girlfriend’s/wife’s boobs right in front of a guy, that’s disrespect of the highest order. Especially when you’re paying $260/night to stay in their hotel. I got my revenge back when he delivered the drinks, smiling up at him while giving him the smallest tip in history. Motherfucker.

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views of Rio de Janeiro

Above left: Ipanema beach                             Above center and right: views from Sugar Loaf

 

beaches in Rio, Brazil

Above: Copacabana beach                                         Below: Ipanema beach

Beach, Rio de Janeiro

.The next couple of days seemed to be a repetition of a similar pattern. Anywhere we went people wouldn’t return my smile and would direct conversation at Lissette. I would be like “Hi” and they would respond with “hello” while looking right at Lissette. It was as if I was the guy who had just walked into the room and farted. What the hell? Even Lissette would laugh about it.

Rio is a visually stunning city with its hills, beach and ocean. The views from Sugar Loaf and Corcovado are amazing. We never however got to “like” the city. We didn’t find the people warm and there was always a tension in the air. A week before our trip there had been a gun battle a few blocks from our hotel and the city was going through a sudden spike in violence. It just didn’t feel safe and we were always very much on our guard. Some people may think that sounds strange considering that we had travelled through Colombia the preceding year. I can’t explain it, it was just a feeling in the air. We were always looking over our shoulder in Rio.

Corcovado, Rio de Janeiro

 

 Below: Activities that might interest you in Rio de Janeiro

 

 

Rio is one of a handful of cities that make it on most traveller’s “must see” list. And I’m glad I saw it. As I said – it IS visually stunning and it IS one of the most geographically beautiful cities on earth. I just wasn’t crazy about the place.

 

Related: Ilha Grande and Paraty. And How to get there



Have you been to Rio? What was your experience?

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Why we didn’t like Rio de Janeiro
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120 Comments

  1. Hi, first i want to apologize for your experience in Brazil and there are really rude peoples in Brazil, but not everyone is like that and there are many other cool places in Brazil , for exemple, the beaches of the northeast and say this from my own experience because i’m brazilian and i know these beaches.

  2. So i work at a hotel in miami florida , i must say that by far the worst tourist ever are the brazilians , they are rude , cheap and in many cases aggravating towards the staff , no only they complain and want free stuff all the time , they do unconsidered things like taking the luggage cars inside of their rooms , never tip and i do emphasis on this because the servers and bartenders live of tips , asume that the staff understand their language and get mad about it , they leave rooms upside down , by far the WORST

  3. (Brazilian commenting here)
    That’s true, unfortunatelly it seems many of us are very rude and very moronic and incovenient. You can imagine how depressiving is to live your day-to-day life in such a place: people here don’t respect one’s personal space, are really stupid, suffer from dunning-kruger syndrome, don’t respect one’s opinion, think they are clever than thou because of the annoying “jeitinho” and another petty acts of micro-corruption, they vote in super corrupt, hypocrite and incredibly stupid politicians like Lula, Dilma and Bolsonaro (to the point that Trump seems honest and clever in comparison to them…), don’t value education, science, knowledge. This country is lost, with no future, in a downward spiral.
    And God is brazillian, they say…
    I was born here, but don’t identify with this culture, which is tragic because it means I don’t truly feel at home.
    I expect most foreigners would be not so rude and stupid as we are towards them, but I am aware that they will never see me like one of them if I go to their country. So, if you don’t belong to your own country, it seems you belong to nowhere… still it seems better to be a strange in a strange land than to live here.
    Tourist, beware: don’t be fooled by nice photos of beautiful people smiling, and dancing. This is only a fake make-up.
    There are lots of beautiful places to go out there, with the advantage of not being peopled by this kind of people – Brazil is pretty overrated.
    Excuse me for being so negative, but this is what I feel.

  4. Hello,.
    We live in S interesting world , And I’m surprised to read this since I’ve been to Brasil and had A great time twice, Salvador Bahia, & São Paulo to be exact.
    I have to write that similar experience happened to me in Japan. But its all good. People Are people.
    Interesting read though.

  5. Hi Frank, I am Brazilian and I live in Rio. I must say I agree with your opinion about my culture 100%. I am a host with airbnb and while I provide my gringo guests with the best experience, I warn them about the rudeness of my people. I lived in Seattle for 15 years and being back to Rio has been the biggest culture shock. Ironic, right? Oh, well. Like you said, the city is beautiful but the day-to-day life amongst Brazilians is painfull. What I noticed is that Brazilians can not take construtive criticism either. They will take your comments and ‘throw them back at you’, in your face, literally, if they can – and will never stop to think: hmmm, should this person have a point? Is it disrespectful to be at a restaurant while the husband of couple number 1 is flerting with the wife of couple number 2? There will be several Brazilians saying they are not rude etc… Well, great, but the majority of my people is. Unfortunately. Thanks for sharing your opinion ever so kindly. Your analysis was accurate and to the point. Regards

    1. Thank you Eduarda for taking the time to comment. I think most Brazilians don’t have a reference point – but I think someone who’s lived in North America will, like you say, feel a bit of culture shock coming to Brazil. I can only base it on our travel experience and it might not be 100% accurate because so much of an experience depends on the people you meet on a short trip. So it’s great to hear from someone who actually lives there day to day. Thanks again for your feedback.

  6. I´m sorry for you. I am a brazilian brown skin and I can tell you. Unfortunatelly, people were looking strange at you both because they thought your wife was brazilian and that probably she was by your side because you were foreigner. I had a danish boyfriend and had the same horrible experience. Now I am married to a german origin brazilian and every time we travel around Brazil I make sure everybody listens to us speaking in portuguese because I don want side eyes , as I am doing something wrong. In Brazil, brown and black skin women are seen as golddiggers when they have a reationship with a foreigner white guy, they think that is one reason brazilian people are badly spoken around the world. Once again, Im sorry you had such bad experience.

    1. Ah, thank you Nai!
      Of all the comments here this one makes sense to me. I’m stealing one of their women 🙂
      It’s funny, I mention in this post that I love Colombia. Lissette didn’t love it as much as I did because she felt she got some dirty looks for exactly what you are describing (she’s Puerto Rican from New York. But as I’ve previously mentioned she can pass for almost anything).
      But she felt fine in Brazil. I’M the one who felt people being unfriendly…
      But yes, that could very well be that reason.

