InterNations Featured Blog
Chesney: Brasil! Pra mim...
Please tell us a little bit about yourself. Who you are, where you come from, when you moved to Brazil, etc.
I'm an American who had previously only traveled out of the United States to Canada during a time when they didn't require passports. Several years ago I fell in love with a Brazilian who had been working and living in the United States for many years. Over time we came to a decision to relocate to Brazil last year for familial, economic and social reasons.
When and why did you decide to start blogging about your experiences?
When we made the decision to move to Brazil, I started to read everything I could get my hands on about the country. I often found myself going to other people's personal blogs for information I couldn't find elsewhere. That turned out to be extremely helpful in a variety of ways and it occurred to me that maybe I could be helpful to someone else in the future. I guess it was a kind of paying it forward.
I decided to start blogging shortly before we left for Brazil because I wanted to try to tell the whole story as it had happened. What the moving was like, the feelings and anxieties leading up to it.
Do you have any favorite blog entries of yours?
I'm a tough self critic, so my favorite blog is probably one I haven't written yet.
Tell us about the ways your new life in Brazil differs from that back home. Did you have trouble getting used to the new circumstances? Did you experience culture shock?
There are many ways my life here is different but I think/hope I'm slowly adapting. In terms of different circumstances, the high cost of living for of food, clothes and electronics was really shocking to me. I am still adjusting to that. Also, being in a place in the Southern hemisphere without four distinct seasons has been different. It was odd to me to celebrate Christmas during summer.
Do you think you were fully prepared for what awaited you in Brazil? If you could, would you change some decisions/preparations you made?
No, I wasn't fully prepared. I don't know if someone can ever be when going into a situation that is almost completely unknown to them. However, hindsight is always 20/20. I think I would have brought a couple of more things from America. We moved by the extra baggage on the flight route and we came in underweight on most of our bags. So, I often think what else we could have added. My list of things I'd wish we'd brought includes more towels, sheets, raincoats, duct tape, perfumes, zip lock bags, Pyrex and peanut butter. All of those things you can buy in Brazil but they were so much cheaper in the US and we had the room.
Also, I would have studied Portuguese more. The language barrier has been a big one for me. I would have liked to have been at least at a conversational level when I arrived. I thought I knew more than I did and in practice communication proved to be very frustrating. I wish I had taken classes where I had spoken it with a group or teachers. I've found that pronunciation is very very important in language learning.
Every expat knows that expat life comes with some hilarious anecdotes and funny experiences. Care to share one with us?
As I mentioned before the language difference has been rough for me. I have many stories that involve using the wrong word, misunderstanding words and general miscommunication. I accidentally called the maid the word for beast which is one letter different than her name and I told someone in Angra that we liked to go to Piranhas not Piratas (one of the malls there) to shop. Piratas are pirates and the name of the shopping center. Piranhas are fish but also is often a word used to refer to a not so nice type of woman. Oops!
I think, though, that you really have to try to communicate. You have to be ready to fail, dust yourself off and try again. It's the only way to learn. You also have to be easy on yourself when you don't do as well as you'd hoped. I'm still working on that.
Which three tips would you like to give future expats before they embark on their new life in Brazil?
- Study Portuguese! Take classes where you speak with native speakers or at least listen and practice along with audio.
- Try to deal with all visa issues from within America, if possible, before you leave. It is often a very long process from within Brazil.
- Cultivate patience. You'll need it when dealing with so many things inside Brazil.
How is the expat community in Brazil? Did you have a hard time finding like-minded people or fellow expats?
Through my blog I've been able to talk with many fellow expats who have helped me along my journey with encouragement and advice. I also was lucky to stumble across a group of expats in Angra who helped eased my transition. I know of, but haven't been to meetings of expats in Rio. So, the community is there and like-minded people are out there to be found.
How would you summarize your expat life in Brazil in a single, catchy sentence?
I'm learning to love and live in this exciting, confusing, beautiful mess that is Brazil.