January 27, 2009

Meet Stephan Hughes who first travelled to Brazil in 1995, and subsequently moved to Brazil to live. Read the following interview in which he tells us about some of his most memorable experiences and gives some useful advice to newcomers.

1. Tell us a little about yourself, where are you from, what do you do etc.?

I’m from Trinidad and Tobago, a twin-island republic in the Caribbean. Like most gringoes in Brazil, I work with language teaching, translation and some simultaneous translation. But I spend most of my time teaching English.

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

I got here for the first time in 1995 and spent a year in Brasilia. I returned home for 6 months then came to Rio de Janeiro to do a First Class degree in Letters/Humanities. Since then, I have also done an M.A. in Linguistics and several short graduate courses, apart from working with teaching.

3. What were you first impressions of Brazil?

They were the best possible. I came to soak up as much as possible of the culture and to blend with the people. What amazed me was the hospitality and the ease with which people welcomed me. People in Rio are easy conversationalists, in the space of ten minutes in a bank line I can learn about a person’s private life! They seem so open and easy-going.

4. What do you miss most about home?

The food and some of the cultural practices. Trinidad and Tobago are a blend of African and East Indian roots, in addition to other ethnic mixes – Chinese, Spanish, to name a few. I miss the way we celebrate Christmas and the local dialect”, which is a sort of broken English unique to our people.

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

I wouldn’t exactly call it a frustrating experience but it was when I had to go through weeks and weeks of paper work, expenses and longsuffering to get my permanent visa. The federal police agents didn’t make it at all comforting.

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

One of my most memorable experiences was when I successfully presented my dissertation before a panel of university professors in Portuguese. It was nerve-wrecking but in the end, I came out on top.

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

The people. More than the vast natural resources and the most diverse of landscapes, habits, regionalisms, the people have a quality that binds them – the way they see life.

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

I live on the beachfront of the so-called South Zone of Rio de Janeiro, so there are great places to hang out. As I’m now a family man, I love going to the shopping malls, the beaches etc…

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

There is one in particular, when I was living in Brasilia. At that time I knew very little Portuguese and I shared a flat with some Brazilians who didn’t speak much English either. So communication was basically sign language. One day, my mates decided I had to go buy some bread and “taught” me how to say the word in Portuguese. The problem was that they taught me the word for wood, “pau”, which is similar to “pão”. The first word also has some sexual connotation. So you could have imagined the face of the guy at the bread counter when I told him I wanted some “pau”!

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

One striking difference is the way people here in Brazil are so easy to start up a conversation and to talk about some of the most personal things to an absolute stranger. Another difference is the amount of PDA – public display of affection. There is more physical contact between men and women, men and men here in Brazil.

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?

As I have been here for some time and having had to really delve into the language, I don’t have any difficulty really. People usually don’t believe me when I say I’m a foreigner.

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

Go with the flow and understand the “Brazilian way”, the famous “jeito”.

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

If in Rio de Janeiro, visit all the usual tourist attractions, but make sure to take time to walk around the city centre, take a bus and enjoy the view!

You can contact Stephan via stephan.hughes@gmail.com.

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:

Louis van der Wiele – Holland
Drew Glaser – USA
Barry Elliott – Canada
Joel Barsky – USA
David Drummond – Canada
Liam Porisse – France
Jim Kelley – USA
Max Ray – USA
Jeremy Clark – Canada
Don Fredrick – USA
Jase Ramsey – USA
Ben Pearce – UK
Nitai Panchmatia – India
Johnnie Kashat – USA
Jeni Bonorino – USA
Eric Jones – USA
Bill Martin – UK
Bernard Morris – USA
John Graves – USA
Deepak Sapra – India
Alison McGowan – UK
Brent Gregory – USA
R Dub – USA
Tara Bianca – USA
Jack Hurley – USA
James Woodward – Canada
Tony O’Sullivan – Ireland
Anna Belavina – Russia
Jim Kirby – USA
Linda Halverstadt – USA
Michelle Monteiro – USA
Chris Mensah – UK
David Sundin – USA
Stephanie Glennon – USA
Julien Porisse – France
Hans Keeling – USA
Jim Adams – USA
Richard Murison – USA
Will Periam – UK
Jan Sandbert – Sweden
Jim Jones – USA
Mike Stricklin – USA
Edward Gowing – Australia
Adrian Woods – USA
Kevin Raub – USA
Pierpaolo Ciarcianelli – Italy
Zachary Heilman – USA
David Johnson – Bermuda
Cipriana Leme – Argentina
Timothy Bell – USA
Patti Beckert – USA
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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