June 15, 2007

Meet Patti Beckert, from the USA, who moved to Brazil a year ago. 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 Floridian, born in Hollywood, Florida. I met and married my Brazilian husband in a little town on the west coast of Florida called Myakka City (just south of Tampa, FL) in 1993. My profession is legal assistant; however, at present, I am not employed, but am working on an e-book to be published shortly.

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

I have now been living in Brazil almost one year to the day. In 2003, I took my first vacation to Brazil with my husband, and absolutely fell in love with the country. I couldn’t wait for the next vacation and the next, so finally, I told him, hey, let’s just move there. His father was very ill with cancer (which is now in remission) and I told him it was time for us to be near his family. And here we are.

3. What were you first impressions of Brazil?

Brazil is a uniquely cool place. From the architecture to the attitudes of the people, it just is so much more different than anyplace I’ve been. Brazil pulls you into it. Makes you feel like you are a part of something special. It is old fashioned and hip all at the same time.

4. What do you miss most about home?

Standard answer is family and friends. That’s a given. I miss my red Mitsubishi Eclipse and being able to drive anywhere I want to go. I don’t drive here simply because driving here is pretty scary. I have driven on the highways, but city driving is just too hectic for me. Eventually, I’ll get past that and regain the freedom of going where I want and not depending on my husband to get me there. Also, at first I missed some foods from home, but I’ve been busy re-creating” the foods I miss and now I have quite a few recipes that help get me through the craving periods quite nicely.

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

Dealing with Brazil Telecom and getting high-speed internet service. In America, I took care of dealing with the service companies and if there were problems, I could deal with them effectively. Here, since I do not know the language, my husband has to deal with the companies. Brazilians don’t lose their tempers often, and they take whatever is handed them pretty much. That drives me up a wall. I don’t like the runaround and when they give my husband the runaround, I want to do something about it but can’t. I am learning though that if you wait patiently, things do get done.

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

One experience that stands out in my mind is earlier this year, on March 8, I showed up for a regularly scheduled appointment with a businessman I was giving personal English lessons to. He presented me with a chocolate rose and said that it was in commemoration of International Women’s Day. To be honest, I didn’t even know it was being observed that day, especially in Brazil. He said that the history of the day started in America and had become a very important day to Brazilians. Most employers in Brazil took the opportunity to honor women in the workforce. I was stunned. Never, in all the years of working in America had I ever received any recognition from my employer and then, in Brazil, I am honored as a woman. This said to me that women in Brazil are not taken for granted, but honored for their contributions to everyday life. It was refreshing and I felt special.

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

That’s easy. In general, the people. Specifically, the attitudes of the people. The majority of Brazilians are not wealthy. They work hard for everything they have. They exude a quiet pride that I’ve not seen since my parents’ time in America. No matter the job they have, they do that job with a sense of purpose. They do not have to be told to do something, they know what needs to be done and they do it. They hum, sing and whistle while they work. And if you need something, they will find a way to help you. They sometimes go out of their way to help you. That is the Brazilian way.

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

We live in the state of Santa Catarina, so we have not had the opportunity to hang out in São Paulo. However, I do enjoy the City of Curitiba, in the State of Parana very much and my favorite place there is definitely the Niemeyer Museum. It has a cool white tunnel that connects one part of the museum to the others and the “eye” part of the museum is really cool structurally. Actually, the city in general has some very unique architecture. Here, in the state of Santa Catarina, we live at the beach and basically, on a sunny Saturday, you just go down to one of the many beachfront bars, have a few beers, chat with the locals, and appreciate life. It doesn’t get any better than that.

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

Actually, when we were moving to Brazil, we brought our four cats (that is a story in itself). Anyway, our flight from Miami to São Paulo got re-routed through Rio and that is where we had to go through customs and have our cats go through their own customs of sorts. It was 3:00 a.m. and we were exhausted from a flight that had taken longer than expected. We were assured that there was a veterinarian on duty when we landed in Rio and that we would be able to go to our hotel just as soon as he checked our pets. When we arrived in Rio and went to the “Pet” customs area, the door to the veterinarian was closed and locked. A kind customs officer tried to assist us by knocking loudly on the door but no one answered. The customs agent then tried to call the office of the vet but again, no response. About an hour passed with frequent banging and calls to the office. Obviously, we were worried about our pets as they had not seen a grassy area for quite some time… Anyway, finally, with loud banging of both my husband and the customs officer, the door to the vet’s office opened and a sleepy doctor admitted that he had been napping and had not heard his phone or the banging on the door. We needn’t have worried that our cats would not pass inspection. Although he was still sleepy and apparently ready to go back to his nap, he worked very quickly on the paperwork and examinations, and, the customs agents, knowing how tired we were, whisked us through and on our way to our hotel in record speed.

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

The need for acceptance. Americans want to be accepted and liked all over the world. They work hard to find that acceptance. Brazilians could care less if they are accepted or not. They like who they are, they love their country, and do not feel the need for worldwide recognition. I find it so refreshing that when they say good morning, how are you? They really mean they wish you have a good morning and they want to know how you are doing. They aren’t just saying it to be polite. That is the difference. When I am hugged by a Brazilian, it feels like family.

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?

My vocabulary is growing daily; however, to be honest, I still can’t follow most conversations simply because the words are spoken too fast. But, I like a challenge and I will eventually speak fluent Portuguese. The most difficulty I have is with the sound of the vowels. The English vowel sounds are almost opposite those in the Portuguese language. For example, my name is Patti. Telling someone to spell it is difficult. I hear my husband telling them it is spelled “peh ah teh teh eh” instead of “pee ai tee tee eye.”

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

Depends. If you are just visiting, I’d say take some time to go off the beaten path and visit with the locals so that you can experience the simplicity and the passion of the country. If you are planning on spending a bit more time in this country, don’t get discouraged when it isn’t as “modern” as countries like America and parts of Europe. The food is phenomenal, so taste as much of it as you can. And take lots of pictures because if you can’t live here right away, you will have withdrawals upon returning home and will need periodic reminders of what an amazing place Brazil is.

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

Take the train ride from Curitiba to Paranagua on the Serra Verde Express, which stops in the quaint city of Morretes for a traditional Brazilian lunch. Basically, in the South of Brazil, any ride up into the mountains is memorable, especially on a crisp, sunny day, stopping for a lovely buffet lunch, and chatting with new friends made along the way. From my perspective, nothing you do in Brazil is disappointing.

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:

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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