Johny: Rio Uncovered
Please tell us a little bit about yourself. Who you are, where you come from, when you moved to Rio de Janeiro, etc.
I’m a British expat with a twist; I have Brazilian nationality as I was born in São Paulo. My father was an expat so I lived the expat life when I was a kid (moving house a lot, boarding school etc.). I always had plans to work and live abroad at some time during my adult life and I got the opportunity to come to Rio through one of the big 4 accounting firms for whom I had been working in London. I didn’t learn Portuguese as a child (we moved away when I was two) but I studied it along with Spanish at university.
When and why did you decide to start blogging about your experiences?
A lot of information that I found about Rio was from Portuguese language sources and other expats I talked to were often unaware of what was going on in the city either because they didn’t speak Portuguese very well or they had little time to keep up with it all. Sometimes it was events which they didn’t know were happening or news that was relevant to them that they wished they had known about. I decided to quit my job to start a dedicated blog for expats and tourists to let them know what was going on in Rio.
Do you have any favorite blog entries of yours?
My blog is mostly informational with posts about events and news. However, there are some posts that try and give more of an understanding into Brazilian popular culture and mindset. During the Pope’s visit I saw lots of fun being poked at politicians and Rio’s poor transport infrastructure so I wrote a post highlighting some of the best jokes.
Tell us about the ways your new life in Rio de Janeiro differs from that back home. Did you have trouble getting used to the new circumstances? Did you experience culture shock?
I feel more comfortable moving to a new culture than knowing I’ll be spending 10 years in the same place! I guess I have travelling in my blood due to my childhood so there was no culture shock when I arrived here. Obviously my lifestyle has changed a lot; in Rio there are more opportunities to get out and enjoy nature whereas in London it was a bit harder. As a result I am more active, going cycling, hanging out on the beach or hiking.
Do you think you were fully prepared for what awaited you in Rio de Janeiro? If you could, would you change some decisions/preparations you made?
Due to my experiences of living abroad as a kid I think I was more prepared than most people. My parents also gave me good tips about living in Brazil even though it had been a quarter of a century since they were here. One thing that did catch me out, as with a lot of people, was the high cost of living. Apart from doing a bit more research about that I don’t think I would’ve changed anything.
Every expat knows that expat life comes with some hilarious anecdotes and funny experiences. Care to share one with us?
Brazilians can’t seem to understand that foreigners only have one surname, unlike themselves who seem to have anywhere between 2 and 5 surnames (ever tried to find a Brazilian friend on Facebook?). My middle name is Stewart, which is more often than not taken to be my surname so I am referred to as John Stewart, like the comedian. I do get asked a lot whether I am a funny guy. When I tell them my surname is actually Pringle more hilarity ensues (“like the crisps?”).
Playing cricket in Brazil with a funk party going on in the background is also probably something that not everyone will experience much.
Which three tips would you like to give future expats before they embark on their new life in Rio de Janeiro?
- Be ready to adapt to the environment. It will be totally different to the one that you came from and you won’t enjoy yourself if you try to live the life that you had in your hometown.
- Learn Portuguese! It will make your life a lot easier and Brazilians will be much more patient and welcoming if you at least show them that you are willing to learn their language.
- When ordering Caipirinhas, take your limit in your hometown and halve it to find your limit in Rio. They make them strong here!
How is the expat community in Rio de Janeiro? Did you have a hard time finding like-minded people or fellow expats?
The expat community here in Rio is great. There are people from so many different backgrounds but everyone seems to get along. It was really easy to settle in and I think that sentiment stretches to the majority of expats here. Finding a cricket club in Rio (Carioca Cricket Club) was surprising but definitely helps with feeling at home.
How would you summarize your expat life in Rio de Janeiro in a single, catchy sentence?
Discovering paradise one adventure after another.