Saturday, October 2, 2010

How does ANY expat do it?

How do you guys do it?  How do you expats deal with living here?  I am going crazy.  I am missing home so badly right now I was looking at the cost of flights.  Sadly, they are just as I suspected.  Hundreds of dollars (and thousands of reais) that I just don't have.

I was wondering on my recent walk to the grocery store to pick up the second bottle of wine of the weekend if my threshold is just lower than everyone elses.  Is my ability to accept and deal with difficult situations (ie. communication difficulties, loneliness) just weaker than the average person?  Some of you have settled down here permanently and I couldn't imagine in my wildest dreams living her forever.  I just couldn't.  I love Canada SO much.  I think it is the best county on the planet.  Yes, I am biased and Yes, I am drinking right now.

I am just so goddamn proud to be Canadian and of everything my country stands for.  Nobody hates Canada! That's pretty impressive. 

I'm not battling a superiority complex here but you know how living in a country where things seem to be completely LAWLESS makes you appreciate the orderliness of your own country.  Ok, enough of my high horse.  That wasn't meant to be offensive.  I'm just missing home so much.

Let me just examine some positives for a second though.  This journey has been a giant test and learning lesson in 3 specific areas for me.

1.  Adaptability
2.  Patience
3.  Being alone

I have adapted and adjusted non-stop since I arrived here.  We are still living with my in-laws.  It has been 9 months and 17 days.  9 months and 17 days without my own kitchen.  9 months and 17 days of tiptoeing around the house (my family is very quiet).  9 months and 17 days of love-making like teenagers who will get in trouble if their parents find out what they're doing in the bedroom.  9 months and 17 days of being trapped in my room to watch what I want on TV, to have alone time, to get dressed AND put on makeup AND dry my hair etc etc etc. 

Because of this adapting, has come a test of my patience.  A realization and understanding that I am not a patient person but I think I have been pretty goddamn patient for a long time.  I'm pretty patient with my living sitatuation.  I'm pretty patient that Ro works ALL. THE. TIME.  I know I complain about it still.  Patience doesn't exist only in silence.  But I have accepted and try to make the best of a situation that truly makes me unhappy.  I have tried to regain my composure and focus over and over because I know it takes time to learn to speak, to make friends, to have a job, to feel settled down.  The proof is in the pudding.  The first 3 eventually started to come.  The last, I am still trying to be patient.

And then we have being on my own.  This has been the biggest challenge for me lately.  Ro has been working so much (like yesterday he worked from 8:30 am- 10 pm and he generally has only one day off per week which is always a Monday or a Tuesday, which of course are busy for me with classes).  I have always been a person who likes to spend time alone.  But I also like to have friends.  And even though yes, I've made a few friendships with people (like, you can count them on one hand but it's the hand of a guy who has lost 2 fingers), none of them really developed into something close and deep like I have with my best friends from home. 
With the exception of maybe one girl (Bia), I remain friendless.  I have had to try my best to fill my free time with activities for one.  Exercising.  Sitting on the beach drinking a coconut water.  Going to the movies.  Drinking wine.  Eating in a restaurant.  Going to a bar.  All fun activities!  Much better with a friend.  

So, I'm at a loss.  I feel unhappy and unsettled here, like I'm still a guest.  And I don't even know if JUST moving out on our own would even solve the problem.  I told Ro last night that I miss our old life.  Things were so good when we left.  We had a great apartment in a great location and we had great friends who were all in close proximity.  The one REALLY positive thing in my Brazilian life is teaching English.  I love it so much and I don't miss working at GoodLife Fitness at all.  

Maybe Rio is just not the city for me.  I'm not a beach girl. I'm an arts and entertainment girl.  I don't want to lose myself here but I feel like I'm slipping away...


  1. Your problem sounds like it's nothing to do with Brazil or even Rio, but with the fact that you have an improvised situation that is extending for way too long...have you considered that your in-laws might be desiring some privacy too?
    Any adult living under the roof of their parents would be frustrated in your situation...
    Your husband has to work Saturday and Sundays, how do you expect to make friends, when everybody is out at parties and socializing, your husband is at work...!!!
    Plus, you had all your life in Canada to build friendships, you haven't been in Rio long enough to built long lasting friendships.
    And yes, besides the fact that I do love Canada, I have met people who hated, but they often had a hard life in Canada, very similar to the hard life you are describing in Brazil.
    You are actually blaming Brazil ( A GREAT COUNTRY ) for your less than desired current situation.
    Hope things get better for you, and yes, I guarantee you if you move on to live on your own, life will get better.

