Scotland’s John Fitzpatrick first visited Brazil in 1987. In 1995 he moved permanently to São Paulo where he works as a freelance journalist, specializing in politics, business and translating. Read his recommendations of places to visit in São Paulo and Brazil. He also offers us insight on the vast differences between Scots and Brazilians.
Where are you from?
I was born in Glasgow, went to university in Stirling and lived for a couple of years in Edinburgh. I started my career as a reporter in Dundee and Kirkcaldy then left Scotland and have lived and worked in several places since then.
When did you arrive in Brazil and what brought you here?
My first contact with Brazil happened in Switzerland in the mid-80s. I was working as news editor at an international radio station and my future wife joined the Portuguese service as a producer. After I bowled her over with my charm she invited me to visit São Paulo. I accepted and, to cut a long story short, here I am.
What about earning a living – what do you do?
I came here after being offered a job by a big Brazilian media outfit to set up an English-language financial news agency but just before arriving was told that the project had been cancelled. I was promised another position but, of course, nothing came of it. I found a position as a correspondent for an American financial news agency but gave it up quickly because I saw immediately that in professional terms it was a retrograde step. I then worked for a couple of years as editor in the research department of a Brazilian bank in charge of its publications in Portuguese and English.
About eight years ago I took the plunge and formed my own company called Celtic Comunicaes. The name is a tribute to the great Celtic race of poets and warriors, of which I am proud to belong, and the world&rsquot;s greatest football team, Glasgow Celtic, of which I am proud to have been a life-long fan. My main business is providing editorial and translation services. For some clients I write or edit material for internal publications, press releases, speeches etc and for others I translate annual reports, quarterly financial statements, contracts etc. At the same time I write for various magazines and sites, including gringoes. Translating, revising and editing pay the bills but writing is what drives me. As Chekhov, a doctor as well as a writer, put it: Medicine is my wife but literature is my mistress.”
What do you miss about home when you are in Brazil?
I left Scotland almost 30 years ago and, as my family is scattered across the globe in typical Scots emigrant fashion, I don&rsquot;t have many relations left there. This means I have not been back for many years. However, Scotland is constantly in my heart and mind. I miss not being able to visit places like Edinburgh, Loch Lomond, Skye, Arran, Castle Douglas and the Neuk of Fife. I also miss the chance to talk Scots and hear it spoken. Scots is as different from English as Portuguese is from Spanish but has been downgraded to a dialect spoken by the lower classes. I only wish we had maintained it as a separate language just as I wish we had maintained our independence from England. When I compare Scotland&rsquot;s position as a junior partner within the UK to that of Ireland, which is free and sovereign, I could cry.
What difference between your homeland and Brazil do you find most striking?
I think the Scots are a much more complicated people than the Brazilians. The mixture of Highlander and Lowlander, Catholic and Protestant, Presbyterian and Episcopalian, Jacobite and Covenanter, nationalist and unionist, romantic and pragmatist has created one of the world&rsquot;s most complex national characteristics. When you meet a Scot you meet someone with various – often competing – personalities. It is no coincidence that Jekyll and Hyde were created by a Scots writer, Robert Louis Stevenson. Centuries of invasion, bullying, interference and arrogance from our English neighbours have also created an inferiority complex which few Scots will admit. By contrast, Brazilians are more open, predictable and the most self-confident people I have ever met. They are under no other country&rsquot;s shadow and the future belongs to them.
What frustrates you about Brazil?
We could fill cyberspace with that one. Spending nine weeks sleeping on the floor of our flat and eating off a borrowed coffee table while all our furniture was stuck on a boat at Santos was the first real taste of dealing with Brazilian bureaucracy. A more hair-raising experience was being shot at by an irresponsible policeman who was aiming at a fleeing motorcyclist who had ridden onto the pavement where I was walking. The bullet whizzed past my head and I almost joined the list of victims of “balas perdidas” we read about so often. Daily frustrations include the selfish behaviour of drivers, dimwitted assistants in shops and offices, the casual way people throw litter on the streets, the depressingly low intellectual level of the media and television, meetings which never start on time, and, of course, the appalling social divide. However, these are things Brazilians have to put up with as well, and foreigners are not the only ones who suffer.
