Monday, March 28, 2011

American Mail Order Bride

I'm just going to put it out on the table and say I was a mail order bride. I decided that I needed to leave the difficulties of my middle-class American life and be saved by a Brazilian.

Ok, maybe that isn't true but there is some truth to it.  I do feel that moving to Brazil saved me in a way. It saved me from a lifestyle that didn't suit me.

And I find that the more I adapt to living here, the less I'm asked by strangers as to why my husband and I chose his country over mine.  Of course there are some obvious benefits living in North America, but in the words of Jim, what about the quality of life?

Everything is a compromise, right? So here's what I compromised.

A good and inexpensive car for an ok car that gets us from here to there. While it would be nice to have something sporty, we don't use ours that much in the first place. We walk and use mass transit. The car gets us to places on the weekends and Mr. Rant to meetings where mass transit would be a bit of a bitch.

Ready made and frozen food for homemade and fresh foods. I'll be the first to say that this took some getting used to. I never thought I'd press this much freaking garlic in my life! Hell, dried beans used to scare me and now we buy and eat them regularly. Canned food? What's that? And you know what, I can feel the difference in my energy level, my regularity, and my weight. It also makes me happy to I know my kids are eating well. Sure that may not mean veggies daily but whatever they eat doesn't contain more preservatives than actual food.

Convenience stores/Target for Lojas Americanas. I really spend a hell of a lot less money in Brazil. There's little to no spontaneous shopping going on as it would cost a pretty penny.  I mean, do we really need more crap? As much as I love a good Target run, no we don't. Living here has lowered, slightly, the consumerism that is so a part of my blood.

Bottled drinks and snack packs for vendors. I love the cute little snack packs and juice boxes in the US. They are so practical. But you know what, I don't need them because I have vendor dudes selling anything from fresh coconut water to corn on the cob to popcorn anywhere I go. I can even get Popsicles!

Public Bathrooms for Brazilian Public bathrooms. Ok, this one is just sad. I still miss a good Starbucks bathroom on every corner. Here we have public bathrooms in the form of a moldy and urinated on, single man prison like boxes with toilets.

Good playground equipment for something from the 50s. Sure, I used get scared of my boys getting splinters in their little asses from the wooden slides, but it never happened. And there are some good parks, you just have to find them.  Some of the slides and stuff look like a death sentence but no one seems to be dying. Hey, you work with what you got. Of course, I'm the first to bitch about this but my boys have only slightly noticed.  They know that the playgrounds in Grandma's town are cooler but a playground is a playground. It's never stopped them from enjoying the ones here.

Disherwasher and dryer for at home help. I have to hand wash all dishes and hang my freaking laundry to dry almost every single day.  Of course I have a wonderful woman who comes into my home twice a week and cleans the absolute crap out of it. I doubt you could find one dead skin cell when she's done! I have never lived in this standard of cleanliness and I now know that every Brazilian living abroad thinks we are DIRTY!  Dirty dirty nasty little people.

And there's a lot more stuff but I let me say, there's nothing a good day at the beach can't cure! A very true Carioca saying! Even when I'm in a huge funk of I just want to hate Rio today, I go to the beach and think "holy crap, I live here!"  The view, the blue skies, the green of nature, the wonderful people, and the even better food. I really can't complain too much! 


  1. The concept of having a strange woman into your intimate place to clean your things for peanuts... It has always been a very weird concept for me. I prefer all the machines and a husband who was raised to do as much domestic work as possible.

  2. Ah see, that's the problem here. My husband is damn good for a Carioca man but that's still not enough help to deal with all the dust and stuff in this city!

    Anita, were you raised abroad or here? Did you family have a maid?

  3. Quality of life is better , food and juices are much better .....and bathrooms and playgrounds need to improve a lot. Although in brazil you can find lots of nice private playgrounds at country clubs , restaurants , mall and if u live in an apartment it usually has recreational area...

    This is something I miss in the us and europe , where I currently live...I cant find a building that has a common area like I had. In my building it had a cinema , party room (salao de festas) for children and for adults , playground , music room , churrasco room, billiards room etc

    ps:I had a dryer and a dishwasher when living in brazil and most of my friends had as well. I think its really easy to find in most supermarkets and at appliances & electronics shops.