    Take care

  2. Oh Linds - so sorry to hear the frustration continues. I know that if I still had my inlaws camping out in my living room every day I would drink more than I already do. Since Tonico died (may he rest in peace)my MIL has moved out of the house 40 minutes away and into a little one bedroom apartment a few doors down the street. It has made a HUGE difference - she no longer arrives at 8 and stays until 5. I have not sworn at her in English since we got the distance. But I'm afraid this is Brazil - While I share your feelings I cannot agree with 'Anonymouos' - adults here do not covet their privace like in Canada and the States. Things are indeed different and not likely to change.

    I would be up for a regular lunch date if your schedule allows. We could meet half way. It does not have to be expensive. Venting in person may be more satisfying. I'll send you an email.

    Hang in there.

  3. Ya know I have to say that it's really, really irritating when people whose grammar show that they are obviously Brazilians leave comments on ex-pats' blogs to discredit any ex-pats' VERY justifiable frustrations with certain elements of Brazilian life.

    Just because we are not Brazilian doesn't mean we're not allowed to complain about having bad days here. If you're Brazilian, don't you complain about anything with your friends? Do you ever have a shitty day at work and come home and say things like "god, the people in this city are retarded!"? or do you ever see something that's happening (or not happening) in the country that pisses you off?

    I think Lindsey did a fair job of pointing out what parts of her problems were specific to her situation (living with the in-laws, not being a beach-y kinda gal), and also fairly explaining what parts of Brazilian culture were pissing her off today (the difficulty in making friends, the lawlessness).

    So those are just my comments for Mr. Coward Anonymous (though I have an idea who it might be...).

    As for Lindsey, it's hard living in a new place. It's hard living with your in-laws. It's hard living somewhere where you don't speak the language. It's hard going from the first world to the third world. It's hard not having any money. It's hard having to go a long time without seeing your friends and family. It's hard living in a big city. It's hard living in Brazil sometimes.

    Doing all those things at once?! It can feel impossible!

    But stick it out-- it gets better. The biggest thing that helped me was aggressively looking for private students so that I could quit the school. Once I built up a nice clientèle, my money situation was 1 million times better. More money gives you more freedom (duh) to live without depending so much on the in-laws, to get outta town when you need to, to spoil yourself with food and drinks or whatever else you like. So since you enjoy teaching too, that's what I recommend. Throw yourself into it to (a) keep yourself occupied and (b) make more money in order to give yourself more options in your situation.

    Good luck! We're rooting for you!

  4. It's a shame that you don't have the guts to identify yourself, otherwise your comment would have a lot more merit.
    But, alas, it doesn't. So here goes.

    First. I can tell that you are Brazilian. Only Brazilians would respond that way, with blind, unconditional love for their country. Of course, when you want to complain, it's ok. But when I want (even though I'm living here as a citizen now too) somehow I'm just insulting?

    I did not blame Brazil for my loneliness. I blame the conditions of my personal situation. This is MY experience of Brazil. If I don't like it, it's because it's shitty. You don't even know how much I try to get out there and meet people, spend time with my SIL's friends, etc etc. I DO NOT rely on my husband for friends. Read earlier post on how I will never be a Brazilian wife.

    Secondly. Yes, I had more time to build friendships in Canada. But I also make friends really easily under normal circumstances. It's taken a long time, and I haven't connected with people here as easily as I do there.

    I know Brazilians have a lot of difficulties living in Canada. But there are still a lot of opportunities for them... to make decent money and live a decent, comfortable life. I know this. My husband is Brazilian and moved to Canada. Even living there illegally. They can still rent an apartment, open a bank account and take a walk a night and feel safe. Things that are not easy to do in Brazil.

    I didn't even mention the enormous community of Brazilians who live in Canada... it's a little easier when you can go there and make friends with other people from your country, isn't it?

    Well, just so I don't have to jump to any more conclusions about you, ANONYMOUS, I will stop there.

  5. Thinking about you tonight -in Toronto at the Argo game and at Nuit Blanche-parked at 4K Spadina -still call it Lindsey's building cause it always will be. # 1012 was advertised for sale with REMAX. If I could ever win the lottery I'd buy it for you and fly you home for a visit and then I'd buy that nice place in Alphaville ,SP and I'll fly there to visit you guys.Not the most reliable of financial planning but it costs nothing to dream. Sorry you're feeling blue but hang in there. This feeling will pass -You've got a Thanksgiving dinner to plan and a friend coming to visit-Find a good book to read,maybe some good music and a little wine can't hurt.
    Love you !!

