Germany’s Alexander von Brincken has spent much of his life working and traveling around the world, but until a few years ago had never visited South America. However, following retirement he met his fiance who lives in Salvador, Bahia. During his frequent visits to Brazil he has got to know the country well and plans to move permanently soon. He shares with us his experiences of being a German in Brazil. Read his story about places to visit in Salvador, throwing a party and Brazilian punctuality.

Tell us a little about yourself, where are you from?
I’m German, living in the region of Stuttgart, but I regard myself as Bavarian, the state where I grew up.

What do you do?
For many years I was an international banker, travelling a lot, but also living for some time in other countries i.e. Luxembourg, the USA and Hong Kong. During my time in Hong Kong (3 1/2 years) I was responsible for the banks business in South-East Asia and travelled intensively to China, Singapore, Malaysia, Indonesia, Philippines, Taiwan, Thailand and got aquainted with other climates and totally different cultures.

I am back in Germany now after retiring two years ago. I am 62 years old and have three sons (aged 31, 27 and 20) of which two still live with me. I am divorced.

When did you arrive in Brazil and what brought you here?
Through the internet I met my fiance, who also has three sons and is retired. She is a Brazilian, living in Salvador. I visited Salvador for the first time in my life (first time in South America) in October 2003 and during my stay of four weeks learned a little about Brazil, the way of life and the climate. My fiance and I decided to get married as soon as possible and to share our lives together in Salvador. Unfortunately there has been much legality and other things to arrange, before my final move to Brazil. In the meantime I have managed to stay in Salvador for 4 1/2 months last year, and another 4 weeks this year, and hope to move there for good within the next six months.

What were you first impressions of Brazil?
My first impressions of Brazil were not so different from what I had experienced in South-East Asia, including the climate and the vast poverty problems, so it wasn’t really a totally new experience for me.

What do you miss most about home?
When I’m in Brazil I miss most the changes in the European climate which is more seasonal. But of course there are other things such as food that I miss, especially dark bread, German sausage and European spices like dill.

What has been your most frustrating experience in Brazil?
My most frustrating experience in Brazil is that motorists don’t seem to obey any road rules, and that the roads are in a terrible condition. Another thing, that has kind of disturbed me, is the lack of punctuality, which of course has been inbreed in us Germans!

What has been your most memorable experience in Brazil?
My most memorable experiences in Brazil have been the warm heartedness of the people. There is a tremendous will to work and change the situation in Brazil that has been formerly a dictatorship and suffered from corruption.

What do you most like about Brazil?
I like he warm heartedness of the people, their strong family ties and their caring for each other.

What is your favorite restaurant/place to hang out here?
The best places in Salvador are for me are Pelorinho, in the old part of the city, Mercado Modelo with its many little shops and capoeira, and the beaches. But with regard to restaurants, it’s a little open-air street bar called Conversa Fiada where I meet nice people and have even made friends with the famous young Brazilian poet Narlan Matos Texeira.
Then there is AeroClube and Tche Picanya in Lauro de Freitas.

Do you have any funny stories/incidents to tell about your time in Brazil?
A funny story about my time in Brazil is the 60th birthday of my fiance last year. We had invited many people to celebrate with us and the party was to start at 8 pm. Everything was nicely prepared, we were well dressed, and I was waiting for the guests to arrive. At around 8.30 pm I was a little nervous, because nobody had arrived yet, my fiance was definitely not nervous! At 9 pm I got hysterical because nobody had turned up yet! At a 9:15 pm I was a little less tense, because Amanda, my fiance’s niece was the first to arrive from more than 60 expected guests. But little by little people came dropping in, by 10 pm almost everybody was there. I was informed that all my worries were really for nothing, since this is the way in Bahia. I promised myself at least to get used to that.

What difference between your homeland and Brazil do you find most striking?
The most striking difference between Brasil and Germany is in my view how people in Brazil handle the still great poverty. They fight it with all their means and don’t complain all the time about their miserable fate. They don’t walk the streets with faces like constant thunderstorms but try to make the best of their lives. Also, I admire that old values, which have been mostly forgotten in Germany are still very much alive. This is especially the case with close ties within the families and the caring for and respecting older people.

What advice do you have for newcomers to Brazil?
My advice for newcomers to Brazil is general advice for visiting any country–keep your eyes open–try to understand the country and its people from its historical and economic background, and open your hearts.

What are some things that you would recommend for a visitor to do in Brazil?
My recommendation for visitors to Brazil, as to many places in the world, where there is great poverty don’t carry around too much money and don’t show it openly. Be polite and friendly and don’t think that you are superior, because you are not.

Alexander von Brincken can be contacted at: germanwizard2002@yahoo.com

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

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

Are you are foreigner living in Brazil? Are you interested in telling your story? If you would like to volunteer, or if you would like to recommend someone, please send an email with contact details and a brief description of yourself to gringoes@www.gringoes.com

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