Raquel: The Exploring Berry
Please tell us a little bit about yourself. Who you are, where you come from, when you moved to Rio de Janeiro, etc.
Hi! I am the writer behind The Exploring Berry, originally from Spain and brought up in several places. My childhood was spent in Madrid until my early teenage years when my expat experience started and a new world opened in front of me. Recently, I turned 30 years old in Rio de Janeiro where I have been living for 5 years now. My Brazil experience has been a roller-coaster with many ups and downs but these events have contributed to shaping the adult I am now! I am an engineer by profession and many other things by passion, highlighting being an intrepid traveler, devoted foodie and amateur writer. I love meeting new people, getting lost in new cities, organizing gatherings, sipping tea, learning languages, laughing at everything and nothing and keeping close distance to those loved ones furthest away.
When and why did you decide to start blogging about your experiences?
My blogging experience started a year ago now with the intention to entertain myself while at home recovering from a foot injury. I had always travelled and written about my trips, logging most details on my travel journals but I had never made them public, so I thought why not?!
Do you have any favorite blog entries of yours?
I have many but if I had to choose one it would be my Jeep Tour Around Bolivia`s Treasure: The Uyuni Salt Flats
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?
This is a difficult question to answer because “back home” for me means Spain but it has been a long while since I last lived there for more than a year. My hometown Madrid symbolizes holidays instead of daily routine for me and “my back home” is more the values, traditions and habits my parents showed me, which I carry around with me anywhere I go. Nonetheless, the environment of Rio de Janeiro with its food and lifestyle were different to those I had previously experienced in Europe before, so yes, a little adaptation was needed but no big cultural shock. Probably the most difficult part of adapting to Brazil was accepting people are hardly ever on time and I cannot walk back home alone at whatever time I want.
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?
I had no idea what awaited me in Rio de Janeiro. I had never been before on holidays and had little interest in Brazil prior to my move to Rio. I had heard stories from family that had lived here for a while a few years earlier to my arrival and everything pointed towards a fun, relaxing city where I had to be careful with safety. The only preparation I had to my move to Rio was a few Portuguese lessons after office, which help little in deciphering the “Carioca” accent and slang. Only this was possible after a few months of working and hanging out in Rio with the real Cariocas! For this particular move I wouldn't change anything because the best preparation for Rio was yet to come in Ipanema itself.
Every expat knows that expat life comes with some hilarious anecdotes and funny experiences. Care to share one with us?
I will never forget my first weekend in Rio de Janeiro when a tremendous heavy rain collapsed the entire city and found myself in nothing but a bikini, a beach sarong and Havaianas far away from getting back to the hotel. Walking back home was impossible as water reached above my knee, neither taxis nor busses were stopping and the underground could only take me close to a friend’s house where I had to remove the pigeons’ feathers from my flip-flops and dry off for a few hours before I made it safely back to the hotel. I thought to myself: this was not announced on the Rio`s sunny beach days traveling brochures, I better bring my raining boots from Scotland here! What a way to start my expat experience!
Which three tips would you like to give future expats before they embark on their new life in Rio de Janeiro?
- Be ready to learn Portuguese if you want to integrate amongst Cariocas. English is only good for the 5-minute small talk.
- Benefit from the fitness and exercise-culture experienced in Rio, especially in the “Zona Sul” by the beach. It is a great place to get your body moving and get to know people… perhaps a fun beach volley game with your new friends?
- Be patient with bureaucracy, especially at the beginning or when renewing your residency visa. Things go slow and takes a lot of “counting to 10” not to burst out screaming.
How is the expat community in Rio de Janeiro? Did you have a hard time finding like-minded people or fellow expats?
I had no problem finding other expats due to the nature of my job. There were always plenty at the office and around Ipanema where I live. InterNations also facilitated that with its monthly get togethers. This is however not what I was looking for but instead I was looking for Brazilians wanting to connect with me, the foreigner, to convert me into a good local friend. I must say this was much more difficult than finding expats.
How would you summarize your expat life in Rio de Janeiro in a single, catchy sentence?
My 5-year-long expatriation in Rio de Janeiro has been one of hatred and love towards this city from which I have wanted to leave many times, however, it has probably been the most personally enriching experience abroad.