    In my point of view brazil biggest problem is corruption....imagine brazil without corruption??? Politicians would actually work and build decent roads, expand infrastructure , good public schools , no mafia in the police so much less violence, etc.... combining brazilian people & food and natural resources would be the best in the world to live! but theres a long way to go....

    do you see any improvements so far to the world cup and olympics yet or nothing was done so far?

  4. Interesting post Rachel. I think about this a lot since my second visit to Rio. Just the comparisons's and what I would miss if I were to move. I know that I would adapt and be happy over time. Doesn't mean I would bitch a little bit along the way though! :P

    The dishwasher I think I could do w/o but I would most definitely miss my dryer. Nothing like warm laundry that smells of Downy...mmmmm.

    Quality of life though can't be beat in Rio vs the U.S. Even in a small town, here it is so Rio you have to actually CHOOSE to stay home and be bored because it's hard to be bored there.

    I've been asked the same question by many Brazilians in fact. Why would I ever consider leaving a first world country to move to a third world one? Many different reasons.

    My car I don't know if I would miss because right now it's KILLING me in gasonline prices. Four dollars a freaking gallon for a SUV that only gets 18 miles to the gallon and everyplace is at least 10-25 miles round trip so I would be glad to trade it for mass transit. Bring it on!

  5. I can agree on many points. I really think I was meant to live outside the USA. I like my life in France...but what I wouldn't give for a clean public toilet :)

  6. Improvements for the cup? Not really. Fingers crossed they they get stuff done in time. OH wait, they are building more new kiosks in Copacabana. Personally, I don't think that's a priority but I'm not in charge...

    You can find washers and driers but they are expensive. You can buy them over 10 x but I can live without them. That goes double because I'd have to do some construction so that I could them in my house in the first place!

    Shay, I used to be asked that and now it's as if I'm part of the club who get's it. Brazilians are like, yes life is good here. It really is! Oh, and gas is $$ here too. I don't think as bad though.

  7. Oh girl, you are really making me want to live there. Esp. for the diet. My body craves fresh foods.

  8. And hey! I'm yoru 100th follower! :D

  9. It's for these reasons, among others, that we are moving back to Brazil. We're counting down the days!

  10. Born and raised in Brazil, by Brazilian parents. But don't tell anyone the following: I am an alien. And no, my father never washed a glass.

  11. I think you guys have better weather in Rio, warmer, dryer. In Sao Paulo even poor people have dryers, it is impossible to dry clothes without a dryer in Sao Paulo. Every one I knew had one and many, many people had dishwashers.
    My parents have always had dishwashers and dryers. My grandma had them since sometime in the early 60's.
    Sao Paulo is too rainny all the time.
    And we would loooove to have a maid too!!!
    Can't wait to move back home to Sao Paulo!
    Wish we had beautiful views and beaches like you folks do in Rio, that is awesome, inspiring!!!
    I love Rio!!!


  12. Thank you Purseblogger! 100! YAY!!

    Ray - I'm moving to SP. ok, maybe not but I'm jealous!

    Anita - I won't tell a soul

  13. hey i left life of "oportunity" to return to my favela roots and I have to say, I would rather live here in Rocinha than my shitty boring, money consumed life in the US. not to say the US is bad but at 48 yrs old..i am tired of slaving for little wages in a country where nobody really cares about each other or is fearful of every little values have changed...having less "stuff", I feel free..

  14. reading this post made me realize how much I miss Brazil
    I am seriously thinking about moving to Rio after what u said!
    Karina, from cold Montreal

  15. lol Rachel.

    So true about Brazilians abroad thinking Americans are dirty. At least I did. Don't even get me started on the first time I heard "NO" for washing the bathroom with soap and water. Y'know, good old Brazilian style, fill the bucket, splash it on the floor, throw in some powered detergent, grab a broom and let's get the work. Oh, no no no. Not in the US. I was shocked. Life as I knew it was over that moment. And let me tell you, I've never been the neatest person in the world, my family have always complained about my nastiness. Now, starting from my grandmother, my people would be totally grossed out by American cleaning standards.
    And there are things like using hand sanitizer and baby wipes instead of running water to wash hands clean and else to add to the list.

