Interview for the ExpatFinder.com: An American-Brazilian in Brasilia

Thank you for the expert folks at Expat Finder for publishing the interview!

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Please find complete text below:

14 September 2016

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\We’ve had the chance to talk to Raquel Miranda, 44, a Brazilian-American expat who has moved to Brazil with her family. Mrs. Miranda who has been living there for two years now works as a public health specialist.

Read more about her experiences in the full interview below.

Q: Where are you from originally?

A: From Itaguai, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

Q: What made you move out of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil?

A: A post-doctoral research opportunity at UCDavis, California, in 2001

Q: Where are you living now? How did you come to choose this new country of residence?

A: In Brasilia, Brazil

Q: How long have you been living in Brasilia, Brazil?

A: Since August 2014

Q: Are you living alone or with your family? If yes, how are they adjusting to the Expat Lifestyle?

A: With family. Yes, the husband and our three third-culture children are adjusting pretty well, despite their young age [almost 11, 8 and 5]

Q: Do you miss home and family sometimes? How do you cope with homesickness?

A: I do. We Skype, call each other on the phone, write emails and have a family WahtsApp group

Q: What do you think about the locals?

A: Right now, we’re living in Brasilia, the capital of Brazil, and it’s coincidentally the city I grew up in, since both my parents used to be federal public servants

Q: Was it easy making friends and meeting people? Do you mainly socialise with other expats in Brasilia, Brazil? How did you manage to find a social circle there?

A: Coming back to the place I grew up in, some 22 years later was quite interesting, and challenging! Making new friends, as a working mother, and being perceived as a ‘diplomatic spouse’, was an intriguing piece of the puzzle! After six months back, I already had a good group of friends from work, other parents from the school, and acquaintances, associated with the US embassy.

Q: How does the cost of living in Brasilia, Brazil compare to your home?

A: Comparing to the US
•Q: How much is a cup of coffee?

A: A couple of dollars
•Q: How much is a meal in an inexpensive restaurant?

A: Anywhere around 5-10 dollars
•Q: How much is a meal in an expensive restaurant?

A: Could be pretty expensive. One could easily spend 100-200 dollars one a meal with wine/drinks [date night!]
•Q: How much is a bottle of wine? How about a pack of cigarettes?

A: Wine tends to be quite inexpensive since Brazil and neighbouring Argentina and Chile are good producers. Anywhere from $7 – 25 a bottle

Q: Do you have any tips for future expats when it comes to opening a bank account in Brasilia, Brazil?

A: Pack lots of patience! Have your CPF [tax number], have proof of local residency [any utility bill would do it!]; know your full address and have a landline phone number. Besides that, just bring a good reading book, be prepared to sit down and wait, with the patience you remembered to pack!

Q: How will you describe your experience with government paperwork such as applications for Visa and work permits? Why is that so?

A: We come in as a diplomatic family, therefore and fortunately, those steps are taken care of before our departure [from original country/post]

Q: Would you say that healthcare Brasilia, Brazil reliable? Any preferred clinics or advice for expats?

A: Extremely reliable. I’ve had the most diverse medical experiences after we joined the expat life/foreign service. Had a child in Brazil [Recife, 2010], have been hospitalized for seven days with some sort of infection… had allergic episodes… and was cared for. Our children, like any others at school age, have had their share, as well. You name it – from lice, flu, allergies, cuts, immunizations… and we have nothing to say but good things about the medical care. Obviously, we follow strict ‘home rules’, considering their ‘mama’ works with public health, at the first sign… I am on the ball!

Q: Did you secure a health insurance in your home or Brazil? What should be the essentials in the coverage for expats, in your opinion?

A: Yes, we did. ER visits, pediatric visits, dental coverage [basics] and minor medical interventions should be covered.

Q: What is the biggest challenge that you have faced as a new expat?

A: Always being accepted as the ‘new kid on the block’. Trying to prove that despite being a ‘foreigner’ or, in my case, for having lived away for so long, to be understood by others as being just like everyone else – with the same flaws, weaknesses, facing the same difficulties, and sharing the same dreams.

Q: What do you think are the positive and negative sides of living in Brasilia, Brazil?

A: Positive: the very warm, colourful, characteristic Brazilian soul. The negative? Unfortunately, the well-sung diversity creates gaps within the society, which leads to discrimination, and corruption.

Q: What are the best things to do in the area? Any particular recommendations for future expats?

