Meet Elliott Zussman, who has moved from the USA to live with his now wife in São Paulo. 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 am originally from Los Angeles California. When I lived in California I worked as a tax accountant (CPA). Here in São Paulo, I have informally given some friends English lessons but I am concentrating on learning Portuguese.
2. When did you arrive in Brazil and what brought you here?
I moved to São Paulo in June 2005 to be with my then fiance. We were subsequently married in October. She is from Belo Horizonte but has been living in São Paulo for 13 years now. We met each other a bit more than 3 years ago when she was doing an English course in Los Angeles. At that time I had been to Brazil 3 times before and was already thoroughly captivated by the country and its people.
3. What were you first impressions of Brazil?
I first entered Brazil on my 4th trip to South America which was in 1997. I had thought about coming to Brazil for a long time but was hesitant because I didn’t speak any Portuguese (I can speak Spanish fairly well). When I landed in Florianópolis on my flight from Paraguay, I was immediately struck on how different the people were from other Latin-Americans in terms of appearance and how they moved and spoke. However, I was surprised at how much Portuguese I could actually understand. Speaking was a very different story!!
4. What do you miss most about home?
The things I miss most about being in Los Angeles (after family and friends of course!!) mostly have to do with certain ethnic foods. I like Brazilian food a lot and I have had excellent Japanese and Italian food here in São Paulo but I really miss all the good Mexican, Chinese and Thai food in Los Angeles. The couple of Mexican and Chinese restaurants I’ve tried here in São Paulo have left me very unsatisfied!!!
5. What has been your most frustrating experience in Brazil?
My most frustrating experiences here in Brazil have been dealing with bureaucracy. Getting all the documentation together to get married was a real nightmare and I continue to jump through hoops with regards to getting my residency in order.
6. What has been your most memorable experience in Brazil (specific incident)?
My most memorable experience (not a good one!!) was when I tripped over my own big feet while walking down a street in a small city in the Nordeste and broke my wrist. Fortunately for me there was an employee at the hotel where I was staying who spoke English fluently who helped me at the medical clinic and also helped me re-schedule my flights home as I was unable to continue my trip. The funny thing about him is that he had lived for a few years just a couple miles from my house in Los Angeles. I subsequently had surgery.
7. What do you most like about Brazil (in general)?
I really like and am impressed by Brazilian people. People have been so accepting of me here and have almost always tried to make me feel at home. I am very impressed of how people can get seemingly impossible things accomplished (jeitinho brasileiro). I also really like Brazilian music especially samba & forró and also some MPB. I just recently went to a performance of Jota Quest which was great!!
8. What is your favorite restaurant/place to hang out here?
I like going to hang out in Vila Madalena. There are any number of good bars and restaurants to choose from there. I am constantly finding new places to try. I also find myself going out in Pinheiros too. More specifically, I enjoy sitting outside during the evening at the Senzala Restaurant & Bar on Praa Panamericana in Alto de Pinheiros drinking a cold choppe (or two).
9. Do you have any funny stories/incidents to tell about your time in Brazil?
I can’t remember a specific incident but some mis-communications between me and Brazilians have certainly brought smiles all around.
10. What difference between your homeland and Brazil do you find most striking?
I find family interactions very different here in Brazil than what I am accustomed to in the US. I married into a very large (and from what I’m told typical) Mineira family. I can see with my new family how much they enjoy each others company. For new year my sister-in-law came with her husband and two teenage kids to São Paulo on vacation and although we had three separate bedrooms for them, they preferred to stay together in the same bedroom. I can never imagine this happening in the US.
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 coming along slowly. Foreign languages do not come easily to me and I have to work really hard at learning. I am making progress none the less. Words I used to have trouble pronouncing were cabeleireiros”, “Barueiri”, and “aditivada” (as in gasoline) but I have now mastered these words.
12. What advice do you have for newcomers to Brazil?
Learn as much Portuguese as you can (do what I say, not what I do!!) and don’t be shy about speaking to Brazilians. You will meet some very nice people!!!
13. What are some things that you would recommend for a visitor to do in São Paulo (or anywhere else in Brazil)?
As crazy as it might sound to most people, I would suggest a visitor to São Paulo just get out and walk. I have spent many happy hours going out exploring on foot. I have explored various neighborhoods like Higienópolis, Perdizes, Alto de Pinheiros, Lapa and some of the Jardins neighborhoods. I often stumble across very surprising sights!!
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 firstname.lastname@example.org
To read previous interviews in the Brazil Through Foreign Eyes series click below:
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“