By Ricky Skelton
Like many gringoes who come to Brazil, I was hoping to find an exotic job in an exotic place and improve my language skills (or develop some) along the way by working with exotic Brazilians. The latter was the only one to come true, but not in the way that I’d expected. Teaching English was always the backup plan, and so it came to pass. No surprise to anybody who has tried to find other work in Brazil. I taught (I use the past tense, but I may not be finished with it yet) in a couple of places, with São Paulo being the main one. And what a frustrating experience it was, and not only because I wasn’t very good at it. That wasn’t down to my students, hell no. I generally genuinely liked them: lawyers, doctors, psychologists, journalists, film-makers, and students of all these and more. I was proud of their English because they taught me everything I know about my language. Everyday was a school day. And they paid me for it.

Not much though. As well as the usual traipsing around the hot streets of Sampa for very little money, the same experience that everybody has, the biggest problem for me were the cancellations. The Paulistas I met are loveable people (all conspicuously fair-skinned, sadly), but they have a work ethic that I really struggle to identify with. 14 hour days, 6 days a week! Perhaps they prefer to stay long hours at the office to avoid the reality that they live in São Paulo and there is no beach to go to after work. Admittedly I worked long hours too, or should I say that I was out of the house for 14 hours a day but working for three of four of them as my busy students would ring up to cancel while I travelled for hours between classes. They usually had too much work on. Three or four per day was the average, and then the weekly Bank Holiday on a Thursday meant that I could forget Friday and Saturday too, and only worked a three day week! No wonder I had no money. Not even enough for the Metr fare one day, so I had to cancel one of my own classes. Oh the irony. The emergency credit card wasn’t working either. Bad day.

Still, better than the day one of my students had. She was my best canceller because she always gave me days of notice. I was walking to her house one night thinking that at least I could rely on her. I arrived there to find she’d been car-jacked at gunpoint outside the house 15 minutes before. We had to cancel. And bleeding heart that I’m not, I couldn’t charge her. It is impossible to have a class when somebody is shaking with fear! She took it all in her stride though, it had happened to her before, and made me a hot drink to calm me down, telling me not to be scared.

So I think we’ll put it all down to experience and move on. And my Portuguese? I never spoke a word of it. Just English. All day. Every day. It didn’t improve at all.

You can visit Ricky’s blog at

Previous articles by Ricky:

Around Brazil: Lenois Maranhenses
Understanding Brazil: The National Anthem
Around Brazil: Barreirinhas
Around Brazil: Jericoacoara to Barreirinhas
Understanding Brazil: Shopping Centres
Around Brazil: Jericoacoara
Around Brazil: Chapada da Diamantina/Lenois
Brazil vs. Argentina: Statues of Christ
Around Brazil: Salvador
Brazil vs. Argentina: The Buses
Around Brazil: Morro de São Paulo (& Itabuna)
Understanding Brazil: The Workmen
Around Brazil: Praa Pateo do Colegio
Around Brazil: Porto Seguro
Around Brazil: Rio de Janeiro to Porto Seguro
Around Brazil: Cristo Redentor
Understanding Brazil: The Sellers
Around Brazil: Ilha de Gigoia
Brazil Journeys: São Paulo to Rio de Janeiro
Understanding Brazil: Dogs Part 2
Brazil: A Lie-In in Downtown São Paulo?
The Best Job in Brazil: Ankle Specialist?
Understanding Brazil: Dogs
Brazilian Places: Ilha do Santa Catarina (Floripa)
Classic Brazilian Journeys: South to Florianopolis
Understanding Brazil – The Shower
Brazil: Boats on the Amazon
Brazil: Understanding Novelas
Brazil: Bus fires in São Paulo – always a bad thing?

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