This week in our continuing Foreigners Through Brazilian Eyes series we have an interview with Adriano Abila. Read on as Adriano 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 the city of Rancharia, west of São Paulo state. At moment I am just studying but I have worked in different fields, from Finance to Production. I worked in Process Engineering for the last six years, five abroad in Europe and Asia.
2. What are the main obstacles for foreigners in Brazil?
Based on experience of my former girlfriend I would say it is the immigration law. I did not know it was so difficult for a foreigner to stay in Brazil more than three months (via the tourist visa). Other obstacles would be the social divide and its consequences such as violence, low level of education, etc. But one more thing that comes to my mind: bureaucracy, I think it is the first and the biggest one.
3. What are common mistakes that foreigners make in Brazil?
The classical mistake is to not learn how Brazil became Brazil. I refer to the economic, social, political and cultural point of views. As any big and large nation, the country is complex. Some people say I don’t look like a Brazilian, just because I am not black, that irritates me a lot! Mix of several backgrounds is the norm. However I would like to say that a lot of Brazilians repeat the same mistake, the guy that was born and raised in the South has a very bad knowledge of the Northeast, for example.
4. What characteristic of other nationalities strikes you as the most different (eg. sense of humour, formality, dress)?
My first professional experience abroad was in Holland. Every morning I would greet everybody with a good morning” and a handshake. On the third day my boss asked me laughing “what are you gonna do tomorrow, kiss us?”. In Brazil I was used to have quick decisions taken in different places, not only in the meeting room. The expression “I see you at a corner” was really true. All that changed in Holland, suddenly the Microsoft Outlook agenda features became my best friend. Besides the formality I needed a good deal of patience waiting two or more weeks for a decision that would be taken in a few days in Brazil.
In Berlin what struck me stronger was the tolerance. Nobody cared what clothes you were wearing in the subway or at the bar. Nobody could care less if you were kissing a girl or guy in the same places. Also I liked the way they deal with their past and it is a personal dream to imagine that we Brazilians one day will do the same with the dictatorship time, for example, displaying a open-minded museum about that period.
5. Which English accent do you prefer and why (eg. Scottish, American, Australian)?
My main English learning was in Canada so my accent is “American”. However there are some Americans I find it difficult to understand. I had a business trip to Texas, it was not that easy to follow their English. When traveling to Australia I needed a day for jet lag, and two days to tune my ears to the local accent. In Asia I lived two years in Singapore and the most often accent heard was British and I got used to it.
6. Favourite place travelled abroad and why?
Cambodia. I was not supposed to go there. I was leaving Singapore, returning to Brazil with my girlfriend. We planned 15 days in New Zealand and the same time in Bali, however due to flight arrangements we got some days free, departing from S’pore. Where to go? Siem Reap seemed a very affordable and quick option, it turned out to be one of my best trips. Angkor still show how rich, important and powerful that civilization once was. Siem Reap offers a great combination of stylish services with typical budget ones. It was pretty cheap, we stayed few days but a quick look on the travel guide I could see that Cambodia offers much more than Angkor, it is a wonderful country for the adventure-thirst travelers.
Another place worth mentioning is Poland, I enjoyed my trip a lot there, especially hiking at Tatra Mountains (border with Slovenia). It was a Europe that I could not find in England, France, Denmark or Germany. Romantic, cheap, charming and cosy, still with the European splendor but with no signs of big tourism industry around.
7. Favourite foreign food?
I had no problem with the typical Singaporean food, but my favorites were Indian and Japanese food. I traveled to these countries often and I enjoyed a lot, either in the factory canteen or in a good restaurant.
8. Favourite foreign band, book and movie?
Band, I have none to mention. I buy a CD here and there, but right now I don’t remember any names.
Book, I have several to mention but one was singular in helping me to understand Asian history and China’s recent history, it is Generalissimo (Jonathan Fenby). To understand football better “Futebol, the Brazilian Way” (Alex Bellos). To understand carnival better “Carnaval Brasilieiro” (Felipe Ferreira).
Movie, a non-mainstream movie I like very much is the Singaporean “Be with me”. Despite the main plot, it shows the style of living very well on that island, for good and bad reasons.
9. What is the difference between dating a Brazilian and Foreigner (if this applies to you or perhaps a friend)?
It depends on which “foreigner” you are talking about. In Holland I invited a girl that I met at the language school for a very innocent movie, she replied with something like “it is too early for that…”. Really, I just wanted to watch the film. But other more successful experiences showed they were more liberal however more distant. I felt stupid trying to hold the hands of one girlfriend, she did not like it! Forget about any other sign of intimacy that I was used to in Brazil.
In Asia there was a big difference (to Brazilian girls) about sex. In Brazil you have the enduring influence of the Catholic Church, most girls will not admit it, but it is there. In Asia there was nothing against it. Adds to that the physical or psychological advantage Western guys enjoy with Asian girls.
Comparing all that, I still see the Brazilian girl as the one that has more personal care and caring generally (that likes to receive and give “carinho”).
10. Can you share an incident, misunderstanding or ‘culture shock’ that you have experienced with a foreigner?
In Holland, I was the trainer and people were chatting too much, so to call attention, holding a pointer in my hands I said “silence please, otherwise I will have to use German discipline”. Everybody was silent, and the most senior student (my boss) said politely “Adriano, we don’t say these jokes here”. Germans are not a particularly loved people in the Netherlands.
About formality, I was invited for a New Year’s Eve party in a countryside house in Gdansk, Poland. It was my first NYE not during summer or at the beach. My friend told me that twenty people were going, and half were girls. My wild-blond-erotic dreams were coming true! I could not wait for the party, vodka, girls, and not necessarily in this sequence. However, at the last day of the year everybody showed up in formal dress, we even had a waiter serving the dinner! The only ones drunk with vodka before midnight were me and an Italian friend. Where was the party? By the way, the other half of the Polish group were the boyfriends of the girls. Anyway, the vodka was good.
In Asia I had several small incidents related to the way they deal with problems, in their view they were “saving face”. For me they were insulting me with absurd explanations for problems I knew already were happening. It took me one year to learn how to deal with the “saving face” issue.
11. What are 2 things you would recommend for a visitor to do in Brazil to better understand Brazilian people and their culture?
I just made a road trip, from Rio to Salvador, stopping at the major cities and beaches. It was a discovery for myself. I learned a lot about my own country, things that I saw on TV several times, heard people talking about, read in books, magazines and papers, but to be there was a different experience, and much deeper learning. What do I recommend? Buy a good travel guide (Lonely Planet). Spot a place and time of the year, just go there! Don’t miss the Northeast (cities such as Salvador, Recife, Fortaleza, Natal). Take time to visit Colonial Brazil, Ouro Preto is an wonderful place (I made a video of my visit there http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tU5bYVXrKo0). If you dive, you can’t miss Fernando de Noronha.
About people, don’t lose time with Brazilians that think they are Europeans or would love to be Americans. It is a first sign they don’t know their own country.
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 Foreigners Through Brazilian Eyes series click below:
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