February 8, 2012

Meet Bill Holloway who moved to Brazil over 20 years ago. Read the following interview in which he tells us about some of his most memorable experiences and gives some useful advice to newcomers.

1. Tell us a little about yourself, where are you from, what do you do etc.?

I am an actively retired physician. Vila Mariana in São Paulo has been my home for the past 23 years. I initiated my medical practice in Akron, OH. Then, in 1977, I moved to the desert city, Hemet, in southern California. Since moving to Brazil I’ve had the freedom to do what I enjoy. I no longer practice medicine. I continue my personal education through the Internet. Occasionally, I make presentations at the www.billholloway.com

2. When did you arrive in Brazil and what brought you here?

For residence, I arrived in December 1988. What brought me here is a long story. In 1976, I was invited by the Instituto Brasileiro de Anlise Transacional to begin a program of teaching and supervising a group of psychologists and psychiatrists about newer methods in psychotherapy. During the ensuing 10 years, I made more than 25 visits to continue that activity. In 1982, I made the connection with a marvelous woman, now my wife, Maria de Lourdes Alves Vidal, a clinical psychologist. When I closed my medical practice, it made sense to live in São Paulo where my wife was well-established as a professional. All in all, I had a great experience in my years of traveling here and the decision to move was easy and continues to be rewarding.

3. What were you first impressions of Brazil?

My first impression was many years ago, prior to reestablishment of democracy. I loved the people I met and the importance of relationships, music, dance and artistic expression. In spite of difficult political and economic policies, people managed to find their happiness. Of course, my first impressions were formed in São Paulo, which certainly is different from most of Brazil. I’m certain that those who initially see the interior” of Brazil have a very different experience.

4. What do you miss most about home?

Infrequent direct contact with my seven children and their families. Happily, the video options on the internet afford me frequent opportunities to “visit” with them. Second most, I occasionally miss conveniences and quality that exist in the US.

5. What has been your most frustrating experience in Brazil?

Several years ago, after having been prey for a pickpocket, who immediately used my American Express card, I had the unauthorized charges to my account. Though I had reported the theft within one hour, AMEX refused to delete the illicit charges. I then found that the SAC operation was very secretive and no one would divulge the physical location. Determined as I was, it took about two-months and much persistence to find the office, (concealed within a credit rating company). The first question asked was, “How did you find us?” After a very short discussion, they agreed to cancel the illicit charges.

6. What has been your most memorable experience in Brazil (specific incident)?

Without hesitation, I must say that my most memorable experience was meeting my wife. Next to that was my hospitalization for kidney surgery at Albert Einstein, where I found the quality of medical care equal to any university hospital in the US. Thirdly, I had the opportunity to participate with two samba schools in Rio, once in costume, the other as a “director” during the parade – amazing spectacles both.

7. What do you most like about Brazil (in general)?

The “warmth” of the culture. In spite of the fact that São Paulo is a huge and impersonal city, relationships with friends is equal to that I have with my family and friends in the US. I am sometimes surprised to read in this newsletter about the problems ex-patriots have encountered in relationships. What many Americans do not understand is the difference in cultural values derived from the very different origins of Latin Americans (obedience to authority) and that in the US (question authority).

8. What is your favorite restaurant/place to hang out here?

I prefer more modest restaurants that serve very good food. There are several that we frequent. As Mineiras (Saturdays & Sundays best) and Dr. Tche (Argentinian) on Frana Pinto in Vila Mariana. Arte Esfiha, Rua Tumiar in Paraiso. Churrascaria Boi na Brasa (baby beef) on Marqus de It. Caf Girondino near São Bento monastery. As Veia on Estrada Inez in the Cantereira mountains (velhao.com.br).

9. Do you have any funny stories/incidents to tell about your time in Brazil?

Initially, while learning Portuguese I had difficulty understanding the difference between “ser” and “estar.” My wife carefully explained about the difference between the permanent and the temporary, which made sense until one day I was reading the newspaper. There I read that, “fulano est enterrado.” Then on another occasion, I learned that, “fulano casado.” So, being buried is temporary and being married is permanent.