  7. I was at rio now , augoust 2018 , and had the most terrible experiences with whom ever I tried to talk to ..
    rio citizens don’t want to help , they hate tourists , I felt they even like turturing them . Like when I was at a cell company shop for 3 and half hours trying to recharge my cell chip. All this time “talking ” with the seller . This is my own impression .

      1. Rio will always remain as a trauma for me . Sooo many unbelievable ordeal encounters with the locals . I have been there for two weeks and at the last days I remain a lot at my hotel . It’s exactly how you described it . People never smile back at you , even people at the reception of the hotel don’t move their finger to help , . It really got me wonder does it comes natural to them or do they put effort to treat me bad….

  8. Hello Frank.
    I am Brit who has been living in Brazil for more than 25 years. Although my wife and I spend as much time as possible in the UK.
    I agree with your comments. Middle aged white Anglo origin males do bring out a natural hatred in a certain type of Brazilian, male and female. The politer you are the more it rubs them up the wrong way. It stopped happening to me after about 5 or 6 years and I rarely get hit up on the street for money anymore, this many years ago was constant for me. My sister said when visiting that I had become a little bit wall eyed when out in public places. My Brazilian friends said it was because my body language had changed. This adaptation has come about gradually and quite unconsciously. There is this air of mistrust that you feel everywhere you go. It is very noticeable to me and my wife as we spend a few months of the year in small town southern England. I will impress that it is the percentage difference. You meet warm kind Brazilians every where you go. It is just the percentage of rude or opportunistic people you meet is much higher. There is also a higher percentage of the population that admire the opportunist. This is why the same crooked Mayors and local officials get reelected.
    Rule number 1: Brazilians bad mouth their culture all the time, but only they are allowed to do it. Same as most others I suppose.
    There are quite a number of turn offs for me that percentage wise are much higher here in Brazil than anywhere else in the world I have worked. I have had this discussion one on one only, with a number of my Brazilian friends and they do agree. Never get on your soap box and start this conversation. There’s no point.
    I was at a colleagues apartment in Rio for dinner. I had not worked in Brazil for very long at that time. Although I could understand most of what was being said, I didn’t have the confidence to join in the conversation too much. When I first arrived at the apartment. I remember thinking what a good looking bunch of people. The conversation got round to what they were doing in their daily exercise routine to improve certain areas of the body. I remember finding some of the strutting that was going on a little over the top. The subject of the Brazilian people being the most Beautiful people in the world was pretty much agreed by all. Including me as I couldn’t really say anything else. My colleagues girlfriend I think noticed I was coughing and shuffling my feet a bit. She came up and said “don’t worry you could easily pass as a Brazilian”. I said thank you and smiled. However the beautiful people I had seen when I first entered the room, were definitely not as beautiful as my first impression.

    Another thing that will happen quite often. You have waited patiently to get your turn at the bank window, airport check in or any other similar situation. Someone will come up and just start talking over you. Get used to it, it just happens.

    For a while I was having to do the drive between Ilheus and Belo Horizonte a few times a year. I have never seen so many fatal accidents. A lot of the truck drivers are brutal, with very little regard for human life. Sit in a cafe anywhere in Brazil and watch the cars go by. It will shock you how many drivers have got a mobile phone held to their ear.

    Check out: The Lewis Model – Dimensions of Behaviour

    1. Thank you for your very enlightening comment! For someone who’s spent 25+ years there you don’t seem to high on the people. The comment you made about “the level of mistrust that you feel everywhere you go” is very accurate. It’s how I felt and maybe I had my own unconscious reaction to that. I was always aware of where I was and of my surroundings. I don’t know if I ever really relaxed in Brazil. I also find interesting your “Middle Aged White Anglo” comment. I’d be interested in what you make of that. Is your wife Brazilian? maybe she has some insights?
      Very interesting comment.

      1. Hi Frank.
        It really is a percentage view. I have met so many kind caring people here. The reality is! the kind caring enlightened people have to adjust their life boundaries to survive in a culture that has such a large percentage of people that are so badly educated, bullish and self absorbed. My wife is Brazilian (a doctor with a very European discipline) and like me has an “is what it is” altitude to Brazil. I retired two years ago, my wife retires this year. We will be selling up and moving to small town Southern England. I am a lot more tolerant to many aspects of Brazil life than my wife. She will get upset if we are having lunch at a cafe and a car pulls up, the occupants sit at a table and start blasting base music full volume from the car. Most Brazilians are completely immune to this behaviour. I have always had the feeling that many Brazilians get agitated and depressed if they are left alone to ponder. It’s as if they need the noise as a distraction from their own thought process. It starts when they are babies. Go to any cafe or bar (not club) late at night. The music is blasting, it’s not uncommon to see a baby asleep in a lap or a stroller.

        Yes the “Middle Aged White Anglo male” represents something that really makes certain elements of some cultures blood boil. I have seen this at times in the UK. It has always been with Indian or Pakistani middle aged (male and female) people living in the UK. Usually that have have jobs in the local post office, pharmacy or government office staff. It is a small number but it is visible. They make no attempt to hide there contempt and go out of their way to make life difficult for you. It’s the shear expression of spiteful pleasure on their face that is disturbing, even when they have caused you only the smallest delay. Again the more polite you are the more it rubs them up the wrong way. A genuine concerned smile with a “thank you for your time” can have very unpredictable results.

  9. I always appreciate when someone points out both sides of the medal. You said you were expecting people to be nice and smilling like…. you’ve seen on TV (carnaval people having fun, movies, etc). These are just images… we always fall for them. But that is still a big city with people struggling to make a living, normal people just like you and me and anyone else in Hong Kong, Paris, Berlin, Cairo and so on. Normal people living their normal and often times filled with difficulties life. We are the same all over the world, on an individual basis, humans are pretty much the same. What is not the same are the ‘touristic images’ that attract us and make us think we know how a place/city/country/people is.
    As a canadian, you may have already travelled to Cuba to those all included destinations. You know how nice ‘locals’ are there. But if you were to travel see them in their daily life, the image would have been different.
    You went in Rio strictly as a tourist, from your description. Clearly not a great place for such intent. Can’t have it all (and we know well how us in the developped countries have standards and expectations, spoiled to say the right word). As for the others who rather travel to meet people, to get to see their daily lifes (and not some idillic place with ideal peoples) it has been my experience that visiting big cities is a waste of money. In big cities people are cold, individualistic, mind their lifes. The more autthentic, potentially open/natural/friendly people are always in the smaller cities. It’s pretty much the human nature: the more we have/want, the more we walk away from kindness and friendliness.

