Round It Off!

In Brazil you don’t have to worry about getting too many pennies in your purse or pocket. There are no cent coins.  Everyone rounds off to the nearest whole amount.

Their currency, the real, pronounced HAY-EYE, equals 100 cents and is worth about 50 cents on the U. S. dollar. The direct two-to-one exchange rate makes it easy to know how much something costs in the currency I’m most familiar with. But their inattention to small change helps even more.

When I give more than needed to a cab driver or the neighborhood grocer, he or she  rounds off my change to the nearest real. At the supermarket, the cashier rounds to the nearest cent, so even if the amount shows R$27,32, I’m only charged R$27,30. (Yes, their use of commas and periods in money amounts is the opposite of ours.)  

Tipping is not expected in restaurants or when taking a cab. If you have a large group, a 10% surcharge is added. No calculations needed.

Buses do not run on a schedule most of the time, so you don’t have to worry about making the 3:13 bus. You just get to the stop in the general time period you want a ride and always plan on arriving earlier versus later. So again, you can round off your leaving time.

Worship services generally are liberal about starting time. In the five weeks we have been here, if you arrive five minutes after the designated starting time, you will definitely be on time, and possibly so at ten minutes after. So just assume you need to be present around 10:00 a.m., more or less.  (“More or less” is a common Brazilian expression so our students learned the English for that early on.)

These examples show why there is a more relaxed atmosphere in conducting day-to-day activities in Brazil than there is in the United States.

So now when my Kroger bill is $8.65 and I give the cashier $9.00, I can’t leave right away. I must remember to wait for my change!

Steve Boyd
Steve Boyd
Stephen D. Boyd, Ph.D., CSP, is Professor Emeritus of Speech Communication, College of Informatics, Northern Kentucky University, near Cincinnati. Steve won the Toastmasters International Speech Contest in 1970 and was chosen Outstanding Professor of the Year at NKU in 1984, among other awards and honors. Since retiring, he volunteers with nonprofits, spends time with family, travels, preaches occasionally, and enjoys reading and writing. Contact Steve at (859) 866-5693 or at

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