Meet Nicole Rombach, from Holland, who has travelled to and is now living in Brazil. Read the following interview where she tells us about 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.?
Nicole Rombach, originally from Holland and in Brazil since late 2003, after having lived in Belgium, South Africa and England. I work as a soft-tissue specialist and chiropractor for small and large animals, mainly dogs and horses, both for regular treatment and also in rehabilitation. I have the head office of my companies (Equinenergy and Caninenergy) in the United Kingdom, this is where we teach courses in complementary healthcare science for small and large animals. I teach in the UK a few times per year and also treat clients when I am over there, and am currently completing an MSc research project through a UK university. In Brazil I work mainly in São Paulo and Rio but also travel to other cities for clinics.
2. When did you arrive in Brazil and what brought you here?
My first visit to Brazil was in 1991, I came on holiday and did all the touristy bits, and really liked the country. At the time I was living in South Africa so I found many similarities between life there and here. In 1997 I started to come to Brazil regularly for work, and eventually decided to make my base here and commute to Europe every 2 or so months – I missed the sun and outdoor life that I had in Africa, northern Europe is just not the same! I spoke with a number of veterinarians here and realised that there is no-one who does the work I do, and that the vets would like to offer their clients the benefit of a holistic approach to care for their animals. I now work closely together with veterinarians, putting together allopathic and complementary healthcare. I moved here in October 2003, and brought my two horses with me from Europe.
3. What were you first impressions of Brazil?
Very different to be a resident from being a visitor! From a visitor point of view the country is striking in its beauty, friendly people, and wonderful outdoor life.
Most of my initial visits were to Rio de Janeiro, which I love. On my first visit to São Paulo I thought that I’d never want to see the city again. But, looking behind the concrete facades one soon discovers hidden charms. I now live in São Paulo and enjoy the fact that the city has so much to offer. I lived in Alphaville for 2 years, which I can recommend for high quality family living, but it does not offer much in the form of gourmet dining or cultural activities. I now live in Alto da Boa Vista – a nice neighbourhood, close to town.
4. What do you miss most about home?
Not much in the sense of material goods – pretty much everything is available here. I do miss the distinct variation of seasons, mostly spring and autumn. But almost ever-present sun compensates nicely!
5. What has been your most frustrating experience in Brazil?
All the legalities associated with setting up a company, obtaining a permanent visa, buying a house… and general bureaucracy in everyday life such as buying a cellphone, organising direct debit payments with various institutions… I also find it difficult to accept that people here seem oblivious to timings for appointments. To avoid issues it’s best to double check if a time is set according to the Brazilian or European watch.
6. What has been your most memorable experience in Brazil (specific incident)?
From a touristy angle, spending 3 days in a very secluded part of the Amazon forest. From a personal point of view, winning a national championship with one of my horses.
7. What do you most like about Brazil (in general)?
Positive and friendly people, high standards of service, general quality of life compared to Europe.
8. What is your favorite restaurant/place to hang out here?
In São Paulo: Bar des Artes, and Skye restaurant. There are also some great Japanese restaurants.
In Rio there is a small restaurant in Leblon called LoCal (supposedly low calorie food: not a chance). Delicious salads and grilled meat, poultry and fish. Also in Rio, in Grumari: Tia Palmera. Renowned for seafood, open only for lunch.
9. Do you have any funny stories/incidents to tell about your time in Brazil?
When I got here I tried my hand at computer translation of some articles for veterinarians. That backfired badly. In one article I inadvertently explained how one could get into unmentionable positions and acts with a stallion. Luckily I found a good translator so that piece of art never made it to press.
10. What difference between your homeland and Brazil do you find most striking?
Holland is great but so flat that you can look two weeks ahead. The Brazilian landscape and flora are beautiful, as are the coastal regions. When I’m in Europe I consciously miss the palm trees!
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?
Hmm, it’s coming along… I didn’t speak Portuguese before I moved here so it was a big shock – though people here are wonderfully helpful not many speak English (certainly no Dutch!) so it was a case of using arms and legs to be understood. I found it more difficult to understand than to speak: Brazilians tend to swallow the second part of many words so one is often left guessing. I do like the fact that the Portuguese language is so very expressive. For now the days of thinking that I ordered chicken but having beef arrive instead have largely gone, and I can now find everything in the supermarket and not come home with vinegar instead of milk. Those mishaps soon wore thin.
12. What advice do you have for newcomers to Brazil?
If you are moving or have to deal with any type of legal paperwork, find a lawyer who speaks English. Make sure that you get advance quotes (in writing) for all legal work that will be carried out – unless closely monitored bills seem to expand without good reason. If possible, check out various lawyers as many quote hugely different rates for the same work. Get private health insurance as soon as you get here as state care is fairly diabolical.
13. What are some things that you would recommend for a visitor to do in São Paulo (or anywhere else in Brazil)?
There are many good sites that offer advice for tourists, but from a slightly different angle, anyone who likes horseriding should visit Clube Hipica Santo Amaro (Rua Visconde de Taunay, Santo Amaro) – it’s a club unlike any other.
There are a number of riding establishments out of town too, and some beautiful riding trails in the south of the country. I have further information for anyone who is interested, and am at the club in Santo Amaro each day in case anyone would like to drop by for some good coffee and a tour of the facilities!
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 email@example.com 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:
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“