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From New York City to Sao Paulo: Born Again Brazilian

20 October, 2011 10:02  Erin Erin

born again brazilian sao paulo I’m a Born Again Brazilian (not religion, just Brazilian). Why? If all of those criminals, drug-addicts, philanderers and all around sinners can become Born Again Christians, this mid-western babe can become a Brazilian.

1. Why did you move abroad?
My husband is Brazilian, originally from Rio de Janeiro. About a year before he received an opportunity to take his career to Sao Paulo, Brazil, I had taken a sabbatical from my career to be with our daughter. So it seemed like a great opportunity, especially for my daughter who could experience the Brazilian part of her culture and learn Portuguese.

2. How do you make a living?
Most recently, I worked as a Senior Director/Business Manager for the research and economics organization of a Wall Street firm. I had spent six and a half years with the company in various positions. Prior to that I worked for a PR/Marketing firm. My first career was in the hotel business.

3. How often do you communicate with home and how?
We communicate quite regularly with the U.S. via Skype. It’s amazing to have all the technological options these days – I don’t know how expats a decade ago managed to keep in touch.

4. What's your favorite thing about being an expat in Sao Paulo?
I’ve always loved visiting other countries and I lived as a graduate student for a while in Barcelona, Spain. Experiencing a new culture is also exciting (as well as challenging). Plus, you get a great deal of leeway being a foreigner. I find that here I can make social and cultural faux pas and just blame it on being an American.

5. What’s the worst thing about being an expat in Sao Paulo?
The cost of living here is ridiculously expensive – on par with New York City where we came from. I used to say that the only thing less expensive was the household help and the apartments, but now apartment costs have skyrocketed, so that is no longer true.

6. What do you miss most?
Aside from family and friends, I miss Whole Foods, Trader Joe’s, Netflix, and Jet Blue.

7. What did you do to meet people and integrate in your new home?
Shortly after we arrived I joined the International Newcomers Club of Sao Paulo ( This is an incredible organization with fabulous people. They host a number of regular events including luncheons, social events, and a “Let’s Speak Portuguese” monthly luncheon where expats get together and practice their Portuguese in a “safe” environment. This year we also joined the American Society, which has great events for the family and sports leagues for kids.

8. What custom/ habits do you find most strange about your adopted culture?
There is a phrase here called Jeito or Jeitinho. This is the ability to get in or out of anything regardless of law, regulation, contract, physics or gravity. Brazilians are experts at jeito. The other strange phenomenon in Brazil is that nothing gets done until the very last minute. It gets done, but you spend (at least I do as an American) a lot of time worrying that it won’t, but it usually does.

9. What is a myth about your adopted country?
That all of Brazil is tropical!! The Sao Paulo winters are freezing. And yes, I’m used to cold being from Chicago and having lived in New York – but you are both structurally and mentally prepared for the cold there. Here, indoor heating is not common, especially in the older buildings… so whatever temperature it is outside, it is that temperature (or colder in the case of my apartment) inside.

10. What advice would you give other expats?
Focus on learning Portuguese in the beginning; it makes everything much easier (I did not). Also, join clubs like the International Newcomers or the American Society or whatever organizations represent you best, it helps to have a support system. But on top of that, don’t forget to mix with the Brazilians, also an important element of the adaptation process. It’s pretty easy in Sao Paulo to surround yourself with expats, but you’ll miss out on a lot if you do that.

11. When and why did you start your blog? born again brazilian graffitti
I started my blog as a way of exercising my creative writing skills. I continue my blog as therapy.

12.  How has the blog been beneficial?
It is an outlet for both the joys and frustrations of being a foreigner. I’ve also met some great people through my blog.

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