Caipirinha, the national cocktail!
Ipanema, Rio de Janeiro
I have been asked, by some lovely readers, to provide some insight into settling into Brazil for those of you who are new to the country, so today's post is aimed at giving you a few basic tips on getting to grips with your new life, as well as some hints on what to expect in your first few months! Please don't be put off by the first few -I thought I would be frank and honest with you, rather than sugar-coating the whole thing. But if you keep reading, then you will see that it's not all bad!
First of all, I cannot stress enough how important it is that you learn Portuguese. I know everyone says this to expats, but it really is true, especially if you are moving anywhere outside of Rio, Sao Paulo or Brasilia, which are a bit more cosmopolitan and have established expat communities. Personally, I moved to a small city in a state of Brazil that's little-known to foreigners, so when I arrived here, I was very much on my own in terms of my nationality and language. I had tried to learn a bit of Portuguese before I came here, but teaching yourself at home from a book just doesn't cut it, because the pronunciation and intonation of Portuguese is different to any other language I have ever come across. Yes, the written word looks a lot like Spanish. But does it sound like it? Hardly.
Learning as much Portuguese as you can, as quickly as you can, will open many doors for you, and you will find that it is the gateway to making friends and finding work, and that's just for starters. It's true that the best place to learn Portuguese is in a country where it is spoken, but try to be at least a little bit prepared when you come. Not being able to communicate can make you feel extremely isolated, and if you are a chatty person like me, you will soon tire of having to sit quietly trying to understand other peoples' conversations. This being said, I don't want to put you off, or make you feel rubbish if you can't understand everything straight away. Realistically, you will have to be patient, as language acquisition takes time.
Some little things in your day-to-day life that you are likely to find either frustrating, annoying or upsetting are:
- The constant, huge queues at the banks. You can forget telephone and internet banking, for the most part.
- Flanelinhas. I have previously written a post about them, which you can find here.
- I can't speak for the whole of Brazil, but if you live in a place like I do, then be prepared to be talked about. This can be daunting at first, but just remember that you are a novelty, and many locals will be intrigued by you, especially if you are going to live somewhere where there are few other expats.. It sounds stupid, but it's true. You should also get used to being stared at, as this is common and does not seem to bother people much here.
- In Portuguese, it is quite acceptable to say "Give me a sweet", or "Bring me some water" without saying please. This is not, in fact, people being rude - it's just that it's not considered impolite to ask for something this way over here, so don't be offended if someone speaks to you in this way. However, it is still important to say thank you.
- Clothing and electronics are very expensive in Brazil. It is wise to stock up before you come.
- Religion is a prominent part of the Brazilian culture, and most people here go to church several times a week, including teenagers and children.
- There is a large divide between rich and poor here, and both are quite extreme.
- If you plan on getting married, starting a business or applying for a long-term visa over here, then make sure you have everything you will need, and that it's all been notarised/translated/legalised where necessary. The legal system in Brazil is slow, and these are all long processes, but if you come prepared then things will run a lot more smoothly.
Pedra Azul, ES
Some other things to consider:
- Many people will want to practice their English on you, as the majority of Brazilians want to speak the language for one reason or another. Of course, not everyone can afford classes though.
- The weather is H-O-T. Enjoy it! Summer in Brazil is the most enjoyable time of the year, with everyone heading off to the seaside to sunbathe and swim on the beach by day, and party by night. There are so many beautiful places to visit, and it's wonderful not to have to worry much about whether it will rain and spoil your plans. Actually, that applies year round (of course there is some heavy tropical rain at times, but it doesn't usually last).
- There are lots of Brazilian dishes to try, and barbecues are a common occurence. However, they are done a little bit differently over here and are very much focused on MEAT! It is more common to pick at slices of meat than to sit down with a plate with lots of side salads etc. Brazilians use a lot of salt and garlic when cooking, and desserts, cakes and chocolates are very, very sweet. However, there is a huge variety of fruit to try over here, some of which I had never even heard of, and it's most definitely a pleasure getting to sample them all. Some other highlights of Brazilian cuisine include Brigadeiros, 'Pao de queijo' (cheese bread), Acai, Coconut water and, of course, their world-famous Caipirinhas.
I'm going to leave it there for today, but as I have previously mentioned, this is going to run as a sort of series of posts, so that I can add new tips and pieces info as and when they come to mind, or whenever you request them!
To all of you newcomers, I hope this has given you a few things to think about for starters. These are mostly things I wish I had known before I moved to Brazil, so with any luck, they will be of some help to you.
I hope the photos I have included will enable you to keep the positives in mind!
Hope everyone had a wonderful weekend!