Brazil Through Foreign Eyes

July 8, 2013

Meet Joseph Low who lives in the USA but travels to Brazil often. Read the following interview in which Joseph 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 originally from Missouri (USA), but now live in Florida (USA). After 20 plus years working for multinational corporations, I am now a management and marketing consultant and travel to Brazil quite frequently for business. In addition to my consulting, my wife (a Brazilian tax attorney) and I have just recently completed an 18 month book project focused on Brazil. The name of the book is They Don&rsquot;t Speak Spanish In Brazil.

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

I arrived in Brazil for the first time in late 1994 as I had just been hired by Nokia (in Dallas, Texas) to handle its cellular telephone business in Brazil. At that time, cellular lines (not the devices) were being sold for thousands of dollars by the then state owned telecoms which were part of the then Telebras system. I started Nokia’s office in Brazil from scratch, implementing and developing marketing strategies, setting up distribution, hiring employees, you name it… Most Brazilians at that time thought Nokia was a Japanese brand and only a select few every really knew it was a Finnish brand – even after they had decided to purchase our devices 🙂

3. What were you first impressions of Brazil?

Vast. Intimidating. Interesting. Brazilians are a glass half full” people. The culture, history, and political dynamics of Brazil had always fascinated me.

4. What do you miss most about home?

Home, now, is the US. Security concerns and traffic challenges, now, are probably of principal concern when in Brazil.

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

I was car-jacked in &rsquot;96; in front of Ibirapuera park. It was around 6pm in the summer – so, still daylight. I had just finished a run and had that adrenalin rush going. I was parked in front of the park with lots of people and cars passing by. Upon entry to my car, I reached over to the glove-box to get my cell phone. While reaching over, I heard a hard tapping on the glass of my driver&rsquot;s side window. It was a guy with a gun asking me to look away from him and at another guy opening the passenger side door of the car. He told me to get on my knees. Then, he pressed a handgun to my forehead and said: “Se falar qualquer coisa, eu te mato aqui na calada.” Later, I was thankful for my Portuguese as what would have happened had I not understood him? Of course, I will never forget that experience or the time that evening spent in the delegacia in Vila Mariana. Interestingly enough, the delegado/detective there told me to consider myself lucky as I was alive and they had obviously only wanted the car. While I did not feel too lucky that evening, I later realized things could have been much, much worse. However, from that moment forward, the entire experience really has made me smarter and more alert of my surroundings while in Brazil.

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

Too many to mention and not enough space :): Beaches / Sand Dunes of Rio Grande do Norte; Beaches of Santa Catarina; Bonito in Mato Grosso do Sul … “crystal clear” water and all those beautiful fish; everything about Bahia; Amazonas: “encontro das guas”, night group bicycle rides in São Paulo, lazy Sundays at a friend&rsquot;s apartment in Botafogo/RJ, espresso duplo sem acar, Saturday runs in Ibirapuera, Mangueira- escola de samba (samba school in Rio).

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

Most Brazilians are a “glass half full” type of people. Resilient. Tenacious. As one Brazilian friend likes to say, “O Brasileiro leva porrada quase todo dia mas continua com um sorriso na cara”.

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

I really like Arab/ Mediterranean food. So, when in Brazil, I seek it out wherever I can.

Vila Magdalena (bars), Itaim (bars and restaurants), and Vila Nova Coneceião (peace and quiet) are some nice neighborhoods there.

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

Again, too many to list here due to space constraints :). Back in the late 90s, I was told by a distributor&rsquot;s representative that we would be traveling to Porto Alegre from São Paulo in the middle of July. He told me to prepare myself as it “gets really cold there, Joe.” So, as I had grown up in the midwest, and was familiar with really cold weather, I packed a winter coat and a hat in my suitcase in preparation for my trip to Rio Grande do Sul. Well, when we eventually arrived to the airport in Porto Alegre, I soon noted the temperature outside was in the lower to mid 60s F. Yes, bitter cold indeed!

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

Security concerns. And, now, the inordinately high cost of living.

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?

As I work frequently with Brazilians, and my wife is Brazilian, I make a point to maintain my fluency. Plus, we have two Brazilian families living on our same block in Florida.

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

Soak it in. Get out and experience it. Also, get out of São Paulo – it&rsquot;s a big, diverse, fascinating, and fantastically exciting country in which to travel.

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

Good to always remind people that there is much to see in São Paulo state and not just in the city of São Paulo. Riberão Preto is a nice city, western part of the state, and the smaller cities close to Campinas are great for some relaxing weekend escapes from hurried pace of São Paulo.

You can contact Joseph via

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 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:

João Ferreira – Portugal
Hunter Peak – USA
Priya Ferreira – UK
Ryan Griffin – USA
Rami Alhames – Syria
Maya Bell – New Zealand
Melanie Mitrano – USA
Rob McDonell – Australia
Jennifer Souza – USA
Scott Hudson – Australia
Bill Holloway – USA
Elaine Vieira – South Africa
Pieter Kommerij – Netherlands
Rich Sallade – USA
Robyn and Willem Van Der Merwe – South Africa
Michael Smyth – UK
Danielle Carner – USA
Chris Caballero – USA
Jaya Green – USA
Wiliam Stewart – USA
Andrew Dreffen – Australia
Meredith Noll – USA
Marcus Lockwood – New Zealand
Mike Smith – UK
Jonathan Russell – USA
Jan Hillen – Belgium
Jeff Eddington – USA
Arne Rasmussen – Denmark
Rod Saunders – USA
Don Fenstermaker – 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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