Brazil – a popular option for the skilled unemployed

It is a subject mentioned regularly here in Brazil on the TV and in the written press – the growing number of foreigners coming to Brazil to work. According to the Ministry of Labor here in Brazil, the number of foreigners entering Brazil with a work visa has increased by 20% since last year, and the demand for skilled workers here in Brazil far exceeds the supply. Not surprising considering the fact that Brazil’s economy has not suffered the same downturn as others around the world, and that the international companies here in Brazil are constantly expanding.

With unemployment growing in most countries in Europe (the UK only today has announced unemployment figures there have increased to 2.64 million – a 17 year record high) the attraction of work abroad is becoming even more enticing , especially for young people.

The BBC has shown recently a special report on the growing number of Portuguese who are making the move to work and live in Brazil. The founding nation of Brazil is now seeing its young citizens looking across the ocean in their thousands to find work.

The other attraction for foreigners is perhaps more obvious – the weather, the beaches, and the relaxed, fun-loving approach to life Brazilians have. I for one can contest that Brazilians work hard (very hard) but play hard too – with drinks, barbeques, spontaneous parties, all with an attitude that they deserve to relax after working hard and they are going to do just that – helped along by an ice-cold beer!

Moving abroad is obviously a huge step – you have to deal with all kinds of hurdles, a visa being one of the most complicated and problematic, but if you are a young person struggling to find work after studying for so long and so hard, the attraction of a country like Brazil, and all it has to offer in terms of a well paid career and lifestyle, is obviously a very interesting one.


Christmas cooking – wish me luck!

As I have written before I will be spending my first Christmas away from home  this year, so I am trying to bring a little of my normal British Christmas to Brazil  – starting first with food!!

I am going to try my hand at making mince pies, a (very small) Christmas pudding and hopefully a roast chicken (turkeys are way to pricey) dinner.

I probably don’t need to remind my family and friends that I am not the best of cooks – in fact I rarely feel the urge to make something, a lot of the time cooking seems like hard work to me – so many ingredients to track down and the chance of the finished product not looking or tasting like what it should do is pretty high, besides living with Antonio is like having a live in chef. But I have decided that it just won’t feel like Christmas without mince pies and roast potatoes so I am channeling Nigella (Lawson) and getting into the spirit of cooking. Over the course of the next 10 days I am going to endeavor to complete my mission and will update you all on my success (or lack of). I promise to show photographic evidence however bad it all turns out!!

First step  – stop watching re-runs of Nigella at Christmas (she makes it all look so ridiculously simple) and find the recipes to make a list of ingredients I need……brandy obviously top of the list, red wine to make mulled wine of course…….

Any good recipes, hints or tips please send me a comment – I have a feeling I’m going to need all the help I can get 😉

Things I miss about dear old Blighty

So its raining cats and dogs…yet again…here in Campos do Jordao. Well actually according to the weather people its crazy raining in the whole of the South-East of Brazil. It doesn’t just ‘rain’ here either, it pours and then drizzles and then pours some more. It makes going outside a hugely stressful experience – what should I wear (even though its raining, it’s not actually cold) boots would be sensible but I will probably bake, same goes for a coat. It’s such a pain. Dont get me wrong, I’m British, I know only too well what temperamental weather is like – but its summertime here in BRAZIL, and I want SUNSHINE.

But instead I have rain, and more rain.

So I am stuck inside and have decided to reminiscence about all the things I miss about lovely old Britain (apart from my wonderful friends and family of course). There are many so here are a just a few –

1) Chocolate – not any old chocolate – Cadbury’s and Galaxy to be exact, I love the creamyness of their chocolate (send me some mum??!)

2) Efficiency – Bureaucracy + Brazil = inefficiency, headaches, frustration, anger – enough said.

3) British English – yes that’s BRITISH English. I spend every day teaching American English and miss hearing the my country’s version of English.

4) Affordability – Brazil + Enormous Tax On Everything = EXPENSIVE. I miss going into shops and not feeling like you’ve been robbed every time you buy anything.

5) British TV especially the BBC – good, interesting programming and also some great entertaining Saturday and Sunday night TV.

6) Newspapers and Magazines – especially the Sunday Times, reading it with coffee and breakfast on a Sunday morning used to be one of my great loves.