  16. I totally agree about the processed/packaged food. I'm amazed at the stuff I've made myself that I never would have thought to make in the US, like graham crackers and marshmallows because I had a s'mores craving. OK, I guess that's not a very good example of how making your own food is healthier... but definitely fewer preservatives.

    Ray, really? I've lived in Sao Paulo for nearly 4 years and my Paulistano husband has lived here since he was born (and we both do pretty well financially) and we only know of one person who has a dryer. And that person (who does happen to be the American wife of a Brazilian) begged for the dryer and then rarely used it because it took 6 hours to dry a few towels. I would like to have a dryer sometimes, but then I remember that I'm being a lot better to the environment by hanging everything up. I'd love a tumble dryer, something I've never seen here. The dryers that work with condensation that I've seen for sale for a small fortune (and that I used to see when I lived in Europe) just don't cut it for me.

  17. hi Zoe , in the south most people I know have a dryer machine...I also have friends in SP and Rio who also have it.... my moms machine takes 50min and its good.
    I have some friends who have the wash/dryer in the same machine....those are not expensive and do a so-so job.

  18. I apparently live in the Dryerless Twilight Zone :)

  19. I have become much more of a social/people person living here. I find that I love all of the noise and movement, people out and around, hearing our neighbor's lives, it's comforting. But that does not include obras that start at 9am most days. I also love how, where we live at least, it's pretty much 24/7. Bars are open, some padarias and markets, restaurants don't close until like 1 or 2am, people out walking around early and late. I'm also much more relaxed, not planning every minute and detail in my life. I do enjoy life a whole lot more here! And I walk a whole lot more too.

    About the bathrooms, agreed. Some bars are disgusting...I've never understood that. It's true, you really have to take a look at the toilet before, and either clean it off, put down paper or squat. But there are also tons of places that have nice bathrooms where people actually pee IN the toilet and not on it. I have seen an improvement.

    Dryers and dishwashers...I gave up. Like you mentioned, we don't even have room for these things's ok. But hot water in the kitchen is still something I yearn for.

    I do love my life here, and it really does keep getting better. I love Rio and my appreciation continues to grow. I hope we never have to move, we don't plan to. Our biggest problem (or should I say financial drain) is the cost of things (=everything), for example our weekly tab at the grocery store and pharmacy is insane and I know we'd be spending about half of what we do in these areas in the US. That is an area I hope improves with time. Brasilians deserve quality and variety at good prices.

  20. bravo Stephanie!!

    prices are crazy , i still dont understand how cars , cellphone , toys , etc can be SOOOOOOO expensive!

  21. I am so surprised to hear u guys don't have hot water in your kitchen...when I lived there it was very common.

  22. Hot water in the kitchen depends on you water heater setup. Some people still have it in the bathrooms.

    I know about 2 people who have a dishwasher and/or dryer and they have more money than the average upper middle class Brazilian

  23. Rachel, we're doing reformas in a few weeks on a large part of our apartment, including kitchen. But, putting ANOTHER hot water heater in the kitchen area is just out of budget...urghghgh, and wiring all the way from the bathroom isn't possible, so they say. So...more years sem hot water. We'll live. I tried.

    And for me, I know about 5 people with dishwashers and dryers, but they're all temporary expats so, in my mind, that doesn't count. The norm here is nao. People normally have "help" so that is the equivalent. In Rio at least.

  24. Stephanie, I lived in an apartment a few years ago that had an electric water heater on the kitchen tap (like a mini version of the electric shower head). It's kind of ugly, but maybe it's more affordable (not sure how much it costs to buy because it was already installed when I moved in).

  25. Dear Zoe,

    Maybe your husband is trying to save some money and is pulling a fast one on you ;)

    Visit some appliance stores or just look online, there are all kinds of appliances for all tastes and all budgets too and they are ALL MADE IN BRAZIL, no CHINESE CRAP WILL BE FOUND.
    I don't even know where to begin, you really are living in a different reality.