    1. Thank you for the comment Mathias, you have a lot of very valid points.
      The comment about smiling, friendly, beautiful people was a bit tongue-in-cheek, ie. I was not so seriously commenting on the stereotype we see in the ads. But as you say, these are the stereotypical images we are presented of many places including Brazil (plus the sexy girls in their little Carnival outfits. They like selling that image of Rio as well).
      You are perfectly right that people are people everywhere in the world, making a living, doing their shopping, etc etc. Life is never as presented in the media. Wouldn’t life be perfect is it was? 🙂
      We’ve done a lot of travelling. Rio was a long time ago now (10 years ago) and over the last 3 years we’ve been travelling full-time, staying months on end in different parts of the world. Rio is still the unfriendliest place we’ve encountered. Maybe we (or more “I”) were very unlucky – I’ve had other people tell me how much they LOVE Rio (and Brazil). But we didn’t. And that is the thing about travel – everyone has different experiences. Maybe if we went back tomorrow it would be completely different.
      I also agree with what you say about big cities, that is the general rule (although even there the level of friendliness from one city to another varies very much).
      Despite all this I will always say that Rio is beautiful. This there is no denying 😉
      Thanks again for taking the time to comment.

  10. Man brasil is very overrated…i’ve met brasilians abroad and they come across as the nicest ppl ive met in my life…but if you go to brasil and deal with locals you will realize there are a lot of uneducated cave people there…and i mean a hell lot…i really didnt like brasil and only because of the locals…too bad because the landscapes are so beautiful…must be the poverty and lack of opportunities as well as the constant violence…they are jealouse at the foreigners coming to their country and having a blast in their beaches and top restaurants…sad but true…!…more power to you!

  11. Hi Frank,
    I quite agree with your comments regarding Brazil. It was my first time in Sao Paulo, Brazil. I found the scenery to be spectacular and breathtaking.while traveling with my in-laws. I found people in the countryside were generally more friendly with more smiles. This is solely my opinion but I found Brazilians in the city generally rude.
    Also, it seems that most shop keepers and clerks expects you to purchase something in the store before giving out any information. Some of the people on the sidewalks almost walked on my 4 year old daughter because they seem to have a one track mind, so I started carrying her in my arms. My worst experience was with a very rude Brazilian staff member at the Air Canada checkout counter in Brazil, who thought he was being hilarious. Unable to understand his very rapid Portuguese, I asked very politely if he can speak in English. Switching to English, he started berating me for my inability to speak Portuguese fluently, and said I lacked enough Portuguese to even contend with a toddler, followed by incessant questioning of why I would go to their country if I don’t speak the language. Then he just started guffawing while stating all of this. My husband who was born in Brazil claims that this is just the way they joke. Not sure if it’s true or not. I speak fluent Mandarin and English, but I would never make fun of anyone trying their darnedest to speak either one especially if they’re still in the process of learning the language. I sincerely hope that other Latin countries isn’t as picky as Brazil in general when it comes to trying to learn their language.

    1. Thanks so much for your comment. Wow, I’m shocked by the example you’ve given. You should complain to Air Canada, they would never tolerate (I would hope) this kind of behaviour. That is terrible. I’m so sorry about your experience, I’m embarrassed that ANYONE would act that way. Perfect example of someone who should be told to f*ck off straight to their face.

      1. PS. I’ve never had a similar experience in ANY Latin country, and I’ve been to 6 of them (all Spanish speaking). In fact, most people that I’ve ever met are patient and appreciate that you’re making the effort to speak their language. Brazil was easily the rudest Latin country I’ve ever visited.

  12. Chile Argentina & Uruguay are best targeted for educated people like you. A’ int drop a single penny to risk my security at wild cities like Rio or even worst as Bahia – Pernambuco, highest crime rates of Brazil

    1. Thanks for taking the time to comment! Actually, Chile and Argentina are on our short list of places we want to visit and based on people we’ve met from these countries I know we would enjoy them. Thank you.

      1. Hey nice Canadian couple, so many thanks for your speedy reply ! Althought is hard to.join so many places in a few of days, the coolest destinations are Vina del Mar, Bariloche, Sierras de Cordoba , Iguazu Falls , Piriapolis and Montevideo
        Buenos Aires is very European, but it’s a nightmare everyday street’ s protests . Eventually Mar del Plata can’ t be overlooked , cold Atlantic sea over an astounding city designed on certain Scandinavian architecture to spend Summer vacations in the most fashionnable global way . Check it out googling in the meanwhile . Wishing you the most accurated amusement, with true compliments .

        1. Thank you so much for the tips! We WILL make it there sometime soon (we’ve already seen Iguazu by the way on our Brazil trip – gorgeous).

  13. very interesting read Frank! I’ll be there in december for three nights. I suspect that will be enough. The damned visa cost over $200 so it better be nice! It’s the last stop of my trip in South America. I wont be out at night. Still, feel uneasy about going there

    1. Yes, that damn Visa. We had to pay it as well being Canadian. I think walking around the day fine, we were just careful anytime after dark..

  14. Rio is the most beautiful city in the world . They have beautiful ladies, amazing beaches and also is a paradise in the earth, ( with incredible mountains and also the Christ the Redemmer statue )! If you don’t know about Rio, don’t make comments . I went there several times and I felt safe.
    The city has problems like other big metropolies in the world . But is an awsome city . They have the most happy and friendly people that I ever seen in my life . The carnival , the samba and also the beaches make the difference ! That’s why Rio is a great city .
    They have “Bossa Nova”
    And their music is really good. You have to listen “Garota de Ipanema” .
    Rio de Janeiro you are a beautiful place to visit 😉

    1. Oh, I know about Rio. Which is why I wrote about it 😉
      But your entitled to your own opinion and appreciate that you took the time to comment.

