Pam: New York to Rio
Please tell us a little bit about yourself. Who you are, where you come from, when you moved to Brazil, etc.
My name is Pamela Granoff Simon, I grew up in Providence RI, and attended Moses Brown School where I played tennis (and competed in Europe), squash and lacrosse. I graduated from George Washington University in Washington, DC with a BA in communications, sociology and art history. I spent my spring semester of junior year abroad in Florence, Italy and moved to New York after graduation. After 6 years, working in marketing and event planning and management, I consider myself a New Yorker. I moved to Brazil in February 2011 when my fiancé (now husband) was relocated for work. I am an active member in both the New York and Brazil tech community as an events planner and social media marketing consultant.
When and why did you decide to start blogging about your experiences?
I started my blog www.ny2rio.com a week before I moved. None of my friends knew anything about Brazil and since my world communicates in posts, tweets and texts I decided that the way to keep my family, friends and business associates informed was to create a blog. And, having never visited Brazil … not speaking a lick of Portuguese and not knowing anyone it was the perfect vehicle to make me push myself to try new things.
Do you have any favorite blog entries of yours?
One of my favorite posts is ‘Saving the world one kilo at a time’ because I have all sorts of crazy gym experiences on a weekly basis. My post on Sao Paulo’s Batman’s Alley is one of my favorites because I have never seen anything like it before and to be completely surrounded by art in all directions was one of the most incredible feelings one could have. Finally, the ‘Must Watch Slinky’ video from Carnival, you just have to watch it!
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?
Living in Rio has been an exciting experience so far, it is incredibly beautiful, great weather and living a few blocks from the beach is priceless, something you don’t have in NYC. Being able to get up and walk to the beach as opposed to planning ahead the night before/packing up and taking the train for an hour to get to a beach is pretty awesome, … no trouble adjusting to that!
In general the pace here is much slower then New York, which I thought I would be prepared for and happy to ease into but I must admit, it is still something I struggle with. I am fast paced, even when not actually in a rush and have always been a very punctual person; these qualities don’t exactly ‘fit in’ in Rio.
Portuguese. In Rio people generally only speak Portuguese…that was the biggest culture shock. I have traveled all over the world and this is the first time I have been to a place where people don’t speak English. This makes everything you do a lot more difficult and time consuming.
If there is a way to make something difficult, the Brazilian government has found that way. Everything here is a catch 22. You need a CPF (think social security number) to do everything from getting a sim card for your phone to renting a movie. The problem is, that in order to obtain a CPF you need to prove that you are living here ie a bill or a lease, which of course you won’t have unless you have a CPF… it is a vicious and annoying cycle that makes getting adjusted more complicated.
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, definitely not. I had taken a Portuguese course about a month before I moved down thinking that I just needed a few words to get by and then could learn more once I got there. Now looking back, if I could do it again, I would have been taking intense Portuguese courses for months instead of doing them once I got down here.
Every expat knows that expat life comes with some hilarious anecdotes and funny experiences. Care to share one with us?
Last Fall I wanted to attend the Taste of Rio (think food and wine festival), I went on the website, went through the ‘purchase tickets’ navigation only to find that you don’t actually pay online. You print your receipt that reserves your spot and then have to physically go to the bank in order to complete the process and validate your tickets. The next day I went to the bank (probably the first time since I opened an account!), there was a large seating area and one of those red ‘take a number’ stands that you would see in a deli. I took my number and waited. After two hours it was finally my turn. To my surprise I see 12 bank teller stations, then quickly realize that only one bank teller working (oh right, it’s Brazil). In Portuguese (I’ve been practicing) I present him with my receipt, and the exact amount of cash needed to secure my tickets. He looked it over and then shook his head ‘no’. ‘What do you mean no?! I have been waiting for 2 hours, I have the exact amount and the receipt’ I say in complete disbelief. We went back and forth about this for some time, I kept trying to hand him money and he kept refusing. Then someone walks over and tells me that the reason the teller will not process my tickets is because the receipt has yesterday’s date printed on it. Apparently, in order for the bank to process my tickets, the date of payment and the date on the receipt have to match be same. Crazy right?! So I stormed out, and had to repeat the whole process the following day, remembering to print the tickets out that morning before going to the bank.
Which three tips would you like to give future expats before they embark on their new life in Brazil?
- Visa: be sure you know all of the limitations and rules for the visa you are getting and make sure you leave the country with a few days left on it so you can get back in! Otherwise you have to wait till your official year of when you entered comes up. FYI: Tourists visas are good for a total of 180 day per year. A business visa is good for 180 days per year. Note, you cannot have tourist visa and a business visa in the same year.
- Portuguese: Take lessons and get comfortable with it!
- Apple TV or Playstation, you will thank me when the rain comes (usually for a few weeks at a time).
How is the expat community in Brazil? Did you have a hard time finding like-minded people or fellow expats?
At the beginning it was pretty difficult because I moved down right before Carnival. Once things settled down a bit I reached out to another blogger who then was kind enough to introduce me to her group of friends. A majority of my expat friends are all here because their husbands are in oil, and thankfully I was fortunate to make some great friends over the last year and a half. InterNations organizes some great events every month, which brings the expat community together.
How would you summarize your expat life in Brazil in a single, catchy sentence?
Life in Brazil has been the most relaxing yet challenging day on the beach I could have imagined.