Meet Martin Raw, who moved from the UK to live and work in São Paulo. Read the following interview where he tells us about 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.?

I was born in Bath and lived in London for almost 30 years until I moved to Brasil in 2003. I am a freelance specialist in public health, working mostly on addictions and within addictions mostly on tobacco control. I qualified as a clinical psychologist then worked as a researcher in the 1970s and 1980s at London University, developing nicotine chewing gum as a treatment aid for smokers. Here in Brasil I am a visiting professor at UNIFESP where I work on tobacco and alcohol as well as continuing my freelance work. Most of my freelance clients are government departments of one kind or another, including the European Commission, and what I most like doing and I think am best at is writing.

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

March 2003; marriage. A friend and colleague brought me to Brasil to a conference in 1991. The following year I returned and met my to-be wife. We went out on and off until we got married in England in 2000.

3. What were you first impressions of Brazil?

I was a bit overwhelmed by not speaking Portuguese, and feeling rather cut off from family and friends. But I liked the climate, even if it can get a bit cold in São Paulo, and found and find Brasilians very warm and welcoming.

4. What do you miss most about home?

Friends and family obviously, tea, which I bring back in large quantities when I can, English and European beer, although the beer here seems to me to be improving, reasonably priced good wine, and then the ordinary but important everyday things which I completely took for granted in England, but which you can’t here, like roads without buracos”, a health service which for all its problems works reasonably well, and public services, like public transport in London which, again in general, work very well. Oh and the seasons.

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

Witnessing the corruption and my Brasilian friends’ reaction to it – despair and no hope really of it ever changing. Many of my friends here are doctors. My wife owns her own business. They work incredibly hard, for unbelievably low salaries, yet are forced to watch (for example through the television coverage of the CPIs) billions of reais, their taxpayers money, robbed with brazen openness.

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

New year on Copacabana beach; learning to ride (horses) in the mountains of Minas, where my wife comes from – it’s a very beautiful area and very relaxing past-time.

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

The very warm people, the climate, the beaches between Santos and Rio are really beautiful, and I fell in love totally with bossa nova.

8. What do you most dislike about Brazil (in general)?

The corruption. Considering Brasil’s natural resources and wealth, it should be paradise, and a wealthy one at that.

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

Restaurant: Ritz in Itaim. Good food, excellent service, excellent value. We live between Jardins and Itaim, so plenty of great bars and restaurants. After Ritz our favourites are Speranza (Moema) and Pizza Bros (Itaim).

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

Not really but we are looking forward to watching my team Liverpool play São Paulo in the World Club championship, which we will do at our local padaria, where there are several SP fans. Should be a good atmosphere.

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

In very broad and generalised terms, people back at home are honest and things work. Standards of service are reasonable. The whole attitude here is different, standards of service are generally poor and prices high and (most) officials and bureaucrats don’t really seem to care. Given the quality of the politicians here it is not surprising but it is sad. And the violence. Here, my wife, best friend, nephew, maid, and a few others I know second hand, have all been held up at gun-point. That is totally totally different from my life in Britain.

12. 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?

Slowly but well. I am still struggling with the most basic sound – the nasal “ão” of são, não.

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

Don’t get involved in the political side, try not to be judgemental, just relax and enjoy the good things here, of which there are plenty.

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

In São Paulo there are great bars and restaurants to visit and the coast, which is lovely, is not too far. We love Juquei, Picinguaba, Paraty. I’d recommend visits to Rio, Ouro Preto and Tiradentes, and to other places I still want to see: Foz de Iguacu, Pantanao, Amazon, the north east.

To read previous interviews in the Brazil Through Foreign Eyes series click below:

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

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

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