When I first got to Brazil, I saw people giving each other beijinhos (kisses) to greet each other. It didn’t seem that strange—until I actually had to do it.
Giving a beijinho is simple: All you do is touch your cheeks and kiss the air. For a more involved greeting, you put a hand on your friend’s upper arm, in a half hug of sorts.
It’s not that different from greeting people with hugs. But I’ve never gotten tired of getting hugs.
And I got tired of beijinhos.
My first Sunday in Brazil, we went to church, and every single person I met there greeted me this way.
This experience might have been exhausting, but it was also an important piece of culture that I wouldn’t have gotten if I hadn’t been in Brazil.
Living in Brazil isn’t just an experience you do for the language learning (although that’s a big part of it); it’s about cultural immersion.
And that’s why a Brazil homestay program might be just what you need to take your Portuguese to the next level.
Why Participate in a Brazil Homestay Program?
If you missed out on being an exchange student in high school, don’t worry! You can still do a homestay program in Brazil and experience the nation’s playful, smooth Portuguese.
The immersive experience will help you improve your Portuguese and get to know the culture in one neat package.
What’s a homestay program? It’s basically a home away from home where you’re fully immersed in another language. You stay with a family or with a group of language learners like you while you learn the language in a culturally immersive experience.
If you want to study the accents of native Portuguese speakers and be surrounded by the culture of Brazil, a homestay program is perfect for you. For those who love to travel and meet new people, a homestay program in Brazil might be just what you need.
Is a Homestay Program Right for You? Consider the Pros and Cons
While the idea of going to live in another country is magical and exciting, it’s important to weigh your options and make the decision that works best for you.
Here are a couple of pros and cons of Brazilian homestay programs to keep in mind:
The pros of Brazilian homestay programs:
- You’ll “get” Brazilian Portuguese: When you do a Brazil homestay, you’ll come to understand the flow of the language more than you’d have by just reading Brazilian vocabulary out of a book.
But you’ll also learn the slang and the jeito (manner) of the language. Even the word jeito translated to English doesn’t do it justice. It’s the kind of thing you need to experience live to understand.
- There are plenty of opportunities to practice: In Brazil, you’ll have far more chances to practice the language because everyone there will be speaking Portuguese. You won’t really have any choice but to use it, too.
Since you’ll be constantly surrounded by the language, you’ll be able to pick out the accent and words better and practice with natives.
- There’s always someone around who can help: When you learn Portuguese at home, you probably don’t have the constant help of someone to correct you when you say something wrong. In Brazil, everyone’s a language teacher!
A friend of mine mispronounced the word amanhã (tomorrow) for a year, but luckily his friend from Rio de Janeiro caught the mistake and helped him learn to pronounce it correctly.
The cons of Brazilian homestay programs:
- You might experience culture shock: You’re very likely to experience culture shock in the new environment, and might even get homesick.
- It isn’t cheap: Going to another country and spending the money on airfare, food, lodging and language lessons is going to cost more than the $20 per month you’d spend on an immersive language learning program. You just have to consider your budget and decide if it’s worth the payoff.
- You’ll probably experience mental exhaustion: Although you’ll get the benefit of having people around you speaking Portuguese all day long in Brazil, you’re also going to feel extremely tired for a while.
There are days where all you’re going to want to do is take a nap from Portuguese, figuratively speaking, because half the time (or perhaps more than half the time), you won’t understand what anyone’s saying. It’s a mentally exhausting experience that you’ll have to push through.
Make your own list of pros and cons and see how your points measure up. Do your homework on what the experience is like. Talk to people who’ve visited or lived in Brazil, and see what their experience was like.
Once you’ve made your decision, you can move on to the next stage: planning.
How to Prepare for Your Homestay in Brazil
You’ve considered the pros and cons, and you’ve decided that a homestay program is exactly what you need right now. Before you go on your Brazil homestay, there are a couple things you need to do to prepare:
1. Learn basic phrases
Homestay programs are great for any level of learner, but you’ll need to know some basic Portuguese in order to get around in Brazil. You probably don’t want to take extra time typing into your translator when you need to ask “Onde está o banheiro?” (“Where’s the bathroom?”).
Before you go, try learning some Portuguese through a service like FluentU’s online immersion program. FluentU takes real-world videos—like music videos, movie trailers, news and inspiring talks—and turns them into personalized language learning lessons.
A Portuguese FluentU program is currently in development, so check back soon for authentic, immersive learning.
Learning with authentic materials means you’ll learn some basic words and phrases, but also some very helpful language learning skills that’ll come in handy when you do your Brazil homestay.
Then, once you get to Brazil, make sure you have something portable you can use to quickly look up unfamiliar phrases.
