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What is the deal with Brazilian motels? Posted by on Jun 12, 2020 in Brazilian Profile, Culture, Customs, Entertainment, Vocabulary

Imagine you are taking a car trip, feeling exhausted and looking for modest and cheap accommodation just to descansar (get some rest) and get back na estrada (on the road) the next morning. I believe many of you, when you coming across a sign that says “MOTEL” would assume that it might be the ideal place to stay, wouldn’t you? But beware! Unlike American-style motels, the Brazilian version is completely different! And I hope you are feeling romantic, because that’s what we’re going to cover in today’s text, as a tribute to our own dia dos namorados (Valentine’s Day).

But first, let’s back it up a little bit to talk about the emergence of motels. As the United States are connected by good quality roads, where it is common for people to take trips that can last for days, architect Arthur Heineman wanted to offer a practical and baixo-custo (low-cost) option to motoristas (drivers) who ventured across the country. As a result, in 1925 he created the first known motel in the city of San Luis Obispo, California. The name “Motel” itself derives from its functionality, being the combination of the words “Motor” and “Hotel”.

Placa de motel (Photo by Wallpaper Flare)

But let’s shift our focus to Brazilian motels now. They are known to be a place of, let’s say, intimidade (intimacy), where couples’ primary interest is definitely not dormir (sleeping), but to have sex. That’s right, you heard me! But how did we diverge so much from its original purpose? There are some versions as to how this type of motel use – or business model if you will – was consolidated. We imported the idea of building motels in the outskirts of cities and on highways from Americans, but the similarities end there. These establishments began to be used as a way of maintaining discrição e privacidade (discretion and privacy), so casais (couples) and amantes (lovers) could spend some alone time with each other.

It is worth noting that it all started in the 60s. Brazilian society, deeply Catholic and conservative, have always considered a taboo to discuss sexual relations in public and this soon became a viable option for people, away from the public moral judgement. Nowadays, motels remain synonymous with sex in Brazil. My own personal theory about why they are so widespread and popular in the country is that many Brazilians live with their families long into their adulthood, which can be a little hard for privacy. In these places, you don’t even need to passar a noite (stay overnight), and hóspedes (guests) can choose to spend 1 or 2 hours if they want, with fixed prices. And to ensure privacy and comfort, all service is conducted with utmost discretion. You can enter the establishment by car, inform the type of quarto (room) you want over intercom and then estacionar (park)  by the door, with a separate entrance.

Unlike the United States, however, motels don’t necessarily mean preços baixos (low prices), as it all depends on where you are going and what your desejos (desires) are. Some motels offer café da manhã (breakfast), banheiras (hot tubs), theme bedrooms, camas em formato de coração (heart-shaped beds), espelhos no teto (ceiling mirrors), champagne, room service and even cable TV! Camisinhas (condoms), on the other, are entirely de graça (free).

And now you must be wondering why this text is a tribute to Valentine’s Day. Unlike the rest of the world, dia dos namorados in Brazil is celebrated, you guessed it, on June 12th. The date was created by a Brazilian publicist in 1948, as a way of boosting commerce during that mês (month). Were you familiar with the history of Brazilian motels? Be sure to write us below. And if you want to learn more about Valentine’s Day and how to express yourself about amor (love) in Portuguese, click on the related posts below:

Dia dos Namorados

Valentine’s Day – Dia dos Namorados in Brazil

Dating in Portuguese

Happy Valentine’s Day! … in Brazil

Valentine’s Day Vocabulary in Portuguese… Quanto Amor!

How to Say “I Love You” in Portuguese

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