25 August 2016

Tom Le Mesurier - Expat in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

Tom Le Mesurier - Expat in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

We’ve had the chance to talk to Tom Le Mesurier, 38, a British expat who has moved to Brazil with his wife. Mr Le Mesurier who has been living there for five years, now works as a food writer.

Read more about his experiences in the full interview below.


Q:  Where are you originally from?

A: If I had to choose, I'd say I'm from England, but in reality, we moved around a lot when I was a kid.


Q: What made you move out of England?

A: I decided to take a four-month holiday to explore South America. Those four months turned into a full year and at the end of it, I decided to move to Brazil permanently.


Q: Where are you living now?

A: I live in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.


Q: How did you come to choose this new country of residence?

A: While I was travelling in Nicaragua I met a girl from Rio. We got on really well and eight months later we got married. That was five years ago.


Q:  How long have you been living in Brazil?

A: Five years


Q: What has been the most difficult experience you've had when you were new in Brazil?

A: On very rare occasions, I have had experience in open hostility from xenophobic locals. It's very atypical of Cariocas (Rio's locals) who are generally extremely friendly and welcoming. All the same, it's not nice for anyone to be told to 'go back to where you come from', etc.


Q: Would you say that formalities like getting visas or work permits and international health insurance were particularly difficult in Brazil? What was your experience with these?

A: Getting anything done officially in Brazil (visas, work permits, marriage licences, etc.) tends to take a lot of time, a lot of waiting around in public offices and usually costs quite a lot of money. Happily at this stage, I have passed most of those hurdles, but I'm still putting off getting my driving licence as I can't face the hassle of getting all the necessary forms arranged and paid for.


Q: Are you living alone or with your family?

A: I live with my wife.


Q: How are they adjusting to the Expat Lifestyle?

A: My wife is local, so she has helped me avoid the 'Expat lifestyle' in favour of something closer to living like a local. Although I fit most definitions of an expat, it's not a title I identify with.


Q: Was it easy making friends and meeting people? Do you mainly socialize with other expats in Brazil? How did you manage to find a social circle in Brazil?

A: It was not easy to meet new people. Of course, I was introduced to many of my wife's friends and family, but forming new friendships in a new language is not easy. I socialise with an even mix of locals and people from other countries. I met many of my friends through the blog that I started writing soon after I arrived Eatrio.net.   


Q: What are the best things to do in the area? Anything to recommend to future expats?

A: I think the best things to do in Rio are fairly straightforward: spend time on the beach, get involved with the music scene (there are loads of live performances in bars and other venues across the city), learn about the food and other aspects of the culture, get to know the many trails and tracks that lead through much of Rio's huge urban forest.


Q: How does the cost of living in Brazil compared to your home?

  • How much is a cup of coffee?

A: R$3 | US$1

  • How much is a meal in an inexpensive restaurant?

A: R$35 | US$10 per person

  • How much is a meal in an expensive restaurant?

A: R$300 | US$100 per person

  • How much is a bottle of wine? How about a pack of cigarettes?

A: Wine: R$30 | US$10; Cigarettes: R$6.50 | US$2.20


Q: What do you think about the locals?

A: Cariocas (locals to Rio de Janeiro) are generally very friendly and happy to meet new people. Cariocas have a reputation for being very laid back, so if you're used to people arriving at meetings on time then you are in for a shock! People will routinely arrive 20-40 minutes late to meetings (both business and social).On the positive side, Cariocas do not take life too seriously and the kind of unnecessary everyday stress and bother you see in other countries is virtually  absent here.


Q: What do you think are the positive and negative sides of living in Brazil?

A: Positive: Lovely warm weather and lots of sunshine year round. Beautiful countryside – Rio is undoubtedly one of the world's most stunning cities. A rich history and culture that for most people are virtually unknown. I have found the process of learning about Brazilian food, music, history, language, (etc.) to have been one of the most wonderful aspects of living in this massive country.

Negative: If you aren't good with the heat, summer can be hard work. We often have 2 or 3 months in summer where the temperatures don't fall much below 35°C. The bureaucracy and red tape are very time-consuming, frustrating and expensive. Rio is an extremely expensive city – most expats and tourists get a real shock when they see the prices.


Q: Do you miss home and family sometimes?

A: Yes, from time to time.


Q: How do you cope with homesickness?

A: Regular Skype calls to friends and family really help. Other than that, it's just about getting on with your new life, involving yourself in new projects, making plans and focusing on the positive aspects of being in your new location.


Q: Do you have plans to move to a different country or back home in the future?

A: No solid plans, but a vague thought that we might move on at some stage.


Q: What has been the hardest aspect to your expat experience so far?

A: Learning Portuguese is an ongoing challenge that I don't think I'll ever 'finish'. Finding yourself in a new city is hard enough at the best of times, but when you can't easily communicate with people you can end up feeling very isolated. Getting over/through that isolation was a big challenge and you don't get much sympathy from home when you tell them you're feeling lonely. Everyone assumes that Rio is just one long party!


Q: What tips can you give other expats living in that country?

A: Learn the language. Try to make local friends as well as other expats – locals can really help you understand the mentality of other locals. They can also give you great tips on where the best bars and restaurants are!


Q: Do you have favourite websites or blogs about Brazil?

A: There is a great blog called Flavors of Brazil which covers a very wide range of foods native to Brazil. I found this a very useful resource when I first arrived in the country. Sadly it stopped being updated several years ago but it is still a great reference for people interested in Brazilian cuisine. I can't resist mentioning my own blog, Eat Rio, in which I attempt to get beyond all the touristy stuff and give readers a taste of the most magical aspects of Brazil that are often  left out of the guidebooks.