August 3, 2007

Meet Zachary Heilman, from the USA, who first travelled to Brazil in 2004 and now lives here. Zack enjoys travelling and eating out. 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.?

I am originally from Nashville, Tennessee, USA. I moved to New Orleans when I was 18 and lived there until I was thirty. I moved to New Orleans to study Civil Engineering at Tulane University. Afterwards I tried several different engineering jobs but decided I preferred working with computers and so I switched into the field of computer programming in my mid 20’s.

I began traveling with my family as a child and since living on my own I have traveled and lived in Asia several times along with other trips around America and Europe.

My favorite by far is traveling. I love bicycle touring cross country. My other favorite hobby is eating out!

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

I arrived here in October of 2004. I traveled here on a whim. I had met a beautiful young Brazilian girl many years earlier in America while she was traveling with her family, and when my American friend who lives here in São Paulo told me he would be out of town the weekend that I was arriving, I wrote her and asked her if she could give me a tour of the city. She ended up picking me up from the airport on that first day and we’ve been together ever since. I’ve met several other gringos with this same story of being picked” up at the airport and never leaving. Is there some trick these Brazilian women are learning to use on us?

3. What were you first impressions of Brazil?

Well, first thing is that Brazil is not a third world. It’s more like a buffet of different cultures. The accents are nearly impossible to be pinned down. My first impression was that things are more expensive than anyone can make sense of, especially in São Paulo.

I was instantly happier about Brazil the second I drove out of São Paulo. What’s funny is that most of my first impressions, about Brazilian food and about Brazilian women, were pretty bad but now I love these things about Brazil.

4. What do you miss most about home?

Everything modern is cheaper in the USA. I miss people understanding the words that come out of my mouth. I also miss nice considerate drivers.

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

Well, overall, driving is truly horrible here. I lived in Bangkok for years, which has traffic just as congested, but the way people treat each other on the road here, with so little consideration, is new to me.

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

A drive down 23 de Maio on the back of my friend’s motorcycle, Friday evening, during a full traffic jam, going 60 km/h! That is probably scarier than skydiving or hand gliding in Rio de Janeiro.

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

The food. well, how could I not love the concept of Rodezio?

Requejao, catupiry, caipirinha, pão de queijo, chocolate pizza, brigadeiro.

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

Aska Ramen Restaurant in Liberdade.
Fogo de Chão
Rascals for a good all-around meal.
Velhão restaurant.
Ibirapuera Park.
Pinacoteca do estado muesem.

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

I was drinking on the beach one day with my girlfriend. A couple in front of us were ordering ice cream from a guy with a little push-cart and the girl just happened to be drinking a batida de coco. I asked my girlfriend what to ask to order the same drink, and proceeded to stumble up to the ice cream vendor to ask for my own batida de coco. I really didn’t see anything wrong with asking the ice-cream guy for a drink, but my girlfriend and her family seemed to think it was awfully funny watching me standing in front of a Kibom ice cream stand ordering alcohol, especially since he couldn’t even understand what I was trying to say.

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

The number of totally different cultures that Brazil has.

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?

Portuguese pronunciation hasn’t been so bad (a lot easier than speaking Thai at least). However, I had a really hard time at first with the proper inflections (the syllable to stress) of Portuguese words. My memory is absolutely terrible. I ended up studying so much and writing things down so often that I took my computer programming skills (if you can call it that) and made my own website to practice Portuguese with,

I spend a lot more time writing the website than practicing and studying these days. Anyone interested in checking it out or joining me in building the site up and adding to the dictionary and study categories should check out the site.

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

Plan on spending money. Be more careful than you think is necessary. Go to every rodizio you can possibly find. Relationships here are intense so take your time getting into them and get to know the culture and people better first.

Here’s my advice for any country you visit and stay a while in: Save up your money at home before going to visit a new country and then live your life well and try to enjoy all that a new country has to offer you. All things being equal – it’s easier living back at home, spending all your time working, than it is spending all your time working in another country.

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

Eat, of course. I think Fogo de Chao is a must. Also, you have to try the Sushi rodizios here if you like that sort of thing.

There is a restaurant just out of town called Velhão. It’s a great place for travelers to visit. Here’s a review I found of the restaurant.

There are a few really nice museums in town like Pinacoteca do Estado.

Maybe buy a pair of super tight Brazilian pants for your wife or friends back home as a joke.

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:

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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