  6. Oh 4K - what good parties we had in that apartment! &#@% Winter indeed!

    I'd like you to know I am officially caught up in your blog (I told you one good stint in Northern Ontario would do it).

    A few blogs ago you were craving Indian, make sure you remind me to bring spices (or is that going to get me into trouble?) Also, I don't know how you live without cheddar. No grilled cheese sandwiches!

    I've been traveling a lot, but unlike you, I've only stayed in any one place for a relatively short period of time. I haven't had to experience any major culture shock for more than a short period of time, and I have only made it to about 1% of the places I want to see. I can only imagine how it's been to move to a new country, live with in laws (I can't even stay with my mom for more than 24 hours now), learn a new language, start a completely new job in a new field...the list of extraordinary things that you've done in the past year is too long to type. Basically, you are the bestest.

    I can't fricken wait to see you!

    Laura, xo

  7. annoyingly my internet crashed when I was posting a rather large comment. So I will try to summarize. You story rings a big bell. Your not weak, I think it is a process adapting to all the changes. Living in someone else's home is really hard when coming to a new country. Because you are a guest. We lived at my in-laws for 10 tens. We moved out even though Ricardo didnt want to. Rent is expensive here and we have land. Just no money to build a house. And really no money in sight to build one anytime soon. But... moving out and renting a house has helped a lot. I was able to start constructing an identity with this culture and mine. I am able to decorate my house, do what I want and entertain people.

    On the friends area it took a while. I have been in Brazil for a year and a half, Now I have lots of good friends. Many of the them are also internationals.

    But I would sugguest you try to study Portuguese at the Federal University in Rio. It should be free and very hopefull with both Portuguese and finding friends. Sometimes it can be difficult registering but dont take no for an answer. I would never be studying at Unicamp if I listened. The next time to get in the class is probably feburary. But there might be come great opportunities.

    It does get better. It is a process.

  8. So I'm not sure if my comment will come up as "Anonymous" or not...but just to clarify, I'm not "the Anonymous". I have been reading your blog (and Danielle and Jim's...Hello!) for a while now, but have creepily never commented because I've been thinking of writing a blog and wanted to wait until it was all ready so you would have some insight into who I am. I've made a habit of reading ex-pat blog entries when I am feeling especially lonely...which has been probably about every day now for the past three month.

    I lived in Rio for an exchange program a year ago and had the time of my life. I met my boyfriend and ended up moving back here to Rio three months ago to work and be with him. It turns out that living here the second time around (without any of my American friends from the exchange program) is entirely different, and a little bit depressing. I feel like i'm trapped in a situation where I will never be happy here because of how much I miss having friends and family near, and I will never be happy back home because I wouldn't have my boyfriend whom I love very much.

    Today was an especially difficult day when my boyfriends mom admitted to the entire table over lunch that she doesn't like me very much. I am so accepting of cultural differences, but sometimes I feel like no one here knows that another world with different customs and cultures exists.

    Your post really hit home with me (and got me to come out of hiding) because everything you just mentioned I have been feeling. (minus the living with the in-laws THANK GOD). I'm living here in Rio and would love to have someone to talk to (in english) if you are ever feeling like you want to meet up. My email is

  9. ::chanting:: Blog from Nancy! Blog from Nancy!

    Join the clique!

  10. Well, since Nancy "came out," I guess I should, too. I have also been creepily following all of the aforementioned blogs (and others) for quite some time, as I have been thinking about making the move to Rio myself. I'm actually the "anonymous" who left you a message sometime back about the Meetup group. I wasn't trying to be mysterious--just too lazy to figure out how to leave the message with a Google account. Anyway, since I'm not there, I can't come hang out and drink wine with you, but I wanted you to know I'm sorry you are feeling so down. If I had any American friends down there, I'd hook you up, but alas, the few I have are all Cariocas.

    Everyone in your position says things will improve. I haven't been in the same situation, so I can't give you advice based on experience. However, I know a LOT of foreigners living here in the States, and they say the same thing about life here, so I suspect there is a lot of truth to it.

    I think Danielle made a good point about focusing on your job, as that is something you really enjoy. In the meantime, maybe this is a "fake it until you make it" kind of thing.

    Hang in there and know that lots of people in the blogosphere are thinking about you!

