December 7, 2007

Meet Stephanie Glennon, from the USA, who moved to Brazil 4 years 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 originally from Los Angeles, CA. I worked in the music industry for 14 years, and I am also a pilot. Rio de Janeiro was my first home in Brazil for 3.5 years but I have also lived in Fortaleza, Ceara for 4 months. I am back in Rio again, and very happy about being back.

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

My first trip to Brazil was in December of 2003 to Rio, I moved there 2 months later. I came to Brazil for one reason, love. My husband is a Carioca. I knew not a word of Portuguese, nothing about Brazilian culture, NADA. My first year was quite a challenge but after that initial period, things became much easier and enjoyable.

3. What were you first impressions of Brazil?

My first impression of Brazil was actually thru the Brazilians I met in Los Angeles. They were so much fun, interesting and relaxed. They enjoyed being in southern California, however, it was quite clear their hearts were in Brazil.

4. What do you miss most about home?

When I first arrived I missed a great number of things. Since then I have found some of them, but more importantly I finally realized that Brazil is not the US and vice-versa. I finally got over it”…and got over myself. Primarily I miss creature comforts we often take for granted in the US such as garbage disposals, clothes dryers, hot water at every fawcet, window screens, central a/c. I also miss inexpensive good wine, nonfat frozen yogurt shops, good Chinese, Mexican and Indian food, and stores such as Target and Trader Joes. People always assume that Brazil is a cheap place to live but it’s really not. Buying anything imported is cost prohibitive due to the 100%-300% (or more) mark-up. Furniture here is expensive, electronics are ridiculously expensive and baby things…out-of-this-world expensive. I miss being able to hop in the car and just drive for hours exploring and getting lost without worrying if the roads are ok, or if it’s safe enough to do it. I miss skiing, the Sierra Nevada mountains, Santa Ana winds and Southern California summer nights. I also miss having a good paying job. In the US I had 6 figures, here good luck making 6 Reais. But even after all of these comments, I am still very happy to be living in Rio and I wouldn’t change/trade anything! It is SUCH a lovely city and I feel so lucky to live here.

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

The beaurocracy involved with getting married. It took us 8 months from start to finish and I would estimate at least 12 trips to the cartorio for one reason or another. It took me 15 months to get my RNE/ID card involving 6 trips to the PF (you can forget about getting any answers via telephone, that is if the telephone is ever answered). I also don’t understand why most people don’t care to use seat belts in cars. In my experience, 8 out of 10 taxi’s don’t have seat belts available to use in the back seat, the same goes for private cars I have been in, it seems no one cares about seatbelts. Every week I read in O Globo about some accident where someone died beacuse they weren’t wearing their seatbelt. One other thing is that for a woman, WOW, is there pressure to be beautiful. Here, in Rio at least, women go to the salon once a week for their hair and nails, and let’s not forget waxing, and they always have new clothes, bikinis, shoes and purses and they would never even consider think of leaving the house until they looked fabulous…quite different from the US, and a lot of work and expense too! In LA, I remember going to the beach just for a tan, NOT to be fashionable or beautiful…but here, the beach is a very social place, not just for a tan. But isn’t it nice to be able to have a beer on the beach and make new friends? YES!

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

I will always remember new years, 2003. It was a perfect night, watching the fireworks in Copacabana while toasting with champagne and then going to a party in Joa at a huge house with a private beach, dancing and partying with the beautiful people, and then rushing off to catch the sunrise from the mirante overlooking Leblon/Ipanema. The best NYE of my life.

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

The people of course, I love how social most Brazilian people are. I love Brazilian music, dance and Bahian food. I also love the infectious excitement during carnival and the World Cup and I love that there are a kazillion Brazilian holidays, every month there is some reason to have a long weekend. I love that it’s a great place to have a baby. It has been my experience that people are very nice and accomodating to you when you have a small child. Much more so than in the US. From grocery store lines and banks, to the airport lines, etc. You get preferential treatment if you’re pregnant, carrying a small child or elderly or disabled. I think this is a fantastic concept! Also, Brazil is quite diverse, it is the same size as the continental US and SO huge and diffferent depending on where you go. I’ve been to São Paulo, Brasilia, Salvador, Manaus, Fortaleza, Teresina, Rio…but I haven’t even scratched the surface of this country yet.

