December 22, 2008

Meet Louis van der Wiele who first travelled to Brazil in 2005, and recently moved to Brazil to live. 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 in a tiny village near Utrecht, Holland and my profession has been Audit Manager lately. I am a Chartered Accountant. My hobbies are cooking, photography, travelling, soccer and skiing.

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

I arrived in July 2007 just after I got married in Holland. My wife is from Brasilia and we also had a wedding there. Then we moved to São Paulo. I am staying in Brazil because we had decided to stay together and it was possible to arrange both our jobs here. So what brought me here? Love.

3. What were your first impressions of Brazil?

During my first trip to Brazil I stayed in Rio for a week, went to the beaches of Santa Catarina, then visited the nature park Chapada dos Veadeiros in Gois and did some diving at Fernando de Noronha. And I met my wife during these 3 weeks. As you probably can imagine, my first impressions were quite positive…

But the very first impressions were in bairro Santa Teresa, where I stayed when I was visiting Rio de Janeiro. To name a few: mamão for breakfast, happy shoe-shine-boys, banana as a sidedish at dinner. These were all new things to this gringo.

4. What do you miss most about home?

My friends and family. Plus this November there was early snow in Holland. Also, iceskating on the Dutch rivers was possible last February, which is a rare event that I have missed out on!

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

To obtain a permanent visa, I got the list of necessary items from the appropriate website and prepared all of them. When I arrived with these at the Polcia Federal, they told me they now work with another list, twice as long, and some of the items are a little different from what I had already prepared. They hadn’t bothered to post this new list on the Internet.

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

In 2005 I was travelling in Brazil on my own. To go to Alto do Paraso in the naturepark Chapada dos Veadeiros, I took a bus from Braslia to Arraias, a city in Tocantins. I had to get out half way, but fell asleep and missed my stop! I found myself in the middle of nowhere, but… I managed to arrange a lift back to Alto do Paraso on the back of a motorcycle – with practically no Portuguese knowledge! Had to pay a few Reais though.

When I arrived in Alto do Paraso, I went to the tourist office which recommended a pousada. As I could not find it, I was walking around with my backpack. Then a truck stopped offering me a lift. The guy spoke English and asked me if I would consider his pousada. After checking it out, I agreed and stayed there.

In the morning at breakfast I was sitting close to this lovely young Brazilian woman. At one point we both reached for the coffee at the same time and she said something in Portuguese to me that I didn’t understand. So she repeated in English and we came to talk. The rest of this day we spent together hiking in the park.

Now this woman is my wife and we have a wonderful family.

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

The nature. In this enormous country there is a huge diversity of landscapes and animals (still) to be found. And as I didn’t see most of it still, I keep on dreaming of places to go in Brazil.

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

At the weekend we regularly have breakfast at Vila Madalena, a very pleasant area close to our home in São Paulo. Since we have a baby it is nice to be in a quieter place. Feira Moderna at Rua Fradique Coutinho has turned into a weekend breakfast favorite of ours, serving a top quality breakfast for a good price. I recommend it!

But in general, São Paulo is the place to be for good restaurants! To name a few that I have enjoyed especially:

Brazilian – DOM;
Italian – Piselli;
Spanish – Toro;
Arabian – Kebab Salonu.

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

Well, the first time I came to Brazil was also the first time I had ever crossed the equator. I was in Rio and decided to visit the Pão de Aucar, going there by subway. To avoid looking like a complete tourist, I studied the map before leaving. I saw that from the station I should walk to the west for some 20 minutes to reach my goal.

As I entered the street it was noon, so I looked up at the sun and started walking. After half an hour I was surprised to have reached the end of the street but… no sugarloaf! That’s when I realized that the sun is in the north at noon if you are on the southern hemisphere. I couldn’t find a cab and had to walk back for one hour (!) before I could order a well deserved beer at the Pão de Aucar cafeteria.

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

Have you ever been to Holland? It’s flat, chilly, individualistic, half of it is protestant, things are arranged to the maximum, people obey traffic rules, cultural and ethnic groups are quite separated, there are no real big cities, most people speak a second or third language, the state provides for the less fortunate, it’s relatively safe and it rains half the time. To name a few.

And also, we have never won the soccer world cup. Holland has lost as many finals as Brazil though (two), so I like to say that as far as soccer is concerned, the countries are quite equal. For some reason however, no Brazilian agrees with me…

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?

Let’s say I will survive in Brazil. My pronunciation seems to be OK, but I regularly confuse ‘vindo’ with ‘vendo’ for some reason. And ‘trazer’ and ‘levar’ always cause me to pause for two seconds in my sentence to think, and even then I get it wrong sometimes.

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

Well, be happy because you have come to a marvelous place. Soak up the wonders of this country. Travel around. Make contacts, it’s really, really easy!

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

In Sampa, enjoy the city’s restaurants and bars for a while, then go to places nearby like Juquitiba, Atibaia, Ubatuba, etc.

In Brazil I would recommend to visit Rio de Janeiro, Foz do Iguau and Bonito. And a beach holiday in the Northeast can be wonderful too!

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:

Drew Glaser – USA
Barry Elliott – Canada
Joel Barsky – USA
David Drummond – Canada
Liam Porisse – France
Jim Kelley – USA
Max Ray – USA
Jeremy Clark – Canada
Don Fredrick – USA
Jase Ramsey – USA
Ben Pearce – UK
Nitai Panchmatia – India
Johnnie Kashat – USA
Jeni Bonorino – USA
Eric Jones – USA
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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