    2. I totally agree with you. I think the problem with some visitors is their ethnocentrism and not the other way around. Brazilians are a completely separate culture from the rest of the world and they are very culturally isolated. So learn some Portuguese, get to like the music and go there with a sense of adventure (not extreme comfort) and you will love it.

  15. Personally loved Rio. The only issue is that it is pricey, all of Br. is basically. However I have been to many cities in Br., and the general rule is once the sun goes down, you go down. I always felt safe during the day but during the night there, it is whole other story. Never walk by yourself.
    But the people there are lovely, it’s just that these criminals ruin it for everyone else.

  16. Hi there!
    I fully agree with you .
    I live in the inland of Brazil. I was in Rio de Janeiro recently . Everything that you said happened to me too . I do not come back ever again.

  17. Another great story. Laughed a couple of times thinking of similar stories with reality not meeting expectations. Personally, love Rio!!

  18. Maybe you felt that way because you don’t speak Portuguese. Most of Brazilian people can’t speak English and when they hear English that can be quite intimidating for them. But yes, as a Portuguese woman myself living in Bahia for six years now, I can say that most of people here aren’t very reliable. Once they know you’re a foreigner, they will always try to take advantage from you.

  19. Hi! Good morning!

    I am from Brazil and I want to say to you that I would NEVER go to Rio de Janeiro, I live in a small city in the state of São Paulo and I like the place I live. The people here are not so that good, specially now with smartphones that no one talk to each other anymore, people like lazyness, they like holidays and things like that, so you will find people more friendly in this occasions. Coming to Rio de Janeiro, the city is violent, there is a lot of bad culture there, Funk music and so on. I really recommend you to come here but go to less populated places where people still live in the old way, saying hello to everyone and you can find many beautiful places.

    1. Thanks so much Elton. It is very true that small cities in general are much more friendly. And you’re right, the culture these days is the same everywhere with people on their smartphones and no caring about anything.
      Thank you for taking the time to comment! 🙂

  20. I’m sorry you have a negative experience, but I also have to disagree by saying people from Rio are super friendly and open and in my case, with a tremendous curiosity about where we are from, our lifestyle back at home, etc. All it takes is a smile, a word in portuguese and the conversation gets really going … and usually they’re super funny!

    1. Thanks Bruno. As you can see from both this post and my other one on Brazil there are lots of opinions and they usually seem to be at both ends of the spectrum. I think language is a big factor and you benefited from speaking Portuguese (I noticed your from Portugal). We got by with our Spanish and few words of Portugese but conversation was still non-existent, partially because of the language factor but mostly because of the attitude in our case. We’ve been to many places where there was a language barrier but it never seemed to matter as much as it did in Brazil.
      Again, this was our experience – glad to hear you had a better one 🙂

  21. This is my 4th trip to Brazil, first to Rio. like NYC or any big city it can be intimidating…
    But I have found the people of BRAZIL, Rio and Sao Paulo to be the most warm and friendly… far more friendly than any US city, and I’m American.

    BTW I’ve been to every big city in America, Australia and Europe, not once but multiple times. My view is based on many visits.

  22. Sorry you had such a negative experience. I’m an American who lived in Rio for six months, back in 2010. The city was changing then and the people were still friendly. I recently talked to an old girlfriend and she told me that the city has changed for the worse. She left Rio in 2012 and she said she has no intention of returning. I’m staying clear until after the Olympics.

    I read your post and the sad thing is, the Brazilians USE TO BE just like the people you see in the movies and on television. Very passionate, outgoing and friendly. That innocence has been lost. The world games may have killed the spirit of the city.

    1. Thanks for the comments Clarke. I had a friend who recently went and she has the same feelings about the Brazilians – just didn’t find them friendly. Yes, the Olympics would I think be the worst time to go. And things are never easier when the economy sucks as it does right now..

  23. Hello.
    I normally do not reply on blog posts; but after reading your comments about Rio de Janeiro, I felt compelled to respond. I truly respect that everyone is entitled to his/her own opinion, but judging an entire city based on an interaction with a woman at the airport, concierge at a hotel, and a sleazy bartender is just not fair. Your first mistake was staying in Ipanema (the entire place is a tourist cesspool and there are plenty of other neighborhoods equally as “safe” in Rio). Don’t get me wrong, Ipanema, Copacabana, and Leblon are all beautiful and I spent a lot of time at there during my stay in Rio (I was there for almost a month); however, I would never spend my entire vacation living in these places because they are not places that genuinely represent or capture the overall essence of the city. It would be like going to Hollywood in L.A. and judging the entirety of the state of California based on interactions with people from that city. Not taking into account San Francisco or even some places in southern California.

    Rio is probably one of the most magnificent places I have ever visited (and I, too, have traveled a lot all over Europe, Asia, Africa, and Central/South America). Yes, they have some serious problems (in general, Brasil needs a lot of work in bettering the lives of the majority of the population); but I don’t think I’ve ever visited a place where a majority of the people, no matter if they came from a favela in west Rio or a nice neighborhood in Botafogo, seemed so carefree. And I’m not talking about sexual liberation or whatever, just in general: free. The beach is a way of life in Rio, dancing is in their blood, and you can strike up a conversation with just about anyone. I did not experience the hostility you speak of at all- and I am only commenting because I don’t want your experience to deter some people reading your blog from experiencing a somewhat enchanted city.

    When I went there, I lived in a neighborhood near the center of Rio called Santa Teresa, the neighborhood still has it’s cobblestone roads and old architecture from the past. There are tourists there, but it’s not like the more popular places in Rio, so you get to experience life there alongside locals. It’s your business if you go back to Rio or not, but I think maybe you should give it another try. Maybe it’s not for everyone and that is okay, but I wouldn’t feel right if I didn’t at least try to explain why that city is filled with magic and underneath it all: love. I hope I did not offend you or anything, but I just felt I had to respond.

    Cheers.