7) Fashion – this ties into affordability, everything here especially clothing is expensive making impulse purchases impossible, and following fashion a luxury.

8) London – amazing views for  nearly everywhere you go, culture from all around the world, amazing transport links (yes Londoners you don’t know how good you’ve got it!), great history, free museums, the parks, running by the river, pubs, Oxford Street, Westfield, cinemas with recent releases and no dubbing, something different to do every weekend…….the list could go on and on.

9) The green, green fields of England – Devon to be precise, especially going walking with my sister and our family dog, Jack, in our home village Winkleigh.

10) Sunday Roasts – nothing beats it as far as I’m concerned….especially cooked by my family or by the Tom Cobley Pub in the village of Spreyton, Devon.

11) Food  – Shepherd’s pie, Apple crumble, my mum’s chocolate pudding, a good chinese or indian takeaway, toad-in-the-hole, sausage and mash, my mum’s meat pie, victoria sponge, my sister’s chocolate cake… again I could go on and on.

12) Radio – waking up to Magic, Heart, Capital FM or Radio 2 / 4 – I know that might sound like a nightmare for some of you, but I miss it!

13) A Blighty Christmas – this is my first Christmas away from my family and friends, and there are things I am already missing – Christmas decorations – London and my mum’s! Making Christmas cake and pudding with my sister, writing Christmas cards, choosing and wrapping the gifts with my mum and sisters, hoping for snow (after I’ve arrived home) putting up and dressing the tree, finding all our Christmas stockings that are somewhere in the loft from last year, tasting my mum’s mince pies, listening and singing along to Christmas songs on the radio, again I could go on and on and on…..

This is just the tip of the iceberg in terms of things I have missed since I moved to Brazil. This list  does not mean that there are not many things about Brazil I love – the opposite in fact – there are many many amazing things about living here in Brazil (Antonio, you’re number 1 😉 ) but being British born and bred there are things that of course I miss about my home country and on this particularly rainy day in the mountains of South America I wanted to share some of them with you all…..

So what do you miss about Britain or your home country? Or what do you think you would miss the most if you lived abroad??? All comments are very welcome!

The big ‘C’ word

There is a real life soap opera taking place in Brazil that seems never-ending – its story can be told with only one word ‘Corruption’.  It is International Anti-Corruption Day today, and so I thought it only apt to write a post about one of the most significant and damaging aspects of Brazilian life.

Brazil received a score of only 3.8 out of 10 on Transparency International’s 2011 Corruption Perceptions Index (CPI) (where 0 means that a country is perceived as highly corrupt and 10 means that a country is perceived as very clean) which was published this month. It is perhaps not surprising then that since the end of last year a total of six government ministers have resigned or been sacked from their jobs (from the ministries of transport, agriculture, tourism and sport) as well as the President’s chief-of-staff, as a result of the written media here uncovering various ethics and corruption scandals. The accusations, backed up with almost irrefutable evidence, include: – influence-peddling, bribe-taking, making fraudulent deals with shell companies and diverting public funds into party funding or their own pockets.

The most recent resignation came from yet another governmental department – the Ministry of Labor.  The then Minister, Carlos Lupi, was accused of presiding over deals that included ‘kick-backs’ for the government, enjoying free flights from contractors, and taking money from the department to fund what are now thought to be nearly completely ‘phantom’ NGOs (non-governmental organisations). Uncovered by the magazine Veja, the accusations were shocking, but Carlos Lupi failed to go quietly (or in fact with any dignity). At one point he was reported saying he would only leave if hit by a bullet, “and it would have to be a heavy bullet, because I’m a really heavy guy,” he said. He added that he “doubted” that Dilma would sack him, “because of the trust that she has in me.” Two days later, keen to go back on his previous rather rash words, he apologized and said: “President Dilma, I’m sorry. I love you.”  Yes…the Minister of Labour said ‘I love you’ to the President…cue the many videos and photos of Lupi looking admiringly at President Dilma etc. Carlos Lupi finally resigned last week when the Ethics Committee of the Presidency of Brazil unanimously decided he should be dismissed for mismanagement.

