February 18, 2014
This week in our continuing Foreigners Through Brazilian Eyes series we have an interview with Daniel Reschke. Read on as Daniel tells us about his impressions of foreigners, and gives some helpful advice also.
1. Where are you from in Brazil and what do you do?
I am from Francisco Beltrão, in Paran, a state in the South of Brazil. I graduated from the state University of Maring. Maring is a city in the North of the state which I consider my city in part because of its green beauty and wonderful people. There, I taught English as a second language for 5 years in different schools.
Currently, I am a Fulbright Scholar in Jackson, Michigan, in the United States. I teach Portuguese to speakers of English so they can have a better experience when travelling to Brazil. There is a program called USBC (United States Brazil Connect) which sends students from colleges to teach English in Brazil for a month. I am also engaged in international organizations that help promote integration between native and foreign students.
2. What are the main obstacles for foreigners in Brazil?
I believe our bureaucracy is serious obstacle. There are so many obstacles to doing something legally that many Brazilians tend to use the so-called jeitinho”, which is a way of circumventing rules by being “street smart”. I don’t see many people doing this here in the U.S, and I think foreigners they are not happy when they realize the way some things work in Brazil.
Another one is the language. I’ve heard a lot of people who speak other languages say that Portuguese is really hard to master. Although there are an increasing and significant number of people who speak English in big cities, if you go to a smaller places, you’ll need Portuguese.
3. What are common mistakes that foreigners make in Brazil?
I think resisting adapting. When you live in a foreign country, you have to adapt somehow! I’m living in Michigan and the weather now is just much colder than I’ve ever experienced. I’m adapting pretty well and enjoying the good things that winter can give you, even though it’s not my favorite season.
However, I feel some foreigners living in Brazil are not truly willing to adapt. I don’t think they should adapt to things as the “jeitinho” and our bureaucracy, but life is certainly easier and more enjoyable if you try hard to learn Portuguese and you greet people in a proper and warmer Brazilian way! I’ve met people from more developed countries who were regarded as rude because they didn’t care about learning Portuguese and acted too polite and formal in certain situations.
4. What characteristic of other nationalities strikes you as the most different (eg. sense of humour, formality, dress)?
The respect for the rules and laws. More than that, the need for organization and rules. I think people in the United States enjoy being in a more organized, controlled environment, with specific rules. For example, I went to a couple of rock shows here in which people could not stand to see it. The benefits are having a nice comfortable seat to enjoy the show and not having anyone in front of you. Although the shows were good, I would rather see them standing! Brazilians like to dance, sing along (loudly sometimes) and be able to go around. When I was in Charleston, I was surprised by how specific the rules to go to a mere water fountain were!
The way people dress in Brazil and in the United States is somewhat similar. There’s a clear distinction between formal and informal. However, people have less need to show their “brandy” clothes or accessories here. There are lots of Brazilians who are obsessed with their appearance and their clothing, almost as if they needed to be distinguished from the ones who don’t dress “properly”. I’ve seen students who put on a lot of make up to go to the University or schools, which is something I’ve never seen here.
5. Which English accent do you prefer and why (eg. Scottish, American, Australian)?
As a graduate in the study of language, I love languages and accents. I really like hearing different accents. I’m really used to the Northwestern accent now, but if I were to choose one simply because I like its sound, I’d choose the Jamaican accent.
6. Favourite place travelled abroad and why?
Chicago. Its unique architecture and skyline make you feel happy just because you’re walking around the city. In my first time at the city, I went to all the touristic attractions and museums. It was only in my second visit that I realized the city is worth visiting just to walk around downtown or by lake Michigan. And the food is a hundred times better than in New York, if you ask me! That pizza! Even the hot-dogs!
7. Favourite foreign food?
This is a tricky question. I love Japanese food, Mexican food… If were to choose just one, I’d have to say cheesecake. It’s just too good! I’ll miss American cheesecake when I go back to Brazil.
8. Favourite foreign band, book and movie?
Pink Floyd, Animal Farm and One flew over the Cuckoo’s nest.
9. What is the difference between dating a Brazilian and Foreigner (if this applies to you or perhaps a friend)?
Brazilians like to kiss on the very first date. It’s common to meet a girl in a nightclub, exchange some glances, kiss, get each other’s phones and then meet for a real date the next day/week. Kissing is a VERY important thing for Brazilians!
Dating here in the United States nowadays is mostly done with the help of dating websites or phone apps. Most of times, people get to know each other first, and then kiss. The opposite may happen in Brazil!
Also, I think that young people in the United States have lost the ability to communicate with their eyes or their smiles. They mostly rely on their phones
10. Can you share an incident, misunderstanding or ‘culture shock’ that you have experienced with a foreigner?
I have an American friend who lives in Brazil and he’s been through an interesting ‘incident’. We were in Liberdade, a Japanese neighborhood in São Paulo. We were eating some food from the local food stands when a beggar came to him and tried to put his hand into his plate of noodles. He didn’t say anything when he arrived. My friend pulled his plate away fast, to avoid having his hands touch the food. His mouth and nose were dripping with saliva and snot. It almost fell into his plate. He appeared to have psychological problems. He started to speak by making noises and grunts. In the USA, they have places that are called “soup kitchens”. Most are at churches and other non-profits where homeless people can receive free meals. Most Americans prefer that homeless people get free meals at a soup kitchen. They don’t want to give free food on the street because this will cause more beggars to bother old people, tourists, and others. His first reaction was to say no, based on what they think in America. Normally, he likes to share food with family and friends – but his reaction was to avoid the beggar in this situation. After the man got food from us, he tried to grab a second plate. We then quickly walked away and stood close to a policeman that was watching the park. Months later, he was riding a bus in Rio, and started to eat some candy. Suddenly, a beggar asked him for some food, and he automatically gave him some candy.
11. What are 2 things you would recommend for a visitor to do in Brazil to better understand Brazilian people and their culture?
1. Visit AS MANY regions in Brazil as you can. If one thing can truly define the country, it’s diversity. Fulbright selects people from all over the country to teach in the United States. Whenever we all meet, it becomes clear how many different things (and words!) we have to share. And we’re from the same country
Of course Rio and Bahia are must sees (by the way, when you’re in Rio, please visit the historical convents and churches downtown, like the “Convento de Santo Antonio), but if you don’t want to be spreading stereotypes as “the only beautiful things in Brazil are the beaches and the women”, you should go to the South of the country, which was mostly populated by Europeans in the 19th century. Cities like Blumenau and Gramado have a lot to show about Brazil too.
2. Go to a local market. I always loved to buy fresh fruit and vegetables at the local markets in Maring. Not only can you buy really good food, but there are a great place to understand more about Brazilian ways and business. You can bargain, of course, but beware: a “gringoe” accent is not going to help prices go down!
You can contact Daniel via firstname.lastname@example.org
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 email@example.com.
To read previous interviews in the Brazil Through Foreign Eyes series click below:
Adriana Schmidt Raub
Maria Cristina Skowronski Flynn
Ana da Silva
Ubiratan S. Malta
Ana Vitoria Joly
Samara Klug Szachnowicz
Elvis Renato Barbosa Lima
Maria Cecilia Schmidt Maluf
Marta Dalla Chiesa
Cludia Ramis De Almeida
Vivian Manasse Teixeira Leite
Patrcia C. Ribeiro