    1. Hi Seble,
      No offense in any way, I appreciate that you took the time to comment and give your opinion. Everyone has different experiences and I’m happy to hear you loved Rio (and had the experience we had hoped to have).
      The examples I used were just an indication, as I say, they pretty much exemplified my experience with everyone. I can’t explain it but my wife still laughs about it (she can laugh, they were a lot friendlier to her).
      Yes, we went to Santa Teresa. Doesn’t look like the safest place at night. And I guess that’s one of my issues with Rio overall.

      I don’t think I’d ever chose to go to Rio again but if I needed to transit anywhere I’d stay a couple of days because, despite everything, Rio is geographically beautiful. The only reason I’d be back (plus the hard disk where I had all photos of Brazil crashed and lost them all).

      Thanks for sharing your experience Sable 🙂
      Frank

  24. Just spent 5 weeks in Brazil, including about 10 days in Rio. It’s brilliant. Fantastic country and wonderful people. I’ve been to about 30 countries in the world and Brazil is my favourite by some distance – and Rio is brilliant. I made a lot of friends in Rio and other parts of Brazil and I honestly have no idea what you’re talking about in this blog.

    1. Like I always say, each experience is unique. Good for you. Opposite for us, Brazil our worst travel experience. By a long way…

  25. I’ve read your post and couldn’t be quiet. I’m brazilian, use to travel around as much as possible and unfortunately have to agree with you. Rio has one of the most beautiful views In the world but their people has no preparation to receive foreigners and tourists. What a shame! The other side, as a brazilian again, I know the idea of happy and smiling brazilians are not real, specially in Rio. It’s a cultural thing, they’re kind of bad humored, and you just can know the kindness after a while or more.

  26. I’m so sorry you had this experience! I am an expat living in Rio for the past 7 months, and I’ve come across the KINDEST people I’ve ever experienced in my life.
    I would say though that service overall is pretty bad (hotel and restaurants included)… too laidback and quite unfriendly. Cariocas though, if you meet them on the street and have a chance to have a conversation, are some of the most amazing people I’ve ever come across. Politically aware, interested in other cultures, and never-endingly helpful. Unfortunately, Copacabana and Ipanema are major tourist hotspots, and likely many of the Brazilians you encountered (especially at attractions) may be tourists as well and not local.
    One other thing – I would say “guy code” doesn’t exist here. The macho culture, in my opinion, is the worst part of Rio. I’ve been called “tasty” more times than my own name, and grabbed in public. Yikes.

    1. Thanks Steph for your account. Hey, I’ve noticed the ladies like Brazil much more than the guys. Maybe they just turn on the charm with the women? Spanky liked them much more than I did.
      I’ve been grabbed in public in the Dominican Republic and offered ‘sucky sucky’ and ‘fucky fucky’. I guess it’s not as much fun when it happens to you as a woman.
      But I’m happy to hear you enjoy Rio. Thanks for taking time to comment 🙂

      1. Hey there, just returned from a month’s holiday in Rio. Trust me, it is not easy to be a female in there, especially the blond one with blue eyes. Men are staring in the bus and in the street all the time, not as much interested in talking to me as in my body. In +40 degrees I was hiding under maxi dresses.

        However I stayed in the local family home and their hospitality was amazing. In any home I stayed in, I slept in the best bed, the owners shared single beds or slept on the sofas… Even those “uneducated” read conversation books and tried to talk with me in English.

        There are so many layers of local communication habits and false beliefs that people hold about each other’s cultures… For example, the word “nice” can have different meaning to different people too. I live in Ireland. Irish call themselves super “nice”, but only on the surface. Yes, they are polite, that helps, but will always keep the emotional distance. I found Brazilians are more genuine, direct and say what they think, without wasting my energy for small talk. You can quickly see who is who and make friends. They also appreciate the same in me, that i am just what it says on the tin 🙂

        We have to be diplomatic, respectful and humble, careful with the idea that “we are the nice ones” and “they are mean ones”… I am sure if you would spend more time in Brazil you would learn about the local mentality and find a couple of people you get along with. If not, then perhaps it is worth to ask for feedback, what is it that bother others in you 🙂

        1. Thanks for the feedback Sam, sounds like you had a good experience.
          I’m in total agreement about how in the West you get a lot of ‘surface’ niceness and that you can’t judge based on that. We spent a lot of last year in the Balkans where people come across as a bit rougher.

      2. Yes. Young blond foreign women will be treated like queens in Brazil, especially Rio de Janeiro (probably the most looks-oriented place on Earth, LA a close second)

  27. Sounds like it’s really changed a lot over the decades. I spent considerable time there in the 70s as a young man – found the people friendly, and ended up marrying one of them. Our marriage ended in the 80s, but I’ve kept in contact with my ex. She returned permanently to Canada a few years after we separated – I think she would share your observation about violence and tension, although she still loves the country. Even when I was there, there was plenty of violence, and I was warned about it often. However, I had learned pretty decent Portuguese, bought clothes in the local style, traveled solo, got a good tan, and managed to blend in at first glance. So maybe that helped. Or maybe things have just gotten worse. I hope to get back in the next few years, but might focus on smaller cities.

    1. Thanks for your story Paul. I can see how blending in would overcome a lot of the feelings of sticking out that I felt. The way you describe it sounds pretty good 🙂 The previous commenter had also mentioned that they enjoyed Brazil much more the 2nd time around after having learned a bit of Portuguese. I’ve always felt at home in the Spanish-speaking world so I understand how knowing the language helps…but the reason I first got motivated to learn Spanish was because of all the nice people I met on those first trips to Latin America. I wanted to be able to converse in Spanish. In Brazil I didn’t get that.
      Good to hear your story. I know a few people who went in the 70s and loved it. I wonder what they would feel now? And I’m curious to why your ex would chose Canada over Brazil..I guess the violence was the deciding factor?
      Thanks Paul for your insights.

