February 18, 2014

Meet Niki Wang who has lived in Brazil 8 months. Read the following interview in which Niki tells us about some of her 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 a Singaporean who is living in Belo Horizonte at the moment. My degree is in Finance and Economics and I speak English, Chinese, Portuguese, Cantonese and Hokkien. Mostly, I translate Asian drama serials from Chinese to English which are then broadcast on television. At other times, I teach English.

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

I stayed here for about a month in 2010. After obtaining my permanent visa, I came here again in July 2013 and I have been here ever since. I am here because I wanted to know what it is like to live in a different country.

3. What were you first impressions of Brazil?

When I first visited in 2010, my first impression of Brazil is that its culture is a very interesting mix of East and West, which is very similar to where I came from. Soybean milk, sugarcane juice and fresh coconut juice are things that all Singaporeans grew up drinking, but they are also widely available here in Brazil. We have the same candied fruits and peanut cakes. Other than food and drink, our family values are also similar. Like Singaporeans, Brazilians are very family-oriented. Young people do not leave their homes until they get married, and even then, they tend to stay near to their parents and extended family.

4. What do you miss most about home?

I miss the convenience, safety and the lower cost of living in Singapore. Where else in the world could you walk out of your house to buy a cup of freshly-brewed coffee at 4 a.m. for less than a dollar and feel absolutely safe while doing that? That is something I will never take for granted again in my life.

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

The most frustrating thing is probably the queues. Imagine queuing up at a pharmacy just to receive a piece of paper so that you could join another queue all over again!

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

Once I boarded a bus in Contagem to go back to Belo Horizonte, unaware that my BHBus card did not work on buses in Contagem. A middle-aged man from the working class paid for my fare and he did not accept any repayment from me. I was deeply humbled by this unexpected act of kindness and generosity. I was especially touched because bus fares are extremely expensive over here.

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

I love my family and the new friends I have made ever since I moved here. Food is awesome and the weather is simply the best! Even summer nights are cool and comfortable.

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

I stay at home most of the time.

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

At first I thought a lot of people are surnamed Correiro because I kept seeing postboxes with the word on them. It was later that I realized the word means postbox. And once I urged a rabbit to eat the senhora (lady) instead of cenoura (carrot). That was slightly embarrassing, but the rabbit did not laugh at me.

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

In Singapore, you would see people wearing Havaianas everywhere you go. The situation is the complete opposite in Belo Horizonte. I saw a grand total of two persons wearing Havaianas during my past seven months here, one grandfather and one grandmother. Isn’t that a strange thing when Brazil is the birthplace of Havaianas?

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 am able to hold simple conversations in Portuguese with old ladies… and my cat. Just kidding! Actually, it was easy to pick up the pronunciations and the grammar. The grammar is very similar to Singlish.

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

Bring money, lots of it. The cost of living over here is insanely high. Or bring everything you can. Bring all your electronics and their power adaptors and an extra for everything. Bring lots of English books and all of your shoes.
Of course, one should join the Gringoes Facebook group before coming here for support and information.

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

When you are in Belo Horizonte, you must visit Pampulha Lake. It reminds me of Singapore’s Punggol Park. Over here at Pampulha Lake, there is a famous church called Church of Saint Francis of Assisi which was designed by Oscar Niemeyer. And if you are lucky, you can even spot capybaras, the largest rodents in the world.

Another must-visit place is Imhotim, a contemporary art museum located in Brumadinho, which is a one-hour drive from Belo Horizonte. It is like Singapore’s HortPark, Botanic Gardens and an art museum all rolled into one and the most wonderful thing is that admission is free on all Tuesdays!

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 gringoes@www.gringoes.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:

Vitor Salas – Portugal
João Ferreira – Portugal
Priya Ferreira – UK
Rami Alhames – Syria
Melanie Mitrano – USA
Jennifer Souza – USA
Bill Holloway – USA
Pieter Kommerij – Netherlands
Robyn and Willem Van Der Merwe – South Africa
Danielle Carner – USA
Jaya Green – USA
Andrew Dreffen – Australia
Marcus Lockwood – New Zealand
Jonathan Russell – USA
Jeff Eddington – USA
Rod Saunders – 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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