Introducing our new regular feature, Expat Experience. Each time we feature an interview with a international assignee who shares their first hand experiences of expat life.
Interview with Bruno Ribeiro
Q: Where are you from originally?
I am from Cuiabá, Brazil.
Q: Where are you living now and how did you come to choose this new country of residence?
I live in Guildford, Surrey, UK. Before that, I lived for a year in Leeds in Yorkshire with my wife’s family. We originally decided to move to Surrey for my wife’s job. We also thought it would be easier for me to settle down here since it’s warmer and there’s also is a big Brazilian community in London and the surrounding areas. Also the southern accent is much easier to understand!
Q: How long have you been living in the UK?
Q: Do you miss home and family? How do you cope with homesickness?
Of course. I think about them every day. We try to keep in touch on a weekly basis though Skype, phone calls and social media. It was hard for the first 6 months as I had anticipated so I tried to keep busy not think about it too much.
Q: What do you think about the locals?
I have loved the people since day one. Everyone was very welcoming and understandable about my situation. Of course, I must accept that the culture is different and Brits are unlikely to be as social as Brazilians, but they try their best.
Q: Was it easy making friends and meeting people? Do you mainly socialise with other expats or Brits?
The fact that my wife is British made things a lot easier. I quickly made friends with her social group. But even so, I still find it easier to make friends with foreigners because we understand each other’s situation.
Q: How does the cost of living in the UK compare to your home?
Housing prices and public transportation are way more expensive here. Food is cheaper here as we import more in Brazil.
Q: How much does it cost to eat out in restaurants?
Even though Guildford is a small town, there are many options for dining. Last week I took my family out for dinner at a steak restaurant in town and we spent around £70.00 for the 3 of us.
Q: What was your experience with finding work?
I didn’t get many responses from the positions I wanted at first. It took me about 3 months (the average time according to the job agencies). My job involves most of my interests and my employer understood that I would need time to adapt into a new working culture.
Q: Describe your experience with government paperwork such as applications for your visa and work permits?
That was the hardest thing we had to go through. Since we decided to live permanently in the UK, it took us 3 years to sort everything out. First having to deal with Brazilian bureaucracy and then with all the UK demands. We couldn’t afford to be rejected, so we took the long path to make sure we wouldn’t miss anything. But everything worked out in the end with the help of our families and friends.
Q: How have you found the British healthcare regime?
I haven’t needed to use the NHS yet, but my daughter has a few times. Everything went well during her birth and our local GP is great. But I can tell that the system works greatly comparing to the Brazilian one that works in a similar way (Universal System).
Q: What is the biggest challenge that you have faced as a new expat?
On a personal level, I think the lack of friendships at first was the hardest thing. It affected my self-esteem in the beginning because I always had so many friends back home. People here have very busy lives and already have their own circle of friends. Since I started working and going out more that completely changed. I realised that they are just a bit shy at first, but after you get to know them they can be great friends!
At work, it was hard to deal with the different accents. In my office, I have people from North and South of England, Scotland, America, Australia, The Netherlands and Switzerland. It took me a while to get used to it, but now it’s all good. Understanding the different working styles was quite challengeable too. But luckily, that’s what the company is specialized in, so I had lots of material to study and try to understand my colleagues a bit better.
Q: What do you think are the positive and negative sides of living in the UK?
Positive: You don’t need a great salary to be able to afford a decent life and you have lots of opportunities if you are a hard worker.
Negative: You need to travel quite far for some time at the beach.
Q: Do you have plans to move to a different country or back home in the future?
I wouldn’t choose to move until my daughter finishes her studies, unless it’s for a great job offer and where she wouldn’t have any loss of learning. But the plan, for now, is to keep her in the same school. After that, who knows? I don’t really think about it.
Q: Do you have favourite websites or blogs about the UK?
I have never used many blogs for researching, apart the ones that talked about visas. I preferred to approach individuals and Brazilian in groups on Facebook, so I could ask specific questions and read about their experiences.
Q: Do you have any tips for expats when it comes to moving to the UK?
I would say that the language level is very important. But even if you don’t speak a great deal of English it’s important to try communicating in the local language and avoid speaking in your mother tongue. That really can open doors. British people are used to foreigners, but it doesn’t mean they don’t want to understand what people are saying around them. They find it very rude and appreciate when you try to speak the language. I would suggest expats to engage in foreign groups in the local churches (there are hundreds of them) where you can practice the language with other expats and students. If you come from a hot country like me, you must keep in mind that hot weather is limited here and it rains a lot. Don’t stop yourself from going out when it rains, or you will be trapped at home for a long time. Having a practical wardrobe is recommendable too.
To learn more about international business etiquette and how your behaviors compare with other cultures and colleagues click here.