    Let me try...
    My father was a Quality Control Engineer for a Whirlpool Factory in Sao Paulo in the late 60's all the way into the late 80's when my father changed jobs. That factory in Sao Bernardo do Campo closed and moved to Sorocaba, Sao Paulo interior.
    That factory is called Brastemp today! Have you heard about it? Brastemp makes Tumble style Dryer just like the American ones that dry your clothes in about 50 minutes. You can buy several other types of clothes dryer, some more efficient, some less efficient, some expensive, some cheap, there are all kinds of Dryers to choose from. Bosh, Electrolux, Whirlpool, GE, Prosdocimo and Brastemp among others all have appliances factories scared all over Brazil and you can buy Dryers, Washers, Dishwashers, Stoves, Microwaves, Freezer and Refrigerators at stores all around the country.
    Some people who live in small apartments in big cities just don't have the space for dishwashers or washers and dryers, but that is not a Brazilian thing. It is a real LUXURY to have a WASHER or a DRYER in your apartment in New York city, Chicago downtown or Boston for that matter, among many other large American cities.
    The same thing might happen to Brazil, I don't know if you live in the Dryer twilight zone, that sounded really funny by the way. But please, What are you trying to prove by saying BRAZIL doesn't have WASHERS or DRYERS anywhere? Really?
    You can find absolutely everything in Brazil nowadays, you certainly won't pay the same price as things cost in the US because of the simple fact that things you buy in BRAZIL are MADE IN BRAZIL. I just recently found out our Kenmore Dishwasher was MADE IN CHINA!!! That is why appliances here are so affordable.
    Countries make choices! The US choose to buy goods MADE IN CHINA and let the AMERICAN factories and JOBS go to Hell in a hand basket. Now we all can buy everything super cheap here, but there is a HUGE price! Slums are forming all over the US, homeless population is at an all time high! Where are the jobs? CHINA!

    To be continued...

  26. Dear Zoe ( Cont... )

    I think I would rather pay a little more for things and keep my factories and jobs around.
    My mother grew up in Sao Paulo, at IPIRANGA Region. She told they had HUGE GE Industrial type Washers and Dryers at her School. The Catholic nuns used the machines to wash the girls basketball and volleyball uniforms and the gym's towels.
    My grandmother in Sao Bernardo do Campo had a GAS dryer in the late 1950's. Her street was one of the first in her town to have piped underground natural gas installed. Most her neighbors already had dryers back then. I don't know if you are aware, but Sao Paulo had HUGE SEARS stores all over the city until the early 90's when Sears was in trouble and left Brazil.
    My grandmother bought her washer/dryer and dishwasher at Sears in the 50's, my grandmother also worked at a material factory and needed those appliances to make her life as a single mother possible.
    My mother always had all appliances like dishwasher, washer and dryer, my mother was a teacher and also worked hard all the time and needed the appliances to make her life easier.
    You probably live in a part of town where people live in small apartments and just don't have these type of appliances. In these areas, you will see lots of laundromats, you know, just like the ones we see all over Manhattan and Boston, where a lot of people don't have apartments that can fit a Washer or a Dryer for that matter.
    My brother lives in a small/ NEW apartment downtown Sao Paulo, 2 blocks from avenida Paulista, he has a set of Bosh Washer and a Gas Dryer and also a Brastemp dishwasher, all made in Brazil.
    My sister lives in Santo Andre, in Sao Paulo metro, also has a Washer, a Dryer and a dishwasher. My sister actually has my mother's old Kenmore Dryer, bought at Sears in the early 70's, made in Brazil, great quality gas gas/dryer. My mother gave it to her and she gladly took it because it still works great.
    I will be sure to take pictures of all my family's dryers/ washers and dishwashers to show you proof, as soon as I visit them.
    I guess I will have to write a post about this appliances controversy so folks thinking about moving to Brazil have their expectations in the right place. :)


  27. Stephanie,

    Ask about a "CARDALL" brand water heater. You can buy one for each faucet individually, they cost about R$100,00, maybe a little more, maybe a little less, it depends on the store and the model where you buy. CARDAL's company offers installation service which shouldn't be too complicated either, depending on your sink style, they will intall it under the sink for you.
    These little water heaters are great, never break and never need maintanance.


