It is common practice in Europe to ask what someone does for a living, fairly soon after introducing oneself: out of interest, but also just out of curiosity. This is ordinarily ‘not done’ (considered inappropriate) in Rio de Janeiro. If one would like to know who they are dealing with, they just ask which beach you go to.
The many subcultures in Rio de Janeiro all have their own favorite beach where they get together. The million-dollar question for tourists is:
Where should I plant, or more specifically not plant, my beach umbrella?
1. What are postos?
The most popular beaches in Rio de Janeiro are Copacabana, Ipanema, and Leblon. There are numbered watchtowers, so-called ‘postos’, along the beaches. Bathrooms, showers, and first aid are available in these ‘postos’. Much more important, however, is the subculture they represent on the beach.
Copacabana is located between posto 2 and 6, and was hip and trendy when Barry Manilow’s, 1978 pop hit, Copacabana, reached a high position in the hit parade. Now, the beach is a place where mainly pensionados, families, and tourists with out-of-date travel guides go to. The boulevard is like that of Benidorm; stalls with kitsch and bars with questionable background music.
The hip beach of Ipanema starts at posto 7, known for the many ‘favela kids’ that go there. This definitely does not mean that it is unsafe. During the sunset, the rock next to the beach is one of the most popular spots of Ipanema.
Several rainbow flags fly proudly between posto 8 and 9, and mark the epicenter of the gay and lesbian community. The hippies, bodybuilders, models, volleyball players, and the regular clientele of the local plastic surgeon gather around posto 9.
Brazil is well-known for its obsession with physical appearance. The vibrant beach of posto 9 is living proof of that. Walking from posto 9 towards 10 you will stumble upon youthful skaters, who like to use soft drugs.
The beach of posto 11 and 12 is located next to the Leblon district, the wealthiest district of Rio. The crowd on that beach is mainly from Leblon itself and can be compared to the Dutch snob subculture.
Do you not fit in any of the above-mentioned subcultures? Don’t worry. The Cariocas are known for their everlasting good mood, and sincere friendliness. Therefore it is very easy to feel at home on the beaches of Rio de Janeiro.