A: Enjoy the local architecture, the surroundings. Other cities offer beautiful landscaping, the so-famous beaches, waterparks… enjoy the culture, the music, the colours… and the food!

Q: Do you have plans to move to a different country or back home in the future?

A: Yes. Probably in a year or so, when we have our new international assignment. Who knows what the future has in store for us?

Q: What tips will you give to expats living in the country?

A: Try to understand the culture: Brazilians speak Portuguese, not Spanish [insert a smile here!]. Not many people speak English, so, don’t expect to find someone on the street that can give you directions to that fancy Peruvian restaurant! Brazilians are friendly, warm and very, very chatty! Try to be sympathetic, and listen to their [sometimes, endless!] stories!

Q: Do you have favourite websites or blogs about Brasilia, Brazil?

A: Obviously, our family nomadic photo and op-pieces blog, 3rd Culture Children also, Facebook groups, like Diplomatic Baggage in Brasilia and Conheca Brasilia.

 

Hot off the Press! Featured Expat: Interviewed by the ExpatsBlog.

The mastermind behind 3rdCultureChildren Blog is a Foreign Service spouse, mother of 3 third-culture children aged 8 and under, with an endless passion for discovering and learning new languages, cultures, traveling and photography. Before joining the foreign service lifestyle, her background in Science and research took her to understand that world is much more than the geographic and physical boundaries may display it. Se enjoys teaching, talking, and, as an avid blogger, sharing hers and her family’s stories and lessons learned with other expat families. She’s contributed her experiences to the Foreign Service Journal, online publications and to a recent book on expat resilience. She initially began blogging to share impressions, observations and along-the-road experiences with families and friends, and later other expats experiencing similar challenges/adventures. So the blog morphed into more than just a quasi-travel and photo journal.

Expat InterviewsAfter reading, if you have any comments about the interview, or any questions to ask, hop over to the ExpatsBlog and share your thoughts there! Thank you!

American Expat Living in Bolivia – Interview with Raquel

The mastermind behind 3rdCultureChildren Blog is a Foreign Service spouse, mother of 3 third-culture children aged 8 and under, with an endless passion for discovering and learning new languages, cultures, traveling and photography. Before joining the foreign service lifestyle, her background in Science and research took her to understand that world is much more than the geographic and physical boundaries may display it. Se enjoys teaching, talking, and, as an avid blogger, sharing hers and her family’s stories and lessons learned with other expat families. She’s contributed her experiences to the Foreign Service Journal, online publications and to a recent book on expat resilience. She initially began blogging to share impressions, observations and along-the-road experiences with families and friends, and later other expats experiencing similar challenges/adventures. So the blog morphed into more than just a quasi-travel and photo journal. Raquel’s expat blog is called 3rd Culture Children (see listing here)
Archipelago Fernando de Noronha, Brazil
Archipelago Fernando de Noronha, Brazil

Here’s the interview with Raquel…

Where are you originally from?
Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.

In which country and city are you living now?
La Paz, Bolivia

How long have you lived in Bolivia and how long are you planning to stay?
Since August 2012. Planning to stay until June 2014.

Jericoacoara Beach, Brazil
Jericoacoara Beach, Brazil

Why did you move to Bolivia and what do you do?
Because of my husband’s assignment with the US Foreign Service. I also have a full-time job with the US Embassy La Paz, and have been working since March 2013.

Did you bring family with you?
Yes. The two of us and our three children, aged 8, 6 and 3.

How did you find the transition to living in a foreign country?
Extremely easy, as a matter of fact. I grew up in Brazil, where my parents also worked for the Brazilian government. Our original family of 5 [my parents and my 2 brothers] were often requested to move to different cities, changing schools every couple of years. As an adult, working as a laboratory researcher, moving was also part of my normal routine. After marrying my husband, and due to his assignments with the State Department foreign service, the cycle ‘moving/adjusting/changing/re-inventing’ has become a regular task on our lives [smiles!].

