Meet Steve Koenig, who has retired from the US government, worked in Rio and has now partly retired to Fortaleza. 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.?

Retired from the U.S. government. Looking for opportunities in import/export and/or tourism right now.

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

First came in 1993 to work in Rio (until 95). Retired to Fortaleza, with my wife (a physician here) in March of this year.

3. What were you first impressions of Brazil?

Back in 1993 I was probably struck by the beauty of Rio. Not sure I’d want to live there again, but it remains one of the world’s most striking cities in its geographic setting.

4. What do you miss most about home?

Peanut butter.
Well-maintained highways.
Change of seasons.
Friends and family.
Large variety of rock and roll radio stations.

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

Learning the ropes of living here while tackling the language at the same time. I’ve had to rely on my wife far too often (and at times been too lazy myself, I admit).

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

Meeting my wife on an organized hike near Rio back in 1994. Had to say that, of course :-) Centro Excursionisto Brasileiro hiking group organized the hike. They seemed quite pleased for a foreigner to come on their outings.

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

Friendly people.
Lack of harsh winters.

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

Tons of bars and restaurants along the beaches here in Fortaleza.

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

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

Stricter attitudes towards work among some (not all) people back home. That has its plusses and minuses. Also, I did volunteer work with an animal shelter in the U.S., and have been dismayed by the neglect of stray animals here (I realize this is not a big priority for many when people are in such need).

I’m also struck by similarities, such as the distrust of politicians and some aggravating driving habits (e.g. using emergency” flashers on one’s car when doing something rude and/or illegal, such as parking and blocking a lane of traffic during rush hour, as though the blinkers make it okay). I’ve seen that in the U.S. and here, unfortunately.

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?

It’s coming along. Subjunctive tense still drives me nuts.

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

Learn Portuguese.
Relax.
See as much of the country as you can, though keeping in mind it’s HUGE.

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

Get out of São Paulo and Rio and see the rest of the country, including Ceara. A lot of Europeans have discovered this area, but there are almost no Americans (too difficult to get to, since they have to fly to São Paulo or Rio first).

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 gringoes@www.gringoes.com

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

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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