April 16, 2009

Meet Derek Booth who recently moved to Brazil. 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.?

My name is Derek Booth, a 58 year old, from England. I was born in Yorkshire and though I moved to Lancashire in my early thirties I retain a Yorkshire accent, which I find strange, since I haven’t visited there for thirty years.

I started out in life working in Banking and Finance. I have been in business for many years. For a time I taught guitar to primary school children on a voluntary basis, which I found quite rewarding. I have a love of live music and on many occasions, I have joined the bands on stage at the bar I owned, for a couple of songs. Luckily I didn’t seem to empty the bar.

My last business venture was a bar restaurant, but the UK smoking ban and the onset of the recession spurred me on to move to Brazil, for which I had a lifelong fascination, not to mention a girlfriend waiting for me.

I have just finished a novel and I am busy typing away at a second novel, which is almost complete. Writing the novel was relatively easy, however getting agents interested is a completely new ballpark. Fortunately, I treat it as a hobby and don’t take it seriously.

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

I had been trying to study Brazilian Portuguese for some time and on an extended visit to Salvador last year, I met and fell in love with Ana, to whom I am now happily married. Fortunately, she could write perfect English, but like most Brazilians, including the native English teachers here, she has difficulty with pronunciation. This has made communication rather fun at times. We both have laptops and if we have really needed to put something across outside our vocabulary, we have been able to write it down.

I found it relatively easy to settle down here. Brazil is a beautiful diverse country, rich in culture and landscape, with a promising future. Together with President Lula, who has me in stitches with some of his remarks on the international stage, we could do with him in England. The country is far more modern and advanced than some of the blogs I read on the internet before settling here. I am fortunate that we live in a condominium that has a setting the equivalent of a Garden of Eden, with a lake, sports facilities to die for and a five minute walk to an incredible beach. My wife’s relatives, of which there are many, have all been very helpful, acting as translators, on the many visits to obtain documents and for doctor’s or dentist’s visits.

3. What were you first impressions of Brazil?

My first impression of Salvador was one of awe. I had been researching the area on the internet with articles that tended to portray the culture and slave history of the Old Portuguese city. The sight of a modern city with great public transport, surprisingly good roads and the many shopping Malls, that could match any in America and the UK, left me speechless.

Of course, that was my first impression. Now that I have had more of a chance to look around with a more critical eye, the thing that strikes me, is how the buildings are neglected and in need of a lick of paint, if only to cover the graffiti that disfigures them. The main tourist area of Pelourinho in the old city, a must on any tourist’s itinerary, is doing itself a great disservice. I would have thought at least, they could attempt to tidy the buildings in the area. That aside, I am struck by how hard the Brazilians seem to work but equally have a thirst to play hard and enjoy life to the full.

4. What do you miss most about home?

I have only been here permanently for four months, so I can’t really say I miss much, although the odd pint of English ale wouldn’t go amiss. Of course, it’s difficult not being able to pop around to old friends and relatives but with Skype and Messenger, I seem to keep more in touch than ever before.

If I were to say there was one thing I missed more than anything it would be cooking ingredients. I am in charge of the kitchen as Ana works full time. I have yet to find a decent slice of bacon, or baked beans, to complete a good old English breakfast, fry up. Fresh inexpensive mushrooms, plum tomatoes and red kidney beans seem to be elusive, which tend to make my lasagne and chilli dishes a little lacking.

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

Independence, Having to rely on others until I can learn to be fluent in the language or attempting to answer the telephone and waiting for my identity card to open a bank account.

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

Hmm, I have so many it would be difficult to write about just one. I think one of the most moving experiences I had was visiting Rio. I am not particularly religious, but standing in front of the statue of Jesus overlooking Rio, I felt quite emotional. The view of city itself has to be one of the wonders of the world. I have visited many cities around the world and Rio has to be number one. I feel quite privileged to have visited there and think it should be on everyone’s bucket list.

Then there was the Island, Morro de São Paulo, off the coast of Bahia, on our honeymoon. I couldn’t believe it, no cars. The taxis were the locals with wheelbarrows to carry your suitcases. Children freely played games, safely in the square late at night, around the many candle lit stalls. Crime is virtually nonexistent on the island. Most of the restaurants have live music. The trip around the island by boat was an experience, stopping off at secluded attractions including a health mud bathing area and a fishing village restaurant with a fresh seafood menu. No wonder that foreigners, who own many pousada’s there, visited the island and never left.

I have to mention the Salvador Carnival and bearing no resemblance, the Rio carnival. The Carnival parades along the front of the beach, with the spectators taking part. The atmosphere is electric. The floats are top Bahia bands. If you could imagine the Beatles, the Rolling Stones etc, parading through your local City and you could almost reach out and touch them. Then that is what it is like.

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

The thing I most like about the people of Bahia is their love of live music and the Brazilian’s zest to party.

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

I don’t have a favourite restaurant. I quite like the price per kilo outlets. We visit many different types of restaurants and I have yet to find a bad one.

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

I think the funniest thing that happened to me was finding I was stuck in the toilet at home and alone, with the door handle missing. I had no mobile phone with me and in the heat of the day; it was like an oven, as the temperature soared. I thought it best to call someone and attempted to shout through the small window to passers bye, but with my lack of Portuguese, the few that passed simply waved back. After an hour, luckily, I managed to fashion the towel holder to open the door.

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

I can’t say that I have experienced some of the main comments that tradesmen fail to turn up. Here in Salvador I find them to be very efficient. I think the main difference between here and in the UK is the people’s tolerance to queue, especially in the banks. We just would not tolerate the long waits in the UK. The big difference and a culture shock, is in the service provided by dentists. In the UK and I think it is the same in Europe, dentists train to carry out all procedures. Here I had a problem and found that most dentists specialise in ether fillings, cleaning, or prosthesis. I found this very difficult as I needed all three and was lucky to find a German Dentist, who could provide all the services.

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?

Not very well, I am afraid. The biggest mistake I made was trying to learn in England alone. It has helped me to be able to read Portuguese to a limited extent, but my notion of the pronunciation was all wrong. Now I have to learn it all again. A typical example is carro (car) and caro (expensive). Now I don’t go anywhere without my phrasebook.

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

My advice would be to have all your documents legalised at the Brazilian Consulate before you settle. Not just the important ones, if you have any qualifications, have them legalised. If you have sold a house or any other assets, have the documents legalised for tax purposes, to avoid the funds been classed as income. Above all, if transferring large amounts of money, check then double check you have the correct transfer number, or the Banco do Brasil will take a big chunk in withholding tax. If you are getting married in Brazil, have your girlfriend go to the Cartório de Registro Civilrio and ask exactly what documents they require, then send them by email for your girlfriend just to have the Cartório make sure they are the correct documents, before you travel. It is also important to book a date, again through your girlfriend before you travel. Cartório’s are notorious for a longer waiting time for estrangeiros, unless the wheels are oiled. Then, provided you can afford the flight tickets, go back home to apply for Permenancia. It only took me six weeks in England, but a German friend has been waiting sixteen months for his, when he applied in Brazil.

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:

Jim Shattuck – USA
Ruby Souza – Hawaii
Stephan Hughes – Trinidad and Tobago
Louis van der Wiele – Holland
Drew Glaser – USA
Barry Elliott – Canada
Joel Barsky – USA
David Drummond – Canada
Liam Porisse – France
Jim Kelley – USA
Max Ray – USA
Jeremy Clark – Canada
Don Fredrick – USA
Jase Ramsey – USA
Ben Pearce – UK
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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