May 12, 2015
This week in our continuing Foreigners Through Brazilian Eyes series we have an interview with Denise S. Read on as Denise 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 was born in the south of Brazil, in Porto Alegre. I am a “curious” person so I have worked for international banks and imports/exports companies, later I taught English over many years. I am now studying at a Faculty of Music and I am a blogger, as well.
2. What are the main obstacles for foreigners in Brazil?
I think the language is the main barrier, in my opinion, for foreigners in some parts of Brazil. Also, bureaucracy. Very slow. And Brazilians greet people warmly. This is something that can also be seen as impoliteness, I suppose.
3. What are common mistakes that foreigners make in Brazil?
Many people think that everybody is poor, in Brazil. And that everybody lives in Rio. Or only go to beaches, instead of working.
4. What characteristic of other nationalities strikes you as the most different (eg. sense of humour, formality, dress)?
Well, it’s a tricky question, cause I am seen in Brazil somewhat as a foreigner, because of having some characteristics of other nationalities, but some I have from my family, not all from Brazil. Let’s say, some Europeans don’t greet with kisses, rather a handshake or just waving. When I greet people in Brazil this way, they find me a snob. Don’t ever try to explain it, they will find you impolite anyway. I think British are punctual and I like it. I like the way some people care for the environment in some countries in Europe.
5. Which English accent do you prefer and why (eg. Scottish, American, Australian)?
I studied at a North American school for a decade, so living in England and hearing the British accent was quite different for me, to “adjust” to some of their accents. Although many disagree and see some accents as “low level”, I find it very nice to hear accents in the UK. Scottish, for example, and Liverpudlian. I love those accents! I also like the Irish accent.
6. Favourite place travelled abroad and why?
If I have to pick just one place I will choose Wales. The whole country. It’s a place with rich history, polite and sweet people, amazing views along the coast and valleys and I feel at home there.
7. Favourite foreign food?
I am a fussy eater, unfortunately. And on the top of that, I am vegetarian since childhood. It makes it all very difficult for me to find food that I really like, in any part of the world. Brazilian food never said a thing to me. I used to eat Spanish dishes in my family, so I guess Spanish food doesn’t count on my report. I like simple dishes like avocado salad, caprese salad, coleslaw, fruit scones and clotted cream. Yorshire pudding is a must and Italian dishes, but alas, in the south of Brazil, hugely colonized by Italians, that would be a no-brainer. Swiss cheese like Tte de Moine is great. I also like some dishes of the Indian cuisine, like pilau rice and samosas, and Cornish and Greek pastries, such as tsoureki, trigona, bougatsa, etc.
8. Favourite foreign band, book and movie?
The Beatles. Great Expectations by Charles Dickens. But I’d like to mention Balzac, as well. Movies… it’s difficult. I like old movies, from late 30s till the 50s. Then I have so many to name that it would be unfair. But alas, I will name one: Cleopatra. I am a huge fan of Bollywood, as well.
9. Can you share an incident, misunderstanding or culture shock that you have experienced with a foreigner?
In Germany the landlady used to check my garbage bags to see whether I was doing it right, separating organic from dry garbage. She then rang the bell to tell me that she opened my bags in the trash bins and didn’t like one item that I have placed there. I never heard of someone who would open the garbage bags of another person, get in touch with torn paper, other intimate women’s stuff and etc. it sounded disgusting to me, but she was protecting the environment, I guess.
10. What are 2 things you would recommend for a visitor to do in Brazil to better understand Brazilian people and their culture?
I think just bear in mind that bureaucracy is really ridiculous, and try not to stress over it, and that when people greet you warmly, they mean to show you are welcome and they want you to enjoy your time with them and in Brazil.
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.