What do you like about Brazil?
We could also fill cyberspace with that one but, above all, the sun. I cannot believe I spent most of my life freezing for eight months of the year, wrapped up and muffled against the cold. I also love those gorgeous morena, mulatta, black, Indian and japonezinha girls I see in the streets of São Paulo every day. No Giselle Bundchen for me – give me Thais Araujo or Juliana Paes any day! Brazil has given me a great welcome and I like the feeling of belonging to this enormous country. I identify with it to such an extent that I regard myself as an honorary Brazilian. In terms of sport, I am always on Brazil&rsquot;s side (except against Scotland). I bet I cheered louder than any brasileiro when Ronaldinho Gaucho slotted in that fantastic goal from a free kick against England in the World Cup, sending Beckham and his boys packing. One day I might even tie the knot and apply for Brazilian nationality.
Do you have any funny stories/incidents to tell about your time in Brazil?
Like everyone else I have had my linguistic mishaps. For some reason, at the beginning, I always confused “maracuja” – passion fruit – with “jacar” – alligator – and caused a few guffaws in restaurants by asking for “um suco de jacar” (alligator juice). I also often confused “escritorio” (office) with “exercito” (army) and baffled people by saying things like “meu exercito fica na Paulista” – my army is in Avenida Paulista. Once I made a fool of myself with a doctor when, instead of saying I had “dor” (pain), I used “dodoi” which, as any parent knows, is baby language. This was because I picked up much of my vocabulary from reading the Monica, Magali and (best of all) Chico Bento comics to my daughter when she was a toddler.
What are some things that you would recommend for a visitor to do in São Paulo (or anywhere else in Brazil)?
There is little here for the short-term visitor in São Paulo unless eating or visiting shopping centers is a pleasure. However, if the visitor has a chance to be shown around by a local then the city is much more interesting. The old centre around the Praa da S is one of my favourite spots. It is now much safer and cleaner than it was in the past. I regularly walk is from the Consolaão/São Luiz junction, past Anhangabau Metro and Praa Ramos, across the Viaduto do Ch, through the warren of streets in the financial district and across the Praa João Mendes area to Liberdade and then up through Beixiga, the Italian neighbourhood, towards Brigadeiro. You get a real taste of São Paulo&rsquot;s life and history that you will never get in the sanitized atmosphere of a shopping center. For anyone coming here to live here I would recommend the Pinheiros district for reasons outlined in a recent article on gringoes.
Going further afield, the most impressive place I have visited was the Pantanal, a vast wetland that stretches into Bolivia and Paraguay. The Pantanal is much better than the Amazon region since you can actually see the birds and animals instead of confronting a thick, green shroud. I have a marvellous memory of a boat trip along the Paraguay river. I remember one of the crew singing a song in which he said that although he was proud to be Brazilian he was even prouder to be from the Pantanal and I did not blame him.
A more accessible and equally spectacular place not to be missed is Foz do Iguau. When you look at these fantastic falls you are convinced that God really was a Brazilian. However, make sure you go over to the Argentinean side as well. The views are not so impressive but you can cross right into the falls and look into the aquatic cauldron of the Devil&rsquot;s Throat and experience the energy and vibrancy which only Nature can produce.
What is your favourite restaurant here?
Arab food was one of São Paulo&rsquot;s revelations. I like the Almanara in Alameda Santos although I preferred the older version, with its padded booths and stools, to the new tarted-up, open-plan place, complete with leggy, American-style “host”. I dont eat meat but I like the Paulista Grill in Avenida Rebouas which is an enormous, lively churrascaria. Romantic candle-lit restaurants are OK for lovey-dovey couples but I prefer places with families – noisy kids, moody teenagers, flustered mums and dads and genial grannies and grandads. There are lots of pleasant Italian places in Beixiga, of which my favourite is Roperto. Bello Bello in Teodoro Sampaio is a pleasant, relaxed kilo place. I dont rate São Paulo&rsquot;s so-called pubs at all and prefer to have a beer in a lanchonette and watch the world go by.
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John Fitzpatrick 2005
To read previous interviews in the Brazil Through Foreign Eyes series click below:
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
Are you are foreigner living in 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