10. What difference between your homeland and Brazil do you find most striking?

To oversimplify, in the US it is “what you know” that is more important. In Brazil, it is “who you know” that is more important. But that is not all. Brazilians, having lived for so long with oppression of one kind or another, have developed the ability to “roll with the punches” and find pleasure in the simple arts of everyday life. That may be a bit difficult to detect in São Paulo, but if you allow yourself to participate in the life of families, it is apparent. On a more mundane note, highways and byways. Having to dodge huge defects in the pavement of many federal highways was a shocker.

11. How is your Portuguese coming along? What words do you find most difficult to pronounce/remember or are there any words that you regularly confuse?

While I am understood by Brazilians, I have not been able to accurately reproduce the nasal quality of the “a” and “o” with a tilde. When to use the “” also remains a mystery. I am comfortable with everyday use of Portuguese, but there is much that I lack. Because my wife is fluent in English, at home we use a mixed language that serves us well. One of my challenges is to remember that possessive pronouns must match the gender of the object, not the owner. Conversation in groups frequently leaves me out of touch because I cannot follow several topics, as I might in English. Another challenge is related to the regional differences in the way the language is spoken.

12. What advice do you have for newcomers to Brazil?

If you will be living here, establish a relationship with an English-speaking physician and dentist that are available to you for urgencies. Additionally, don’t expect things to work as smoothly in Brazil as they do in the US – prepare to live without all the conveniences or you will be perpetually unhappy. Socially, the various ex-pat groups may be most appealing because they are “like you.” However, when you have the opportunity, cultivate friendship with Brazilians and learn to enter their social world – you will be rewarded with their warm acceptance of your newness to the culture. Brazilians that know some English often want to talk with you, even if they only know a few words. Do the same, when you only know a few words in Portuguese. I have learned one useful phrase, “Por favor, fale mais lento.”

13. What are some things that you would recommend for a visitor to do in São Paulo (or anywhere else in Brazil)?

If you must stay in or near São Paulo, visit the various art museums, they have beautiful collections. The botanical garden is another nice afternoon. If possible, visit Embu das Artes on a weekend. If not possible, visit Praa da Republica on a Sunday. A day trip to Campos do Jordão in the mountains or to Guaraj on the coast are OK if you start early. If the time you have is more generous, first I suggest traveling to Rio using the Rio-Santos coastal highway, stopping for an overnight in Paraty. With even more time, Iguazu Falls or the older regions of Minas Gerais – Ouro Preto and Mariana are attractive choices.

Are you a foreigner who has lived in, or is living or travelling in Brazil? Are you a Brazilian who has a lot of contact with foreigners and/or lived outside of Brazil? Are you interested in telling your story? If you would like to volunteer for our interview series, or if you would like to recommend someone, please send a blank email to gringoes@www.gringoes.com with “Interview” in the subject. We will send you the interview questions by return email.

To read previous interviews in the Brazil Through Foreign Eyes series click below:

