So You Wanna Move to Brazil? - Interview with Mr. Geonaut Brasil

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Here's number 2 in my "So You Wanna Move to Brazil?" series, where I interview real people who have moved to Brazil, from numerous other nationalities or even Brazilians like myself who lived abroad for a long time. If you're interested in sharing your story, contact me! polyana's contact info.


Today's interview is with Oliver Bazely, author of the blog Geonaut Brasil, who is an Englishman living in Rio de Janeiro. His was a career move, and no, he's not teaching English here! Read on for more details on Oliver's story!

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P. We'll get on to the point here... what brought you to Brazil?

O. Strangely enough, it was a chance encounter with a French colleague who had recently returned from Rio. I mentioned I had always wanted to work in South America, rather than just travel the continent. He replied that he would ask around on my behalf, and let me know if he found any positions.

The next thing that I knew, my English boss was telling me that he had sent off my references for "that job in Brazil". I had no idea what he was talking about. That was until my current boss sent me an email proudly declaring that my references were fine, and that I had been accepted for the position. It was the least painful job application imaginable.

P.You're settled in Rio. What made you pick the city (if different from the above answer)?

O. I didn't choose Rio - Rio chose me! (see above)

P. You've lived in a few countries in Europe, but are from the UK. How was the Europe - South America transition? What were some of your biggest challenges settling here?

O. The pace of administration is very slow here, so it took nearly 1 year to organise the visa. It didn't help that the rules related to my visa changed 3 times in that 1 year period, forcing us to restart the process each time. It the took a further 10 months to open a bank account.

When I did arrive, I found it difficult to adjust to the tropical climate - being raised in the temperate latitudes meant that I didn't really understand my body to begin with. I kept overheating, or not drinking enough water, or finding it difficult to sleep. Also, it took me a while to accept that sometimes it is impossible to buy things here that are available in Europe.

I kept hunting for bargains that didn't exist, or looking for the kind of hypermarkets that are so common in France or England. I'm used to it now, but for a while I was frustrated. I thought it would be harder to adjust to the social scene here, but its not so different to France, Spain or Italy. Now it feels like second nature to invite someone to go out without any intention of following it up with an actual invite!

P. You're also a geoscientist. Excuse my ignorance, but... I'm curious. What does a geoscientist do? And are you working in your field in Brazil? If not, what have you been doing for a living in Rio?

O. A geoscientist is someone that investigates the earth using scientific methods such as experiments or observations. I work on a project that is attempting to recreate past climates, using sediment cores from the ocean floor (imagine sticking a straw into ice-cream, then squeezing the collected ice-cream out of the straw).

We investigate changes in chemical, physical or biological properties of the sediment, and use that information to understand what type of climate must have been operating to cause those properties. As an example, if we find lots of pollen from a tree that needs lots of water, we might suggest it was raining lots!

P. How's your experience been in learning Portuguese? When did you start to learn, what is some advice you may have for those planning on learning?

O. I started to learn Portuguese back in England, using Rosetta Stone and having a few private lessons. When I arrived, my tactics changed, as I had to squeeze my language work around my research, which was difficult, because there was so much work to do. My progress has been slower than I imagined because my daily work is in English, but eventually I started to feel more comfortable talking in Portuguese. I wrote a blog post about it when I first arrived that includes some some tips for beginners (Learning Brazilian Portuguese) . More recently, I have been progressing faster because I can now talk with the locals.

P. What are some of your favorite spots in the city? To eat, to hang out, to drink, etc... (I may need these for my next visit to the city!)


O. My favourite spots are Parque Lage for lunch, Parque das Ruinas in Santa Teresa for the view, Rua Mercado for forró and Itacoatiara in Niteroi for the beach. I also like Miako, which is a Japanese restaurant that seems to be popular with the Japanese community.

P. Have you travelled outside of Rio? What are some other fun Brazilian cities you've been to and why?

O. I haven't travelled as much as I would have liked, mainly because living in Rio requires most of my salary. I liked Petropolis, although there is probably only enough attractions to fill one day. The Serra dos Orgãos mountains are spectacular, and my favourite adventure has been the Petropolis-Teresopolis travessia.


P. Have you experienced any discrimination being in Brazil? Or been offended by comments made by locals?

O. In my opinion, the word 'gringo' has negative connotations, bordering on racist. I often hear it, especially when I am with a few other foreign friends. This maybe because I have light skin and hair. I have spoken to Brazilians about it, and the definition of a gringo varies from person to person, but almost all of the characteristics are negative, such as naive, clumsy, sunburnt, perverted or gullible.

As for within Brazil, traditional gender roles still seem strong, and men tend to be sexually aggressive (so my female friends tell me). There is also a relatively conservative view of homosexuality. On the plus side, racism is very uncommon here.

P. Finally, do you have any advice for those planning on moving to Brazil and Rio de Janeiro in particular?

O. My advice is to start a blog, join CouchSurfing (as it is very active for Rio), try some volunteer work and learn how to dance samba and forró. If you are interested, writing for the Rio Times is a great option as well.

There are ex-pat societies for individual countries, such as the American Society, British and Commonwealth Society or the International Society for internationalists, although these tend to be popular amongst older ex-pats. Also, try to bring essential electronic items with you - anything imported is expensive in Brazil. My cost of living is around R$3000 per month, so that doesn't leave much disposable income, even on a reasonable salary.

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Thanks Oliver!! You guys should check out his blog at Geonaut Brasil where he has all sorts of interesting advice on how to get around in Rio and more :-)

Does anyone have any other questions for him?

ps - photos were also stolen from his blog!

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