Meet Peter Berner, who has both Swiss and Brazilian citizenship, and has lived in Brazil as well as the USA. He has retired and is now living in the USA. Read the following interview where he tells us about his 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 dual Swiss/Brazilian citizen, and have recently retired after working for a multinational company for 35 years. I live in Austin, Texas, where I moved to be close to my daughter.
2. When did you arrive in Brazil and what brought you here?
I had been to Brazil to visit relatives since an early age however I first came to live in Brazil (São Paulo) at age 16 when my mother remarried a gentleman who was living there at the time.
3. What were you first impressions of Brazil?
As said I was very familiar with the country since early childhood. But two cultures could not be more different than the Swiss and the Brazilian (and I feel 100% Brazilian by the way). So early impressions are all about warmth: (climate, people) lots of laughter and happiness in the air.
4. What do you miss most about home?
Considering Brazil home, I miss the people, the easy way of interacting socially, having fun in simple things. I miss the interior of Brazil, the smaller villages with its lack of commercialism and true joie de vivre”.
5. What has been your most frustrating experience in Brazil?
Dealing with bureaucracy and the inefficiency of the several public sectors. Specifically in the past say getting a telephone installed.
6. What has been your most memorable experience in Brazil (specific incident)?
Traveling through the hinterlands of Bahia. Basically making Salvador my home base and taking excursions first to Lencois and then going by car down the BR101 to Porto Seguro, Arraial D’Ajuda, Trancoso, Espelho, Caraivas. Specifically on innumerable occasions people would not have change for even a low denomination bank note (a national malaise I think). The solution to this “problem”? Inevitably the same answer each time, “forget about it…next time you come through here you settle up with me”.
7. What do you most like about Brazil (in general)?
Undoubtedly the people and the variation and beauty of the landscape.
8. What is your favorite restaurant/place to hang out here?
I will mention two: first is in São Paulo on the Rua Tiete and it is called Le Vin. The second is eating a muqueca de camarao at Iemanja in Salvador.
9. Do you have any funny stories/incidents to tell about your time in Brazil?
In the late 60s I was in a very isolated small farm in the Pantanal region. No electricity. I had a small kerosene powered icebox and it was badly regulated the first night, so the bottle of water I placed in it turned to ice. I was woken up by the caseira saying “that i had made a miracle, I had converted water into stone and placed it inside the bottle”. Obviously the concept of “ice” had never reached this place of Brazil before.
10. What difference between your homeland and Brazil do you find most striking?
I consider Brazil my homeland so this question is not really applicable.
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?
Again we speak Portuguese at home, it is the language I use with my children, it is my mother tongue, so not relevant.
12. What advice do you have for newcomers to Brazil?
Basically don’t freak out about the differences, go with the flow and let the country and its people conquer you.
13. What are some things that you would recommend for a visitor to do in São Paulo (or anywhere else in Brazil)?
Definitely not to restrict themselves to visiting the large urban centers but go into the smaller villages of any of the states.
You can contact Peter at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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:
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“