Meet Kathleen Haynes, from the USA, who has travelled around Brazil. Read the following interview where she tells us about some of her 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 live in a northern suburb of Boston. I graduated from the University of Massachusetts, Lowell not too long ago and currently work in helping employees in my company obtain H-1 visas and green cards. I have a Brazilian boyfriend who is from Minas Gerais. I attend a Brazilian church, and I think I have more Brazilian friends than American!

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

The first time I went to Brazil I had the opportunity to stay in Rio de Janeiro with my fiance whose home is Rio. I have since visited Rio again, Santa Catarina, and São Paulo. I did not marry my fiance from Rio, but Brazil still has a special place in my heart.

3. What were you first impressions of Brazil?

I thought it was the most dangerous place on Earth! The first time I went there was was with my fianc. He rushed me out of the airport and into his car. Having very fair skin in some northern parts of Brazil makes you stand out more.

4. What do you miss most about home?

I have traveled there 3 times. I only stayed there a few weeks at a time so I did not miss much of anything. If I had to pick something to miss I would say I missed the safety of the United States.

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

I saw homeless people, but could not even give them a couple of reais. It is dangerous. I know there is much poverty in the United States, but in São Paulo it seemed ubiquitous. My friend and I were going in all the stores purchasing whatever we wanted, and walking back to get the bus I saw so many people whose home was the sidewalk. I felt lucky, guilty, and sad all at the same time.

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

My most memorable experience, although not so good, was going to the consulate in Rio de Janeiro. My fianc (now ex) and I had finally gotten an appointment after five months for his K-1 visa. My father and I went with him to show our support although we did not have to be there. The visa was not awarded right away because my fianc had overstayed on his tourist visa; therefore, he needed a waiver. The waiver did come through in less than a year although the paper we received stated that it could take up to two years! The hassles some couples have to go through sometimes hurts the relationship. I saw a few smiles but many more tears while I waited for our appointment to be called. It is something I will never forget.

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

I want to say the people, but everyone probably can agree with me on that. I feel that Brazil is home to the warmest culture. Everyone makes you feel well-liked. I like the food and also the fact that we were able to walk or hop on a bus to get around. It kept me from gaining weight! The food is delicious.

It’s so hot that eating ice cream almost seems like a necessity. I ate a lot but lost some weight since we were always walking. Brazilians like to feed their guests! My favorite ice cream: brigadeiro… you know the little chocolate sweets you will find at Brazilian birthday parties.

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

I enjoyed the restaurant Habib’s in São Paulo. I went to another restaurant in Balnerio Cambori which I cannot remember the name. The food was very good. It was buffet style. If you did not eat everything on your plate you had to pay twenty reais! I also enjoyed the pizza rodizios. I wanted to try every pizza they brought over!

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

I can laugh at this story now, but at the time I was embarrassed. When my father had come to Rio with me he did not know the language. I taught him some basic words like oi, obrigado, bom dia, and other simple things. When we went to breakfast in the hotel I thanked the waiter for my coffee. I told the waiter obrigada, and my father did the same. Turning red with embarrassment I said obrigado in a loud whisper. He politely corrected himself. The waiter smiled and said de nada. I am sure the people working in the tourist business in Brazil are understanding of us gringos who are still learning the language.

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

I find the architecture to be quite different and interesting. The houses are made of concrete and often are painted bright colors. I would say there are more commotions in the streets in the big cities in Brazil than in the cities in the USA. In SP we were shopping, and at one point a fight must have broken out. We started running for our life not knowing why everyone had scattered from where we had been walking before. A couple of police cars showed up. My friend Carla and I would walk arm in arm which is something girlfriends do in Brazil (more accepted in the southern states). I felt funny at first, but I wanted to respect the culture. In the US I would never do such a thing. The streets were so crowded that if we had not been arm in arm I may have gotten lost in the crowd. Both of us were scared. We were holding on to each other tight. Carla is from Criciuma which is safer than New York City. You can walk down the street with your pocket book without any fear.

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?

I have been doing very well with my Portuguese. My boyfriend and I speak in Portuguese regularly. I also attend the Brazilian church. If I actually lived in Brazil I think I could speak like the natives eventually.

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

If going to dangerous sections of the city I have been advised not to talk. Also, if you see what appears to be Brazilian reais on the sidewalk do not try to pick up the money. I do not know what happens if you do try to pick it up. I would be interested in hearing from anyone who knows what kind of scam this is.

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

If you go to Santa Catarina you have to see the Bondinho”. Here you will find the only cable air cab in the world connecting two different beaches. This ride will take you to a Praia de Laranjeiras but you can stop on the top of the mountain for sight seeing, walks in the forest, and music and dancing.

You can email Kath via

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 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:

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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