Here is the second interview of the series. Enjoy!
My name is Indra Barrios Lasso, Panamanian who works as a language instructor in two language schools. I teach Spanish and English. However, I worked as a Journalist and a copywriter in advertisement agencies in my country (McCann Erickson Worldgroup, Euro RSCG and Lintas). I am 48 years old and married to a Brazilian for 25. You can say I am a bit Brazilian as well.
2. When and why did you decide to move to Brazil?
I didn’t “decide” to come to Brazil. I didn’t plan to come here. A friend of mine wanted to study in Brazil, as a “estudante convênio”, and invited me to take the test at the Brazilian embassy in Panama. There is an exchange program that enables Latin American, American, European and African students to study in Brazilian universities (my case, Universidade de São Paulo-USP). At that time, back in 1983, I was taking a Communications graduate course at Universidad de Panamá and wanted to become an advertiser. When the results of the test came out, it turns out I passed and my friend didn’t! So, I talked to my parents and told them the news. They agreed on sending me U$250.00 every month. Unbelievably, this is how much I lived with for many years when I came here in 1984. Things were pretty different in those times.
3. What were your thoughts on Brazil before you actually moved here?
It seemed such a far away country, people seemed so free (bikinis looked so cool) and Roberto Carlos singing in Spanish all his songs, with that peculiar accent that I loved. I knew they were kind of different, soccer was great. That’s all I knew.
4. What were your first impressions (good and bad)?
I was impressed by the amount of people and cars and motorcycles! More than impressed, I was a bit scared. Everything was different, I didn’t speak the language (it took me some months to figure out what the professors were talking about at the university), I kept watching tv and repeating every single word for me to be able to communicate better.
5. Which have been the most positive and negative experiences in Brazil?
I try to see every experience as a positive one, even though they bring a little negativity for a while. It is difficult when people try to imitate your “accent”, or they try to make fun of you and your different cultural background. But, that happens to everybody! Something that really get to my nerves was getting my RNE, my Brazilian ID, because I had to go to the Polícia Federal, without speaking the language very well (nobody speaks English nor Spanish there, even though they work with foreigners)…the place is terrible, the people are terrible, there are lots of kids running around or crying…it is just insane!
6. What is your advice to foreigners who are thinking of moving to Brazil?
Learn the language! Buy a Lonely Planet guide book or read about the city you are going to live in. Nowadays, it is much easier to get information about Brazil or make part of an expat community in the city.
Working in Brazil
7. How did you find or look for work in Brazil? (On site, internet, etc.)
I went back to Panama when I finished my graduation course, this time with my Brazilian husband. We decided to work there, and change a little our experience here in Brazil. We stayed in Panama city for 8 years and then, in 2004, we decided to come back to São Paulo. I had been working as a copywriter and was doing fine, financially speaking. But the work was too much! We wanted to live a better life, so SP sound better. I decided I would never work that much, and from then on I started looking for something to do…I stayed on a Sabbatical year and then thought it would be a good idea to teach Spanish or English. I knew I had a big chance to succeed as I am very communicative, have many friends and have always trust relationship sites. I am not afraid of anything, I know I am good in what I do and many people see that in the way I teach.
8. What was your level of Portuguese when you moved to Brazil and what language difficulties did you have when you arrived?
On my way to Brazil, on the Varig flight, the flight attendant asked me “Você gostaria de um suco de laranja?” I just said: “Sorry, I don’t speak any Portuguese”. It was awful!
9. What were the challenges you faced regarding finding a job?
Brazilian networking was a big challenge. This is a big city with lots of opportunities, but you have to know where to search.
10. How did you distinguish yourself from other Brazilian candidates for the position?
Languages, global mind, culture.
11. What advice would you give any European that is looking for a job in Brazil?
12. How did you legally work in Brazil and did you run into any problems during your working visa application?
I am married to a Brazilian and have a permanent visa.
13. What was your overall experience working in Brazil?
I have met many interesting people. Some of them are my friends. Paulistas tend to be efficient in what they do and won’t take a no without explanation. You have to make sure you know what you are good at, and let everybody know that as well…then, they will respect you as a professional. I think it is quite the same around the world.
14. How did you make friends in Brazil? (Online, bars, etc.)
Paulistas like to go to bars, but sometimes it gets too often. I have made Paulistas friends and friend from other countries through FB, couchsurfing, internations, friends of friends, etc.
15. Tell us about good and bad experiences you had making friends or acquaintances in Brazil.
Paulistas are good party friends, but when it comes to going to a cultural event (museums, art galleries, theater, etc) they usually make excuses and won’t show up. People have a different perception of punctuality and this is something I will never get used to. If you invite them over at 8, they will show up at 10! I usually tell them to be at 6 so they will show up at 9! hahahaha You’d better get to know this in advance, otherwise you will get really upset and stressed out!