Brazil might be the biggest country most of the world doesn't know a whole heckuva a lot about.
This is beginning to change as financial fortunes for some have soared in recent years, helping lift some 50% of the country into the middle class. Of this figure, 40 million were added to the middle class between 2004 and 2010, under the government of President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva.
But success hasn't come without problems.
The mass June demonstrations over chronic economic disparity and dissatisfaction with the federal government united poor and middle classes alike, exposing a troubling social reality.
Still, if there's one thing Brazil is known for worldwide it's a gregarious and energetic population.
Now that Brazil will be hosting the World Cup next year and the Olympics in 2016 (massive public expenditures that many here deeply oppose), it's time for a crash course in all things Brazilian.
There are no introverts in Brazil
Or at least none you can find without a private detective.
It's a vivacious culture that can bring you out of your shell, help you unwind and have the best time of your life.
It can also jack up the decibel count. Brazilians like to express themselves and don't have many restraints on the volume with which they do it.
That goes not just for conversation, but car horns, TV pitchmen and sound trucks blasting advertisements through the neighborhood from 16 speakers.
English isn't spoken widely
As Portuguese speakers on a Spanish continent far from the English-speaking world, Brazilians have been a linguistic universe unto themselves.
Not many Brazilians speak English, particularly outside Rio de Janeiro or Sao Paulo.
They've seen all the American movies and know all the Adele songs, but the premium has traditionally been on getting a good education in Portuguese, still difficult in a land where education is far down the list of priorities.
Brazilians are hospitable, though, and most will figure out a way to communicate.
It's helpful to come prepared with a good phrasebook. Key phrases to master: Todo bom? (How are you? All good?), Eu nao entendo (I don't understand) and futebol (you'd better know this by now).
If all else fails, go with the all-purpose Brazilian sign that everything is cool: stick both thumbs in the air and pump them up and down.
The juice bars are amazing
Maybe because they're surrounded by so many varieties of exotic fruits the rest of us have never heard of -- caju, camu-camu, pitanga -- Brazilians are experts in the creation of especially tasty fruit drinks, or sucos.
Just about every other street in Rio has a juice bar.
Even delicatessens whip up outstanding juices and smoothies, such as graviola, which comes from the spiky, green graviola fruit. It's a great thirst quencher on a hot day, subtle, not overly sweet, a kind of natural Squirt -- it's also a good digestive aid.
The Brazilian banana is the tastiest in the world, far superior to the bland Central American version (say Brazilians), and it makes for super savory drinks.
Brazil is an outdoor world
From the sidewalk cafes of Rio, to backyard barbecues, to beaches up and down the long coast, to the wild interior, Brazil is a place to be outside.