Hi hey hello my friend,
On September 3rd I celebrated 9 years of living in Brazil! At this time each year I reflect on my life here. In this email you’ll hear the story of why we moved to Brazil, and the highs and lows of life as a foreigner!
Here we go!
Why we moved from Canada to Brazil
The Müller Family arrived in Florianópolis, Brazil, September 3, 2014.
People often ask us, "Why did you move back here? Most people want to get out of Brazil, and Canada is one of the best countries to live in!"
Here’s the story.
Nuni and I got married and started our life together in the Yukon, Canada, next to Alaska. We lived in a small town called Watson Lake (less than 1000 people). Our first son Shasta was born there and we had a really nice life.
Nuni worked as a Parks and Recreation caretaker. I did all sorts of jobs, including working as a secretary, a private piano and guitar instructor, a Zumba instructor, and photographer. We had great friends and community. But something was missing.
Nuni and I are musical people, and a town of 1000 people didn't feel big enough for us to pursue our musical passions. Nuni also wasn't enjoying his job very much. It was a good paying job but it didn't fulfill him. We considered moving to another place in Canada, but settled on moving back to his hometown of Florianópolis, Brazil. We would have his family nearby. We'd have lots of musical connections, since Nuni was part of the music scene before we got married.
(It took us 5 years to get back in the music scene, because we were busy raising our little ones, but it eventually happened! We now both work full time with musical performances, composing, recording, and teaching)
Right after we made this decision, we found out I was pregnant with Sebastian. We were happy, because Nuni’s family would get to experience the baby phase, something they didn’t get to experience with Shasta (they met him when he was one).
So we moved across the world, and we’re still here 9 years later. We love life here. But if you’ve ever traveled or lived in another country, you’ll know that there are many challenges that come with moving abroad. Here are a few of mine!
(Keep calm and speak Portuguese)
LEARNING A NEW LANGUAGE
Learning Portuguese was (and still is) a big challenge. I only knew a handful of words when I arrived. I felt lonely when Nuni had conversations with his family and friends. I was unable to contribute anything, or understand what was being said.
However, I met a lovely Brazilian named Luana who told me, "Don't worry, you're gonna learn Portuguese! It will just happen!" I held those words with me over the next few years. And she was right. It just happened. It took 2-3 years for me to feel comfortable enough to have a conversation solely in Portuguese.
I didn't take any classes (they probably would have been helpful, but I had a baby and a toddler). I just listened and learned little by little. The turning point was when I made friends with a family on our street. They didn't speak any English, and they were patient. So I would spend a bit of time every day chatting with them, and that's when I noticed - “hey - I'm having a conversation!”
Our lovely neighbours, Karen, Felipe and Laila, who helped me feel comfortable speaking Portuguese
Now I can speak Portuguese fluently. Not perfectly - and I'm okay with that. I learn something new every day. I'm patient with myself. I can make myself understood and that's the important thing.
Learning a new language is a challenge but also a blessing. Now I can speak two languages. Now I understand what it feels like to be misunderstood. Now I understand the feeling of isolation and loneliness even when you’re surrounded by people. It has stretched me and made me into a better person.
BEING ON TIME
As a Canadian I like to be on time (if not early) for events. Being on time is NOT a big thing in Brazil. Especially for parties, events, and meeting up with friends. For example, if I'm planning a party, I'll tell people to "arrive at 2pm" so that most people arrive by 4pm. I still feel slightly panicky if I’m going to be late for an event, but then I remember, "It's Brazil… relax." No one expects you to be on time for a party.
MAKING PLANS, BREAKING PLANS
When I moved here I was used to making plans and sticking to the plans. But that was something I had to let go of.
In my first year here, we invited a friend over for dinner. I decided I would make lasagna. I spent most of the day shopping for and preparing that lasagna, whilst taking care of my baby and toddler (no easy task). Half an hour before the friend was scheduled to arrive, he called and said "I'm so sorry, but I forgot I already had other plans tonight." I was so mad.
Now, I hold all my plans loosely. I don't get attached to them. I always tell my sons, "this is the plan for today, but it could change! So don't be upset if it does!"
I now prefer the Brazilian culture of loose plans and times. It makes everything more flexible and free. It can at some times be annoying to my Canadian brain, but it's all about your expectations.
This is a cultural difference I love! Brazilians are MUCH more physical than Canadians. They love to hug and kiss. Greeting another person, even a new person, normally involves a hug and a kiss on the cheek. They even say goodbye with the word "beijos!" ("kisses!")
I love hugs and physical closeness, so this one hasn't been a challenge!
Me and my wonderful Brazilian friend Gabi
External beauty is highly valued in Florianópolis. At the beginning I felt out of place at parties surrounded by gorgeous, well dressed women. I remember the first party Nuni and I went to together. I wore one of my nicest dresses (that I got from the thrift store, but still). I thought I looked pretty good. When we got to the party I felt like a homeless person. The ladies were SO decked out. High heels, makeup, super stylish clothes. I felt underdressed to the point of being uncomfortable.
After that, I went to the mall to try and improve my wardrobe and “fit in”. I still found it hard, though. Above all, I value comfort. High heels are NEVER going to be my thing.
It took me a while to realize that it was okay for me to be me. That I didn't HAVE to be like the fancy ladies. I could wear my thrift store dress and no makeup and people would still like me.
These days that cultural difference doesn't bother me at all. I wear what I want to wear. I know it's cliché, but it's what's on the inside that counts. During my time here I learned to love myself, and accept myself for exactly who I am.
Me and my lovely friend Debby at a wedding. Me in my thrift store dress and fine with it 😁
There are lots of challenges beyond this, but also many BLESSINGS! And of course, the blessings outweigh the challenges. Here are a few worth mentioning:
EVERYTHING IS NEW!
Living here makes me feel like a kid discovering things for the first time. There are so many different plants, animals, birds and insects. New breathtaking scenery. Also, new ways of life. New words. New experiences. New understanding. It makes life very interesting and exciting.
There is so much good music that comes out of Brazil! (Also bad music. I'm looking at you, “Funk”) I am always discovering new great songs and styles. Bossa Nova, MPB, Samba and Pagode are my favourites. It transports you. They use different chords and progressions than our standard pop music in Canada. In my opinion it’s more interesting and enjoyable, overall. I love going out to hear Brazilian music performed live. And sometimes it’s ME who’s performing it! If you'd like to hear my favourite Brazilian songs, check out this Spotify Playlist: https://open.spotify.com/playlist/3Zsz8JBKngB98QyuaVJrHk?si=NavvFJ6cSm2IMP1Siq9fAA
Performing at a wedding with my Brazilian friend Ju
I’ll let the photos speak for themselves!
Flowering trees at all times of the year
Marmoset (Saguí) Monkeys that visit my backyard
One of our favourite swimming spots, Lagoa do Peri
More incredible scenery that’s so different from Canada!
I could write a novel about my experiences here, and maybe one day I will. I'll just finish with saying the BIGGEST CHALLENGE is being away from my family and friends in Canada, and my BIGGEST BLESSING is being close to my new friends and family! One of my favourite quotes is "Wherever you are, it is your friends who make your world." I couldn't agree more. So if you're one of my real life friends reading this, please know that I appreciate you SO MUCH.
And for those of you who aren't my friend in real life - I also appreciate you so much! I love sharing the beauty and excitement of my life here with you. It’s too good to keep to myself!
Lots of love! Beijos!