Meet Pat Moraes, from the USA, who has travelled in Brazil for many years. Read the following interview where she tells us about some of 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.?

I am a native Californian, recently retired as an escrow officer for a title company. After 36 years of the daily grind, I am starting to explore new interests and looking forward to spending more time here in Brazil.

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

I first came to Brazil in 1969 as a foreign exchange student through the American Field Service program and lived for a year with a Brazilian family in Itapetininga in the interior of the state of São Paulo and completed my senior year of high school. Through the years my husband and I have returned almost yearly to spend our vacations with family and friends. This is our second year of spending an extended period of time here in Brazil. We have been here 4 and half months and we are leaving in ten days for our home in the States.

3. What were you first impressions of Brazil?

Well, it was love at first sight, as I met my husband, Sidney about three weeks after my arrival when everything was still new and confusing to me. My memories of lush green sugar cane fields, incredibly red dirt, new foods, new friends and a new language are mixed in with memories of meeting him at the innocent Mardi Gras festival of the time and first love and passionate kisses.

4. What do you miss most about home?

Our 2 and a half acre property in the United States is in the foothills to the Sierra Mountain Range of California, an hour’s drive from Yosemite National Park. We miss the wide open space around us, drinking a glass of a fine California wine while enjoying the view of the local lake, the wild birds that come to feed, the numerous quail, the coyotes that cry at night and the incredible view of the milky way on a clear night. We miss some intense philosophical conversations with our neighbors about the meaning of life and simpler conversations about the amount of rainfall or how many rattlesnakes have been seen this spring. We miss a feeling of freedom that we have to come and go as we please and the local attitude of live and let live. In other words, we miss casual California living.

On the other hand, when we go back this week we will miss the sense we have of being connected to Sidney’s family, the daily visit to his mother’s house, the Sunday lunches that last until six in the evening, with four generations joyfully interacting while keeping up with two year old twins. We will miss the parties and more intimate gatherings where we can sit around and visit with friends until the wee hours of the morning and not run out of things to talk about. Above all we will miss the friendly smiles.

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

We undertook a major remodeling of our 15th floor apartment and we were frustrated by the fact that the workmen do not see the same relationship between time and money that we feel in California. It often took a full day to accomplish a task that should take a few hours due to the lack of appropriate tools and basic common sense in planning ahead. The workmen actually accomplished miracles with the old saws, splintered handled screw drivers and a total lack of anything resembling a saw horse.

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

I arrived here in a much simpler time and immediately things happened that made me realize that I was in a very special place. The day I arrived at my new family’s home I was greeted by a small party of friends and neighbors. Not speaking the language and being exhausted by the trip, I soon excused myself and went to bed. As I was drifting off to sleep, I heard a male voice singing outside my bedroom window. It took me a while to realize that I was being serenaded by a young man with a guitar. I was happy to find out that in Itapetininga in the late sixties, this was not uncommon, and I was lucky enough to have the experience repeated.

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

We really enjoy the weather, the scenery and the food. But there is so much more about Brazil that is extraordinary. We look for something special in each day, and we call that The Jewel of the Day”. These are the small encounters and incidences that make life here so special: having your preferences remembered at the bakery, having coffee with the barber after a haircut, the extra banana added to the purchase at the farmer’s market, the treatment received when making a purchase, no matter how small, the innumerable kindnesses, and the warmth of daily interactions.

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

In São Jose dos Campos, we enjoy lunch at the Churrascaria at the Hotel Aquarius or if we are in the mood for pintado na brasa (grilled fresh water fish) we go to the Restaurante Vila Velha downtown. On the road between São Jose dos Campos and Caraguatatuba on the coast by way of the Tamoios Highway we stop for the world’s best coxinha at the mercado in Jambeiro or for more regional flavor we stop for lunch at the Fazenda da Comadre, which offers the typical “comida caseira” .

No restaurant experience really equals being invited over for a back yard Churrasco at your friend’s place, especially if someone really takes pride in their caipirinha.

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

This is the one that almost sent me packing! Shortly after I arrived in 1969, my host sisters explained that we needed to go across the street and pay a condolence call on a family whose son had been killed that day in a car accident. I was expecting to give my solemn greetings to the family and diligently practiced a few words. What I did not expect was that immediately upon entering the front door I came “face to face” with the young man’s corpse in the open coffin on the dining room table. His face was tied with a kerchief to keep his mouth closed and his hands were tied to keep them in place, and the body was covered with roses. I really don’t remember much after that.

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

The difference in friendship. When you met a Brazilian they offer you 100 percent friendship at the start. As time goes on both sides subtract from the 100 percent based on shared experiences and mutual preferences. In the US when you meet you start at 0 percent friendship and very slowly build up from there if things go well.

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 very fluent in Portuguese since I was a student here and also spend quite a bit of time with other Brazilians in the US. My biggest problem is the gender of nouns and adjectives. I still don’t know when I am at the beach, if I want to order dois pasteis or duas pastels.

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

Realize that you came here looking for a life enhancing experience. Be prepared for the cultural differences and different values and try to avoid constant comparisons of here and there. Realize that you have social and ethical responsibilities. You will be greeted and welcomed with open arms and your actions will reflect back on where you came from. Take all you can from the experience, but at the same time, be kind and when you can be generous.

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

If you get a chance to drive to Florianopolis in Santa Catarina, go a little out of the way and find the “Serra da Graciosa”. It is a very windy little road that takes you directly to the heart of the Garden of Eden.

If you are looking for a thrill ride go on the Highway Osvaldo Cruz between Taubate and Ubatuba.

Don’t forget to look up for fantastic clouds, tremendous lightening and thunder and if you are lucky enough to be able to see the night sky, you will find the Southern Cross and many different constellations.

14. What do you recommend for a visitor to avoid in Brazil?

Avoid Congonhas Airport in São Paulo.

Avoid driving down to the coast during heavy traffic on a long holiday.

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:

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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