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Expat Advice: Culture Shock in Fortaleza, Brazil

What is the name of the city or town that you are reporting on?


Did you receive any cross-cultural training for your move abroad? If yes, was it before or after the move?

No! I moved on my own and was not transfering for employment.

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If they speak another language in your new country, do you speak the language? If yes, did you learn the language before you moved or while abroad? If no, are you planning to learn the language?

I didn't speak Portuguese at all when I came here 6 years ago but although I am still not fluent...a story in itself...I can get along in most situations.

Were you worried or concerned about culture shock before you moved abroad?

No, for some strange reason, I wasn't really worried about Brazil because my research showed the Brazilian people to be very social and accepting of expats.

How significant was the culture shock you experienced when you moved abroad?

Well, for sure there was some. It actually continues because of the different levels of society between my wife and I. But overall I have been very happy with my choice. I could not have found a better partner than Thieny anywhere else in the world!

Expats often talk about going through the "stages of culture shock." Examples include the honeymoon phase, the irritation-to-anger stage, the rejection of the culture stage, and the cultural adjustment phase. Do you feel like you went through these or any other stages as you settled into the new culture?

I cannot actually identify with these, now that I think about it. I do recognize the honeymoon phase though, and I think the adjustment stage is on-going!

What, if any, were some of the changes you noticed in yourself that might have been caused by culture shock? These might include things such as anger, depression, anxiety, increased eating or drinking, frustration, homesickness, etc.

Surprisingly, I have had no homesickness. Maybe that has to do with the VERY toxic environment I escaped from in coming here!

I have gone through some of the emotions listed, but not because of the culture in particular, but because of events.

What are some things you appreciate most about the new culture?

I think the Brazilian people continue to amaze me with their resiliance! Their lives, in most cases, are very hard, from our point of view, but as I noticed when I first came here, and had heard from others before I arrived, they still find a way to laugh, party and socialize with friends and family, particularly on weekends.

What are the most challenging aspects of the new culture?

In my case, trying to adapt from the North american mentality, where we worry most about making more and paying bills and relaxing more. It has to do partly with the fact that life for many Brazilians is much harder than middle class North Americans experience.

Did you "commit" any embarrassing or humorous cultural blunders? If you did and you'd like to share them, please do tell!

You do have to remember things like the "this is my space" issue with Brazilians. They are different from us in that way. Also in conversations, they seem to interrupt all the time without even thinking about it.

Do you have any advice or thoughts about culture shock you would like to share?

I still think it's important to make a life changing move like this to think well in advance, if possible, and to learn a little of the language.

Also try and come with as open a mind as possible and please realize that this is NOT the US! There is NOT a McDonalds on every corner and the customs and levels of society are different. Be accepting.

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Comments about this Report

Dec 25, 2010 10:33

I have been an expat in 7 different countries and speak 6 languages fluently and another 2 relatively well. I have never ever had (major) problems when relocating....that is, until I moved to Brazil 6 years ago....To cut a long story short: my Brazilian partner and I have moved back to Europe...completely disgusted and disappointed with Brazil in general and with the majority of people there: scheming, robbing, not respecting ANY kind of commitment are some of the key words. The drop that, however, spilled the bucket was the murder of my Brazilian brother in law, in combination with what happened afterwards (or better; what DIDN't happen!)...no police enquiry, lawyers and judges that do absolutely NOTHING and not one of our "friends" who enquired after the murder how we were coping...When I made a remark about this, I was told literally that "if they had to start worrying over that sort of things, their life would no longer be pleasant"...Oh yes, and the Brazilians always accuse us Europeans of "being so cold".....at least a human life is worth something for us!...Absolutely disgusted and utterly disappointed!...And as to the "be accepting" at the end of the report: perhaps it would be wise for the Brazilians to be less accepting, perhaps their own country wouldn't be in such a terrible mess, perhaps they would have hospitals, schools, roads, etc....Instead of taking to the streets for every soccer game, they might want to take to the streets for other reasons....but after all: allegria, allegria, allegria!

Jan 21, 2014 23:54

I agree with you, am Brazilian and I confess I hate go to Brazil and listening people complain about money, violence, justice but on the End of the conversation they say it is Brazil is nothing to do about every body is so conform about it. Violence is the big thing in Brazil THE Brazilan are very happy people but with very little justice ,on the end every thing finish in samba and life going on what is a scheming .

Aug 27, 2014 14:32

I have been exposed to many countries (28) and cultures due to my work and travel. One of the most important things I Iearned - which to me is even more important than the language (I speak 8 languages...) - is the need to find out as much as you can about the culture of the place where you want to work or to retire. Learn about its history and religion, its physical and social geography, its politics.... do not ignore its traditions, or the food, or the "modernities" the place might or might not have...and what you can or cannot do! Come well informed, but try not to compare the new country with your country of origin. Above all,keep hold of your expectations, so, whatever comes or whatever happens will not be a surprise. And...best of luck! By the way, I am from Fortaleza and I did all of the above....and still do.

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