  28. Hi Guys! I’m so sorry you didn’t enjoy Rio! The first time we went, other than the amazing sites I wasn’t super thrilled about Rio either. Afterwards we discussed how happy we were that we waited a while to go to Rio after moving here, because we had a better grasp of Portuguese by then. I think Rio would be intimidating and difficult to navigate on your own if you do not speak Portuguese fairly well. Then we went again for Carnival and explored even more of Rio. I have to say the big city has grown on me, and now I can’t wait to go back. As for the luggage carousel, your article had me laughing so hard! Yes, getting your baggage from the carousel is a nightmare in any city in Brazil! I don’t know why but all of the Brazilians must rush up with giant baggage carts and park direclty in front of the carousel, and won’t let anyone else pass to grab their luggage. They also get pushy. It is a bizarre phenomenon to me, but I’m so used to it now I just go with it and rush up front too. Ha ha! I am worried what any of our friends and family will think when they come to visit us and see the every man and woman for himself mentatilty in the airport. That aside, I still love Brazil.
    Currently we live in the state of Santa Catarina, Brazil and we’ve been to several different states. I would challenge you to return to Brazil and come to the South, Santa Catarina or Rio Grande do Sul. Our experience has been that most Brazilians here love foreigners–and yes, even Americans like us! It helps that we also speak passable Portuguese. Brazil is one of the few countries I’ve been to in which very few people speak English. They are used to Brazilian and Argentinian tourists but not the North Americans and Europeans. The tourism industry here is very underdeveloped in regard to outside tourism. -But if you do decide to try again and are in the south of Brazil, let us know! We would be happy to show you why we love living here so much!

    Cheers!
    Elizabeth

    1. Hi Elizabeth! Thanks for the great comment. So I was crashing some kind of Brazilian custom was I? Good to know 🙂 I’m surprised people don’t come to blows because if it had been a guy I would have gotten into my first fight since high school.
      Interesting everything you say, I’ll come and check out your site. Challenge us to return to Brazil huh? Hmmm, I’ve got this pretty bad taste in my mouth that I can’t seem to overcome. Maybe one day if I get amnesia.
      Good for you for having learned Portuguese which doesn’t seem an easy language. We both speak Spanish and it was passable getting around. They always say that Portuguese-speakers can understand Spanish but that Spanish-speakers can’t understand Portuguese. Is that true or just BS? Anyway, like I said, I think they understood me just fine but just preferred responding to Lissette like I wasn’t there. I don’t get that. She always thought it was pretty frigin funny but I just started to get pissed off after a while…
      Thanks for the comment, helps me understand a few things 🙂

  29. Never been to Brazil – but there are countries we like less than others. Djibouti is so far at the bottom of the list, and we can only speculate why: http://www.westwards.de/westwards/2015/03/djibouti.html
    And it’s true, they are not always the obvious places that everybody warns you about. On the contrary, we also enjoyed Colombia tremendously and felt very safe there. The same goes for Syria and Libya (both before the war), while we rather disliked oh so popular Vietnam. Perhaps it has to do with prior expectations, too…

    1. Colombia is one of our favorites as well and we also felt very safe. I’ve heard a few people say exactly the same as you about Vietnam.
      Enjoyed your post on Djibouti 🙂 I think we’ll give it a pass…

  30. I really feel sorry for the bad part of your experience in Rio de Janeiro, but I’m sure it can not be generalized, the Brazilian people are very receptive and happy people, anywhere in the world will be the exceptions, here would be no different and I’m sorry you have just found this minority in its passage through here. But I feel it my duty to say that Brazil is not just Rio de Janeiro, there are many other incredibly beautiful states, and kind people. So I invite you next come to Brazil to meet a different perspective, check out to Bahia, and havens that exist in northeast Brazil . I invite you to a second coming to my country, and I promise you will leave here with another thought.

    Sorry errors, do not speak english very well.

    A big hug from Brazil <3

    1. Thank you Paolla for your nice comment. I can only speak from our experience and maybe we were unlucky. And as you say, it is such a large country and I’ve heard better things from travellers heading a bit further north.
      Thank you for commenting and for your invitation, it is very nice of you.

  31. Greetings!

    I have to say that my experience in Rio de Janeiro and in Brazil was totally opposite of yours.

    As Portuguese I was soooo very welcomed, and people always happy to receive me, telling me stories of their Portuguese ancestors, or how we have the same language, food or music similarities, or football, etc.

    I have never had any issues with anyone from any type of background being Indians, afro-Brazilians, Portuguese, Italian, Japanese, Polish descendants.

    People in general were always very nice to me and my Polish girlfriend. I spend 4 months in Brazil, backpacking.

    I have to disagree with my fellow Portuguese travelers Zara, from the previous comment. Most Brazilians are Europeans or mix-European, so they can’t be angry of anything.

    If someone could be angry would be either the Indians or Afro descendants. I was very well received during my 2 months stay along the Amazon regions – people loved the fact I was from Portugal and always came very curious, sympathetic and generously offering me their… Brazilian famous SMILE.

    Interestingly, the words I heard the most being Portuguese was the fact that the Portuguese prince Dom Pedro the First created modern independent Brazil and how we protected the region against the Spanish and French.

    As I entered Oiapoque in the north bordering French Guiana, I heard the phrase: Good to the Portuguese, we would speak French now if not for you. Plus, always someone has an uncle, grand-mother or grand-father Portuguese as half of the Brazilian population are in fact Portuguese descendants.

    I traveled in the following states of Brazil: Amapá, Pará, Roraima, Amazonas, Rio Grande do Sul, Santa Catarina, Paraná, São Paulo and Rio de Janeiro.

    I rented a house in Rio for 45 days and just loved the experience. From the neighbors to the people in the local supermarket, all always very kind, positive and great attitude.

    Rio de Janeiro for me is not the urban city itself, but the breathtaking location (the rocky mountains together with the coast) – I have to say it did impressed me by it looks.

    I had a normal impression of Brazil and Brazilians, but after my trip, my respect just got higher and I want to go back again.

    My opinion regarding Brazilian people is that they are sweet, smiling and generous.

    Obrigado Brasil até à próxima! // Thank you Brazil see you next time!

    1. It sounds like you had a great experience! Thank you for telling your story – it is totally different than ours but travel is all about unique experiences. As I’ve said somewhere else before, if we returned tomorrow we may end up with a totally different experience then the first time.

  32. I was in Rio recently and even if my experience wasn’t as bad as yours I didn’t really like the city. It was beautiful, true, but to be honest I don’t really know why half of the world is so crazy about it. It lacked some kind of soul and seemed very unfriendly to me!

