Excited to introduce you to Tendelle from Travel a la Tendelle who is next on our Latin American Expat series! She has lived in both São Paulo and Florianopolis Brazil with her work and has a lot of amazing experiences to share from her time as an expat.
After Tendelle finished university she moved to New York city to start a full time career, first working as a management consultant then switched to being an analyst at a large media company. Soon after, she found herself hating corporate life and without any real dreams or aspirations. The lack of direction drove her to quit her job and travel in South America for half a year, which is when she started her blog. She said that she started her blog kind of as a diary for herself, but after awhile she noticed that themes started to emerge in her writing. She said that “Many bloggers say that traveling helped them discover themselves. For me it was the opposite, I feel that blogging helped me find my direction.”
How long were you in Brazil?
I lived in Brazil on two separate occasions. The first time, I lived half a year in São Paulo as a management consultant for my consulting job in NYC – our client was a large bank in Brazil. My second time living in Brazil was after I left NYC and did my South America trip. I spent another half a year in Brazil. Three of those months I spent in Florianopolis, and the rest of the time I traveled around the country.
I chose Brazil because I loved it so much the last time I went there. I love the Portuguese language, the friendly Brazilian people, the delicious food, and the legendary nightlife. Brazil is a vast country that varies so much by region, so I really wanted to spend some time there to explore.
What was the visa process like?
For a tourist or business travel visa, you are allowed to stay up to 180 days a year (provided you leave the country at least once every 90 days). The price tag is quite steep, $160, but it’s actually a reciprocity fee as the US also charges Brazilians the same amount for a visa. It’s an unfortunate amount but totally fair. The good thing is that this visa is valid for 10 years!
As I stayed less than 180 days a year, I did not have to deal with the process of getting a permanent resident permit.
How did you make a living?
I worked as a consultant, so many NYC employer paid me to be in Brazil. My second time in Brazil, I took time off and lived off of savings.
What was the average cost of things in Brazil?
The exchange rate of the USD to BRL has dropped a lot over the past couple of years. So, for people coming from the Western world, everything feels quite cheap there. You can get a caipirinha (the Brazilian national cocktail) for less than $3. You can go to a lunch buffet by the kilo (the way to go for lunch) and eat like a king for less than $4. You can probably rent a one bedroom apartment in São Paulo for less than $400.
This seems cheap to us, but for Brazilians, these prices compared to wages are quite expensive!
What did you learn as an expat?
One of the most important things I learned, as this was my first time living abroad, is that I have the ability to build my life up from zero. I can make good friends, have a good career, and build my out my network, given that I put in the work. This made me less afraid to take the plunge and move to foreign countries that excite me – a process that I repeated twice since, once in Barcelona and once in Amsterdam.
What was your favorite thing about being an expat in São Paulo?
I really loved the nightlife in the city. As an electronic music fan, there were so many choices. D-Edge is an internationally renowned underground club. There are also many festivals occurring throughout the year. That, coupled with natural Brazilian friendliness, made every night out memorable.
What was the worst thing about being an expat in São Paulo?
For me, the worst thing was the pollution in the city. Although, I know that for many other expats and locals, safety is an issue. Sometimes cars get broken into or people get mugged, though I personally have been lucky enough not to have encountered this.
What did you miss most about home?
Just my friends, and just initially. I think this is a normal process of being an expat though, even if you are putting yourself out there to meet people. It just takes time to build profound and trusting friendships like you have at home. Everyone has to do their time to build these kinds of relationships. So, even though there are lonely moments in the early days, I remind myself that this is normal and that there is light at the end of the tunnel!
Do you speak Portuguese fluently? What was your language process like?
I have a bit of an advantage because I do speak Portuguese fluently. I’m not a native speaker but I don’t have problems communicating. I learned Portuguese for a year in university (I’m lucky because I already knew Spanish, and the two languages are very similar).
What did you do to meet people and integrate into your new home?
Brazilians are super friendly so meeting people was easy compared to my experience in other countries. Besides through work, I’ve met some people through language exchange and Couchsurfing. And I’ve met many more people just by becoming a regular at certain shops, chatting with people at bars and clubs, meeting my neighbors, and even just meeting people randomly on the beach.
What custom/ habits did you found to be the most different from your own culture or found to be the most difficult to adjust to?
How Brazilians flirt in clubs and bars! In the US, I’m used to men wooing me over the night, offering me drinks and dancing with me, before maybe going in for the kiss at the end of the night.
Brazilians lose no time – men will chat with you for a mere minute before they try to kiss you. If you say no, they will just move on and find another target. For them, a kiss is not a big deal and just like a handshake. I’ve lost of how many different reasons Brazilian men have given me to persuade me to give them a kiss. I never got used to that!
How do you feel that the people of Brazil / São Paulo see you? Are you treated any differently?
I’m Asian American, so initially, I expected to be seen naturally as a foreigner. Then I discovered that São Paulo is actually home to the largest number of Japanese descendants outside of Japan! There are many 3rd, 4th generation Japanese Brazilians in São Paulo State. There are even Japanese nightclubs in the city! So, no one ever assumes that I am not Brazilian – that’s one of the things I love about Brazil, I felt like I fit in. It’s only when I open my mouth that people realize I’m not Brazilian. ☺
What is a myth about your adopted country?
That Brazilians are lazy, that they just tan on the beach all day wearing mini bikinis! Paulistas (people from São Paulo) are actually notorious in Brazil for being extremely hardworking. São Paulo is the economic capital of Brazil and the financial capital of South America, so that makes sense. I experienced this first-hand working as a consultant at the headquarters of one of Brazil’s largest banks. We, consultants, work hard, but there have been times that our clients actually left the office later than us! Paulistas, however, do stereotype Brazilians from Rio and the North to be lazy, though!
What is your favorite dish in Brazil / São Paulo?
Picanha is very Brazilian cut of steak – SO good. If you have some money to splurge, I highly recommended Figuera Rubaiyat in São Paulo for its steak.
As for less expensive food, I love Brazilian “Hot Dogs” (cachorro quente). They’re complete with corn, avocado, fried potatoes, onions, bacon, quail egg, you name it … they load up the hot dogs with every filling possible. Best thing is it only sets you back around $1. It’s a popular evening or late night snack.
Of course, there’s also the national cocktail, caipirinha. Check out Bar Veloso in São Paulo for caipirinhas made with exotic fruits.
What advice would you give someone when traveling to Brazil / São Paulo?
São Paulo is the type of city that grows on you. At first glance, it may look like it has nothing to offer … it’s a crowded, grey concrete jungle for the most part and it lacks the natural beauty of cities like Rio de Janeiro. However, give it a chance and you’ll realize that it has a lot to offer: great food, rich cultural history, friendly people and amazing nightlife.
What are you doing now? What are your travel plans for 2017?
I actually reside in Amsterdam now. I don’t have major trips planned in 2017, just some weekend trips to London, Barcelona, and Hamburg. I do think that my love affair with Brazil is not over though, and want to return to Brazil very soon!
Tendelle has always felt a special bond with Brazil… and though she now is pursuing her career in Amsterdam, she hopes to one day return to Brazil. She loves to blog about nightlife travel, Asian immigration, and the quirks & mishaps while living abroad. She now works at a startup, Party with a Local, which helps connect people for nightlife.Check out more of Tendelle’s Adventures on her blog Travel á la Tendelle or on her Instagam