Friday, March 18, 2011

In Love With A Brazilian - Q & A

Question: My name is Sass, I am American and I am living in Brazil--my contact with Brazilians in the US and Brazilian culture is vast but over a year ago I fell hard for a guy, in a similar situation as you, unexepectedly and at a bar.  I had to leave the country in order to graduate and everything, and we swore to each other we would wait for each other.  He's from Rio Grande do Sul.  I moved back to Brazil on my toursit visa, but am living in São Paulo--we have decided that we do want to be together more than anything else, and are trying to resolve how to do this--we want to be married.  

I'm sure you know how hard it is for a foreigner to get married in Brazil, but we have 90 days to figure this out.  I am 23, and although I always said I would wait for a while to get married, I'm sure this is right-- I wanted to know: do you feel like you got married young?  You said your family was very supportive-- I'm sure mine will not be, they have high expectations of my and my career etc'--but how is it between you and your family, you being here in Brazil and them being in the States--how often do you see them, what sort of compromises are to be made.  and perhaps any other opinions, advice you could give me...

Have a wonderful day in the marvelous city, I dream of being on a beach right now.

Answer: This is a hard one, I will say. I did marry Mr. Rant at 23 years old and only knowing him 5 months (physically being with him for about 2.5 of those months).  My family was supportive. I don't know if they thought it would last but at least they didn't say they didn't. My husband's family was also supportive. That I find crazy seeing that they had never met me and knew that I didn't speak a word of their language.  Talk about having faith in the decisions of their son! 

In the end, this is your life. You make the decisions and you live with the consequences. Of course the beauty of a family is that they have a tendency to absorb a bit of the responsibility if they are supportive.  It is a bitch to get married in Brazil. If you did not get your US documents certified at the Brazilian consulate before you came, you have to get them translated and made official here.  That takes time and money. I know that you at least need your birth certificate and a document with your parents' names on it.  Then you'll need to go to the US consulate and get a little paper that says you are able to get married, ie. aren't already in the US. They give it to you the same day, which is nice. Once you get all your documents and manage to put them in to be processed at the Catorio (the government place that does this kind of thing), you have to wait 30 days with your name in this national paper. This is so anyone who knows something on you or is married to you can check and come tell on you. Like anyone reads it! Anyway, you may or may not have to pick up a copy of this paper and bring it to get married. I'm not sure, it's been 7 years since I did the whole process. 

Since you are young, and if you go back, you could get your University degree certified at the consulate and use that to try to get into a program in Brazil. Or, if you don't manage to get married in 90 days and your family freaks out, you could compromise by signing up for a study abroad in Brazil. 

I do not recommend doing what I did and coming down and teaching English right away. It's more likely you'll stick to that and not look into other options. Have a frank talk with your family, tell them you are getting married regardless, but ask for their support. With a little money you can get a great Portuguese tutor and work on your language skills. There are wonderful masters and PhD programs down her and I know many foreigners who have gone this route and now have successful careers.  

As for visits from my family, that only started when I had children. I went up there before that, partially because we could fly for cheap due to Mr. Rant's Aunt working for Varig. Now we try to go every year to 1.5 years. I doubt it'll happen this next year but that's ok. My parents also come once a year so we see each other quite often considering.  Grandkids are great ways to get Grandparents to travel. FYI - I recommend waiting AT LEAST 3 years before babies.  Get the rhythm of marriage first. 

As for me, I do feel I married young. I compromised a part of youth.  But if this is right, and he is a good partner, it is not a bad compromise. Just because you are married doesn't mean you become old.  On the other hand, it does mean that you have another person who's opinion you have to take into account when making your decisions. It stops being about what is right for you and becomes what is right for us. That in and of itself does make you grow up a bit.  Marriage takes a lot of patience, and one in which you haven't been dating in the tradition sense needs even more. Marrying and moving in together means you'll be really getting to know each other quickly. And I know you know him but until you live with someone, do you ever really know them?  So there will be some arguing but that is ok. It happens in relationships. And there will be miscommunication. Mr. Rant was fluent when we met and we still had some issues. Some things in Portuguese are not that offensive but they sure are when you translate them to English and vice versa! We'd have to stop and explain what the phrase the other person said meant to us and see if that was really what they were going for. Tough thing to do mid-battle.  