    1. Thanks Kami! I kind of took it personal but nice to know it’s not just me. No problems with Lissette though, they seemed to like her just fine. Funny how that happens different places in the world – in some I get the star treatment as the white man, in others she’s the only one they want to talk to…

  33. Brazil in fact is a very problematic country for tourists, violence, bad manners, bad transportation, poluted water etc. So if you want make a trip try another country more developed. The real dream of most brazilians is emigrating, most of them can’t because they dont have enough funds for it.

    1. Thanks for your input Jonas. Bad education pretty much a constant in much of the developing world, I don’t think it necessarily explains the culture of violence though most of Central/South America though.
      SE Asia for example is comparatively incredibly safe despite poverty and poor education.
      But you’re right that Brazil and most of South America is dangerous, the infrastructure poor, the environment neglected. Too much government corruption? The huge gap between rich and poor? Lack of a social safety net? Drugs? I’d be interested in understanding why South American culture so much more violent than SE Asia when so many issues similar.

  34. Oh interesting to hear this as it’s very high on my list and was looking to go soon. I’ve heard a couple of negative things though but will still go with an open mind 🙂

  35. I really appreciate when people are honest about the places they visit and don’t just go on and on about how wonderful everything is. I like to have a heads up about what I could possibly encounter when I visit somewhere. That’s really too bad about the rude people. I’ve been a few places where the people weren’t friendly either and it can put a black cloud over your vacation. Rio looks so beautiful though from your pictures!

    1. Really appreciate Rhonda! I get flak when I’m negative, but can anyone love everything? They’ll always be places, things or restaurants that appeal to most but which might not appeal to you personally. I think it’s important to be honest about it – it’s not meant to stop anyone from going, but maybe they’ll be more prepared for what they might encounter. I wish I had read something slightly negative about Rio and Brazil in general, I’ve always loved Latin cultures and I think I went there with rose-colored glasses and wasn’t prepared for the negative attitudes I experienced. Anyway, thank you for the comment.

  36. I am Brazilian and I don’t feel safe when I visit Rio. However, I don’t feel safe in parts of New York and Miami either. New Yorkers are not known for their friendliness but people still visit the city. In Europe, I was robed in Lisbon, Portugal, and find the Portuguese very unfriendly. I don’t think Lisbon is safe, even though everyone says it is. In Brazil, “the gringos” are perceived as cold, arrogant, and unfriendly, especially Americans. Perhaps you have suffered the side effects of how your fellow countrymen have behaved in the past.

    1. Actually I’m Canadian, the only thing we do to piss people off is say ‘eh?’ all the time. And you’re basically saying what I said in this post about using “anti-Americanism” as a broader brush against any white traveler.
      But I appreciate your comment, you are right that Brazil is not the only place where people can be unfriendly.

  37. After three weeks in Rio I can only agree with you. Having lived in Vienna and traveled through Eastern Europe I feel Cariocas are even more unfriendly and rude. I also didn’t feel safe here. The city itself is beautiful but it’s a shame how dirty it is. The smell of urine is also not very inviting…

    1. Thank you for the comment Ines! I’m sorry you didn’t enjoy Rio but it’s also a relief to know that we are not the only ones that didn’t enjoy the city. Hope your future travels are more pleasant 🙂

  38. I reckon the problem wasn’t the Brazilians but your expectation 🙂
    I’ve been to Brasil, and I have to confessed that I didn’t like people’s attitude neither, however, I met so many friendly folks through out my stay…
    Next time, avoid the hotels, try couchsurfing – U will manage to meet genuine friendly Brazilians.

    1. Thanks for the comment Nelvino. At the time we were working full time and had 3 weeks vacation, we were there to relax and couchsurfing not what we wanted to do. We’re also in our 40’s so our old bones looking for a bit more comfort – when I was young I had no problems sleeping anywhere.
      I understand what your saying and there are some nice, welcoming people everywhere. Anyone opening their doors to strangers would I’m sure be very friendly and there’s nothing like being taken around by a local to appreciate a place. Still, that wasn’t our experience and, having travelled many places, we were a bit shocked by the generally unfriendly attitudes. As I had mentioned somewhere else, we had travelled through Colombia the previous year and it couldn’t have been more different.

  39. Welcome to Latin America! I am currently living in Colombia and I have guys yell out stuff to my girlfriend all the time as we are walking down the street holding hands.

    1. Really!! What audacity! You should go out on your own one day and do the same to a Latin guy with his girlfriend, just to see how the guy reacts :).

  40. Funny how experiences can vary because Rio specifically and Brazil in general were my top destinations in an around the world jaunt. Loved the people, their attitude towards life, the food, the music the nightlife, the fun in general to be had by all, rich and poor.My biggest disappointment was Australia. Could not wait to leave. Maybe it is a reflection of the attitude or body language that we project?

    1. I don’t really know, interesting theory though! Australia huh? My ex-boss had the same feeling when he came back from there 5 years ago; found them a bit rough around the edges. I think he called them hicks – didn’t think much of the Aussies. But he recently told me he’s thinking of going back! Maybe we have to give places a 2nd chance? Be interested in your ideas on Australia. Thanks for taking the time to comment Sylvia!

  41. This is quite an eye opener – definitely not what I imagined Brazil would feel like. Did the atmosphere change after getting out of the big cities or did it feel like this everywhere you went?

    1. Just found your other posts on Brazil… and I guess the answer is “yes”?

      That’s good to keep in mind when planning any future trips there. Thanks for sharing!

  42. Oh, I so hate it when the reception staff is judgmental. Most of them wouldn’t even afford to stay one night at the hotel they are working at (I don’t intend to be rude here), and yet, instead of making pleasant and friendly hosts, they have this attitude of superiority. I wonder why? It’s even worse when you get the feeling this judgemental attitude came with the job description and everybody has it.

    1. I really hate those frustrated women, who try to use hotel receptionists as punch bags as an escape for their paranoid insecurity. They even dare to think they are allowed to do moral harassment and even pretty bad false accusations (a criminal offense everywhere), because “they are paying for that as hotel clients”…. and… I do not mean to be… rude LOOOOL

      1. I’m not sure what frustrated women you are talking about…moral harassement and false accusations? Right…

    1. Experiences seem to be all over the place in Rio. I just read another blogger’s story of getting robbed on Copacabana beach by a guy who threatened her with a machete. I guess it can happen anywhere…but I’ve heard enough stories to know that we weren’t the only ones who didn’t feel comfortable with the security issue.

