August 2, 2008

Meet Ben Pearce from the UK who has travelled to Brazil several times, and more recently moved here. 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 a 27 year old lad from the South coast of England (a town called Bournemouth), who after growing up by the sea sought the bright lights and greater opportunities of the city. I moved to London 4 years ago to complete a masters degree at LSE and have since worked in policy, affordable housing, city regeneration and on London employment and training programmes, funded by the EU.

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

After 4 years in London I have just arrived in sunny Belo Horizonte, in mid July 2008, to begin the next chapter of my life. I left London on a high and I came primarily to be with my long-suffering girlfriend Ana, a Mineira, after over a year apart between here, Stuttgart, Bournemouth and London! I also always harboured desires to live abroad, and to learn another language fluently. It was now or never!

3. What were you first impressions of Brazil?

I first came to Brazil in 2006, and have been here 4 times since. When I stepped off the plane in mid-November at Rio airport, I remember the initial blast of heat and humidity, softened by the smiles of the airport staff who pointed me in the right direction. After that it was the diversity of the city, the beautiful mountains peppered with poverty through the colourful favelas that cling to them, right through to the dated glitz of the Copacabanna. My first impression of my new home in Belo Horizonte was something more modern and sedate: a cleaner, greener Rio, nestling in the lush hills of Minas Gerais. My overall impression of Brazil right now is of a place that is booming, new buildings on every street corner, and parks being scrubbed-up… no doubt in time for the Autumn local elections here!

4. What do you miss most about home?

At the moment Im missing my former flatmates in South London, and the sights and smells of the Capital. I miss the English sense of planning and organisation too – and the idea that people know what is going on prior to five minutes before it happens! I don’t miss the weather though. At all. Other than that its the little things, especially good tea!

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

I have not been in Brazil long enough to tell but I get frustrated with the short-sightedness of people sometimes. For example, people shout and scream if there is the slightest bit of traffic when they are helping to cause it by not walking! I think the randomness of the bureaucracy will also start to grate…

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

There are so many to chose from! I think the memory or image I will treasure will be standing on top of the sugar-loaf mountain in Rio de Janeiro, and looking out over mountains, city and a never ending ocean. This was in 2006 and it made me realise that I should look to live abroad and further my horizons. (I could also add watching Cruzeiro football team play at the huge Mineirao stadium, which was something special)

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

I like that despite the modernity and sometimes bland skyscraper backdrop, culture and history is embedded at every step. This is most seen in the restaurants along side-streets. I love the food and drink that Brazil offers, though I’m not sure that my stomach always appreciates it. Anyone planning a trip should check out Belo Horizonte and Minas Gerais for its gastronomy… and savour the simplicity of a chopp on plastic chairs in one of the many boteca-bars that line the side streets of Savassi and Centro areas.

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

For me its Albano’s Chopperia (Rua Pium in the Anchieta area where I live). Albanos brews the most refreshing beer I’ve had! There is always a mixed crowd here of young, old, wealthy, local.. its a snapshot of the best of Minas life.

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

I think it was the time that a member of my girlfriend’s family got to know the fine bottle of Scotch whiskey I had brought them… not realising how strong it was, nor that it is best enjoyed in moderation rather than the whole bottle. He was ill for ages – and initially we had to dive for cover!

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

From a housing background I find it fascinating to see the difference of a welfare state… in the comparison of English ‘council housing’ to Brazilian favelas. I have a huge admiration for the inhabitants of the favelas, building their own roofs about their heads where the state has not or can not provide. Visually it means a striking difference between rich and poor, where as in London for example, ex-council flats can blend in and be snapped up by young buyers for hundreds of thousands of pounds.

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?

The Portuguese is rusty but getting better all the time! I have a lot of trouble with grammar in the past tense. For some reason I’ve been confusing the words ‘hear’ and ‘egg’ (ouo and ovo) which meant for some confused dinner guests who hoped my ear was not on the menu.

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

Learn Portuguese and stay away from resort holidays! It is only then that you will really appreciate the variety of life that Brazil has to offer, and be able to sample local delicacies and attractions. I would also recommend leaving valuables at home, and walking around to get a sense of the cities – it is a lot safer than people realise, as long as you are careful.

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

Having only visited São Paulo airport, which is best avoided, I would recommend a visitor to look beyond Rio and Salvador, and venture inland to Minas Gerais, or go north past Natal to the beautiful beaches such as Praia da Pipa.

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:

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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