October 30, 2012
This week in our continuing Foreigners Through Brazilian Eyes series we have an interview with Maria Cristina Skowronski Flynn. Read on as Maria 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 am from Rio de Janeiro, Carioca! I am a real estate house hunter specialist at www.belavistario.com for those who are relocating to Rio.
2. What are the main obstacles for foreigners in Brazil?
The main obstacles are the bureaucracy that you will face on simple things from paying a bill at a bank (if you do not have an online Brazilian bank account) to understanding certain things you want. You need to have the jeitinho” which is a special way in handling/talking/acting to achieve your goal. Because Brazil is not so tough on laws like other countries, many of the things you need have to be negotiated… if you do not have the mind or the will to do it, you can be frustrated. Also, Portuguese is not an easy language… Brazilians speak fast, but are always willing to help! Certain bills here are expensive like bank fees, credit cards, internet, cell phone… you will get frustrated if you compare to where you come from. Also, accepting that it is OK to have a servant, a cleaning lady, an “empregada” (maid) can be looked at first as a wrong thing (“we would never have people serving me where I come from”, “this is wrong”, “it’s snobby”, or “it’s a sign that I am or she is not self-sufficient”) can be an obstacle if you see it as “normal in Brazil”. Help in Brazil is cheap, workers are not slaves, they get paid, they are part of the family, they love what they do and you pay them and give them a job and dignity, just like any other job.
3. What are common mistakes that foreigners make in Brazil?
I think that the main mistake is trying to compare where you lived with where you will live. If you compare you will always blame, get upset and get frustrated. Don’t do that, just accept that this is where you live now and you will get the most out of it. Brazilians are friendly, welcoming and helpful. Don’t think you can resolve everything by yourself, ask for help, hire help if needed. Another mistake is to be closed minded. Be open minded and you will be happier.
4. What characteristic of other nationalities strikes you as the most different (eg. sense of humour, formality, dress)?
Living all over the world and being in contact with many nationalities, I have some observations (but I can’t generalize). I see Americans as more rigid, by the book, more disciplined, less “jogo de cintura” (which means literally hip game, which in essence means that they are harder to break the mold. When you have “jogo de cintura” you “go with the flow”). I see Europeans, especially German and French as more explorers, more well-mannered, more well-dressed. They date Brazilian women, they buy apartments in Rio, they love Rio and want to live here forever. They want to “blend in” to the “povo” or people. I see Latin Americans as more easygoing and they understand right away the culture and lifestyle. I see the Polish as having a great sense of humor, and very catholic and friendly. Japanese, Koreans, Chinese are more cocooned in their own community and very rarely blend in unless they have longtime friends. Australians are fun, friendly, and party goers!
5. Which English accent do you prefer and why (eg. Scottish, American, Australian)?
The American accent is the easiest to understand, but the English from Great Britain is so elegant.
6. Favourite place travelled abroad and why?
As a Brazilian I tend to prefer to feel more “at home” then to think a place is just gorgeous. I think Portugal is a great place to visit. It has our language, they always welcome Brazilians, they have phenomenal food and beautiful and historical Places. I like culture, old world feeling mixed with the new generation, the ocean and a sense of history, past and elegance. Portugal for me reunites all of this quality.
7. Favourite foreign food?
French food, but nothing is quite better than homemade “rice and beans” from Rio.
8. Favourite foreign band, book and movie?
Now I am reading many books. I do not have one that I love but the Unbearable Lightness of Being from Milan Kundera when I was 25 made a huge impact on me. I am now reading two books: “Raising Beb” and “A Essncia do Estilo”. A favorite band is any great bossa nova trio or band. A great movie, I guess I would say “The Sound of Music” and “Breakfast at Tiffany”.
9. What is the difference between dating a Brazilian and Foreigner (if this applies to you or perhaps a friend)?
Hummm, because I am married to an American, the major difference that seems to impact our lives more now is the different upbringing of 2 different countries (I was raised in Rio and he was raised in California). Different culture, lifestyle, social class, religion and upbringing will play a huge roll in your dating, marriage and how you raise your children. My advice for the ladies and gentleman out there is one simple rule “make sure you know exactly where you want to raise your kids and whether you want to stay with your family from childhood around or not when you settle down. Based on that you can start dating your future husband and wife ?”
10. Can you share an incident, misunderstanding or ‘culture shock’ that you have experienced with a foreigner?
I do not a specific incident, but I do have a culture shock that becomes “unshocked” once they are living in Brazil. One of the commentaries I always hear and I mentioned above is the fact that in Brazil having “help” is normal. I have clients who swear that they will never have a maid, cleaning lady, driver or cook. They spend hours over a beer trying to tell me and my co-workers how much they think this is absurd bla, bla… After months of living in Rio they all hire a cleaning lady or “faxineira”, a cook “cozinheira” and an ironing lady “passadeira”… and they call me saying how happy they are because NOW they have more time to enjoy life, date and not have to worry with house affairs. That’s how they become totally immersed in the culture. I love it.
11. What are 2 things you would recommend for a visitor to do in Brazil to better understand Brazilian people and their culture?
Do what your locals do (go buy your fruits at the farmer’s market, dress like a Brazilian (informal), participate in social gatherings, parties… relax.
Get informed of where you to go (online, books, videos, movies, talk to a friend etc).
Remember, Brazilians are the nicest and warmest culture on earth. You will love living, visiting or dating here.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
To read previous interviews in the Brazil Through Foreign Eyes series click below:
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