Overall, love is a powerful thing. Can get you through everything. Just be prepared, especially if you are going down this path sans the family, that there will be tough moments. But if life is just better with him in it, it'll never be that bad.  

Personally, I am very happy with my decision! I could not imagine my life ever being this full if I hadn't taken a jump into the unknown at such a young age. Nay sayers will be there regardless of the decisions you make. So put on some thick skin and choose what's best for you. Isn't that what growing up is all about? 

What would you all add? 


  1. I got married at 24 after knowing my husband for 3 months - I say go for it. If you feel it's right in your heart, it is.

    Your family will support you when they see you are happy. They are just trying to look out for your best interest, obviously!

  2. On the one hand, getting married young, that's a big leap of faith. Be careful with young love. I did it the first time around at 21...and the marriage lasted 11 years, though slowly started dying once I realize who I was and what I wanted in life when I was in my mid-late twenties, when I realized my husband and I were super-different and there was no going backwards for either of us. My advice, DO NOT EVER change your name, never for anyone. You will never regret it. You deserve to be who you are, that's who you are!

    Back to my story, one day, unexpected comes this darling Brasilian man into my life, my age, tons in common, intense passion and connection between us from the first super random contact that came out of nowhere in my life at the time. And I have to say...that's the best thing in life, when you have that intense and amazing chemistry, it doesn't happen often but when it does, sh*t, you can't breathe, think, you only want that in your life,no matter what you have to sacrifice, there's nothing like it. So I made that leap too, over 7 years ago... we probably spent a total of 6 weeks physically together, scattered over 6 months (but with many long phone calls and emails to fill up the space), and I have to say, he still lights me up, surprises me, charms me, turns me on...and I know I gave up a lot to be here in Brasil, but I could never imagine my life without this man and this life, no matter how difficult it can be sometimes. Passion. I look at him and I think "wow"...Good choice! I went with my heart and left all of my possessions, my successful career, my pets, my previous marriage, my house, my cars, my belongings...everything...and I'd do it again for what I have now. I think if it's real, "meant to be" all that... it's gonna work! Leap of faith. Lots of red tape, but worth it. Now we have a great family, he supports me staying home, he's awesome. LOVE HIM. And also really love my life here. It was hard in the beginning but now...I feel lucky to be here, to have this life I have. Good luck to you!

  3. Great post Rachel.

    I think one major consideration in a cross-cultural romance is how you will adapt to living abroad for the long term.

    I live in Argentina with my Argentine partner. Even though I love being here, the day-to-day challenge of living in a foreign country can be taxing. Communicating clearly, fitting in, making close girlfriends, feeling like an integral part of your community are all things that I took advantage of in the States that don't come quite as easily here.

    For us, it was a blessing that we had the experience of living in both of our home countries together. Because he lived in the States for some time, he really understands everything I gave up to follow the love of my life to America del sur.

    Good Luck to you!

  4. Well said. No one can ever know if you're ready to marry but you, in your heart; it's only a decision you and your partner can make.
    I married my (Brazilian) husband at 25, and on his 24th birthday, and we felt we were young to get married, but it was right and we're happily married almost 4 years later.
    I also agree with the advice not to have children right away (though to each their own). I know my husband didn't want to have children right away, not only because of his age, but because he wanted to settle down first.

  5. "Some things in Portuguese are not that offensive but they sure are when you translate them to English and vice versa!"

    Now I'm curious! Tell us some of those stories (: Or you could make a post about it. That would be interesting.

  6. On the school front: I did a post-graduate course in Brazil. It's a bit of a nightmare getting your documents translated, and good luck with getting into a "public" university. BUT private colleges are more willing/understanding about foreign students, in my experience.

    Also, from observing my expat-married-to-Brazilian friends, make sure you love the inlaws. You WILL be seeing a lot of them. Unless you move to another state. And then they'll come for a month or more at a time to visit.

