Meet Eric Karukin, from the USA, who first travelled to Brazil almost 20 years ago, and has subsequently moved there. 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.?

My Name is Eric Karukin, I am from Tampa Bay area of Florida USA, raised in Miami Beach. I was married for 15 years to a Carioca woman that I met in Miami, and we divorced a little over 2 years ago. She remained in the USA with our 2 children, my daughter 15 years old and my son 13 years old. I am currently expecting a baby boy due January 22nd with my new wife who is also a Carioca. We currently live in an area of Bangu called Rio Prato a middle class area.

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

I first came to Brazil in 1989 on vacation, and later got married to a Brazilian in the USA. I then came every year on vacation to see her family and let the children visit their family here as well. I came down with my children a couple of years ago to Angra Dos Reis where their family is living. While in the street one afternoon I met an English speaking Brazilian woman and we hit it off. I have only returned to the USA to visit and now consider Brazil my home.

3. What were you first impressions of Brazil?

My first impression of Brasil was how relaxed everybody seemed and I still hold that impression 18 years later. People here speak to each other in the street and greet strangers like they would family.

4. What do you miss most about home?

Certain foods like Hebrew National Hotdogs, American style pizza, real dill pickles, and peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. Also I miss driving an automatic car.

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

The most frustrating thing about Brazil, besides the government bureaucracy which everyone complains about, are these things called cabra molaes, that is speed bumps, and the overall terrible upkeep of the roads.

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

Recently we decided to move from an area that we probably should not have lived in anyway, in Bangu. The morning started with a burning bus 50 feet away that had just been torched, and later with the police doing a house to house search and entering our home like storm troopers, They were not playing around.

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

I like the way people treat each other with respect and caring, and with the open door policy. People don’t call before coming over, and strangers are always willing to help in all types of ways: such as when needing directions, understanding my mixture of terrible Portuguese/body language, and just being themselves, whether wealthy or poor. They don’t seem to need to keep up with the Jones’s here.

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

Padre Miguel has an area called Ponte Chic with outdoor seating at a few restaurants and bars. It’s very casual, and there is a constant street party at night.

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

I have a fan club all over town, whether it’s children or adults, they are fascinated by my color and my straight light colored hair, and most of all that I speak English and try to speak Portuguese. I have had individuals stop me and want to touch me, but the best one was in the street and a vendor wanted to hug me and kiss my hand. Keeping in mind where I am, most have never seen an American.

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

The police here do not enforce any traffic rules at all. Try running red lights all day in the USA and you won’t retain your licence.

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?

Well my use of the language is terrible when speaking but I understand a lot at times, and at other times I don’t understand anything. I have an electronic dictionary I carry most of the time.

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

For newcomers to Brazil the best advice I can give you is get a comfortable pair of sandals. Also learn to smile when you’re stared at, people don’t mean to be rude they are just fascinated by foreigners. I went to the zoo and more people looked at me than were looking at the animals.

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

I would recommend seeing Tijuca forest in Rio, and don’t miss the Botanical Gardens.

You can contact Eric via ekarukin@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:

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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