May 16, 2008

Meet Eric Jones from the USA who has recently visited 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.?

I was born and raised in a small city located in the Southeast part of Wisconsin. Our family is very close (3 sisters and one brother) and we are lucky to have healthy and active parents who are in their late 70’s. My education led me early on to a career in teaching and then to school administration prior to owning and operating my own businesses. My brother and I built up a school bus contracting business with over 750 school buses and purchased my father’s business which entails chartering over-the-road motorcoaches. Over the past few years I have sold my interest in the businesses I owned and am now at a point where I am planning the next phase(s) of my life. I am single but hopefully will be changing that soon! My hobbies include staying active, flying private small aircraft, restoring classic cars and enjoying nature/traveling

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

My adventures in Brazil actually began last August when I met an amazing woman (Patricia) through the dating website eharmony. After exchanging hundreds of emails, talking for hours and hours on the phone and a short visit to the United States by Patricia, I actually arrived in São Paulo on December 14th. The purpose of my trip was to spend an extended time in Brazil to learn more about the country, the culture, Patricia’s family and friends and to enable myself to look at potentially moving to Brazil on a permanent basis.

3. What were you first impressions of Brazil?

My impressions were all positive! I had an experience at the airport upon my arrival that set my impression of Brazil (specifically the people of Brazil) that never really changed during my stay. Patricia was running very late in picking me up (I still cannot believe she overslept the morning of my arrival!). I had no way to contact her to find out why she was late because my cell phone would not work in Brazil. I was very tired and ready for some sleep after my 11 hour flight and I was concerned for Patricia that something happened. After about an hour of nervously waiting, I noticed a woman carrying a sign with my name on it. She did not speak any English but she led me to the taxi stand and called Patricia at her home for me after Patricia called the taxi company and explained what happened. She asked the person working at the taxi company to help in finding me. One would have to understand that my ‘hometown airport’ would be Chicago O’Hare and that would just not happen there! Over and over, throughout my stay, it was the warmth and generosity of the people that will forever be my ‘first impression’ of Brazil.

4. What do you miss most about home?

There really wasn’t anything ‘specific’ that I truly missed! Everything that I would have wanted in America I could find available in Brazil (except Diet Mountain Dew!). I did come to Brazil over the holidays and this was the first year that one of the ‘children’ missed Christmas in our family back in the States. Not being home for church on Christmas Eve and the family gathering on Christmas morning was probably the only thing I truly ‘missed’ while in Brazil.

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

It would be the lack of being able to communicate in Portuguese. One specific event occurred while we were visiting some friends of Patricia at their home. I could just tell that these were great people and I am sure that in time I will become fast friends with them. However, the conversation that evening was almost entirely in Portuguese. Patricia as usual was always very kind/patient with me and would translate the specifics of the conversation but it was a bit unnerving not being able to understand or speak the language over a 3 hour visit to their home. Although it is very frustrating to not being able to speak the language it is also a great motivational tool in that it will provide inspiration to learn!

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

There actually are so many memorable experiences it is hard to pick one! Being with Patricia made every experience memorable as well! The first weekend in São Paulo we went for a very long walk down the entire length of Paulista Avenue and back. It was Christmas so many of the stores and buildings were decorated with great detail and fun! Especially the banks! I recall walking inside one of the banks to be welcomed by a large choir singing and the entire lobby decked out in beautiful Holiday Spirit! It was very crowded but no one really seemed to mind the crowds. Everyone was so happy and smiles were everywhere. Funny thing is that even though I was thousands of miles away from home, I felt strangely welcome. Holidays are a special time no matter where we are in the world and having a common theme brings people of all nationalities together in celebration. It was only my second day in Brazil but from that moment forward I realized and knew in my mind that I could easily adapt to living here.

