Meet Alan Longbottom, from the UK, who travelled to Brazil on an exchange programme, visited Brazil several times, and is now living in Rio Grande do Sul. Read the following interview where he tells us about some of his 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.?

My name is Alan Longbottom, and I am a 61 year-old Englishman, originally a teacher in the UK, working in secondary schools and universities who managed to take early retirement ten years ago. After retiring I worked as a Rotary Volunteer in Kenya for several years, working with others to build schools and train teachers.

My Rotary work involved me in bringing a team of young people from my region – Yorkshire – to Rio Grande do Sul on an exchange programme, and once here I was asked to do more voluntary work with English teachers here – who incidentally cannot speak English!! So I came back to Brazil for several working visits.

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

Well, to cut a long story short, whilst here I met and fell in love with a beautiful Brazilian, called Raquel, and as I had been divorced for some ten years and she was also divorced, naturally a romance began, and I have been living here in the South of Brazil for almost 5 years now.

I have two sons in the UK – both with their own family and both professionally very successful, and I visit them as regularly as I can – although the Varig problems restricted me to one visit in 2006. Thankfully TAM is now flying into Heathrow, so I will undertake my first flight with them in 2007.

My wife is an English teacher and translator, and she had a small number of private students, and it was our idea to open our own independent language school. This we did in 2003, using our own material and that freely available on the Internet. We have never had to advertise, as here in Santa Cruz do Sul, the centre of the tobacco industry there are many students who find that a working knowledge of English is essential.

3. What were you first impressions of Brazil?

My first visit and my life is here in the south of Brazil – the Gaucho region – and the city I live in was originally a German colony, 150 years ago, all of which makes it so very different from other regions of Brazil. My first impression when I arrived in Porto Alegre and travelled to Santa Cruz was how green and fertile everything looked. How the principle roads were so badly maintained. I arrived in Santa Cruz and immediately was taken to lunch at the best churrascuria in town – Centinario – which later was christened The Paradise! I found the people so generous and so full of fun, and somehow felt immediately to be more at home” here than almost any place I had visited.

4. What do you miss most about home?

Of course you miss many things from your place of birth and after over 50 years of life in Yorkshire – mostly in the same region south of Leeds. But without doubt it is people – family and friends – that are top of my list. Right now, whilst writing this and listening to Cliff Richard singing “Mistletoe and Wine” as Christmas festivities approach wearing shorts and tee shirt – and, incidentally, England is fog bound – I would love to see and feel snow and cold crisp winter days! I always enjoyed cooking a huge turkey with all the trimmings, followed by Christmas pud with rum sauce for my family – well, here I have to make do with frozen chester and salad – but again I prepare a meal for my new family here, and I have even introduced them to the tradition of playing games after our traditional Christmas Eve feast and the opening of the presents. Although I find it very hot to put on the Santa’s outfit, which I brought with me! Well, after the festivities, it’s a short drive to our chacara – small farm – where I plunge into my swimming pool, and its then when I think – “Well life can’t be too bad!!”

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

The big frustrations have been the banking service, and the lack of people who can take decisions! Well, of course, the roads must be survived.

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

One thing that really impressed me about Brazilians is their stamina to party. I always joke about them holding a party to organise another one! Although I do tire of the lack of originality with the variety of food at parties – pastel and negrinhos, and those leite condensado cakes!

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

I think you have to change your attitude to the pace of life and not to get too stressed out about all the many things you want to complain about – just lets enjoy what we have – a beautiful country with friendly happy people and more fresh fruit than you can imagine at crazy low prices!!

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

As for restaurant food here in Rio Grande do Sul in our little town, apart from my paradise, and one or two other places I find food plain and lacks variety. I love Indian cuisine, and Thai food, but here … no chance, the only spice they use is salt, and HOW they use this!! Not so good for my high blood pressure! I think the pizza places with the rodizio – with up to 40 varieties available, including chocolate and ice cream! – were a revelation to me.

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

Not answered.

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

One thing I find so different between folks here and in the UK is when Brazilians say they will do something, they immediately forget, or change their minds. Sometimes I have planned for people who just never came or phoned to say they weren’t coming! I find most Brazilians have the same apathy towards politics as Brits, and we both get what we deserve! The Brazilians also lack the custom on civil niceties – or is it just because the official symbol of Rio Grande do Sol is the Quero quero, that everybody always wants, and never asks “please may I have.” just a little niggle from someone who now sees his children insisting that his grandchildren say please and thank you etc.

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 for my Portuguese, I have to say I am lazy and making slow progress in learning the hellish verbs – English is so simple when it comes to verbs, we have so many, and many Portuguese verbs are so multi-functional – who drinks their shower? But I do spend my days speaking in English with students, and my wife wants English to be the official language of the home to help our two children to be fluent speakers. So what chance do I have? Sad excuse!!

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

The best advice I would give to anyone settling here in Brazil is be patient, and don’t take the first answer as gospel! Be civil to policemen, as they have swingeing powers it seems to me, and when asked to show documents have a 50 Reais note inside the document!

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

If you are a visitor to Brazil, for me a must is the Iguau Falls – magnificent! Here in the south we have some canyons on the border with Santa Catarina, which are – well not the Grand Canyons, but well worth a visit – if you can find them! The south is so full of beautiful scenery and most of the roads – well the things called roads – are free of traffic. Eat you heart out you Brits who spend hours on the beautiful maintained roads of Britain, but so full of traffic. On each visit back to see folks in the UK I am ready for the potholes and dust tracks of my home – Santa Cruz do Sul!

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:

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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