Meet Solveig Skadhauge, from Denmark, who has travelled and worked in many countries. She moved to Brazil recently, and is planning to marry her Brazilian boyfriend. Read the following interview where she tells us about her most memorable experiences from Brazil and gives some useful advice to newcomers.
1. Tell us a little about yourself, where are you from?
I was born and grew up in Denmark. However, I haven’t lived there for the past 10 years. Due to my career I have been moving country a lot, and have lived in about 10 different countries (mostly Europe). I have a PhD in theoretical physics and my future husband (we plan to get married in February) never finished high-school. I think my situation is different than most people here at Gringoes, who seem to have rather luxury problem like finding a good maid. I know quite intimately the favelas, where most of my (brazilian) family and friends live.
2. What do you do?
I work as a researcher in high energy physics at USP studying topics like the dark matter of the universe and ‘odd’ particles like neutrinos.
3. When did you arrive in Brazil and what brought you here?
I lived in Portugal for two years and I decided to apply to Brazil as I wanted to see something exotic and I was tired of learning languages. Shortly after that I met my boyfriend, who is Brazilian and we ended up moving to SP in October 2005. My boyfriend was one of the many illegal Brazilian’s in Portugal who in the search for ‘gold’ ended up working often for nothing. As an illegal you can’t complain if you don’t get paid.
4. What were you first impressions of Brazil?
When we first got here we stayed at my boyfriend’s brother’s place, who lives in a favela zone. The first morning I saw a man threatening his wife with a brick shouting that he would kill her if she didn’t come home. Fair to say that my first impression was scary and I got a picture of a poor and dirty Brazil.
5. What do you miss most about home?
Since I have moved so much, I actually miss various countries, and I suppose it would be difficult to define ‘home’ for me. From Finland I miss cross country skiing, in general I miss the Scandinavia seasons. From California I miss the great nature there and the multi-ethnic people. From England I miss going to the pub early Friday afternoon. From Italy and France I miss the nice food. From Lisbon I miss Alfama and Bairro Alto.
6. What has been your most frustrating experience in Brazil?
It’s difficult to pick out just one experience. I’m frequently frustrated when people don’t understand my Portuguese. I’m also often frustrated by the old-fashioned way women are treated here. (Also seen by the number of prostitutes here, which is the prime example of female abuse.) I grew up under the women’s liberation in Scandinavia and sometimes it feels like being put back some 50 years. However, I think the biggest difficulty I have there is trying to plan things. You can’t trust (private) appointments with people here and often Brazilians give you an answer even if they don’t know the answer. I suppose it makes them feel better. But I frequently lose much time because of this.
7. What has been your most memorable experience in Brazil?
I think it would be when my parents came to visit me here. They are very old and haven’t travelled much in their lives. It was the first time my mother flew – and it is a long way from Denmark. I simply found it so impressive that they had the courage to come here! It was great seeing them experiencing a third world country like Brazil and the very different nature and plants that exist here. They were very happy to see the waterfalls at Iguacu.
8. What do you most like about Brazil?
The Brazilians! I also love the nature and beaches here.
9. What is your favorite restaurant?
The number of times I’ve been to a restaurant in SP can be counted on one hand. Besides that my boyfriend loves cooking and has time to do it (he has been unemployed since we got here) we also don’t have the money for restaurants. Of course it is a matter of priority, and we prefer to spend our money on traveling and going out for a drink every now and then – I like Vila Madalena for that.
10. Do you have any funny stories/incidents to tell about your time in Brazil?
I remember that after an occasional short talk with a Brazilian lady, she told me to come by her house. I was very puzzled as we had talked for about 3 minutes and I didn’t even know her name, not to mention where she lived. Thus, I simply replied But I don’t know your address”, where after she repeated the invitation. Now, I know that this is normal. Brazilians are so easygoing that they don’t even bother if it doesn’t make sense what they are saying.
11. What difference between your homeland and Brazil do you find most striking?
There is a world’s difference – culture, mentality, richness, the welfare system…
12. What advice do you have for newcomers to Brazil?
Get some brazilian friends who can give you more advice.
13. What are some things that you would recommend for a visitor to do in São Paulo (or anywhere else in Brazil)?
Go for weekend trips every now and then. There are many beautiful places close by, like litoral norte, Monte Verde, Iporanga, Brotas etc.
Are you a foreigner living in Brazil, or 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, or if you would like to recommend someone, please send an email with contact details and a brief description of yourself to firstname.lastname@example.org
To read previous interviews in the Brazil Through Foreign Eyes series click below:
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“