  28. This comment has been removed by the author.

  29. Rachel, Stephanie,

    I am under the impression you guys live in older, charming neighborhoods that when buildings where built, they didn't leave enough room for dryers and dishwashers in the kitchens and laundry areas, that is similar 90% of the apartments in Manhattan or Boston, but on the other hand you have subway and a great lifestyle like the one you described.
    My aunt lives at a high rise type apartment at Barra ( No subway over there, she always complains about her communte to work ) and they have the works, full size dishwasher under the sink, washer and dryer in the laundry area. The apartment was already built with all of spaces for these appliances.
    New luxury apartments in Sao Paulo have Central A/C, heated marble floors in the bathrooms and kitchens and you can fill your jetted Jacuzzi tub from an application on your Apple Iphone or your blackberry on your way home while driving back from work, now that is something I would like to have :)
    I am sure RIO must have them too, you just need to know where to look.


  30. Ray, I do live in an old building. To put in a dishwasher we'd have to redo our piping. It'd be a bitch. You can, however, get dryers here that don't need the whole exhaust pipe deal or something like that. Just plug in and go.

    I know there are newer buildings now with these conveniences but they are small. The older apartments are bigger and have more charm. Plus they are no using the same building materials as we do in the states. You can hear everything! Plus it's a huge fire safety issue. One apartment goes up because of some jeitinho with a ceiling fan and the building is gone.

    I prefer my old, quirky, and cement apartment!

  31. Rachel,

    I am totally with you, my parents live in an older building too, larger apartments, it is awesome. Gil and I want to find a large apartment in an older building too, that is the way to go if you ask me.
    My brother lives in a tiny new apartment that your knees touch the bathroom door when you sit in the toilet...not for me!!!!
    I made a research on Dryers/Washer and Dishwashers and wrote a little post about it to help educate folks thinking about moving to Brazil.
    Great post Rachel!
    You know how to spark a good healthy discussion!


  32. Wow, Ray, thanks a bunch for singling me out on your little diatribe. Also, thanks for implying that my husband is capable of single-handedly controlling the information I take in, however I actually do have friends and leave my apartment, and am literate. He is cheap, though, so you got that right :)

    I wasn’t in any way trying to “prove” that Brazil has no washers and dryers (and umm, I never even said anything about washers). I’m also not sure where you got that I was saying that Brazil has cheap, Chinese-made appliances, or anything remotely leading into a discussion on US vs. Brazil trade policy. What I was saying is that in my own, personal experience of living in Sao Paulo (over that time 2 old apartments Pinheiros and Perdizes, and currently in a new one on the Pinheiros/Vila Madalena border, to be more specific) for 4 years, I have only seen one clothes dryer. Period. My Brazilian reality and the reality of my friends, family and peers honestly does not include a dryer. It’s a big city, with a lot of people, and we obviously operate in different circles. That’s all. Geez, I don’t even really want a dryer that much! Maybe none of my friends do either. Who knew there was so much pent-up passion about major home appliances? :)

  33. Zoe, I can back you up. Not in SP city, up in Campinas, but other than my other temporary ex-pat friends, I'm the only person I know with a dryer. Paid a whopping/outrageous R$1200 for it, it takes 3 hours to try (it is a tumble dryer.....) and holds just a bit fewer clothes than my washing machine. It was by far the most expensive appliance we bought when we got here -- we bought Brastemp washer, dryer, oven & refrigerator. The dryer was the highest priced item.

    In my apartment in Campinas -- no one had a dryer that I know of. In my current neighborhood -- no one has a dryer, everyone has clothesline in the (tiny) back yard.

    Ray's been gone a long time. I think he'll be surprised when he moves back. We (collectively) really aren't making up what we say, it really is the way things are here and now.

