December 14, 2007

Meet David Sundin, from the USA, who currently lives and works remotely in Brazil. 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’m American, 51 years old, from Texas. I own a small business in Texas, and plan to open one here, too. I’m married to a Brazilian woman, and we have two girls, ages 9 and 11.

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

I married my wife, who’s from São Paulo, 11 years ago. I met her while she was working for the US Department of Commerce, setting up trade shows, and I was attending one of these shows. I was wandering around the show, lost, without my documents, and she walked up to me and asked if she could help me. Other guys came home from the trade show with pens and cups, while I came home with a Brazilian girlfriend!

We’ve lived in the US for the past 11 years, and often discussed moving to Brazil so that our girls could have the opportunity to learn about living in other parts of the world. About a year ago, we realized that President Lula was never going to send us an invitation, so if we wanted to move, we were going to have to pull the trigger and do it ourselves. Otherwise, we’d wake up in a few years and our girls would be grown, and we would have missed the opportunity. We moved to Belo Horizonte in January, 2007. We chose Belo Horizonte because Rosi, my wife, has some relatives in this area.

3. What were you first impressions of Brazil?

I had visited our relatives in the São Paulo area quite a few times, so I was prepared for what to expect. There weren’t any surprises, really, although the regional accent in Belo Horizonte was more difficult to get used to than I expected. Although they were already fluent in Portuguese, my daughters found it difficult to understand their teachers when we moved here.

4. What do you miss most about home?

Seafood and Mexican food. Although my Portuguese is coming along pretty well, I find that I miss the ability to easily make small talk and chit-chat. Conversations in Portuguese don’t flow easily (yet).

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

The lack of a modern credit-checking system here in Brazil imposes enormous extra monetary and time costs to complete any transaction, whether it’s renting a cell phone or renting or purchasing real estate. Brazilian society is not very mobile, from region to region, which means that systems are not often in place to accommodate recent arrivals.

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

Traveling in the hinterlands of Minas Gerais state. Hiking in coffee plantations, coming upon waterfalls, eating in old fashioned Mineiro restaurants.

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

People are very warm and friendly. They’re very touchy”. It’s easy to make friends here.

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

Belo Horizonte is known for its thousands of outdoor cafes that spring up every evening at dusk. Sitting with friends in a packed cafe outdoors at 11 p.m., sharing a plate of grilled picanha and fries with an ice cold beer is a wonderful experience.

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

My wife thinks it’s funny how I acted around our maid when we first moved here. I work at home, and having never had a maid before, I didn’t really know how to work around her. I pretty much stayed in my office while she had the run of the house. Eventually, we became good friends.

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

There are so many. Society here is completely different than it is in Texas. Much more open and liberal in many ways. My daughters go to a standard, private Catholic school, and I’ve seen them get an education that focuses not only on the hard sciences, but also on social responsibility and sensitivity to their social and ecological surroundings. This is not studied in the US, in my experience.

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 progressing, although not at the pace that I want it to. One of my problems is that I have a VOIP telephone with a US number, and I spend all day talking to my US business customers in English. I make the normal gringo mistakes: confusing “ser” and “estar” for example, or incorrectly choosing among the two different past tenses of verbs. I never realized how comfortable the English language is with ambiguity; how so many words have many meanings and one has to deduce the correct one by the word’s context. In Portuguese, meanings of words are far more specific, which means that there are more words, and that native English speakers will confuse them.

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

I can only relate what worked for me:

1. Apply for your permanent visa at the Brazilian consulate in your native country; it takes far less time to get it that way than it does by visiting the Policia Federal in Brazil. Don’t wait until you move to apply for it; it’s still going to take several months.

2. Get your CPF (Your Brazilian tax identification – this corresponds to a Social Security card in the US)) as soon as you settle in Brazil. You can apply for it at the local Bank of Brazil You can’t buy much of anything without it.

3. Leave your sense of time at home. Appointments, times for dates, parties, etc., are only a suggestion here. If you arrive at a party an hour after the suggested time, you’ll still be the first person to arrive.

4. I purchased a VOIP (internet) telephone before I moved, which allows me to make unlimited calls to anywhere in the US or Canada for a flat rate of $25 per month. This allows me to conduct my business from Brazil as well as I did when I lived in the US. I highly recommend this.

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

I’ll recommend some things in the Belo Horizonte area. Belo Horizonte is the third largest city in Brazil, with a population of just over 3 million. It’s situated in the mountains of Minas Gerais state, which is absolutely beautiful. There are many colonial towns in this area, as it was settled by the Portuguese in order to mine metals and precious stones. Be sure to visit Ouro Preto, Sabara and Tiradentes, which are all within a couple of hours from BH. Mineiro cuisine is known throughout the country; it’s simple , hearty food, but is absolutely wonderful. Belo Horizonte has beautiful parks and landmarks; some of which were designed by Oscar Niemeyer, Brazil’s patron saint of architecture. Among Brazilian cities, Belo Horizonte feels very safe, and is a very pleasant place to live.

Readers are welcome to contact me at davidsundin@hotmail.com.

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:

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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