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Life's a beach . . .

Monday January 1, 2007

Brian Mee

To say that I moved to Brazil from the UK in September 2000 is true, but not very helpful. It?s a bit like saying ?I moved to Europe?. There are many Brazils ? all different. Just for starters, the state of Bahia in which I live is twice the size of France, with many different cultures. It?s very different here in a village in the country?s northeast from life in a city in the south ? and different, too, because it?s an area, long ago made famous by hippie incursions from all over the world, which has attracted immigrants from the south of Brazil and from many other countries.

My Welsh sheepdog and I came here to sort of retire after I discovered that the south of France, which had been Plan A, was too cold in winter and not all that cheap to live. I admit, too, that having a daughter who had lived in Brazil for the previous six years was both an incentive and a great help. I?d also travelled quite a lot in South America, so I wasn?t entirely surprised by what I found.

Early in 2000 I was walking along the road where my daughter lived, saw a house for sale, discovered the price and the decision was made. Brazilian law gives the possibility of a residence visa to foreign pensioners who have a sufficient income from abroad and a right to import household possessions tax-free. So six months later a standard ISO container was filled in two or three hours outside my house in south Wales and arrived in the port of Vítoria a couple of weeks later. My daughter handled the paperwork and a truck completed the move.

Settling in

The attractions of Brazil start with several thousand kilometres of sandy beaches on the Atlantic coast, a tropical climate usually in the upper 20s ? hardly ever lower than 18, and up to 40 in January?s high summer. It?s a relatively cheap place to live for anyone with even a small European income ? cheaper by a factor of three or four. I spend most of my life in shorts and a singlet and gave all my ties to Oxfam before I left. My one suit, which I kept for old times? sake, has mouldered away unused.

When I arrived I spoke English, and French reasonably well, neither of which were much help in Bahia, where although there is a motley collection of foreigners, Portuguese (and Brazilian Portuguese at that) is the lingua franca. It was virtually impossible to find anyone to teach it before I made the big move. My solution was that of most male foreigners coming to these shores acquire a Brazilian girlfriend ? and then the learning curve is pretty fast. I began to get by within a year, could negotiate quite well within two or three and could do the most difficult thing ? interact in social situations ? in five. I expect that my age ? 60-something, possibly more, I forget ? makes language learning less easy.

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