    1. I am brazilian and I belive everthing he say.
      Not only I belive but I add that it happens with others brazilians too AND too often.
      And people from rich hotels are NOT more friendly than poor hotels, understand this.

  43. I am sorry for your bad experience in Brazil. But, as a brazilian, I must say I am not rude, I am not miseducated, I do not atack people no the street.

    I have visit so many countries around the world and I can say that there are good and bad in everywhere corner of this planet. I met smiling people in USA, but even in Hawaii, where I expect to see shining faces no the beach, I had the experience with rude ones.

    Russia, Montenegro, Poland, Sweden, Portugal, Australia… all those places can proporcionate different kind of experiences, depending on who you meet on the right places, on the right time.

    Sorry for my bad English.

    1. Thank you for your comment Carlos, you are the first Brazilian to respond to this. I agree with everything you say, there are good and bad people everywhere. And even us Canadians, who are known to be nice and friendly, can be a cold and uninterested bunch at times. Nobody is perfect. But our trip to Brazil was different because the unfriendliness (towards me) was so obvious. I wrote more about it on the summary of our trip. I spent a lot of time wondering why the people were so unfriendly and I still don’t have a definite conclusion why. If you have any insights it would be helpful.

      As I’ve previously said though; maybe the stars just didn’t align for us in Brazil. I don’t want to be negative towards Brazilians, but at the same time it was the reality of that trip.

      Your English is fine Carlos, but if you feel more comfortable in Spanish (or French) feel free to comment.

      1. Hi!
        Sorry to hear you had a bad experience in Rio. It is a stunning city as u said and maybe, while tripping to Rio, we gotta remember what our eyes see is what will remain in our memory. Regardin the people, as a Carioca I may say that Yes, people in Rio do take people at face value.. It seems like after all this economy booming people in Rio (natives and travellers) do feel like they’re travelling to Miami in South America with a Mix of Saint Tropez and Monaco. You stayed at the neighbourhood of rich and famous. Im sorry to say and experience that on my own that people are stuck up nose, fancy, trendy and show off. Maybe if you stayed at low profile places like Flamengo or Botafogo you wouldn’t have experienced that feeling. Hope you come to to Rio and have greater times!

      1. What you are talking about? I have been in USA for 1 year and a half studying and something that i noticed it was the totally disrespectful people who I ever met. In the one year and a helf I made no friends and I tried hard. I was living with a roommate who doesnt even says Good Morning or even Hello. I wish that I never have go back to USA again.

        1. Hi Lucas. I’m not from the USA so I can’t really comment. They definitely have their own race problems there, coupled with, in some places, complete ignorance of other countries. I can promise you people in Canada are friendly 🙂 .
          But this post was about Brazil. We’ve been to many countries, including a few in the Caribbean and South America, and never felt the people as unfriendly towards us as in Brazil. Why? I often felt that Brazilians, like you, have negative feelings about Americans but don’t differentiate between all white races. You can’t paint everyone with the same brush…

          1. Ouch! Maybe specific locations would be better. Were you in New York City? Los Angeles? BFE? Orlando, Dallas, Portland? That matters. I’m American and I’m not ignorant or rude and would love to (and do) make friends with people from anywhere in the world! Though now that I’ve heard what those “sweet, friendly” Canadians think of us, maybe Canada’s last on my list. I’m sorry for the bad experience but the US is HUGE. I’m also sorry to the Canadians who are acting ignorant and saying that they are different white people from Americans, pardon my French but F you. 😉 Ha ha! All people are different. Our governments are too. Sometimes that affects how people feel especially in poor countries where your tourist dollars do nothing for them. I’ve always thought it was much more about rich/poor than black/ white. Again the United States is an awfully big place to make such wide sweeping judgments. I don’t say that to people from South America, I say that to Canadians. You should know better. I’ll find a less insulting blog. Happy travels!

          2. Sorry to offend! You’re calling me out on a comment I made over 2 years ago 😉
            If it makes you feel better, my wife is an American from New York. I and most Canadians love Americans. But I mentioned that you guys have your own race issues and that many Americans are totally ignorant of the rest of the world. I’m sorry, I have to stand by that. Generally speaking (of course not everyone) it’s true and it has more to do with the education system than anything. My wife will be the first to admit that when she went to school they never learned anything about the world outside US borders.
            Again, sorry to offend.

          3. It´s the SAME thing with others brazilians too, belive me.

            Serious, I don´t know why the hell people think that brazilians are happy and friendly people. I cannot understand this. Maybe, people from Amazonas are, but from other places definitelly not.

            People from Ceará doesn´t respect ANYONE, they say the first shit that come in their heads (I am very serious here). People in Rio de Janeiro are ridiculous violent, one wrong word or even stare and you can hit.

            If you see one brazilian smiling he is prolly making fun of someone or even YOU.

    1. Hope you guys have a great time! Like I’ve said before, maybe we were just unlucky with the circumstances. It is a beautiful spot though.

  44. How I understand you!
    Being from Portugal, I too had the “cheerful, happy” stereotype of Brazilian people in my mind.. but that was before traveling to Brazil itself. I was a bit disappointed with people’s attitude: being Portuguese I felt like they were still pissed off at me because centuries ago my country men decided to colonize them or something. Not proud of that myself.. but I can’t carry the burden of my country’s history on my 2 shoulders.
    Anyway… not everyone is friendly and definitely not hot either in Brazil. And I guess in places like Rio, being over popular and always full of tourists no matter what, people would care even less. I guess the feeling that the city isn’t safe either doesn’t help, doesn’t help at all!.. Stunning landscapes though. Specially from Corcovado and Sugar Loaf, as you mention.

    1. Thank you Zara. I’m sorry that you had a similar experience but it’s good to know that we weren’t the only ones to feel that way. You’re right about the stunning landscapes!

    2. Brazilians are assholes. I had to suffer for one who was my boss at a company. Arrogant, rude, nosy. There are some nice ones but most have a negative arrogant attitude.

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