In spite of the over population and the impoverishment the country suffers the people remain in high spirits. Though much activity takes place during the day and night, everything unfolds at a leisurely pace. Apart from the familiar manner in which people communicate, they are also exceedingly patient, and though there are scores of people on the street, there is no mad rush. Even in the very city centre a kind of calmness is retained.
Not being able to speak the language is not as much of an obstacle as you might think. If you learn a few simple phrases you can easily ride public transport and people will communicate with you regardless, even by using highly unrefined sign language. Or they'll speak Portuguese to you in the hope that you might get the gist of what they're saying.
However, two things I find appalling are public urination (by males only of course) and spitting (by both sexes). Both are common practices and make me want to yell 'do you have the bladder of an infant??' and 'swallow your phlegm!!'
Apart from the usual methods of transport there is also the option of taking a motor bike taxi or public Kombi van, which is the most economical. The only car at our disposal is not entirely road worthy, is unregistered and I'm the only one with a license. Road rage does not appear to be an issue here but people still drive like loonies so I haven't been brave enough to take the car for a spin yet. But I hope to take it down the mountain at least once.
The perils of Rio de Janeiro are overhyped but of course you should take the same precautions as you would anywhere else. I chose not to carry a bag and as advised I dispersed my money amongst my pockets, and I avoided obvious things like walking alone at night in vacant areas. I was able to take photos in most places; apart from other ghettos and the city centre where there was a high chance the camera would be snatched.
When returning home after a night out it is normal for people to drive through red lights at night if the way is clear due to the risk of being robbed while your car is at a standstill. Locking your doors is ineffectual as thieves are usually armed. However, this only applies to certain areas, and worst case scenario you get stopped and are forced to hand over your valuables. So as in most big cities it is not recommended that you carry large sums of money or drape yourself in expensive jewellery; having said that, awareness always guards one well.