From Michigan to Rio de Janeiro: My Quarter Life Epiphany
Hi! I’m Steph, originally from the tiny town of Lowell, Michigan. Now I live in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil since October 2015, and before that was in Bangkok, Thailand for 2 years.
1. Why did you move abroad?
I didn’t really move abroad, I just never left. I had taken a one week vacation for my first overseas trip to Thailand, and fell in love with the country and decided to make a new life there. So I stayed, based in Bangkok for 2 years while I traveled throughout Southeast Asia.
For the move to Rio, my fiancé and I decided we’d like to try something new. We wanted to move away from the concrete jungle and live somewhere with more nature. He received an offer to work for the 2016 Olympics, so we moved to Zona Sul of Rio de Janeiro.
2. How do you make a living?
Prior to moving abroad, I worked in marketing and business development. Now, I am a freelance travel writer and blogger, and also a travel and budget consultant.
3. How often do you communicate with home and how?
Every day! I text with my sister (one of my best friends) a couple times a day via whatsapp, and I communicate with my dad almost daily via Facebook or FaceTime. Because I’ve been away from my home country for 3 years now, I’ve fallen out of touch with many friends and family, but the ones I do still talk to, I keep in touch with about once a week on whatsapp or Facebook.
4. What's your favorite thing about being an expat in Rio de Janeiro?
Easily – the beach and the beauty of the city. Rio has mountains, and beaches, and forests, and a vibrant cultural city all within walking distance of my apartment. I’ve never experienced such a diverse and multifaceted place. And I love walking everywhere (though there is a metro system).
It is also really dog friendly which is awesome, because we brought our Mini Pinscher (Mickey) with us from Thailand.
5. What’s the worst thing about being an expat in Rio de Janeiro?
As a woman, I’d have to say it’s the macho culture. There is a lot of disrespect towards women (especially foreign-looking ones, and blondes), with rude gestures, obscene language, and grabbing by men. Any time day or night, if I’m out alone, I can expect to be hassled. It gets exhausting and annoying.
Rio is also a really hard city to get by in if you don’t speak at least a moderate level of Portuguese, which I’m still working on. It’s a necessity.
6. What do you miss most?
Healthy vegetarian and international food. Vegetarians aren’t very common here, and there aren’t a lot of options. A lot of food in Brazil is full of meat, or cheese, or deep-fried. There isn’t much international food either – I would LOVE to go to a good Thai or Indian restaurant. There are a few Mexican and Arabic restaurants but they aren’t outstanding.
7. What did you do to meet people and integrate in your new home?
I signed up for language lessons at Casa Do Caminho (a language school). In addition to learning Portuguese, it’s a major hub for foreigners and the school organizes daily activities and adventures for the students (usually for free). I’ve met all of my friends through the school, either in class, at activities, or hanging out in the break room.
I’m also a volunteer English teacher at the same school, so I meet other volunteers and also make friends with my students.
8. What custom/ habits do you find most strange about your adopted culture?
People are really, really affectionate and friendly. In Brazil, you will be hugged and kissed twice every time you greet your friends or say goodbye. I love it actually, I think it is really welcoming, but as an American (especially after coming from Thailand), it felt really strange at first to be so touchy.
9. What is a myth about your adopted country?
That it is very unsafe. There is definitely violence, and theft. But by staying smart, not being flashy with your valuables (I don’t wear my engagement ring or any nice jewelry outside the house), and not going in unsafe places, you can avoid a lot of it. It’s just important to remember that your life is worth more than your possessions, and if someone wants to steal from you – just give it to him.
10. Is the cost of living higher or lower than the last country you lived in and how has that made a difference in your life?
Much higher. Thailand is about the cheapest place is the world to live, and Brazil (when I first came) was quite expensive. For example, my apartment in Rio is older but similar in quality, and is three times the price of the one in Bangkok. Restaurants and services are about three times as expensive as well.
The Brazilian real has fallen in value, so it is cheaper now than when I first moved, but it is still expensive. The cost for imported items, electronics, laptops, and cameras is about twice that of the US.
11. What advice would you give other expats?
Learn the language if you plan on staying in your country for more than a year. It really helps you to integrate and feel at home, not to mention helps if there are ever any problems or emergencies.
Be strategic on your visits home and when you first come, and bring any food, appliances (make sure they’ll work in your new country first, of course), electronics, favorite toiletries that your new country might not have.
12. When and why did you start your blog?
I started in when I first moved to Thailand but barely even posted once a month. I “really” started in March 2015.
Steph's blog, My Quarter Life Epiphany
To find out more about living in Brazil, refer to our
To be considered for an interview (as well as other articles), add your blog to BlogExpat