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

I assume you mean besides Patricia? It would be difficult to pick out just one thing that I liked most about Brazil but as many people would say, it is the people I met. My first evening in Brazil is a perfect example of what I mean. Patricia was set to attend a Christmas get-together with all of the people from her work. It was a group of about 20 people who gathered at the home of one of her colleagues. That was so much fun! Everyone there embraced me as if they knew me and welcomed me to Brazil with open arms! With limited English speaking skills (if any), they truly made an attempt to make me feel welcome and that meant so much to me. The barbecue skills of our host was amazing! I have never tasted such great food and the meat that he served will forever leave an impression on me! My mouth waters thinking about that night! We sang karaoke into the early hours of the morning and even though I have never met these people… and I spoke no Portuguese… with no expectations everyone welcomed me and gave me such a warm reception. There were similar receptions played out over again and again while in Brazil when meeting friends of Patricia. Truly the warmth of the people I enjoyed and appreciated the most.

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

We spent a lot of time at the beach and beach house so I didn’t spend a lot of time outside of there on my visit. However, I think that in the future my favorite place will be any of the small coffee shops/cafs that are located on just about every other street… a place to sit and relax and enjoy the moment with Patricia and friends, share a latte, coffee, cheese, etc… with Patricia. There were times that we did this in São Paulo and Ubatuba and I really enjoyed that time! This is something that I have never done before here in the states (mainly because living in Wisconsin, it is too cold to sit outside half of the year!) but look forward to doing that in Brazil!

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

There is one that does stick out for me! One day during the busy holiday season we left the beach near Ubatuba in the early evening to go into Ubatuba. The main road can become VERY congested and apparently there are horror stories about how long it can take to drive just 5 miles along the beach during the holidays. Lucky for us, Patricia knew of a shortcut. One truly has to appreciate the ‘shortcut’ that she took us on! This ‘road’ hardly would pass for a ‘road’ and I doubt that many American farm animals would have even felt safe on this ‘road’! The journey did allow me to reflect back on my life with fond memories as I saw my life flashing before my eyes many times! Patricia kept reassuring us that ‘all was good’ but even her friend and sister who were with us in the back seat were a bit ‘skeptical’ about the ‘road less traveled’ that Patricia took us on! On a side note, as the sun was setting it was a beautiful drive through the mountains near Ubatuba and I look forward to riding on the ‘road’ again… but I sure wish I have a truck next time!!!

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

There are many differences yet the differences do not seem so great after you re in the country for awhile. The longer I was in Brazil, the more similarities I noticed. Although I was not in Brazil for an extended period of time (yet), probably what I noticed most was the relaxed nature of people. Everyone seemed more at ease than what I am used to here in the states. People seemed more comfortable to be themselves and that ‘stress’ did not seem to be as prevalent in Brazil as in the US. It appeared to me that people were generally very comfortable whether they were wealthy, middle class or poor. Family and friends were what truly is blessed and that everything else just doesn’t matter as much. I found that to be so refreshing! So welcome! I look forward to that experience and comfort more in the future.

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?

Admittedly, I was at first overwhelmed with the language. My frustration with not being able to speak the language didn’t matter to others as much as it did to me. After spending a month in Brazil, I do not speak Portuguese but I was able to begin to pick up words/phrases on occasion. My fear is now gone and am sure now that I will be able to learn. Other than English I had only studied German before. Patricia was great with me and very patient which helped a lot. She will be a big influence for me once I truly begin the process of learning the language. I recall her laughing (in a good way!) at me at first when I would forget the ‘male’ and ‘female’ versions of words (ie. obrigado vs. obrigada). I recently purchased the Portuguese version DVD set of Rosetta Stone that I will begin and utilize upon my return. Patricia is going to locate a tutor for me in São Paulo and I will hopefully take a classes as well. I believe that in order to fully engage yourself in all that Brazil has to offer, one needs to become proficient enough in the language to truly take advantage of all the country offers.

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

Don’t be afraid. Prior to coming everyone told me how dangerous the city is, but if one uses common sense, there really is no need to be afraid. There was not one instance that I ever questioned my safety. Oh, and of course, watch out in traffic! In Brazil, stop signs seem to really be just suggestions! Everyone appears to be out for survival on a daily basis to navigate the streets of São Paulo. Just be careful and watch yourself crossing the street! In fairness to São Paulo, I noticed the same driving habits when visiting Barcelona. One final word of advice would be to try food that you have never had before! I wonder if I would have ever eaten heart of the palm” in the United States but it is so good!

You can email Eric via etjones763@yahoo.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:

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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