Just Passing Through

Just Passing Through

Foreigners feel they would never be able to live like Brazilians and
cannot understand how people survive and thrive amid chaos, rampant corruption, misery and
violence, and unmanageable traffic.
By Rodolfo Espinoza

Thanks in great part to globalization and the entrance of Brazil into the freetraders
club, tens of thousands of foreigners, most of them executives, have descended into the
country to work for companies back home. These are people who know the stay in Brazil will
only be a passage, a brief interlude before getting a promotion or flying to the next
country. Right now there are 30,000 Americans in this situation, besides 35,000 Germans,
12,000 French, 3000 Canadians, 150,000 Spaniards plus thousands more from all over the
world. It’s believed that in the last two years at least 28,000 new foreigners arrived to
work for multinationals. The Labor Ministry informs that these workers stay from one to
three years in the country.

Weekly newsmagazine Veja (circulation 1,500,000) has published a short piece on
the subject recently interviewing some of these executives and their wives, who seem to be
ones who get more involved with peculiarities of Brazilian life while their husbands
mostly spend their time at the protected environment of their jobs. Most of these people
will never learn much about their host country. Only 10 percent of them are able to
communicate in the country’s language, the Portuguese.

Among the most visible new "colonies" is the American one in the northern
state of Bahia where Ford is building a new assembly plant. The large influx of Spaniards
to São Paulo has to do with the presence in the country of Telefonica, a Spanish company
with massive interests in telecommunications in Brazil. The Renault factory on the other
hand brought scores of Frenchmen and women to the southern state of Paraná.

Veja talks about the phases these executives go through. At the start they get
excited about the weather and the distance a little dollar can go in the country. For many
women it is the first time they can afford what would be a luxury in their home country: a
maid.

In a second phase, starting in the second month, uneasiness or even despair begins to
creep in. They feel they would never be able to live and cannot understand how people
survive and thrive in what they see as unmistakable chaos amid rampant corruption, ever
present misery and violence, and unmanageable traffic.

To make life a little easier, these executives and their spouses join one of the
several clubs and associations that cater to them. Places like the Clube Internacional das
Mulheres de Executivos (International Club for Women of Executives) in Curitiba, capital
of Paraná state. For most foreigners it’s very hard to make Brazilian friends and many
first contacts go nowhere fast. As Celina Sampaio, the Brazilian who leads the American
Society, a club for American executives: "In the beginning Brazilians invite
foreigners to visit them, go out with them, but by and large this does not last
long."

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