These corruption scandals are of great embarrassment to President Dilma, who is the first female President of Brazil. She has though inherited the legacy of the previous President – Lula da Silva, who despite his popularity with the people, allowed corruption to run rife in his government, with even himself facing accusations. Dilma has endeavored to try to clean up the more obvious corrupt activities within her new government,  but her task is a monumental and perhaps insurmountable one. Other accusations, yet to be confirmed, include  a man who walked the halls of the Agricultural Ministry making payoffs from a suitcase; kickbacks at the Sports Ministry, where the now ex-minister apparently stored the money in his garage; the arrest of 36 Tourism Ministry officials for alleged embezzlement via fake companies…the list goes on and on –

Furthermore, corruption in Brazil is not confined to Central Government, oh no, you can see corruption at nearly every level from local government to big and small business, to the police, to schools – in fact its safe to say wherever there’s bureaucracy (and in Brazil there is a lot) there is a chance for corruption. Of course this can be said of every country, however, it is the ease in which the guilty and their corrupt acts slip through the system unnoticed in Brazil that is the most shocking.

Most Brazilian people, that I know, see corruption as a sad yet normal factor of their everyday life. Time and time again when you see yet more accusations of corruption in the news here I see Brazilians shrug their shoulders. It is understandable of course, it is obvious that for the average Brazilian another corrupt minister pocketing money in Brasilia is not something they can really do anything about. However, recently I have sensed a growing voice of discontent that is getting more and more vocal and I believe that this will only grow louder, putting further and further more pressure on the government here, particularly President Dilma, to take even more radical steps at ‘cleaning up’ the system.

The saddest consequence of corruption here in Brazil is the fact that it takes the money away from where it is supposed to be  –  invested in the Brazilian people. Brazil is a country with huge potential, and Brazilians are some of the most hardworking people I know, but corruption is holding this country back from fulfilling its potential, and the longer it does the more the Brazilian people will suffer.

If you have an opinion about corruption here in Brazil, or indeed worldwide, send me your comments below….

Christmas Comes to Campos

Christmas has officially arrived in my city and the decorations range from the very festive to the really rather scary. As Campos do Jordão is a city set high in the mountains, which never really experiences the soaring temperatures you would expect from a city in Brazil, I think it is only right that the city pulls out all the stops at Christmas with its decorations… it’s the least it can do to cheer up my fellow Jordanense who can only dream of the beach and sunshine most of the time. So I have waited in anticipation to see the city’s efforts….

So let me start first with the good, located mainly in the tourist part of the city called Capivari  –

Very Christmassy (apart from it being 18 degrees at 8pm). Congratulations Mayor, nice job.

But then you come across……….. the Giant Santa!!! In my view this Santa is officially the most scary Santa ever!! He looks like he is going to catch children and eat them not deliver presents and good cheer….bad choice Mayor…this was a big  mistake (quite literally), unless her objective was to scare the local children (and me!).

See what you think –

So that’s Campos do Jordão’s offering of festive cheer – I hope your city is making an effort too, because as my boyfriend will testify, I love Christmas and all the cheesy decorations and traditions it brings with it….and I will endeavor to continue to love it even when its summertime and people are walking around in flip-flops and having barbecues…..because despite it being very different to England, after seeing the decorations (with the exception of Scary Santa) its beginning to feel just a little like Christmas here in Campos do Jordão!!

A fitting last tribute to a great Brazilian….

So yesterday was the football final in what is the Brazilian equivalent of the British Premier League –  Brasileirão.  The day started though with sad news for many Brazilians  – Sócrates, one of the most talented midfielders of all time, had died.

Now I do not pretend that I am some big football fan but I do know who Sócrates was and that he was a very good player in his time. However, what I have learnt since his death is that he was so much more than just a football legend. He was famous for his vision and physical strength on the pitch but it is what he did off it as well which is of interest to me. Sócrates, 57, played football during the years of Brazil’s military dictatorship when the slogan of the government was ‘Love it or Leave it’ for those that did not wish to abide by their rules. Sócrates choose to show that there was an alternative to his legions of fans and fellow players, by co-creating ‘Corinthians Democracy’ a way in which players, coaching and club staff could vote on things that were considered important, such as which players to sign, ground changes, practice times etc.  This organisation was a huge success and helped bring the club together as one big team, as well as a way  to publicly protest against the military regime’s treatment of fellow players, clubs and fans. It seems that Sócrates was part of the new Brazil before it was actually in existence, which is why the news channels and papers here in Brazil have continued to describe him as so much more than a player and why President Dilma described him as ‘a champion of citizenship’.