  7. Great advice Rachel! I'm with the majority and agree that the only person who can be sure you're ready to marry is you.
    However, as the child of divorced parents, I've never heard of a divorced couple who was not totally in love and "sure" at the time they said their vows. My parents were. They were in their early twenties and by the time they were 30, they had finished growing up and were different people. I was 7 when my mom moved out.
    That's why I feel the key to knowing if you're ready to get married is knowing yourself. I don't think the only question should be how much do you love him. Marriage not just about romance. How well do you know yourself? Have you been through a stressful situation that lasted months, maybe years? Because that's life as a new expat in a cross-cultural marriage. Do you have dreams that you will always regret giving up?
    I believe you can know the answers to these at 23. I think life circumstances and experiences make some people grown-up at 20 and others still haven't and approaching 40. Just be sure to ask these questions before you take the plunge. I can say that divorce does not destroy kids (not hardly if the parents are responsible) but it does totally suck and shapes who they become.
    I hope things work out for her and wish her the best whatever she decides. And again, great advice Rachel.

  8. Thanks everyone for the tips!

    Marina - I can't quite remember exact examples. I think I blocked them out. lol

  9. Can I be a nay-sayer? Forgive me. I'm not an expert. Hell, I'm not even a heterosexual.

    Do what you want - let's get that out there. I'm not suggesting otherwise. But I AM suggesting what all of us know -- this type of decision at your age is a huge gamble. It may be too soon to jump into the deep end of the pool. Especially when your lead motivation is to find a way around visa/immigration policy to spend more time together.

    But hey - that's just me.

    Don't get me wrong. I have known literally tens of couple who got married to justify immigration requirements. No love, no commitment, no sense of honor for the institution. (And you will not find ME fighting for any sense of honor for legal heterosexual marriage!)

    But some people believe in this sort of thing. As a young person - go and believe. But are you taking this step on those grounds or because you need the papers to stay together?

    Forgive me for saying this out loud. If you are sincere - shame on me. Go for it. But if your motivation is to ensure you are close enough to f**k for a little while longer while trying to convice your circle of friends and family that you are soul mates... well, maybe there are other options.

    Life is complicated - you klnow that. And I am being an ass to voice the negative.

    As a gay man let me just point out that you are about to exercise you HETEROSEXUAL PRIVELEGE and get married to solve your short term problem. Get it? Lucky you.

    But hey - if you say you love each other -- what the heck? You can always get a divorce and marry another dude some time in the future.

    It's a different world for you guys...

    Again: sorry to pee at the picnic.

  10. I hate to rain on your parade, but I will say again a quote from someone in my past that said, "anybody that gets married only based on love is a damn fool."

    After 9 years of marriage, I have to agree. The key component to a successful marriage is compatibility. If the two of you are compatible, go for it and marry. You need to realize that a marriage is a system of give and take.

    The fact that you two are from two different cultures is going to put another aspect into the equation. Realize that Brazilians incorporate their families intimately into the marriage life. If you can live with If you are the type that needs independence...not so cool.

    Think things out before you leap.

  11. Love is a gamble. And Jim, I applaud you for speaking up, and I agree, marrying just to stay together might not pay off, but it just might too. And yes, for heteros, it is something we take for granted and this is an injustice that should soon be remedied, I hope. But, you never know with love. And especially young love...people grow, people change, people don't know what they want for a long time really...when do we figure this out? But I'd rather live a life taking risks and experiencing happiness and passion than playing it safe. I did the safe route far longer than I should have first time around. Life is just too short. I'd rather live with my mistakes than look back regretting.

  12. So many great things have been said, and I agree with almost everything. I'd like to offer a new perspective. That of the child of divorced parents.

    My parents were crazy about each other and believed in the vows they took. My parents were in love but also young. By the time they hit 30, they had grown into different people with different dreams. I was 7 when my mom moved out.

    After a childhood spent one week here, one week there and the opportunity to see one marriage fail and two subsequent marriages work, I think a critical question to ask before you get married is "how well do you know yourself?" Because in the end that is the only thing anyone can know for sure. Do you have dreams you will forever regret giving up? How do you handle stressful situations? Have you lived with stress everyday for months or even years? Because that is the beginning of life as a new expat wife in a cross-cultural marriage. Do you know what you have to have in life? Do you know how you want to manage money, what a respectful partnership look likes to you and what work/life balance you want?

    I don't know of a single divorced couple who wasn't "in love" and "sure" when they said their vows. That can't be the only reason. I can say from experience that divorce won't destroy your kids (not hardly if the parents are responsible) but it totally sucks and will shape who they become. So be as prepared as you can be before you take the plunge.

