Foreigners Through Brazilian Eyes

April 30, 2013

This week in our continuing Foreigners Through Brazilian Eyes series we have an interview with Adriana Schmidt Raub. Read on as Adriana tells us about her impressions of foreigners, and gives some helpful advice also.

1. Where are you from in Brazil and what do you do?

I am from São Paulo city – born and raised. I majored in Hotel Management at Cornell University in the USA but started a small ecotourism agency called Your Way in 2001 helping foreigners visit this unique little paradise off the northeast coast of Brazil called Fernando de Noronha. If you haven’t heard of it, it’s heaven.

2. What are the main obstacles for foreigners in Brazil?

I believe the biggest obstacles are the country’s bureaucracy as well as its lack of good customer service. I also believe that labor laws that favor the employee also play a major part when an executive moves to Brazil.

3. What are common mistakes that foreigners make in Brazil?

I believe that foreigners who move here should try and embrace this move as a learning and eye-opening experience in their lives. If you try and recreate your home country in Brazil, it is probably close to impossible, so you better not even try it as to avoid frustration. But I am not defending that foreigners should not have a critical eye onto the country, but simply try not to single-handedly change an entire culture, which probably has centuries of history that explains our behavior and our bad habits.

4. What characteristic of other nationalities strikes you as the most different (eg. sense of humour, formality, dress)?

Wow, I work with quite a few nationalities and I am married to an American, so let’s see where I should begin! I like British irony and sarcasm, and I love how practical Germans can be when planning a trip. Italians can be a bit confusing and too laid-back for my taste (and I am Brazilian!) but I have heard that Italians are the Brazilians of Europe! (Ha!). I love the politeness of Scandinavians and their love and appreciation for good weather. I was just talking to my husband about how nice and appreciative Americans can be. They are just genuinely nice people and don’t normally envy others… they are usually focused on their goals and work hard for them, without paying attention to how well their neighbors are doing. At least this has been my experience with them.

5. Which English accent do you prefer and why (eg. Scottish, American, Australian)?

I have a bit of a hard time understanding UK folks, especially those Scottish ones. This reminds me of when I used to work at a hotel back in the 90’s. I had recently returned from the USA and therefore still had my freshly-acquired Texan accent. A British guest was checking out, and turned to me and said: Oh my, you speak fluent English, you sound American!” to which I humbly thanked her for what I thought was a compliment. But then she said: “Oh darling, that’s not a compliment!” I didn’t find it endearing.

6. Favourite place travelled abroad and why?

New Zealand because of the outdoor activities and the people (cute accent, too!). Patagonia because of the spectacular glaciers and my absolute hate for crampons acquired on that trip. Turkey blew my mind with the mosques and all the burkas and the Muslim calls to prayer. Peru because of Machu Picchu, India for the Taj Mahal, the food, and Udaipur. It was very interesting and also sad to notice the particularities of various cultures as well. For example, in India I learned that you always need to be alert because they can rob you in your face, without carrying a knife or a gun – they simply tell you a story and fool you, taking advantage of how gullible a foreign visitor can be. I didn’t think that was nice and tried to reconcile this trait in my head by remembering their long-lived history of trading spices, fabric, and precious stones back in time, but at the end of the day, I just felt taken advantage of.

7. Favorite foreign food?

Thai soups, Mexican burritos, and anything from an Indian tandoor. The food and the people from each destination I visit are my absolute passion when traveling.

8. Favorite foreign band, book and movie?

U2, Jack Johnson and Jason Mraz.

I am a huge movie fan so it is hard to pick one, but I am a big Jack Nicholson fan too so these come to my mind first: The Shining is the movie that hooked me onto looking forward to going to the movie theater almost every weekend as I was growing up. As Good as It Gets is also a touching movie of his that’s definitely on my list of favorites. I’m also a fan of the classics: Gone with the Wind, The Sound of Music, E.T., Star Wars, The Godfather trilogy, yadda yadda. My favorite comedy of all time is The Hangover.

For books, I could pull a few that stuck with me from my younger years, but I’ve been really into TV shows lately, and a few that have caught my undivided attention are: Breaking Bad, Homeland, Dexter and The Following, to only name a few.

9. What is the difference between dating a Brazilian and Foreigner (if this applies to you or perhaps a friend)?

Women in Brazil claim that Brazilian boys have the famous “pegada” (the grabs) when they touch a girl and make out with her. But I have to say that I am not really into Brazilian guys as they tend to be too possessive and also a bit macho… I like my independence and have adjusted better with a foreigner because of that.

10. Can you share an incident, misunderstanding or &rsquot;culture shock&rsquot; that you have experienced with a foreigner?

I tend to believe that there are more Brazilians trying to take advantage and cheat the system than any other nationality that I am familiar with… In Brazil, when you buy ice at a grocery store, the ice bags have to be inside the store. But on my last visit to the USA, I went to a pretty big grocery store that had a freezer that was beyond glass door exits, almost on your way out to the parking lot. I found it strange but grabbed two bags of ice anyway and took them all the way inside to run it at the cashier. The clerk was so surprised to see me carrying these two freezing bags that she said out loud: “Oh sweetie! You didn’t have to bring these here. You just need to tell me how many bags you need and you pick them up on your way out!” And I thought to myself: “And how do you know if I take only the ones I paid for, and not more than those?” The whole situation made me a bit flustered and I forgot to look for the metal container that dispenses the coins when you have change in coins. I had never seen those, either, and she had to remind me that I should collect the change from the machine that spits the change automatically when she runs a sale. It was a difficult trip to the grocery store!

11. What are 2 things you would recommend for a visitor to do in Brazil to better understand Brazilian people and their culture?

To experience botecos and boteco food. And also going to a typical Brazilian beach and eating the food available on the beach, as well as the drinks and perhaps a bit of sports either on the sand or water sports. The true samba clubs are also a great experience. There is one with classical samba in Vila Madalena in São Paulo that is great and not stereotypical. I also like when foreigners experience buying fruits and vegetables from a street fair and having a pastel with sugar cane juice at the end. Padarias are also a great Paulistana experience, and if they try a coxinha, it always makes me smile as these are true Brazilian staples and not that common overseas. Pizza in São Paulo also tends to surprise to foreigners and going on a Saturday or Sunday night truly shows what a big tradition this is.

You can contact Adriana about trips to Fernando de Noronha on her website at Your Way or at

If you are Brazilian, or know a Brazilian, who has traveled abroad or has considerable experience with different nationalities here in Brazil, we would like to hear from you. Please send an email with contact details and a brief description of yourself to

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

Kledson Pires
Juliana Barroso
Maria Cristina Skowronski Flynn
Antonia Sales
Augusto Gomes
Tatiane Silva
Regina Scharf
Rebecca Carvalho
Augusto Uehara
Ana da Silva
Daniel Bertorelli
Marco Cassol
Ana Clark
Vanessa Agricola
Ubiratan S. Malta
Brescia Terra
Renata Andraus
Ana Vitoria Joly
Helio Araujo
Adriano Abila
Anderson Ferreira
Sandra Partridge
Samara Klug Szachnowicz
Flavius Ferrari
Daniela Ribeiro
Adriano Gomes
Elizabeth Sacknus
Geberson Coelho
Rosaly Loula
Andreas Saller
Elvis Renato Barbosa Lima
Bruno Santos
Maria Cecilia Schmidt Maluf
Marta Dalla Chiesa
Cludia Ramis De Almeida
Vivian Manasse Teixeira Leite
Fernando Saffi
Gabriela Kluppel
Patrcia C. Ribeiro
Fabiano Deffenti

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