Another example of his off-pitch activities was his vocal criticism of the World Cup 2014 preparations here in Brazil, only recently he said ‘“[It has been] very badly organised. There is an inversion of values. The way it’s being done, it would be better for Brazil not to have the World Cup. It is a private product that is using public resources.” We can only hope that Ronaldo, who joined the World Cup organising committee last week, has taken heed of Sócrates wise comments – I doubt it though.

Sócrates was also a qualified medical doctor, and wrote for various newspapers and other publications. His greatest flaw was his love of alcohol, he was once recorded as saying ‘I drink, I smoke, I think.’ And it was this flaw that ultimately contributed to his premature death of acute septicemia yesterday.

A few hours after Sócrates died in a Sao Paulo hospital his beloved team ‘Corinthians’ played the match that would decide who would be champions of the national league –  Brasileirão. The fight for the title was between a team from Rio – Vasco (who were playing another Rio team Fluminense) and Corinthians (who were playing another team from Sao Paulo, and their arch-rival Palmeiras). After tense and aggressive matches from all four sides – including on-pitch fighting between players towards the end of both games – Corinthians secured the title win, for the fifth time in the clubs history. A fitting end to the day in which one of their greatest players passed away.

Since I arrived in Brazil I have witnessed how football fans here follow their team like they would a religion. Week after week they loudly and passionately support their team of choice, and are quick to criticize their enemies. Fans of Corinthians are said to be the biggest in size in Brazil by far, and the club is the richest in terms of revenue because of this. Football is big business in a country of nearly 200 million people, and nearly everyone, and I mean everyone supports a team. I support the Corinthians, partly due to this being my boyfriends team of choice (and all his family) and also partly due to the fact it does have some British roots – its name for one was chosen as homage to a great British club called Corinthian from Sao Paulo. So yesterday I watched the game, and duly celebrated my adopted team’s success.However, I was not prepared for what came next….

After the game on the way home through my small (normally deadly quiet on a Sunday evening) city we started to pass cars decorated with huge flags, honking their horns in celebration. These cars seemed to grow quickly in number until the roads were blocked completely with a spontaneous celebration parade by Corinthian fans. After a quick supermarket trip i came outside to find roads shut off and a large crowd of people partying in the middle of the road, with yet more people spilling out of bars and houses to join in. It was unlike anything I had ever seen. There are of course celebrations by fans in the UK when teams win, but this is normally a tightly organised event with a massive police presence and start and finish time. Yesterday was a spontaneous show of sheer happiness (and relief) by Corinthian fans. There were similar celebrations all over the state, and of course there was trouble and disruption by some, but in my city this did not seem to be the case (something the police obviously agreed with as I saw a total of ..erm…3). There was just music, dancing and drinking in the streets.  So congratulations Corinthian fans, 5 times Champions and a fitting last tribute to one of their biggest fans and greatest players:- Sócrates Brasileiro Sampaio de Souza Vieira de Oliveira, MD (19 February 1954 – 4 December 2011).

Click on this link to see a clip of the celebrations last night in Campos:

My new addiction – Brazilian Novelas

I have a confession to make…..not since I was a teenager watching EastEnders on the BBC to see what happens to Grant and Tiffany, have I been so enraptured with a soap opera. I am pretty sure if you had asked me two years ago whether I would be sitting down every night to watch what happens next in a soap opera I would have laughed….but it is true because at 9pm every night I am avidly doing exactly this!!!

However, for all of you who have yet to experience Brazilian television  – let alone a Brazilian Novela (telenovela) – I need to explain further.

Brazilian TV is unlike any other. It is truly unique, and quite a lot of the time truly awful (sorry to all those Brazilian out there who take offence at this, and please do leave your comments below explaining why you think the opposite!) but I do think that Brazilian TV is just lacking in quality programmes….with the exception of the channel Globo, which sometimes has some really well made productions. I will post later about the varying quality of TV here in more depth, but now back to the soap opera addiction.

It is on this said TV Channel – Globo – that a particular ‘novela’ has captured my attention. Telenovelas or just ‘novelas’ as they are called by Brazilians are different from the traditional soap opera. The length of the run of the novela is one of the first big differences between what at first glance looks just like the soap operas in the UK. Novelas here in Brazil do not last more than a year before they finish and a new one comes along with a brand new story and characters (although don’t be surprised if you see the same actors/actresses popping up time and again). . It is within this short time frame that the director of a Brazilian novela has to introduce his characters, storylines, and get his audience interested in what happens to them. This is quite a challenge but somehow they seem to manage it nearly every time!

