Rachel: Rachel's Rantings in Rio
Please tell us a little bit about yourself. Who you are, where you come from, when you moved to Brazil, etc.
I hate the who are you question because it is one that I am still figuring out. Honestly, I think it is one I will always be figuring out. As I know thus far, I am an American girl. I was born in Oak Harbor, WA, a small military town about 3 hours from Seattle. I moved around a bit and basically started my pre-adult and adult life in San Diego, CA. I moved to Brazil after going to Europe as a celebration of my graduation from UCSD. I met a fabulously charming Brazilian man who turned out to be the other side to my coin. We travelled between the two countries for a bit before we decided, for numerous reasons, to move back to his Motherland.
When and why did you decide to start blogging about your experiences?
I was late to the blogging game when you consider how long I had already been here once I started. I had a friend who had been pushing me to get into the blogging game. She felt my personality needed some sort of media outlet. Blogging became that part of me that was not a Mom in Brazil but a woman who had “adapted” and was living here. For me it became an outlet. My blog is where I can talk about all those random situations I have gotten in or things that stick out to me.
Do you have any favorite blog entries of yours?
I’m about as talkative in my blog as I am in real life. I have far too many posts. I very much enjoy my 10 things posts, especially the ones in which I talk about the 10 things I love about Brazil vs the US and vice versa.
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?
Initially I experienced major culture shock. It’s not as much a part of my blog because I only started blogging afterward. I will say though that Rio de Janeiro has a learning curve. As much as it has become more internationally friendly, it is not the same as other countries with that label. I spent a chunk of my first year dealing with my life, amazing to say now that I can usually see the sun coming before silver lining in the clouds even appears. My biggest adaptation was joining a Brazilian family. Brazilian families are much closer and involved than those of my country. At first it felt like a vaginal ultrasound, very invasive. Now it is along the line of an x-ray, not a problem at all.
Do you think you were fully prepared for what awaited you in Brazil? If you could, would you change some decisions/preparations you made?
I wasn’t prepared at all. I didn’t speak a word of the language, and in 2003 not many people spoke mine (or were not in the practice of doing so while in Brazil). Before my second stint in Rio I bought some Portuguese books and decided I would not be lost. If I could change anything I would have done that the first time around. I have always felt that you should ideally speak the language of the country you are in, though I had no idea how left out you could feel if you didn’t.
Every expat knows that expat life comes with some hilarious anecdotes and funny experiences. Care to share one with us?
My absolute favorite was when I spent months ordering penises at the bakery. Pao is penis and Pão is bread. For an American that difference in accent is difficult. The people at my local bakery were very friendly and only smiled, rarely laughing at me. It took my husband’s cousin accompanying me on a visit. She literally fell on the ground laughing. Needless to say, I never made that mistake again.
Which three tips would you like to give future expats before they embark on their new life in Brazil?
- Learn some Portuguese. The best way to do this is to go out without any helpers.
- Meet Brazilians. There are many foreigners here but Brazilian friends really do make you feel a part of the country.
- Learn to make your favorite foods from scratch and be prepared to say goodbye to those you can’t. Foods are different and Brazil doesn’t have a huge frozen food/pre-made market. This is changing but it is better for you to get used to the change now. I left bisquick behind and I don’t even use it when I am home anymore.
How is the expat community in Brazil? Did you have a hard time finding like-minded people or fellow expats?
Rio de Janeiro is flooded with expats at this point. While there were some when I came here, they were much more isolated. Now both Rio de Janeiro and Sao Paulo (along with many other cities) have very well organized expat communities.
How would you summarize your expat life in Brazil in a single, catchy sentence?
There’s nothing a good day at the beach can’t cure. Pass the sunscreen.