Friday, April 8, 2011

You Live in Rio de Janeiro. What are you Bitching About?

Moving to another country is not an easy feat, especially if you come as a family. There's a lot to get used to.  Rio de Janeiro is not any different. While this city has gotten far more foreigner family since I first came, the flow still takes some getting used to.

That is why I understand people complaining. If you are not overtaken by the beauty of it here, it's easy to see the ugly parts. And let's not kid ourselves, a lot of cities are like that.

But I have a hard time with people who choose to focus on the negative.  Rio de Janeiro has no chance in hell if you choose to focus on the flaws before the unique personality. There are just too many. In the wrong light this city looks like a beat-ass, 80 year hooked whose addicted to Meth. 

In the right lighting you would rush her home to Mother. Perspective is funny that way.

I know this from experience. It was very difficult for me when I first came.  I had been told so much about the danger that I was scared.  I didn't want to go anywhere alone. I basically stuck to the streets I knew in my neighborhood.

In my defense, there was a complete lack of infrastructure at the time. When I got here you could smoke in shopping malls, there was no information desk at the bus station (at least not one that I ever saw), and there were hardly any hostels (none in the 3 neighborhoods near me.)

And I bitched. I bitched to anyone who would listen. I complained about not knowing Portuguese and how no one in Mr. Rant's apartment could or would speak to me in English. Oh yes, I lived with the whole family, which could have been even nicer if I would have been more open.

Hell, my little 3 week intensive English course friends had me as a character in their end of the class skit. I was whining. Not one of the finest points in my life.

So I changed. It was a smack to the face to see how others were seeing me. It was pathetic. I was pathetic. I was living in Rio de Janeiro for goodness sake! I paid no rent, ate amazing food daily that I did not have to prepare, and was getting to know locals. All my friends were Brazilian and I only went to places where Cariocas hung out.

And you know what happened? I started adventuring out. I went places, met up with people anywhere, and I had a life. I started teaching English all over Zona Sul and making my own friends. It was great. I had things to do and they were things that I loved.

This continues on today. While the kiddos slow me down a bit, I'm still out and about.

Sure, I have some complaints about here, especially know with children. Some very little things are more of a hassle here than they would be at home.  Honestly though, I hardly see them anymore. I find life so much richer here than I do in the states.

While I still have my 'I hate Rio' days, I also have 'I hate the World' days.  Who doesn't? People are annoying and sometimes life is a bitch.

Shit happens. Get over it. You're here so enjoy yourself!


  1. Amem!
    I say life is too short, if you choose to spend your time with negative stuff you just won't pay attention and enjoy the good and the positive around you!


  2. Good deal. I've spent a lot of time studying/living/working in a number of countries in Latin America and yeah I also had my days of "I hate ___", but overall I loved it! I mean obviously, right? I'm moving back in a few months :).

    I get annoyed with the expats in a certain forum I visit (to gain more information about moving and what I need to expect to do when I get to Brazil). All they do is bitch, bitch, bitch (and most live in Rio). If you're so unhappy - move!

  3. Brazil (and Rio) is not for beginners. How many times do we have to warn people?

    Nobody likes a whiner.

    You create you own reality - focus on the positive!

    (How many more clichés can I add...)

  4. Yeah!!

    Everyone's allowed a little whiny transition time. And after that, everyone's allowed the whiny "I hate the world" days once in a while. But perspective is super important!!

    Have a good weekend!!

  5. Yea, I agree. There is a lot to bitch about in this city, and there is a lot to be in love with. This place definitely has its yin and yang. I`ve had some rough days recently, but then again, I only had to walk all of two blocks to spend yesterday morning at Ipanema beach (a little too long, as it turns out - my wife called me "camaraozinho" the rest of the day). Another example: my main computer died yesterday which completely bummed me out, but the guy at the local 'puter shop today was having so much fun practicing his english with me that he didn't charge me a single real to diagnose the problem. People suck, and people are great. Places suck, and places are great. What matters is how you look at it. We live in Rio, people...we are a lucky bunch.

  6. The best piece of advice I was given in my early days in Rio: since there are so many things that Rio doesn't have (that I was used to or took for granted back at home), do focus on the things that Rio DOES have.

    In other words, look past flaws/shortcomings and celebrate strengths!

  7. Good for you for seeing yourself and finding happiness where you are. The shift on perspective and attitude is not an easy one but one that makes a huge difference in your outlook and inner peace; wherever you might be. It is a universal truth. Any of us will have a richer and more fulfilling life focusing on the good.

  8. I commend you on your attitude adjustment! And for being so self-aware.

    I made a lot of expat friends when I first came to Sao Paulo (we seem to attract each other like flies to honey). And some were just so negative, I literally felt sticky and sickly hanging out with them. Granted, Sao Paulo is no Rio. This is not a beautiful city and can be quite challenging at times. I've also had my negative moments (see about 75% of my posts). But I realized that some of my negative feelings were actually other people's negative feelings that I had just taken on. So I slowly shook off those people in exchange for ones who could see the character, or at least the humor, in the city (and this added more Brazilians to my friend list.)