  13. evrything said in here is awesome. You got some great sincere people giving a fair perspective on things. Listen and take into account whats been said here. All I'd like to add is: why marry? find a way to just move in together, see if it works first, then marry, and only then (like much later), have kids. Brazil is not that strict with immigrants, I'm sure you'll find a way around. Take your family's opinions into account, nobody loves you like they do. Listen, be open to what truth may be in what they are saying. The decision is solely yours, though. You are young enough to take on all the risks, so take them if you feel is worth it. Nothing in life is permanent, except for children. Just dont put other people (aka. kids) in it before you are sure and the relationship is mature enough, bc thats a whole other story that should not be taken lightly.

  14. Lots of brilliant comments. To me, the most striking statement I read was Thais', who said "nothing in life is permanent, except for children."

    Well said. I totally agree.

    I've been saying for the past 3 years that the only decision in life that is completely irreversible is having children. All other decisions are reversible (for the most part) and do not change the fundamental definition of your life.

  15. Then again, you could marry in your 30s, well mature, having dated the guy for some 3 years, both families supportive, but somehow, somewhere you know maybe it's not the best decision, then 5 years later and the family having expanded you know without the maybe that it indeed wasn't the right decision.
    The moral of the story: make sure you are sure.
    Oh, and be aware that even if you are, whether you are young or mature, there is still a chance something will not work, but go in knowing you'll do your darnest it will.

  16. I am going through the exact same thing at the moment. I met my boyfriend last September, was with him for 4 months, went back to the uk for a few months and am back in Brazil for 5 weeks to try and figure things out. I am the romantic one who thinks getting married now will solve everything but he is thinking more realistically He is going to come over the the UK, to meet my family and we are going to go from there.

    All of my friends are married, I am 27 and he is 33 and I want to settle down and am pretty eager to do so, but know deep down that is it best not to rush it.

    I have also travelled a lot, lived in 3 different countries and feel happy that I have experienced everything I want to do as a single person.

    I totally agree with Brynn saying about making sure you know yourself first. And Stephanie with ´if it´s meant to be it will be´ I am preparing myself for it to be difficult and hard work but totally worth it!

  17. I remember reading a New York Times article several years ago, and its main point was: no one can ever predict how they will FEEL (or think) in the future.

    One can only think and feel in the present, declare wishful thoughts/feelings for the future, but it is simply impossible to predict how one will feel/think later on down the line.

    It's one of the reasons the divorce rate (at least in the US) is 50%. Because no one makes their vows with the intention to divorce or with the ability to predict how they will feel/change in the future.

    There are very few guarantees in life. The most that can be expected of anyone is to do one's best. It's basically a leap of faith into the unknown. Not very comforting, but true. The future can't be predicted.

  18. There is no correct answer for your unfortunately. Love and marriage can be like playing the win some, you lose some.

    I agree with a lot of the different views that have been presented and disagree with some as well.

    My thoughts on this subject have been molded by my experience with love and marriage. Surprisingly I am not bitter or angry like most women are who have gone through my situation but it has allowed me to see things from a different perspective and I've grown in new ways as well.

    I did everything the "right" way according to society. We were high school sweethearts, married when I was 21 and he 22 because we were in love. Waited four years to have children to build a marital foundation. Welcomed a daughter and then a son two years later. I quit my job when I was pregnant with my son to become a full time mom until I started my photography business when my son was two. Always worked my schedule around the kids though and had a wonderful mother in law who helped. So my kids never set foot in a daycare.

    Everyone thought we had the "perfect" marriage even though we both knew we were more like roommates in our last year together than husband and wife. Last July after 15 years together, I discovered he had been having an affair with a woman at work and that was it for us. We decided that we weren't in love anymore and had not one ounce of compatibility in our relationship. We are the best of friends now and get along great and always did our marriage as well.

    I agree that marriage is not just about love. I do think it is even more so about compatibility because love is ever changing but if you find someone you are compatible with, it holds a base for you develop your relationship on.

    I hesitate to say " I think you are too young and I wouldn't get married right now for any reason. " because it is you who has to live with your decisions, good or bad, not us.

    There are exceptions to the rule in all relationships and you just might be one just like Rachel, but we never know.

    I would suggest as it has been said that you try to find a way to live together first and spend some time together in that situation before making anything legal. I certainly would choose this option if I had the choice.

    I'm lucky to have found a wonderful Carioca and we are currently in a long distance relationship because we can't be together right now so I understand that part of your situation for sure.

    Good luck and let us know what happens!