Was it easy making friends and meeting people; do you mainly socialise with other expats?
It’s never as easy as one expects. There are always challenges, being those related to language [although in our household we commonly switch between Portuguese-English-Spanish], culture, new schools, new jobs [for me, especially!]. Leaving old friends behind, and aiming to make new ones is never easy. I try to think of myself as a ‘serial-social being’. I’m always on-the-go, and throughout the years, I found myself displaying social skills I didn’t really know I had. I’m social because it’s a necessity. But I also enjoy the change, which tends to make the moves a bit easier. Especially on the family – it’s less difficult to face challenges when one has an idea what could be ahead of them, and has the time and the emotional support to deal with them…

Kruger Park, South Africa
Kruger Park, South Africa

What are the best things to do in the area; anything to recommend to future expats?
Bolivia is a country with beautiful landscapes. Any outdoors activities are highly recommended, if the basic precautions [with the high altitude, especially] are taken. The Bolivian people tend to be warm and welcoming. Shopping for arts and crafts should be included in any expats visiting list, as well as, reserving some time to enjoy the typical food, and the dancing and musical expressions, only found around the Andean region.

What do you enjoy most about living in Bolivia?
The climate is great – it feels like a nice Fall day all year around. We live surrounded by mountains, which offers us a very soothing scenario – if one likes to lounge around, reading a good book, or enjoying a glass of wine by the fireplace, that’s definitely a place to be. The crime rate [a crucial point for any expat list!] is very low, and La Paz is a friendly city for families – lots of parks and activities to do with/bring little kids along. Again: safety is key.

How does the cost of living in Bolivia compare to home?
Much less than in the USA, or even in Brazil.

Reed Dance in Swaziland
Reed Dance in Swaziland

What negatives, if any, are there to living in Bolivia?
It’s a landlocked territory – we’re far from the water. Also, the high altitude can play not-so-funny games with one’s health. Our family, so far, hasn’t suffered much from those effects, but we’ve heard others complain about getting sick all the time… Each one is different, and again, the regular, recommended medical/health advices should be taken very seriously.

If you could pick one piece of advice to anyone moving to Bolivia, what would it be?
Bring your best adventurous spirit – you’ll need it! Also, keep your expectations low: it’s the bet advice to a prospective expat or visiting fellow – expecting less, one may be pleasantly surprised with the outcome!

What has been the hardest aspect to your expat experience so far?
The difficulties to fly out of Bolivia to other countries, presently. From previous posts, the physical distance between our family nucleus and our parents.

When you finally return home, how do you think you’ll cope with repatriation?
Communicating with others, we hope! We have a very good group of friends and former colleagues at home [it’s Washington DC, and we all work for the government, so, it’s pretty common to have people coming and going, all the time!] It’s all part of work: the moving, the paking-out…

What are your top 5 expat tips for anyone following in your footsteps?

  1. Dream away. And dream big. Dream of traveling to unknown places, learning from new people, immersing into new cultures.
  2. Keep your expectations low. Many surprises should come your way if you’re not waiting for anything!
  3. Be social. Be friendly. Be smart. Street Smart! Be conscious and be aware of your surroundings, as well. Teaching lessons come in different envelopes, sometimes, in a not-so-nice ones!
  4. Try to learn a new language, try to communicate with the locals and understand their stories and their culture. Communicate. Listen and be heard.
  5. Attempt to comprehend the new country’s traditions, faith, and fears… The harmonious relationship between the local community and Mother Nature. Learn from their experiences and build your own story. It’s worthy every second in invest in!

Tell us a bit about your own expat blog.
As a traveling family, we’ve lived in Mozambique, South Africa, Brazil, Bolivia, and during our work assignments, we traveled to England, Chile, USA and Swaziland. I liked the idea of organizing not only our travel notes, but also providing resources for other parents, and encouraging an exchange of ideas through comments, questions and suggestions from viewers. The name for the blog came from the term itself: “Third Culture Children” are children whose parents come from distinct cultures, and grow up under a hybrid environment, experiencing diverse cultural growth. “The result of this transcontinental growth can never be taught or learned or fully understood by anyone who hasn’t actually experienced it. The developing child takes the culture of their parent’s passport country, or their first culture, to a foreign land. The result is that the child (and later on, the adult) adopts the qualities of the Second Culture into their preexisting First Culture, creating a unique cultural perspective known as the Third Culture”. As an expat who is now raising three children, all aged 8 and under, the titled seemed a natural fit! I’m so pleased to share with other expatriates, parents, and traveling families, not only the beauty and excitement of traveling, but also resources regarding languages, social and cultural adjustments, and our not-so-professional advice as “parents-on-the-go“.

How can you be contacted for further advice to future expats coming to your area?
Feel free to send me a note thru Twitter, or visit our expat blog, http://3rdculturechildren.com, sharing your comments on any recent post or pages – I’d love to hear from you!

 

http://www.expatsblog.com/articles/1722/american-expat-living-in-bolivia-interview-with-raquel