    Whatever anonymous person has a dryer that dries in 50 minutes --- I'm jealous!! and want to know how much that cost you?!?! Wow. the efficient machines I've seen (that dry quickly) run into the several thousands of Reais......

  34. hello
    the dryer that dries in 50 minutes is made by Bosch ...i dont know how much it cost, sorry.

  35. Zoe and Ray, thanks so much for the heads-up about the electric water heater for the kitchen sink. If it can be installed underneath, out of view, I'm sure it will be husband approved! Yay.

  36. Just stumbled in your (quite interesting) blog and... Dryers, humm?

    Well, dryers are absolutely necessary in Europe and North America, I admit it, but, come on, here in South Maravilha? Why bother about something that costs a lot of money, consumes lots and lots of energy, when, most of the time, the weather takes care of drying clothes?

    Resuming: I won't spend my 'rico dinheirinho' with another ugly machine and I don't definitely want Government having to construct another nuclear plant, os even another hydropower plant, in the future, just because I need to use a dryer once or twice a year.
    It's insane.

    Ass. Girosplitz

  37. Bas English, sorry.


  38. BAD(!!!) English, sorry.


  39. My other quirk with Rio doesn't cost a thing to acquire, uses no energy and is made in Brazil.

    But by God they FREAK me out...that is the freaking HUGE cockroaches there! HAHAHAHA

    I have a MAJOR phobia of cockroaches, all sizes, all colors, all religions. I didn't see any on my last trip there but it was a cooler time of year, this time I saw like four of them! And yes, I screamed like the girl I am and proud to admit it..LOL

    Those are one of the things I WOULD NOT want to get used to in Rio but I'm afraid I would have to somehow as they were there before me and I don't think they are going anywhere anytime soon just because I would want them to. Dang it!

    The lack of hot water in the kitchen sink was also strange to me, I'm used to wearing gloves and washing things with scalding hot water here.

    My gosh, how I would LOVE to be able to afford a maid to help out at home. This is where the "quality" of life comes into play.
    We work way too hard here in the U.S. to try and have material possessions when those things shouldn't matter as much as quality of life with friends and family. This is what is wrong with the U.S. as well as family values!

  40. Dear Zoe,

    I was really just joking about the husband pulling a fast one on you, sorry if I came out as agressive, I didn't mean to be rude to you.
    We all definitely lived in different realities.
    My hometown, Sao Bernardo do Campo, on the outskirts of the city is really foggy, humid and it drizzles too often, Dryers are a lifeline to avoid mold.


  41. Dear Reader,

    My brother also owes the Bosch Dryer, they got it as a wedding gift back in 2003. I am not sure how much it costs today, but it shouldn't be too much. It sounds like Brastemp really sucks, after all that I am hearing, Sara, from Macae, also has a Brastemp and said it sucks. I will be sure to stay away from Brastemps.
    Maybe I should just bring my Dryer and Dishwasher from the US.
    I wonder if your neighbor that don't have these appliances have full time maids... that would explain a lot...
    Like I have said before, the weather in Sao Paulo is very different from Campinas, you guys have much warmer/dryer air, we have drizzle, fog, rain and many cloudy days...there is a real daily was against mold.


  42. Just wanted to comment on Shay's post...the funny thing is that I have seen FAR more cockroaches in Los Angeles than I ever have living here. TRUE, here they are huge and brown, and some fly, but in L.A., those black ones (sometimes referred to as Chinese water bugs)...everywhere! Once it gets dark, omg. Here, I have had VERY few encounters, mostly I see dead ones on the commercial streets after they spray. But if you live in an apartment building, especially higher up, you don't see many bugs. Surprising but true! We leave most of our windows wide open (without screens) 24/7 and we live at the base of a densely covered mountain...I rarely get a fly, a bee and I can honestly say, I've only seen one cockroach that was dead on our floor (3 floors up from the street level) in almost 4 years now. Maybe it's all of the bats that come out at night!? Brasilian cleaning standards? I don't know but cockroaches are so NOT a problem in my life. And yes, that's a good thing! = )

  43. Too lazy to read all the comments... just wanted to say: I second this post!