Pieter Kommerij – Netherlands
Robyn and Willem Van Der Merwe – South Africa
Danielle Carner – USA
Jaya Green – USA
Andrew Dreffen – Australia
Marcus Lockwood – New Zealand
Jonathan Russell – USA
Jeff Eddington – USA
Rod Saunders – USA
Ken Van Zyl – South Africa
Angus Graham – UK
Anne Morddel – USA
Jessica Mullins – Switzerland
Evan Soroka – USA
Mary de Camargo – USA
Brendan Fryer – UK
Aaron Sundquist – USA
Jay Bauman – USA
Alan Williams – USA
Derek Booth – UK
Jim Shattuck – USA
Ruby Souza – Hawaii
Stephan Hughes – Trinidad and Tobago
Louis van der Wiele – Holland
Drew Glaser – USA
Barry Elliott – Canada
Joel Barsky – USA
David Drummond – Canada
Liam Porisse – France
Jim Kelley – USA
Max Ray – USA
Jeremy Clark – Canada
Don Fredrick – USA
Jase Ramsey – USA
Ben Pearce – UK
Nitai Panchmatia – India
Johnnie Kashat – USA
Jeni Bonorino – USA
Eric Jones – USA
Bill Martin – UK
Bernard Morris – USA
John Graves – USA
Deepak Sapra – India
Alison McGowan – UK
Brent Gregory – USA
R Dub – USA
Tara Bianca – USA
Jack Hurley – USA
James Woodward – Canada
Tony O’Sullivan – Ireland
Anna Belavina – Russia
Jim Kirby – USA
Linda Halverstadt – USA
Michelle Monteiro – USA
Chris Mensah – UK
David Sundin – USA
Stephanie Glennon – USA
Julien Porisse – France
Hans Keeling – USA
Jim Adams – USA
Richard Murison – USA
Will Periam – UK
Jan Sandbert – Sweden
Jim Jones – USA
Mike Stricklin – USA
Edward Gowing – Australia
Adrian Woods – USA
Kevin Raub – USA
Pierpaolo Ciarcianelli – Italy
Zachary Heilman – USA
David Johnson – Bermuda
Cipriana Leme – Argentina
Timothy Bell – USA
Patti Beckert – USA
Timothy Bell – USA
Paul James – USA
David McLoughlin – Ireland
Pat Moraes – USA
Richard Dougherty – USA
James Weeds – USA
Tom Sluberski – USA
Peter Kefalas – USA
Sylvie Campbell – UK
Kathleen Haynes – USA
Matt Bowlby – USA
Alan Longbottom – UK
Eric Karukin – USA
Eddie Soto – USA
Kieran Gartlan – Ireland
Bryan Thomas Scmidt – USA
Emile Myburgh – South Africa
Bob Chapman – USA
David Barnes – USA
John Milan – USA
Chris Coates – UK
Matthew Ward – UK
Allison Glick – USA
Drake Smith – USA
Jim Jones – USA
Philip Wigan – UK
Atlanta Foresyth – USA
Lee Gordon – USA
Carmen Naidoo – South Africa
Lee Safian – USA
Laurie Carneiro – USA
Dana De Lise – USA
Richard Gant – USA
Robin Hoffman – USA
Wayne Wright – UK
Walt Kirspel – USA
Priya Guyadeen – Guyana
Caitlin McQuilling – USA
Nicole Rombach – Holland
Steven Engler – Canada
Richard Conti – USA
Zak Burkons – USA
Ann White – USA
Monde Ngqumeya – South Africa
Johnny Sweeney – USA
David Harty – Canada
Bill McCrossen – USA
Peter Berner – Switzerland/Brazil
Ethan Munson – USA
Solveig Skadhauge – Denmark
Sean McGown – USA
Condrad Downes – UK
Jennifer Silva – Australian
Justin Mounts – USA
Elliott Zussman – USA
Jonathan Abernathy – USA
Steve Koenig – USA
Kyron Gibbs – USA
Stephanie Early – USA
Martin Raw – UK
Sean Coady – UK
Hugo Delgado – Mexico
Sean Terrillon – Canada
Jessie Simon – USA
Michael Meehan – USA
Thales Panagides – Cyprus
Tammy Montagna – USA
Samantha Tennant – England
Ron Finely – United States
Bob Duprez – United States
Peter Baines – England
Youssef Bouguerra – Tunisia
Van Wallach – USA
Lesley Cushing – England
Alexander von Brincken – Germany
Hank Avellar – USA
Ed Catchpole – England
Penny Freeland – England
Yasemin de Pinto – Turkey
Amy Williams Lima – USA
John Naumann – England
Marsye Schouella – Eygpt
Rita Shannon Koeser – USA
John Fitzpatrick – Scotland
Liam Gallagher – Northern Ireland
Lorelei Jones – England
Adam Glensy – England
Tommie C.B. DeAssis – Japan
Aaron Day – Canada
Graham Debney – New Zealand
Silke Tina Tischendorf – Germany
Tanya Keshavjee Macedo – Canada
Frank de Meijer – Holland
Carl Emberson – Australia
Kim Buarque – Wales
Damiano Pak – South Korea
Jonas Helding – Denmark
Pari Seeber – Iran
John Milton – England
Ken Marshall – Australia

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