Brazil’s Elvis Renato Barbosa Lima lives in Idaho, US. Last week we heard from his wife Amy this week Elvis tells his story. He shares with us some of the peculiarities of life in Idaho for a Brazilian, some hints on better adapting to life in Brazil as well as some great stories on misunderstandings and wooden credit cards.

Where are you from in Brazil and what do you do?
I was born and raised in São Paulo, capital. Right now I am a full-time student and also work as a management intern at Wal-Mart store 1902 Ammon, Idaho.

What are the main obstacles for foreigners in Brazil?
It depends, if you visiting/living in Sampa, and you are from a typical small town in the U.S, the size of the city will be a big obstacle. Cultural norms can be another issue if you really look at everything from an American”or “European” perspective and judge things based on your culture rather than within the context of our Brazilian culture, it’s hard to get along(ethnocentrism). Understanding the “jeitinho brasileiro”, can be hard too. But if you are in Brazil long enough you will catch on.

What are common mistakes that foreigners make in Brazil?
Ethnocentrism is the most common mistake,especially when you think aloud and say things like “But it’s not like that in _______ (fill in name of your country).” Never compare governmental systems and civil rights laws (every country is unique). The language can be hard, there are a lot of tricky things in Portuguese, work on por and para, these prepositions can change the meaning when used incorrectly

What characteristic of other nationalities strikes you as the most different (eg. sense of humour, formality, dress)?
Well, I live in the western U.S, Idaho to be exact. Almost every guy here wears his denim too tight, it doesn’t matter if they are fat or skinny like a “vara verde”, it is funny. About formality, oh, my heck!(there’s a little regional slang for you) call a friend before visiting, I agree, but sometimes it’s annoying.

Which English accent do you prefer and why (eg. Scottish, American, Australian)?
Truly, I like the southern American accent, it is not hard to understand because they speak slowly and sing-songy. But, I think the best of all would be a fusion of the slowness of the southern Amercian accent spoken with the rhythm of the Western American accent.

Favourite place travelled abroad and why?
In the U.S I loved Seattle, a beautiful place to visit, I also like Salt Lake City, UT, the city is very clean and organized.

Favourite foreign food?
Meet loaf and mashed potatoes with country gravy, try it.

Favourite foreign band, book and movie?
I like a bunch of different music, from all over the place, except country music. Books, it depends, I liked reading “Silent Spring”, a non-fiction book that was sad but true. I like action movies the best, like the “Bourne Supremacy”, “Bourne Identity” and the next Bourne movie…

What is the difference between dating a Brazilian and Foreigner (if this applies to you or perhaps a friend)?
Brazilian gals are actually a little more “saidinha” (outgoing, extroverted), while foreigners (especially from the U.S) are more conservative and try to understand the person better, before going further. However, I learned that it all depends on how the person was raised and how the person actually behaves.

Can you share an incident, misunderstanding or ‘culture shock’ that you have experienced with a foreigner?
I will tell you two stories, one here in the U.S and one in Brazil. Let me start with the Brazilian story. I was teaching Portuguese to a group of Americans; I had no idea of the term African American, so I told one of the students (who was African American) that he would probably receive a nickname of “moreninho or neguinho” he was really insulted until I explained to him the real meaning of the term among the Brazilian people (the “high society” likes to “americanizar” things and see those terms with a negative connotation,but truly, among friends, it is more a way of showing affection, respect and love).

Here in the U.S, I dressed up for a Halloween as an Egyptian (with a headdress and robes), one of my co-workers asked me if the Egyptian costume was like the daily dress in Brazil. Duh! Also, I had a phone call from a credit card company and the girl asked me where I was from, so she could send me to the right customer service rep. Well, they did not have anyone speaking Portuguese, so she asked me if Brazil had credit cards, I told her yes, but they are made of wood, and she believed me. I couldn’t believe it. True story!

What are 2 things you would recommend for a visitor to do in Brazil to better understand Brazilian people and their culture?
When in Rome do as the Romans do. Just be friendly, try to speak the language, sign language and gesturing works too, show interest in understanding the culture and people. Learn the history, go to museums, parks and feira livre. Read literature and listen to the samba, bossanova and forro. Try new things such as food, sports, and public transportation, sometimes you will learn more about the people riding on public transportation than just reading papers and watching the TV.

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

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

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