Brazil’s Cláudia Ramis De Almeida is a language teacher, translator and interpreter; who lived as an exchange student in the USA; and has worked with foreigners for the last ten years. She is currently busy preparing a Portuguese Immersion Course, translating a book and in her spare time writes column for www.gringoes.com. She shares with us her experiences with foreigners and provides some great insight into Brazilian people and culture.
Where are you from in Brazil and what do you do?
I’m from Porto Alegre, RS and I’m a private English/Portuguese teacher here in SP. I also have a language school, focused on Language Immersion Courses.
What are the main obstacles for foreigners in Brazil?
Not knowing Portuguese, accepting cultural differences, coping with traffic (in SP), dealing with disseminated corruption, living close to poverty, being vulnerable to violence. Our extremely unfair social pyramid scares and astonishes many.
What are common mistakes that foreigners make in Brazil?
Comparing Brazil to their home countries and misunderstanding Brazilians. Comparing makes things more difficult, brings homesickness, stifles new experiences. Instead of comparing, they might try to keep an open mind. As we descend from a mix of cultures, it’s easy to misunderstand us, our values and beliefs. In doubt, they can simply say: I’m sorry, but I didn’t understand you.”
What characteristic of other nationalities strikes you as the most different (eg. sense of humour, formality, dress)?
American kindness, Japanese generosity, Spanish sincerity, Mexican politeness and Australian strength.
Which English accent do you prefer and why (eg. Scottish, American, Australian)?
Australian, which is literally a new world to me.
It means love, faith and hope to my ears.
It echoes in my dreams.
It has the power of making me speechless and my butterflies dazzled.
As I first heard it from an angel, it’ll always be heaven to me.
Favourite place travelled abroad and why?
Philadelphia PA, because everyone was truly friendly. My hosts were a Chinese man who had been brought up in Brazil, his American wife, and their lovely 2-year old daughter. I visited lots of places, met wonderful people, had a very special time, and, overall, felt welcome.
Favourite foreign food?
Mediterranean – because I adore fish and spices.
Favourite foreign band, book and movie?
Band: The Cure, especially “Lovesong”.
Book: Illusions, by Richard Bach, about airplanes, people, and self-journeys.
Movie: The English Patient, which still speaks volumes to me, after all these years.
What is the difference between dating a Brazilian and Foreigner (if this applies to you or perhaps a friend)?
Dating someone from your own country is easier, safe and comfortable. Dating a foreigner requires more from your mind, heart and soul, but it is surprising, exchanging and rewarding. I’d call it enchanting.
Can you share an incident, misunderstand or culture shock that you have experienced with a foreigner?
At an Arab restaurant, having a lunch class, I asked my student to order everything, to practice his Portuguese. The waiters, perceiving he was a foreigner and started speaking in English (eg. “More beer, Sir?”), despite my angry look at him! My student had a good time laughing at my rage!
What are 2 things you would recommend for a visitor to do in Brazil to better understand Brazilian people and their culture?
Learn the language, to be able to understand and interact. And travel, as much as possible. I suggest visiting small forgotten towns, tasting regional dishes and drinks, listening to our many accents, dancing our hundred rhythms, learning to enjoy this big, different, “emotional” country. While living here foreigners could try to make Brazil their second home. Brazil is a welcoming country, so they could just embrace it.
Claudia can be contacted at 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“