2. Get to know cultural practices
Every culture has different cultural practices, like whether you should greet someone with a handshake or a kiss. And it’s important to learn some of these before you go to Brazil so you can be polite.
For example, in Brazilian, the gesture of wiping your hands means something doesn’t matter. But unless you do your homework, you won’t know that. So do a little research on Brazilian customs and on how to be polite and it’ll go a long way.
3. Try the food
When I got to Brazil, the food was no surprise to me because of all the times I’d eaten Brazilian classics like feijoada (bean, beef and pork stew) and pão de queijo (cheese bread). But I knew other people who’d never had Brazilian food who were in a bit of a shock. They’d never seen a pig snout mixed with their beans before.
Get your stomach ready for Brazilian food, because even though it’s mostly rice and beans, you’ll want to get something a little different every once in a while.
4. Do your paperwork
Most homestay programs will help guide you through the process of getting your visas and letting you know what vaccines you’ll need. Just make sure you take care of your travel considerations as soon as possible to keep stress out of your Brazil homestay experience.
5. Prepare for beijinhos
I know I keep saying it, but getting used to beijinhos starts with mentally getting ready for them.
5 Homestay Brazil Programs for Portuguese Immersion
Now that you’ve thought more about whether a Brazil homestay program is for you, here are some excellent programs to choose from.
Just think about them as your home away from home, and see if you can imagine yourself there.
This homestay program takes place in Rio de Janeiro, home of the famous Christ the Redeemer statue.
You’ll stay with local Brazilian families and interact with the Cariocas (a term for people from Rio). You’ll be studying with the Caminhos Language Centre while still getting that immersive, authentic experience you were looking for.
Your host family can answer questions about the culture and language, and they’ll help you get used to your new surroundings. And don’t worry about bringing bedding, because you’ll have your own room with towels and sheets.
Every morning comes with an authentic Brazilian breakfast, too.
You’ll also get to choose whether you want to live near a beach or a suburb. So, if you plan on tanning often, you might want to choose the beach option, although there’s a slight price difference. Luckily, the beach homestays are closer to the school, too.
Soak up that sun… and culture!
If you’re looking to go to a place full of zesty culture, you’ll love Salvador da Bahia, where the Diálogo Brasil school is located.
This homestay program will have you staying at a two-story home in which you’ll have cooking classes and Brazilian dance classes.
It’s right by the beach and close to everything you’ll need and you’ll be learning the language associated with everyday tasks in real-life situations.
And one of the highlights? You’ll have air conditioning. When you get to Bahia, you’ll know how amazing that is.
Imagine having a Portuguese tutor you live with. That’s what it’s like on a Brazilian homestay with Eurolingua Institute, which offers homestay programs in São Paolo.
You’ll be staying in an apartment with your tutor and their family and they’ll be the ones taking you on local visits and excursions and introducing you to people who’ll push your Portuguese to new levels.
The excursions include trips to Rio de Janeiro, Riviera de São Lourenço and Tietê. It’s a fun way to get to know more of Brazil while using the language.
With CHI, you can request a location and they’ll try to place you with a host family there.
In the past, people have gone to places like Vitória, Petrópolis, Tatuí (in the state of São Paolo) and Cabo Frio (in the state of Rio de Janeiro).
This program is a little more flexible because they let you choose which activities you want to do. There are local coordinators who can help you sign up for a Portuguese language class, cooking lessons, dance classes and any other activity you want to experience in Brazil.
You’ll want to make the most of your time there because you’ll be limited to a two-month stay.
If you’re concerned about safety, CHI has a 24-hour in-country support system to make sure you feel comfortable with where you’re staying.
If you’re hoping to stay somewhere with gorgeous beaches, International Studies Abroad hosts a homestay program in Florianópolis, which in the southeastern portion of Brazil. There are over 42 beaches here!
You’ll be studying at a local university where you can take intensive language courses or even courses on culture and business.
This program is extremely meticulously planned out and includes a pre-departure orientation covering everything you’ll need to know as well as a “Bridging Cultures Program” upon your arrival to help you ease into your transition (to hopefully mitigate the culture shock a little).
You can choose a homestay option or other living conditions, but with the homestay, you’ll have breakfast, dinner and a laundry service covered. Plus, you’ll have the extra experience of living with a family of native Brazilians who’ll help you with your language skills.
The program offers a pretty sweet deal because they’ll also take you on excursions, take care of insurance and health/safety/security support, pick you up at the airport and help you with your visa process.
No matter the program you choose, you’ll have a truly immersive experience with a Brazil homestay program.
So, make that list of pros and cons, decide if it’s right for you and if it is, get ready for a whole lot of beijinhos.
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