December 7, 2010

Meet Mike Smith who moved to Brazil several years ago and now has his own real estate business. 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 am from the UK, and moved to Natal, Rio Grande do Norte 7 years ago. It took a while to make a living with quite a lot of trial and mostly error along the way, but I settled on the real estate market as a profession and have been selling beach properties here in Natal for the past 5 years. Our clients are mostly Europeans/N. Americans and come from all walks of life.

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

I first arrived in Brazil 10 years ago and spent 5 months traveling the country with the aim of staying for good. After returning to Japan to save cash, I came back 7 years ago and bought a beach house in Genipabu. Brazil had a special allure for me from an early age primarily through its mesmerizing football legacy. Pele`s autobiography was the first book (of choice) that I read as a kid. I was also looking for a hot tropical location to move to and Natal ticked all the boxes.

3. What were you first impressions of Brazil?

I was in Peru, Colombia, Bolivia before crossing the border. The first thing that hit me was not being able to understand a word of Portuguese! It took me quite some time to re-program all that I`d learnt of Spanish.

4. What do you miss most about home?

I haven`t lived in the UK for 15 years (since graduating from Liverpool University) so other than my family, bookstores, music festivals, the odd pasty, pints of Kronenburg, my mates, rambling in the countryside, there isn`t much else really. I met my wife in Japan and lived there for 7 years, equally miss onsens, quality sashimi with hot sake, karaoke, games centres, historical sites, and mountains.

All in all though Brazil has more than enough to keep us here and thoroughly contented!

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

It took around 2 years to get fully settled here and we had some real difficulties getting a telephone line, permanent visa, bank account, married, work, license to become a real estate broker. This was due in part to our insufficient language skills, not knowing the right people and being confronted by a mysterious entity called Brazilian bureaucracy which still baffles from time to time!

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

Getting married to my wife on the beach in Genipabu with the 2 sets of relatives from Japan/Scotland has to be up there. Plus the carnivals in Salvador, Recife. I love carnival!

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

The people, carnivals, flexibility, liberty, humour, sunshine, BBQs, beaches, dynamism
and the opportunities afforded me. Wearing t-shirt and shorts 365 days a year, never feeling cold.

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

There is an old lady, Totinha, who runs a restaurant on the beach here in Genipabu. She looks after us like family with the best fried fish, macaxeira, fejao verde this side of the city. She also makes a knock-out caipirinha which is even more endearing!

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

After I passed my CRECI (real estate) exam I was very much looking forward to putting the numbers after my name. However I first had to show my 2nd grade qualification on a single document. After a fruitless effort to obtain this from my school in England some months later, I had to go back to school and sit 10 exams (physics, art history, chemistry, Portuguese etc) in Joao Pessoa to prove that I was of secondary school educational standard. Not funny at the time but I was laughing out loud (only after passing!)

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

Here would be the extremes of poverty, governments difficulty to provide for basic social needs, level of corruption amongst local politicians, police on the take, woeful education for poor kids, and pervasive religious influence. On the upside Brazil is developing fast, there is optimism in the air, opportunities exist for enterprising people, there is very little drunken violence on the streets and people are generally self-reliant, positive and tolerant.

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 a pretty good understanding in general and my pronunciation is alright however I often confuse tenses in accordance with personal pronoun and still come a cropper with masculine/feminine nouns.

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

Build good relationships with the people who can facilitate your life here ie neighbours, bank manager, accountant, lawyer etc. Don`t sweat the small stuff, don`t expect too much too soon, kick back and enjoy the sunshine and the easy going nature of Brazilian people. Easier said than done for sure but definitely worthwhile!

13. What are some things that you would recommend for a visitor to do in Natal?

Go on a buggy trip up the dunes of Genipabu, grab a sun lounger and absorb the vibrant beach culture in Ponta Negra, go snorkelling in Maracajau, check out downtown chorinho night in Ribeira or a pagode band on a Sunday.

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:

Jonathan Russell – USA
Jan Hillen – Belgium
Jeff Eddington – USA
Arne Rasmussen – Denmark
Rod Saunders – USA
Don Fenstermaker – USA
Ken Van Zyl – South Africa
Angus Graham – UK
Anne Morddel – USA
Jessica Mullins – Switzerland
Evan Soroka – USA
Mary de Camargo – USA
Brendan Fryer – UK
Aaron Sundquist – USA
Jay Bauman – USA
Alan Williams – USA
Derek Booth – UK
Jim Shattuck – USA
Ruby Souza – Hawaii
Stephan Hughes – Trinidad and Tobago
Louis van der Wiele – Holland
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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