Australian Expat Living in Brazil - Interview with Katie

Published: 3 Nov at 9 AM
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Filed: Interviews,Brazil
Five years ago Katie, an English language teacher in Australia, fell in love with Jose, one of her students from Brazil. After visiting her new husband's country in 2011 and 2013, Katie was fascinated with the culture and lifestyle. Katie and Jose moved back permanently to Brazil in September 2014. Katie's blog gives a unique perspective on small city living in Brazil. The blog documents the humorous moments in her day-to-day life and includes lots of colourful photos of her new city. Katie's expat blog is called Life is Grando (see listing here)

Jose and Katie
Jose and Katie

Here's the interview with Katie...

Where are you originally from?
I am originally from Australia. I've lived in lots of different Australian cities. I was born in Brisbane, completed high school in Perth, university in Melbourne and spent six years working in Sydney. All of these cities are amazing but Sydney is my favourite!

In which country and city are you living now?
I am currently living in Brazil. I live in a small city in central Sao Paulo state.

How long have you lived in Brazil and how long are you planning to stay?
I have lived here for the past two months. I previously visited Brazil in 2011 and 2013, staying for a month each time. I'm not sure how long we will stay here. We bought land in a condominio in 2012 and have completed architect plans to build our family home, so that feels quite permanent. However as with most expat wives, out future home will depend on where my husband's job will take him in the future!

My dream job!
My dream job!
Why did you move to Brazil and what do you do?
We moved here to be close to my husband's family, but would not have done so without a job offer from the company which he previously worked for. Luckily that all fell into place! I am an English Language teacher so am currently teaching students via Skype which is a dream job for me!

Did you bring family with you?

How did you find the transition to living in a foreign country?
As I had previously visited, I had some idea of what to expect. The biggest challenge is that we are currently living with my in-laws (who's idea was that?!) and I am dealing with a lot of cultural differences on a daily basis at home.

Crucial in my transition was learning to drive in order to give me independence. That came with a lot of challenges - new road rules (or rather the lack of!) as well as driving on the other side of the road was tough to get used to.

Was it easy making friends and meeting people; do you mainly socialise with other expats?
Yes! As this is my husbands home town there are literally hundreds of family, friends and colleagues of his here. It's almost too much and I find the constant closeness of families one of the cultural challenges for me to get used to.

One of the best things I dicovered on facebook about my new home was a group of English speaking expat women who meet weekly for coffee. They are the wives of guys who are employed at one of the many international companies here. I have made great friends there, and we love to catch up a couple of times a week and swap stories of our adventures in Brazil!

Beers on ice on a hot night in Brazil.
Beers on ice on a hot night in Brazil.
What are the best things to do in the area; anything to recommend to future expats?
Unfortunately I would have to say there are zero attractions in my city! It is simply a small, central Brazilian city which has many head offices of international companies.

Even though there are no tourist attractions, there are some lovely markets and 'barzinhos' that I enjoy visiting.

What do you enjoy most about living in Brazil?
Being Australian, I love hot weather so am glad I'm living somewhere with a similar climate. I also love the food! Brazil has amazing national dishes and lots of deep-fried snacks that are great with a cold beer on one of those hot days!

How does the cost of living in Brazil compare to home?
Brazil is incredibly expensive due to the closed economy. I don't understand how people afford to live here the minimum wage is only R$724 a month! Seeing poverty is an everyday reality and there is still quite a defined class system.

Australia is also an expensive country to live in, but the minimum wage is around AU$740 per week.

Fish on the BBQ - delicious!
Fish on the BBQ - delicious!
What negatives, if any, are there to living in Brazil?
I can't speak Portuguese yet! That would be the biggest negative right now, but that will change with time. There are a lot of negatives with probably personal safety coming in quite high.

I am quite health conciuos so I struggle with the fact that preservatives and colourings banned in Australia are legal in Brazil. It's made harder by the fact that I can't read the labels yet! And organic meat, eggs and vegetables are tricky to find.

If you could pick one piece of advice to anyone moving to Brazil, what would it be?
Bring a years supply of cosmetics and makeup - it's outrageously expensive here and you are taxed a lot if you buy online from an overseas company.

What has been the hardest aspect to your expat experience so far?
Not being able to communicate because of the language barrier.

When you finally return home, how do you think you'll cope with repatriation?
That might not be for 10-15 years but I'm sure it will be fine!

Loving the weather!
Loving the weather!
What are your top 5 expat tips for anyone following in your footsteps?
  1. Find a great resource that motivates you to study Portuguese.
  2. Take each day as it comes and learn than your expectations most likely won't match the reality and that's fine.
  3. Try not to take cultural misunderstandings personally - write them in a blog post to laugh about instead!
  4. Become a 'yes' person and take all new opportunities that come your way!
  5. If you are an expat wife like me, reach out to other women in the same position who can provide support!
Tell us a bit about your own expat blog.
It's a light hearted look at my day to day life. From getting my driver's licence to dealing with sales assistants, it's all been so different from what I'm used to so it's fun to record.

How can you be contacted for further advice to future expats coming to your area?
Through my blog.

About the author

Expat Blog ListingKatie is an Australian expat living in Brazil. Blog description: An Australian girl married to a Brazilian and living in a small town in Sao Paulo state. The blog is filled with my observations of daily life in Brazil and lots of pictures.
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