  11. Hi Lindsey,

    I want to let you know how brave I think you are to share your struggles. I can remember sitting in one of my first Portuguese classes, listening to every other non-Brazilian in the room say how much they loved Rio, and when I got to me I said I didn't really love Rio. I was the only person who admitted to disliking things about Rio, and struggling to adapt. After that, I just started telling everyone that "Rio é muito bonito," because it was easier than having to justify why I was not passionately in love with Rio. Also, I felt, like you, that I was weak for not being able to adapt and fall head over heels for Rio. I stopped telling people I was struggling, so I think your honesty is pretty courageous.

    I've been in Brazil for four years now and I still don't love Rio. It's just not the city for me. It's too big, chaotic, crowded, violent, etc. And that's ok. Adapting to a new environment doesn't mean falling in love with it. Even if you get a place of your own Rio might not be the city for you. That doesn't make you weak or an impatient person. You just have different tastes.

    What's great about Brazil is like the US (and I assume Canada) it has so much variety in people, places, culture. I don't know if the possibility of moving to a different city will ever be open but Brazil is more than Rio or Sao Paulo. You could try a smaller city or some place out in the country. I moved to Vitoria, Espirito Santo a month ago and I love it here! I have found my city and my state. It's smaller, calmer but still has great bakeries, restaurants, and a yogoberry.

    Since packing up and moving is probably not an option, I'd recommend two things, get into a Portuguese for Foreigners class and take on more students. Nina is right about meeting friends through a Portuguese class. That is how I made all of my friends my first two years in Rio. Getting regular work is what finally convinced I could have a life in Rio. So that's my two cents.

    And for what it's worth, I think 9 months living with your in-laws who speak a different language makes you one of the most patient people on Earth.

  12. I didn't think the comments by the person anonymous were that bad. She is probably right that you need your own space.
    BTW "The proof of the pudding is in the eating."
    - Another Canadian who lived in Belo Horizonte.

  13. Oh man Linds, I'm sorry to hear that you hit "the wall". Don't in any way feel too bad or weak, almost every expat everywhere has experienced a time where they are dying for their home culture, language and familiar environment.

    My wife went through the same phase when she came out to the states to live with me. We got through it by getting her to meet other Brazilians and becoming involved with the Brazilian community in Las Vegas.

    Maybe us expats here in Rio should try to schedule a monthly get together just to "palaver" in our native tongue and have a few (or many) beers. I believe it would be a cathartic experience. I know I would love to have a day where I don't have to think or talk Portuguese for a change.

    Take care and hang in there Linds!

  14. So bummed that you are having difficulties and a little homesick. Everyone that I know who has moved down here to Brazil has so many issues and problems. Most of the time I try to keep them to myself and be positive only because I am afraid that both my husband and I will fall into a negative spiral.

    I live up in Macae but we visit Rio once a month usually for a week. If you are interested in getting together with some other English speaking girls then I can arrange a lunch meet and greet. Most of these people I met through the International Group....

    I believe that anyone can go to the meetings and people are being transfered to Rio everyday. Meaning that tons of ex-pats wives are left to fend for themselves and put on a smile.

    Hang in there girl. I would so be your friend if we lived closer. My husband and I might actually be moving to Rio at the end of the year :) Open another bottle of wine and Skype all your friends and family!


  15. Hey Linds,

    I feel for you. I hope that the frustration and unhappiness you feel is the last big surge of it before you encounter some really good things around the corner. It sounds like there are a lot of ex pats in Rio who would love to do meet ups. You have a lot of support :)

    It sounds like what you're going through is really hard. Like you're not entirely at the center of things. It's not your house, not your language, not your culture, not your choice that Ro works so much... and although it's great that you've had patience during these times, you need some things for YOUR self. What is it that would make your life better in Brazil?

    Something that a friend of mine told me when I arrived here, was that I needed to remember that my life would NEVER be what it was before. It's something different now. That was bad news, and I hated to hear it. But it somehow helped me to really look at what this moment is all about here. I was holding on to the past. Realizing that it would never be the same somehow released me from holding onto all the good things about my life before. And then of course, it was up to me to find new good things.

    And then writing down WHEN you will be able to move out, and WHEN you will be able to visit Canada, gives you a time frame within which to work. Of course, maybe the time frame is not going to be exactly solid but if you have a general idea, you can also figure out what exactly you need to do to get there.

