Meet Ron Finely, a native of California, who has lived and traveled extensively in South America. Read the following interview where he tells us about his most memorable experiences from Brazil and gives some useful advice to newcomers.

Tell us a little about yourself, where are you from?
Hi! My name is Ron Finely, a native of California, USA. I’ve studied and taught Spanish and ESL (English as a Second Language) in several countries and have always had an interest in the people and cultures of Latin America.

What is your connection to Brazil?
While I was teaching in La Paz, Bolivia, I also studied intensive Portuguese at the Brazilian Center in the Brazilian Consulate there. Then in 1978, I made my first of many journeys to Brazil. Over the next ten years I visited São Paulo, Rio, Foz do Iguau, and Vitória, all many times. I was immediately struck by the tropical climate, beautiful plants and flowers everywhere, and the warm, friendly people. This was in stark contrast to La Paz, which, being the highest capital in the world, is cold and dry year round.

What did you miss most when in Brazil?
I suppose what I missed the most while living in South America were the technical/electronic conveniences, and maybe a few foods or snacks. However if you know the right people, and are willing to pay, those things can all be found. The only frustrating thing I really encountered was the bureaucracy. Whether it’s getting a visa, settling a traffic ticket, getting the necessary permit, or whatever–it will involve lots of paperwork, patience, and usually money. The only way to handle it is to grin and bear it! You’re not going to change the system, so consider it a small price to pay for all the advantages of living there.

What are your most memorable experiences of Brazil?
My most memorable experience was the openness and energy of the brasileiros. They showed a deep and sincere interest in my family and me, especially my son Karl (pictured at right) when he was a baby. How many people approached him saying how cute he was! It seemed that everyone, including strangers on the street wanted to hold or kiss him. I don’t ever remember this happening in the US!
I love the Brazilian native dishes, especially ones containing fish or seafood, cocoanut, dend, or exotic spices. I often enjoyed eating barbecued meat at the churrascarias. I really loved the huge variety of fruits, and all their juices. My favorite drinks there were caipirinhas and guaran. Here in the US I’m always looking for guaran in the Latin American markets.
I used to love hanging out atop the Terrao Itlia for views of São Paulo, especially at sunset and in the evening. For people watching I loved to go to the many parks and plazas, especially Praa da Repblica for the flea market on Sundays.

Can you tell us any funny incidences that happened to you in Brazil?
The funniest incident in São Paulo occurred when we were staying with a family in Vila Mariana. The lady of the house was going to prepare a special dinner for Christmas. I asked her what she planned for her main course, and replied, “o per.” As my Spanish was better than my Portuguese, I immediately thought of the country of Peru! How pleased I was to learned it also means turkey.

Any advice for newcomers to Brazil?
My advice for newcomers to Brazil is enjoy the natural beauty of both the people and geography–and relax! While most people São Paulo appear to be in a rush, on their inside they’re not. And if you need something done right away, don’t get uptight if it takes a lot longer than it would elsewhere. Get to know people, especially those living there a long time. They’ll know where, who, when, how much, etc. to be able to show you around and how things operate. This is called jeito–probably the most necessary characteristic you’ll need to survive.”

You can contact Ron Finely at

To read previous interviews in the Brazil Through Foreign Eyes series click below:

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

Are you are foreigner living in Brazil? Are you interested in telling your story? If you would like to volunteer, or if you would like to recommend someone, please send an email with contact details and a brief description of yourself to

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