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

In Leblon, Jobi is my favorite late-night bar with the best chopp. In Copacabana I love Amir for middle-eastern food and Cervantes for the best quick sandwich with pinapple in the wee hours of the morning. Lapa for the best live music and dancing. I also love Aprazivel in Santa Teresa for the charming atmosphere and views. And if you head over towards Barra da tijuca, there’s a great drive-up batida place called Bar do Oswaldo, with the best coco and maracuj batidas ever.

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

Many funny stories. Most recently, our housekeeper woke me up one morning asking me in a whispering voice for sorvete (ice cream). I didn’t think I heard her correctly so I said ‘oi?’ and again she said ‘sorvete’, ‘coisa feminina’. ‘OK, whatever’ I thought and replied ‘a gente tem’ but she still just stood there staring at me so I got up and went to the freezer and pulled out the sorvete. She almost fell over laughing and said ‘nao, ‘ABSORVENTES’, which means maxi-pads. Also, one time shortly after I first moved to Rio I went to the supermarket for some things. At check-out it is customary for the checker to ask you if you want the groceries delivered and I was used to saying yes. So I paid and off I went and a block and a half later I hear ‘senhora, senhora!!’ and saw a store employee chasing after me with my cart of groceries, so I thought, ‘well, I only live 3 blocks away, today I guess there is no delay in delivery.’. So he caught up to me and followed me all the way home and up the elevator with the cart… my husband informed me when I got home that they thought I just needed help out to my car! Since then, I really listen with a close ear for ‘quer ajuda?’ as opposed to ‘entrega?’.

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

There are lots of differences, and lots of simularities too. In Brazil, there are the poor, and there are the POOR. In my personal experience, you don’t see this in the US, not on the same level at all. It is something that is really hard to get used to and even more difficult to understand why.

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 Portuguese, I am happy to report after almost 4 years, is much improved, and it makes such a difference in your life when you understand and are understood. I encourage anyone who wants to come to Brazil, study Portuguese before you come!!!

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

Advice? The best advice is to stop comparing. Forget about US or European standards…just throw all of your preconceptions out the window and be open for anything in Brazil. The more you are flexible and open-minded, the better time you will have. Learn some Portuguese, it is a MUST and will make all of the difference for your trip. Have enthusiasm, don’t complain, just realize that things are different here. And sometimes it is for the better! Observe the people here. See how the simple pleasures make life better, listen to the music, dance, forget yourself. Calm down, don’t try to organize and plan every minute, just be open for anything!

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

When in Rio, go to the beach in Ipanema/Leblon to watch the sunset in the summer, people DO clap. Go to the kiosks at Lagoa, visit Forte de Copacabana, venture south of Barra/Recreio to the beautiful beaches of Prainha and Guaratiba, spend a night listening and dancing to music in Lapa, go to Santa Teresa, explore Centro, be practical/safe…but be prepared to have a lot of fun. And Carnaval in Rio is simply amazing…I highly recommend the blocos. Buzios is really nice to visit too. I’ve also spent time in Serrinha, in the mountain towns of Penedo (a Finnish town) and Itatiaia at an altitude of 6,000 feet and more (up to 9,000ft)…it is really cool, a different Brazilian experience still within the state of Rio de Janeiro, only 2 hours by car from Rio. In Fortaleza, the barracas at Praia do Futoro are mostly nice, lots of good carangeujo and cerveja to be had, but the best beach in Fortaleza, or nearby at least, is Beach Park. No vendors, only nice people, families…really a nice, pristine beach. Clean and beautiful. The neighborhoods of Aldoeta and Meireles have good restaurants, bars and shopping.

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:

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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