Andrew: The Book Is On The Table
Please tell us a little bit about yourself. Who you are, where you come from, when you moved to São Paulo, etc.
Well, my name's Andy and I'm originally from London in the UK and I moved to São Paulo, Brazil with my wife in February 2012.
Whilst it was a big move, it was one that we had been planning for a while. When my wife moved to the UK she deferred her degree to do so but I always promised that eventually we'd come back so she could finish it.
When my job as a social worker was cut by the government in February it seemed to be the right time to move, especially as the the Brazilian university term also starts in February. It actually all worked out quite nicely in the end!
When and why did you decide to start blogging about your experiences?
My wife and sister-in-law actually suggested it. They thought that some of the frustrations and thoughts that I had when I first moved here were quite funny so they encouraged me to start writing them down and to post them as a blog. The reaction so far has been quite surprising and it's quite nice that people, other than myself, have found it entertaining too!
Do you have any favorite blog entries of yours?
I had initially thought that the blog would just be read by my friends and family at home but it seems to have been an even bigger success here in Brazil – despite being in English. The one I wrote about buses in São Paulo had about 800 hits on the day that I posted it, and the one on Brazilian bureaucracy was also quite popular too.
I think the Brazilians who read them probably sympathised with some of my frustrations, which is understandable seeing as they've had to put up with them far longer than I have. I think it helps that they also realised that I wrote them tongue-in-cheek.
For people at home I think they enjoyed the ones about a vulture invading our neighbours bedroom as it's something that is so alien to what would happen in the UK!
Tell us about the ways your new life in São Paulo differs from that back home. Did you have trouble getting used to the new circumstances? Did you experience culture shock?
I'd been to São Paulo twice before so I kind of knew what I was expecting although visiting for a short-time is far different than actually living here!
I guess things just work a little bit better in the UK and this makes life lot more easier, convenient and less stressful. Unfortunately, we take these things for granted in the UK, but although stuff like Brazilian bureaucracy can be extremely frustrating I've found that really it just makes life a little bit more interesting – once the initial rage subsides!
Do you think you were fully prepared for what awaited you in São Paulo? If you could, would you change some decisions/preparations you made?
I would probably have been a bit more proactive in learning Portuguese especially seeing as my wife is a language teacher! Very few people speak English in Brazil, even in São Paulo which is the major city for trade and industry.
This means learning Portuguese is essential and believe me it's a difficult language to master, though I would say that because I'm British and well, you know, we're pretty rubbish at learning languages.
Every expat knows that expat life comes with some hilarious anecdotes and funny experiences. Care to share one with us?
Well, I mentioned the blog post I wrote about vultures. Basically, our neighbour went out in the morning and left her window open. Bearing in mind that she lives on the 17th floor I think she was pretty confident that no-one was going to climb through the window and steal her TV. However, she could never have anticipated what was actually going to await her on her return - a Black Vulture nestled up on her bed. Only in Brazil!
Which three tips would you like to give future expats before they embark on their new life in São Paulo?
- Learn some Portuguese.
- Actually visit the city before moving. It's a big, bustling city and won't be to everyone's tastes. Better to find out what it's like before you move.
- Don't be fooled into thinking you won't need warm clothes. The temperature actually drops quite low between May and July and most apartments don't have central heating – as I'm now finding out!
How is the expat community in São Paulo? Did you have a hard time finding like-minded people or fellow expats?
To be honest I haven't really got too involved in the expat community because I really wanted to immerse myself into Brazilian life. I also thought it might hinder my ability to learn Portuguese if I just hung around with people who spoke English, though I am in contact with a lot of people through sites such as Internations, Twitter, etc.
However, I am studying Portuguese at a local university and I have met quite a lot of people in a similar situation to me there. It's always reassuring to know that there are people around you that are from a similar background and who you can share similar frustrations and concerns with.
How would you summarize your expat life in São Paulo in a single, catchy sentence?
Blimey, the British are the kings of understatement so I'll be no good at catchy, so instead I'll just say that there's never a dull day in São Paulo – life is always interesting here!