    Thanks for the post! It's always comforting to know that someone else has gone through a similar challenging experience.

  9. yeah, totally hit a nail on the head. Hell, sometimes I still complain and bitch. That's why I made the blog, one out of many reasons. But I faced somethings similar and I put a stop to it. After 6 months I couldn't take it anymore. I made a life for me here. I am happy and lucky to be in Brazil and have all that I do.

    Now here is to the next phase! Thank god my Portuguese has improved!!!

  10. You're sooo right. It's also true of Brazilians in foreign countries. I get so annoyed with Brazilians in the US complaining ALL THE TIME that I just stopped trying to make friends with them. If you're moving to another country you're the one who will have to do the adapting and accepting of rules and way of life, no country/people will change to suit you; although, I do think Brazilians sometimes will go out of their way to welcome a foreign.

    We're so lucky to have had the chance to experience life from another perspective that I feel absolutely grateful for that. And while I still have my bitchin' days and hate every.single.thing under the sun, it's like you said: more "I hate the world" thing than a specific country.

  11. Moving to any other country is a huge cultural shock to the system. My wife went through the same experience when she moved to the states 9 years ago. Even though we survived her adaptive phases (wow!, bitch/complain and finally acceptance), she never really liked living in the US. In `10, we decided to make the move to Rio.

    Luckily, I have been coming regularly to Rio since '01, staying from one to three months at a time, so there was not much of a shock for me in this move. As Jim said, Rio is NOT for beginners. I still had some adaptive problems with the inefficiency, false "promises" and lying issues but I have finally realized that the reasons for their existence is understandable. Inefficiency means more jobs and false "promises" and lying are made so not to hurt ones feelings (twisted but true).

    I guess the real crux to accepting your new home is to realize that it IS a different culture and it is unrealistic to have your expectations based on your home culture. Rio has so many awesome advantages that the detriments pale in comparison.

    So next time you are feeling down, jump in your car or the metro, head to the beach, rent a chair and buy a cerveja or four. After this, while sitting and looking at the rolling surf ask yourself, "Where else would I rather be?"

  12. As they say the grass always looks greener on the other side.

  13. If you whine and whine when you arrive then you are basically a standard human being dealing with transition. If, after a while, you find that you have not adapted and probably never will then it is up to you to find another place to live. If you can't do that then not only are you a whiner but a big time loser who expects others to act as your therapist and digest all the crap you dish out (like that Giovani dude, a chronic patient that pops in here once in a while).

  14. Be glad you are not living in a xenophobic city/country. Brazilians relate pretty easy to foreigners, this is hugely exceptional in the world.

  15. The best piece of advice I was given in my early days in Rio: since there are so many things that Rio doesn't I was used to or took for granted back at home.....

  16. Hi! I guess I'll be the only person with the balls not to jump on the "you're so totally right!!!" bandwagon...

    In fact I was really looking forward to your post, after reading several very vitriolic, very cogent attacks on Rio, by Brazilians. And it was just starting to chill me out, when I came to the part about free housing, someone preparing your meals for you... Honestly, if I could feel halfway stable in my overpriced share-with-a-person-who-doesn't-understand-fairness apartment, I wouldn't be on the internet right now, trolling blogs about whether life in Rio is crap or not.

    Which brings me to my point - "Nobody likes a whiner. You create your own reality - focus on the positive!" This is worse than hogwash. Complaining is a great pillar of a civilized society. And I've heard no shortage of Brazilians complaining, until... throw up the hands, "What can I do?" and then the problem is forgotten. Do you think that's being positive?

    It seems to me that you're all taking the easy way out, or you're on some imaginary "gone native" shit. What Rio needs, is people with experience in how things work (from elsewhere, where they do work) to say no, we're not going to throw up our hands. We're not going to argue, blame, or avoid responsibility either. We're just going to stand up, say the truth, and do it right. In business, on the bus, at the mechanics... So far, my experience has been that cariocas appreciate it.

    I think shrugging your shoulders is a defense mechanism for when you really don't have the power to make things better. That's not true in Brazil like it was 10, even 5 years ago. And we privileged foreigners especially have no excuse.

  17. The majority of the people bitching aren't here to help Brazil or Rio. They are sitting in their pimp Ipanema apt, that is all paid for by their or their husband's work, and want Rio to be the US or Europe. It's Rio. Deal with it.

  18. Heh - looks like I'm hanging out in the wrong circles :)

    So actually, along those lines, I'll disagree, because nobody I hang out with has a pimp anything here, apartment, empregada (yeah, right!), or bicycle. And yet, we all bitch a considerable amount as well... as do all the Brazilians I know. Yes, we do want Rio to be Europe, in the same way many of us want the US to be Europe. Meaning decent, organized public services and reliable infrastructure, mostly. Reasonable housing is another big one. Basically, a functioning middle class.

    And yes, I suppose the elite might be the biggest obstacle to the middle class... maybe these whiners you speak of, they just don't realize they're part of the elite here?

    If I think about it a little more, maybe I'll end up agreeing with you. :)