Meet Laurie Carneiro, from the USA, who has a Brazilian husband and has travelled to Brazil many times. Read the following interview where she tells us about her most memorable experiences from Brazil and gives some useful advice to newcomers.

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

I grew up in Pennsylvania and lived in the northeast for several years. I met my husband (Brazilian) in New York City and we married in 1993. We moved to Florida in 1994 where I currently teach high school English and my husband works for the administration of a community college.

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

I first visited Brazil in 1993 after my marriage (a sort-of honeymoon) but with LOTS of family! (My husband is the youngest of 12 children!)

3. What were you first impressions of Brazil?

I wasn’t very impressed with the cities. My first impression of São Paulo was seeing the graffiti, the favelas… there’s so much! Outside of São Paulo though, the quantity of undeveloped land is just immense and I always think, there is so much potential…”. Regarding the people, I was very impressed with their warmth and hospitality. I was also very impressed with the relationships I saw among families. At one of the first Brazilian family gatherings I attended, I remember thinking, “Wow, my uncles never hugged and played with me like my husband’s brothers interact with their nieces and nephews.” The children in attendance were made to feel very special and welcome and received much attention. Brazilian families seem to be very interconnected and interested in each other.

4. What do you miss most about home?

I have visited Brazil several times since 1993 but have not stayed for more than two months in duration so I haven’t have too much time to get home sick. However, I have been on roads (especially in the state of Minais Gerais) that make me miss the generally better maintained US roads, and sometimes the lack of hot tap water for washing clothes or dishes.

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

Trying to communicate and “keep up” in conversations! I have enough vocabulary to “get by” which makes others think “Ah, she can speak Portuguese…”, and then they go rattling off and I get lost…

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

There have been so many! This summer my mom and dad finally visited Brazil for the first time and I enjoyed introducing them to my husband’s family and the country. I had talked about so many of these people and Brazilian “things” for a long time. It was great to personally introduce them to all my stories… They fell in love with the coffee, the pãozinhos (little French bread rolls), the ice-cream, etc.!

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

The people (family), the mountains, the beautiful shore line or beaches, the coffee, the food…

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

I don’t have a “favorite” but we love to buy fresh bread every morning from the bakeries (padaria) and frequently visit the sorveterias for ice cream. A favorite place to buy desserts is the Bady Lauche (I spelled that wrong probably) in São Bernardo do Campo where my mother-in-law resides.

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

I was first called a “gringa” in Minas Gerais. We were visiting a cavern and the tour guide directed a question towards me. Not understanding that he was addressing me specifically, I didn’t answer and a woman yelled at me, “Hey Gringa!”, I was not very happy about this since living in NYC “gringo” is not a term of endearment. I turned to my husband and said, “How did she know I was a foreigner? I didn’t even say a word!” My husband replied, “Don’t get upset. She didn’t mean it as an insult – and just look around – you don’t look like anybody here – so you’re a gringa!

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

The US offers so much opportunity for people to work and make money. It is much harder to find jobs and especially jobs that pay a decent wage in Brazil.

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?

It is progressing little by little. It would really help if I could take off 6-12 months and spend it in Brazil! The “lh” sound trips up my tongue (for example, trabalhar)

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

Just try your best to speak the language – people are very helpful and understanding. Also, there are many people who love the chance to speak (practice) their English as well. Go with an attitude of patience. A lot of things take MORE TIME and Brazilians are sometimes not the best with planning or scheduling. Just relax and go with the flow…

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

Stay out of Rio and São Paulo – get out of the cities and enjoy the beautiful towns and countryside! Some fun places are:

1. Casa de Pedro near Santos (arrive in the morning) 2. City of Itu (very cute and great for pictures!) 3. Pedreida (great for shopping, there is a variety of things especially if you are looking for artisans…) 4. Serra Negra (great little mountain town and lots of shopping esp. for sweaters) 5. Campos de Jordão (another beautiful mountain town…) 6. Ubatuba area (beach)

You can contact Laurie at ljcarneiro@hotmail.com.

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:

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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