    As I write this, I feel a little silly because I worry that I'm telling you things you already know. I also realize that I don't have a lot of authority on this subject, as I am only here for a short time, and I overly- rely on my boyfriend for support, and I fake my feelings a lot so that I don't have to deal with them. So I am not the best person to listen to but anyway I hope it helps. :)

  16. Hello! I ve come on your blogs from Rachels.
    I couldnt feel more like you do so. Felt such a relieve when i read this post and found out someone is feeling exactly like me.
    I am a brazilian married an austria man. We just come to set down here.I am really struggling. I have no friends and cant rely on him, as he also had been years abroad and have not made new friends yet. I have such difficulties with german and to make thinks worse, there is a dialect here and the formal german i learn at class doesnt do any imediate good as i dont understand the people.
    I keep telling my self that i would better go home, it makes him so sad. He says i am giving up so early, that i didnt try hard and so. I just would like to find the path for patience as it all i can do now: waiting,waiting, waiting, as things will happen as the time passes by.

    All the best in you way.

    Ana Flavia

  17. Hey missy. You're coping threshold is not lower than the rest of us. Just this last weekend we went to Makro (do you have those in Rio? they are our Costco in SP) and i bought about 5 bottles of wine because i new the next week was going to be hard. I've been in Brazil for 8 months and it is still hard. each time i get down it's not better than the last time even when people say "it gets better". I know how you feel, my first 2 months after i moved for "good" were spend in my mother in laws house as well. So a total of 4 months in the same situation being "quiet" in the bedroom. the hardest part was getting back from the honeymoon and having to still be in that house. luckily we finally moved into our house 2 weeks later and things became so much easier. not because i wanted to be away from my husbands family, but because its your own place and youre not the guest. trust me that will make the complete difference by the time you finally move out. so just hold out for that. and in the mean time--you inlaws know what is going on in the bedroom, so open the window and dont worry about it!

    i get extremely lonely RIGHT now i am alone at 9pm watching law and order waiting gor House to come on because my husband is at school. he works all day and then goes straight to his masters program, doesnt get home until 11:30. its extremely tough. and then he tells me he's going on a business trip for 4 days in a couple weeks to Porto Alegre... already have pre mature solidute fright. but as terrible as it is, i know we have to do it for a better "later on". so. i think for expats, even the smallest problems seem terrible. im a distance runner and am registered for a half-marathon next month, just got a fracture in my tibia. when these things happen on top of everything else it feels like the whole world is against me eh? but we chose to be here, to be with our husbands so we got to make it work. at least thats what i tell myself. at least u have teaching. im going to start because while the online work i do now makes me much more money, it's making me go crazy. so i gotta figure out how to teach. never wanted to be a teacher, but my portuguese is too shitty right now to do anything else. I miss the US too, and Canada. Im from Seattle and my father is Canadian, so i get to miss both. i guess the only thing to tell you is that things will get better once you guys get your own place, and that when you feel desperate, alone and ready to cry at just about anything, don't feel bad about not doing what your supposed to do. just do whatever feels right. if thats sleeping or staring out the window, then whatever. ALSO rio is tough. only went for 3 day vacation, but wouldnt like to live there. Its calming in the SP should come visit :) im a photographer who does food styling so i bake a lot so i have things to photograph. that, for me at least, is one thing that keeps me sane and ME without disappearing.



  18. Kept this post bookmarked so I could respond to it when I had some time but I see others have said the sort of things I thought I'd say. I remember 20 years ago coming to England. It took 7 years and a 'trip back home'to remind me why I had taken such a huge step. Acceptance is probably the missing ingredient - do the reasons why you went to Brazil still hold true? If so, accept that not all things will be the same.

    Here's a post from another ex-pat blogger that I read recently - maybe it will make you feel better -

    Also I undestand that one of the other bloggers is organising a blogger day out which maybe will allow you to meet up and share experiences - I hope one day to attend one of these functions.

    Take care.

  19. It's amazing, I have only been here 4 weeks but I understand completely what you and Mallory are saying. I have been staying with my husband's brother and his family and I start to go crazy when he isn't around. It's such an adjustment being an adult living in someone else's house. Not eating food you like to eat or being able to do what you want. For me the hardest part is not having a car and being able to go wherever, whenever I want and not knowing my way around.

    I also am a gym rat and have been teaching aerobics for over 10 years.....the only gyms around here are well, crappy. No yoga, spinning or pilates to be found...huge adjustment for well as not having friends to go out with.

    I am actually going to be in Rio on Sunday and Monday (staying neary your beloved library LOL) can e-mail me at maralerman at hotmail com if you would like to meet up for a drink or something.

    Take care


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