Brazil’s Marta Dalla Chiesa lived in London for 13 years, meet her English partner and returned to Southern Brazil to start an eco-travel business. She shares with us her observations of adapting to a new culture, the difficulties in dating a foreigner and some tips on how to better understand Brazilians.
Where are you from in Brazil and what do you do?
I was born in the Brazilian wine capital” Bento Gonalves, Rio Grande do Sul, but I left quite young. I spent most of my life in Porto Alegre then in London, where I went to study for my PhD in biochemistry and ended up staying for 13 years! I now live in Florianopolis, where my English partner and I own an incoming tour operator called Brazil Ecojourneys. We specialise in South Brazil and our clients are mainly foreigners.
What are the main obstacles for foreigners in Brazil?
I think the bureaucracy and the language.
What are common mistakes that foreigners make in Brazil?
Wrong assumptions. For example, that everybody can speak English or that the whole country is poor and violent. Also thinking that Brazilians are morally liberal: in some cases is true, but, for example, going topless on the beach is still a taboo! Brazil is very diverse, there are many countries in one and, at the beginning is difficult for a foreigner to understand this.
What characteristic of other nationalities strikes you as the most different (eg. sense of humour, formality, dress)?
Englishnse of humour: it’s very ironic and self-deprecating.
Italians and Spanish seem to have a great national pride. For them there is no place like home (especially when they think of food).
Asians tend to be quite reserved and formal.
Germans are so not self-conscious of their bodies: they have no qualms about getting changed in public or sharing a sauna.
Which English accent do you prefer and why (eg. Scottish, American, Australian)?
I find Scottish quite warm and friendly (when you can understand it!).
Favourite placed traveled abroad and why?
Difficult one. Each place is memorable for a different reason: Galapagos for the wildlife, Iceland for being so beautiful and strange and possibly Thailand for the culture.
Favourite foreign food?
THAI! That is probably what I miss most from living in London. I havent found a decent Thai restaurant here yet.
Favourite foreign band, book and movie?
I don’t have one absolute favourite band or singer. I listen to lots of different kinds of music: Texas, kd lang, Aretha Franklin, U2. The same goes for books and movies. Last year my favourite film was “The Motorcycle Diaries”. As for books, anything from Paul Auster.
What is the difference between dating a Brazilian and Foreigner (if this applies to you or perhaps a friend)?
Cultural differences are a good thing but can cause some tensions. Also, even if you think you are fluent in the language, misunderstandings always happen. For example, when I met my partner I used to say “nice” a lot, due to lack of vocabulary. I though I was being pleasant, she thought I didn’t really like anything! It seems to annoy the English a lot!
Can you share an incident, misunderstanding or culture shock that you have
experienced with a foreigner?
Quite a few, but one that I remember right now is that I had an Asian doctor in England and while I was explaining what my problem was he kept moving his head side to side. I thought he was disagreeing with me but in fact is a normal movement for Asians when they are listening or speaking.
What are 2 things you would recommend for a visitor to do in Brazil to better understand Brazilian people and their culture?
Try to mix with Brazilians as much as possible in their everyday life and travel a lot, especially away from the coast.
To read previous interviews in the Brazil Through Foreign Eyes series click below:
Cludia Ramis De Almeida
Vivian Manasse Teixeira Leite
Patrcia C. Ribeiro
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“