Meet Conrad Downes, a Welshman, who has lived in Wales, England and Brazil, and is currently studying and working here. Read the following interview where he tells us about 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 was born in Pontypridd, Wales, and moved in my twenties to Brighton & Hove, England. So I have been blessed in living in the mountains, and near the sea. My mother is Welsh, and my father is English. When abroad we are all British. My wife is Brazilian and my daughter has dual nationality.
I work in Telecommunications and Information Security and currently employed by GTECH Brasil. I am a Chartered Engineer, have a degree in Computer Studies, a Member of the British Computer Society, and passed the CISSP (ISC2 Certified Information System Security Professional) examination.
I am fortunate enough to still practice distance running and football. Other interests include rugby union, music, art, current affairs, reading, writing, local history, cooking, and travelling.
2. When did you arrive in Brazil and what brought you here?
I arrived in Brasil on 5th June 1997. My wife, Telma, and I agreed to move to Brasil if the government opened up the Telecommunications Market and they got inflation under control. My mind cannot cope with the concept of high inflation, the hidden costs it brings, while widening the gap between rich and poor.
3. What were you first impressions of Brazil?
Very contrasting impressions: The greenery of the vegetation, in comparison to the dryness of Southern Europe then I saw the rain, and immediately understood why. The differences shown through some of the homes on the run from the airport along Marginal Tiete highlighted the social differences. Of course, this has improved over the years. The friendliness of the people and the passion for football that is very similar to the British, Italians, and Spanish.
4. What do you miss most about home?
Family, friends, Rugby, Cricket, London Pride, Welsh/New Zealand Lamb, missing some football games, long summer nights, some favourite places, television dramas, and hearing English words in the air. The latter is something that only someone living abroad would understand, but when I arrive in London, hearing ordinary people saying everyday things is like music to my ears.
5. What has been your most frustrating experience in Brazil?
Unnecessary bureaucracy, the same questions at parties, and in the early days, the language too.
6. What has been your most memorable experience in Brazil (specific incident)?
There are many, for example, having family and friends over here on my wedding day, watching England beat Argentina 1-0 in O&rsquot;Malley&rsquot;s during the World Cup 2002, and, sending postcards to friends in Great Britain while I was working in Rio for the first time (they are still friends, of course). Really, the one memorable experience that tops all that was the birth of our daughter Lilian.
7. What do you most like about Brazil (in general)?
That&rsquot;s easy the sun, people, football, beaches, and some of the music.
8. What is your favorite restaurant/place to hang out here?
That would have to be Padaria Castro Mendes, Vila Industrial, Campinas. The owners really know their football, and so we have had many good discussions, usually on the weekend! I also like the home from home OMalleys, and any restaurant that makes good basic food.
9. Do you have any funny stories/incidents to tell about your time in Brazil?
As an independent traveller, I have many stories. Explaining the difference between some Portuguese words and their literal equivalent is sometimes a laugh.
I was watching a World Cup match with friends in OMalleys, and someone was flying out to London that night. As he was leaving the whole pub sang an alternative version of Football&rsquot;s Coming Home” with the words “He&rsquot;s Going Home!”
My daughter has an excellent sense of humour and always makes me laugh.
10. What difference between your homeland and Brazil do you find most striking?
The sun, all year round agriculture, and the immense size of the county.
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?
My Portuguese is reasonable, as long as people are not afraid of the accent, but I really suffer trying to understand “Mineirs.” I am currently studying a post-graduation course at FIA-USP and answering the examination questions in Portuguese. I would say that I have difficulty with some verbs and struggle to pronounce words with a “~” (til) or the rolling “r” in them.
12. What advice do you have for newcomers to Brazil?
The same as anywhere else, be open, genuine, street-wise, confident, strong, have self-belief, integrate in the local community, make friends, buy satellite/cable television, contract Internet access, and have an open mind. Specifically, to Brasil, I would say support a football team, prepare to answer the usual questions at parties (mind you my wife tells me that about Great Britain), remember you have a right to a one-off shipment of personal goods without paying customs duties, get a driving licence, and bring the items you like that may be expensive here (e.g. English Tea). Try and get you visa in the Consulate in London as it is easier. On the British paperwork from time to time, I find the Rio Consulate very helpful.
13. What are some things that you would recommend for a visitor to do in São Paulo (or anywhere else in Brazil)?
I recommend to visit as many places as possible. Definitely look at the local history, and the colonial buildings that have been luckily preserved in some parts of São Paulo, and other parts of Brasil. My favourite places are Florianopolis, Rio de Janeiro, Maceio, Aguas de Lindoia, Paraty, Ubatuba, Curitiba, Londrina, Ouro Preto, Belo Horizonte, Santos (especially the Via Belmiro), Praia Grande, and many others.
If you want to contact Conrad his email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.
Are you a foreigner living in Brazil, or 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, or if you would like to recommend someone, please send an email with contact details and a brief description of yourself to email@example.com
To read previous interviews in the Brazil Through Foreign Eyes series click below:
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“