Please tell us a little bit about yourself. Who you are, where you come from, when you moved to Sao Paulo, etc.
Brazil based Brightonian. I left Brighton, UK, a year ago, after 13 years teaching in state schools. The UK had become a difficult place to be. In education, I felt strongly that important support structures were being dismantled by the new coalition government and the area I worked in (Special Educational Needs) was being stretched to the limit. I felt that time away would allow me to recharge and to see things from a different perspective.
When and why did you decide to start blogging about your experiences?
I wanted to find ways to link my new experiences of living and working somewhere so different, to my experiences in the classroom. The move to Brazil has given me many gifts but the time to write is one of the most precious. I have found the creativity in me again through my exposure to this vibrant country. Blogging has been a great way to record, share and reflect on my experiences. I was also inspired by some fantastic writers I follow on twitter. Reading their work having their encouragement has been a real motivation to keep up the blogs and to feel brave enough to share!
Do you have any favorite blog entries of yours?
One of my favorite pieces was about embracing turbulence, both in the air and in your life:
Tell us about the ways your new life in Sao Paulo differs from that back home. Did you have trouble getting used to the new circumstances? Did you experience culture shock?
The phrase that came in to my mind for the first 6 months was ´strangely normal and normally strange´. I would set up safe familiar situations for myself, recreating a little England in my 19th floor apartment. I would cook Sheppard’s pie and watch Antiques Road show. Then I would also have moments of clarity when I would think, ´I´m in BRAZIL, this is amazing!’ as I drank a caiprihina and spoke hesitant basic Portuguese.
The main difference, and this has been good for me, is having to ask for help. Not having the language or knowledge of how to get things done has meant a new reliance on friends and colleagues. Although this is frustrating at times, I was very independent in the UK and it has been a good way to reconnect with people. Having no language has meant I had to rely on other forms of communication. I wrote about this is a blog post: She Speaks Yet She Says Nothing
Do you think you were fully prepared for what awaited you in Sao Paulo? If you could, would you change some decisions/preparations you made?
I didn´t really prepare, although I had 5 months to get ready for the move, I didn´t really spend enough time getting ready. I had a few Portuguese lessons but then stopped, didn´t really research much. I knew Sao Paulo was a big city but that was about it. I don´t think this is necessarily a bad thing. I arrived with few expectations and therefore couldn´t really be disappointed. I was excited to discover the city.
Every expat knows that expat life comes with some hilarious anecdotes and funny experiences. Care to share one with us?
My attempts to communicate have resulted in some strange phrases. I remember trying to write a note to the maid to thank her for the work she was doing. I wanted to write ´The apartment looks great´ but through the wonders of Google translate I think I ended up writing something like the apartment has great eyesight! I also asked her to change a sheet of paper on the bed instead of the sheets and yesterday I asked my porteiro if he had any lamb for me (cordeiro) instead of post (correio).
Which three tips would you like to give future expats before they embark on their new life in Sao Paulo?
- It rains a lot, so bring a raincoat and boots.
- Learn as much Portuguese as you can before you arrive.
- Don´t come with too many preconceptions or expectations – this place is full of surprises.
How is the expat community in Sao Paulo? Did you have a hard time finding like-minded people or fellow expats?
I was lucky I that I work in school with a readymade group of expats and friendly Brazilians. The area I live in also has a strong expat community and the ´green corner bar´ often has groups of expat teachers drinking there. InterNations has been a way to connect up with other expats in the city. I feel that in Sao Paulo, the choice is yours, there is such a range of people here it is down to you how big a friendship group you would like to accumulate. People with similar interests are out there but you might have to make an effort to find them.
How would you summarize your expat life in Sao Paulo in a single, catchy sentence?
My life in the UK was stale and boring; I have been saved by this city.
I also wrote this about Sao Paulo:
The City - Sao Paulo
There is no simple path,
No straight line you can follow.
You led me around in circles
With no easy destinations.
You tower above me
Filled with possibilities.
You reveal dirt and demons
But allow me to stay cocooned
In a careful corner embrace.
I fear you and yet,
wrapped in your lights and storms.
You have saved me.
Given me a memory
Of who I want to be.