Unlike the UK the novelas here are featured on various channels throughout the day, each one of varying quality, including a novela that is set in Morocco, using Arab clothing and props but speaking in portuguese…very weird indeed. The two novelas’ with the highest audience ratings by far though, are both featured on the TV Channel Globo, and are at 7pm and just after 9pm, Monday to Saturday. The novela at 7pm tends to be more light-hearted and humorous, with less complex storylines and lighter characters – my favourite so far has been ‘Ti, Ti, Ti ‘. –

The novela at 9pm tends to be more complex, and has ‘darker’ storylines and characters, mixed in with the typical romance and required comedic turns. It is this type of novela that has got me particularly hooked. Currently showing at 9pm is a novela called ‘Fina Estampa’ roughly translated to ‘Fine Print’. Its storyline revolves around two female characters from very different backgrounds – Tereza Cristina and Griselda. The first is a very wealthy woman who is a stay-at-home wife, who is very used to having her own way and doing exactly what she wants, and is clearly mentally unstable resulting in her taking bizarre and sometimes murderous measures to keep her social status and secrets hidden. Whilst the character of Griselda is in nearly all respects the opposite – she is from the working/middle class, she built herself up from nothing, and is now very wealthy too but still very down-to-earth, not caring about her social status etc. Needless to say these two characters do not like each other at all, and this is who and what the many other characters and sub-plots are centered around.

The Brazilian novela format is really quite clever; not only does it manage to capture  its audience in record time, but it also depicts well the differing classes in Brazil – working, middle and upper. There is normally a poor setting, a rich setting and somewhere in between. This allows its audience to find something they can relate to whatever their background. Novelas, as with UK soap operas, also deal with topical issues such as domestic abuse.

‘Fina Estampa’ is an example of a Brazilian novela at its best, every episode is action packed with romance, comedy and dark dark dealings! Each episode seems to be more far-fetched and ridiculous than the last. Each character has both flaws and qualities (even Tereza Cristina!) and the audience finds itself constantly second guessing what will happen next…..pure entertainment at its best! Here’s a clip of the show for those of you outside of Brazil (watch from 25 seconds)

Enjoy 🙂

Thanksgiving Brazilian style = sunshine,sea and sand (Caipirinhas and bbqs!)

So my second thanksgiving in Brazil (I know its an American holiday – but in true Brazilian style I like to celebrate every holiday possible!) and we decided to go to the beach. A friend of ours has a beach house in a place called Maresias – in Sao Sebastiao, not to far from Sao Paulo city. It was my first time in a smaller beach resort – Maresias is more of a village than a big beach destination – but apparently this makes it even more desirable by the rich and famous! Anyway, the village there is very small,  and quite obviously completely geared towards tourists with most of the permanent resident’s jobs solely focused on attracting as many tourists as possible, catering for your every need! Which brings me onto how different a Brazilian beach experience is to other beaches around the world (well those that I know). Brazilian beaches look very like you would first imagine – sunshine, white silky sand, and clear blue waters – beautiful. However contrasting dramatically with this scene of beach paradise is the towering lush green mountains located instantly behind the beach – making the view even more beautiful.

However, the real difference between a beach holiday in Brazil and others I have ever experienced is what happens once you are sat on your deck chair under an umbrella looking out at the spectacular view of the ocean. This is when your waiter arrives and offers you a selection of refreshing ice cold drinks from ‘agua de coco’ (coconut water) guarana (a brazilian fizzy drink) or cold (and I mean cold) beer or Caipirinhas (a Brazilian cocktail made from cachaca, pinga, or saque which is combined with sugar and your choice of crushed fresh fruit – strawberry, lime, kiwi, pineapple – you name it they have it!!!)

Then there comes the offer of food – either offered by your waiter  or by sellers who walk up and down the beach all day offering you snacks – all freshly cooked in front of you. This is when you get to experience some really delicious Brazilian snacks – freshly cooked cheese from the north of Brazil, served on a spit; freshly cooked seafood served with lime and sauces; freshly sauted castanha nuts still warm, popcorn, freshly cooked corn on the cob with salt and butter – and these are just a few of the wares offered to you and served to your table (or I should say umbrella!) It is remarkably cheap and all freshly cooked, and it makes the day at the beach so much more enjoyable – no more sandy sandwiches or gone off mayonaise and potato salad – you can still have your picnic –  just cooked and served freshly to your table! I’m not sure I can ever go back to bringing my own food and drink to the beach again!!

Also on the beach are ‘shops’ selling bikinis, kaftans, sarongs, towels, hats, shorts, dresses, jewelry all at really good prices  – and after a Caipirinha or 3 you may find yourself justifying yet another bikini purchase to your boyfriend!!

As for the rest of my weekend – it consisted of more beach, fresh seafood barbequed by Antonio, and yet more caiprinhas 😉 and of course lots of sunshine!!  Back now in not so sunny Campos do Jordao I only have to look down at my slightly pink tinged legs as a reminder of a great weekend away!!

Oh and just for Antonio –  next time can we have more Greek Pizza??!!!

A final note  –  This Thanksgiving I am thankful more than ever for my incredibly supportive boyfriend, family and friends – thank you all so much for everything xxx

Coming soon – Christmas arrives in Campos do Jordao!!!

What would life be if we had no courage to attempt anything?

So this is my first post…..I have decided to write a blog because I’m not good at keeping in touch with all my friends and family back in the UK and also because I want a way to record my experience of living in South America.

So here I am! My life in Brazil commenced in September 2010 and since then there has been numerous ups and downs. Moving and living abroad was and still is an incredibly exciting experience but also a hugely daunting one. Looking back now I was incredibly naive about the difficulty of moving cities/countries/continents. It has been a roller-coaster of learning and adapting to new challenges and experiences.

Among the greatest challenge I have faced here is the ‘visa saga’ which could have been taken straight from a Brazilian novela (soap opera). I will write a more in-depth post about the details of my visa soon – to hopefully help those that are thinking of following the same process, but for now it is suffice to say that applying for a ‘stable union’ or ‘uniao estavel’ visa can be an incredibly frustrating and complicated process – but one that thanks mostly to my boyfriend has a happy ending. I now have a permanent Brazilian visa, and have all the rights of a Brazilian citizen etc.Something I can hardly believe is true sometimes!

I should explain that I moved here to be with my boyfriend, and I live in Campos do Jordao on the edge of the state of Sao Paulo (roughly 2 hours from Sao Paulo city) in the south-east of Brazil. For those of you that aren’t familiar with my city take a moment to think of what you imagine a city in Brazil to be like – your probably thinking sunshine, samba, possibly even a nearby beach or two??? Well take this image and now think of the opposite, and then you will have some idea of what Campos do Jordao is like. Its a small city in the mountains, which looks and feels incredibly European – well to be more precise Swiss. It has Swiss-looking architecture and many restaurants selling Cheese,Meat and Chocolate Fondue….not what first comes to mind when you think of Brazil I know. And there’s only one word to describe the weather here – Cold!

But Campos, however different it is from most other cities in Brazil, is an incredibly friendly city, and is surrounded by the most amazing views across the mountains. It truly is beautiful here.

I work as an English Teacher here. Since I arrived in Brazil I knew that this was the best opportunity for work for me – especially because when I arrived in Brazil I spoke very little Portuguese, and understood even less! I have worked at 2 different schools and teach lessons privately, the latter being where you can definitely make the most money. I was not a teacher back in the UK, but after intensive training here in Brazil and a TEFL course, I quickly adapted to my change of career. One thing I would say though is that teaching is definitely not an easy job, the amount of work you have to do outside of the classroom makes the job hugely demanding.

Since I moved to Brazil I have also learnt a lot about myself, my relationship and life in general – and I hope through this blog I can offer at least some useful advice to those of you that are contemplating moving abroad – or making any big change to your life.

My life in the UK was definitely less complicated, and most of the time less challenging  and demanding than my life now in Brazil, but my big move to South America has also made my life more interesting,  my relationship stronger, and reaffirmed my faith in myself. So thanks for reading – and my next post is coming soon….

“You have powers you never dreamed of. You can do things you never thought you could do. There are no limitations in what you can do except the limitations of your own mind.” – Darwin P. Kingsley