Tag Archives: brazil

Buying insurance should be easy right?

I really dislike insurance companies. They are taking money because of something that *may* happen and every time I have tried claiming insurance in the past the company has always found a get-out clause. Why bother?

Clearly it is important in a catastrophic situation – like crashing the car so badly it’s wrecked – but when the situation is less urgent, the insurance I have bought in the past has never paid.

I even bought an expensive property insurance policy once because I was upset that my previous policy did not let me claim for a stolen laptop computer. I upgraded it, threw in all the added extras and when my bicycle was stolen I felt sure that they would pay – only to find a clause stating that bicycles are not covered when away from the house.

I should have just lied, but then that would be fraud and I have never lied to an insurer to try getting a payout. They don’t pay me even when I try making a genuine claim.

But when I do want to buy a policy I don’t expect to have to go to a broker – not in 2014. I already have a car insurance policy here in Brazil with Porto Seguro. My wife just bought a car so ideally I would assume they could just modify our existing policy to lump the two cars and two drivers all together as one.

No. They can’t do it. I need to just buy a completely new policy and they can’t help me on the telephone – the instruction was to just go to a broker. The broker took the existing Porto Seguro policy so he had all our details from the existing policy – something the insurance company should have done anyway…

It’s not a very good way to treat an existing customer – surely the model any successful company should be following is how to make it easy for customers spend more money?

Porto Seguro and No Parking

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Christmas cards – joy and goodwill to all?

My wife and I moved to a new town in February. We have loved the move so far and have enjoyed meeting new people and breathing the country air – a big change compared to the streets of São Paulo!

Just before Christmas we thought it might be nice to give a Christmas card to everyone in the neighbourhood. We have met many of our neighbours, but obviously not everyone so it just seemed like a nice way to say hi. Our cards were personal, with a photo of us with our dog Joe so it seemed like a nice way to say hi to people we still haven’t met.

But the experience has been a bit strange. While walking up and down the streets delivering the cards to our neighbours one woman came and stopped and asked if we were begging for cash – in the kind of voice that meant she thought we were not welcome on ‘her’ street. My wife gave her a card and said ‘we live just around the corner from you – happy Christmas!’ I know I wouldn’t have bothered giving her a card, but being nice to someone who is being an idiot is a good strategy for confusing them.

Now it’s a few days after Christmas and only two of our neighbours bothered to reciprocate – not counting the people we actually know already. That’s from about 30 cards delivered.

It doesn’t seem like a very good strike rate, or in the spirit of goodwill and all that. One of the cards that came back was from from our local member of the federal parliament. I’ve never actually met him, but he lives in our street and goes back and forth to Brasilia all the time. Being a politician he could have just handed it to an assistant and got them to sort out a reply, but it was signed from all his family so he should at least receive the benefit of the doubt – whatever his job, he is still a neighbour.

But the funny thing about the cards that did come back is that both of them were also addressed to Joe – our dog… his photo is on the card, but it’s funny to see people write his name on the card too 🙂 I bet that not many Deputado Federals in Brasilia sent out a Christmas card addressed to a mutt who was once tipping bins over for his dinner.

It was an interesting experiment. Perhaps delivering the cards just a couple of days before Christmas itself was too late for many people to respond in time? Next year I’ll try sending them all out on December 1 and maybe arranging a block party so the locals can all get together at our place.

I’m so proud of my wife :-)

Of course I would say that anyway. Everyone would; but Angelica has been up to something special recently and it’s going to launch tomorrow.

Despite her regular work on our IT Decisions company in Brazil, where she is working for several clients including a couple of different US-based publishers and additional work – like commenting this week on entrepreneurs in Brazil for the Commonwealth Secretariat – she is about to launch a new venture.

It’s called Gift Brazil and before even launching she has collected together 3,600 fans on Facebook – all of them are people who just love the idea even though they still can’t buy anything.

Gift Brazil is a collective of artisans in Brazil all using this channel to sell their products. Angelica has her own products on there, but she is also offering the platform to other artisans. It really is connecting very remote rural artisans with the globally connected world… connecting the new and old.

I think this venture is tremendously important. It’s not just about making a few quid from selling gifts, there is so much more to this and this is why I’m so proud of what she is already achieving with the venture.

  • So many “gifts” from Brazil are T-shirts featuring toucans (often not even printed in Brazil) or a new pair of Havaianas flip-flops. This collection of gifts is handmade by rural artisans and curated personally by Angelica and her team – so the buyer knows that they are going to get something genuine and unique.
  • This creates jobs in remote rural communities where traditionally these artists have only ever been able to sell to passing tourists – now Gift Brazil lets them sell to the world – using English (and at no charge to the artist at all).
  • This preserves cultural traditions that have existed in these rural communities for generations. If people can make a living from their art then they will not be forced to abandon it in favour of regular jobs – as many have been forced to do.
  • This promotes digital inclusion as artisans who can use tools like email are already helping out those who can’t and Angelica has some specific plans already in place to fund training sessions – helping people in remote locations get more from the Internet.

I think this is a great idea. Angelica’s idea will create rural jobs in Brazil and create opportunities to sell globally where none existed before – and it gives better products to the buyers with an interest in Brazil. Everyone wins!

I’m really proud that she put this entire project together – with help from her mate Flavia. It already features hundreds of individual items from dozens of artisans and will launch tomorrow (Dec 3rd) at the National Handicrafts Expo in Belo Horizonte – a trade fair with an expected attendance in the region of 165,000 people!

So please take a look at Gift Brazil. Go and Like them on Facebook and please consider buying something from the site. It’s not just about lining the pocket of a big retailer – this cash is heading directly to help out rural Brazil by creating opportunities for these people to trade with the world.

Angelica can be found on LinkedIn here if you are a journalist or blogger and interested in writing about what she is doing with Gift Brazil.

And do take a look at her Instagram too – it’s packed full of the items they are selling and looks fantastic!

O que é a Gift Brazil?

Doctoring the medical certificate

I’m a member of a sports club that has a swimming pool and gym – both of which require a valid medical certificate before the club will let me in to use the facilities.

This is bit annoying. Every gym I have used in the past in every country I have travelled to just relied on self-certification – you make your own choice to be there in the gym and they are not liable if you have any health problems.

But this is Brazil – there is often a need for a piece of paper to be signed when it might be better to just shake hands or trust in people. Nevertheless, I went off to the local GP to get a certificate.

“Are you feeling OK?” he asked.

“Yes, no problems,” I replied.

He stamped the paper and gave it to me. He didn’t check my pulse, temperature, blood pressure – nothing.

What’s worse than having to get a medical certificate every three months so I can go and exercise at the gym? How about the doctor not even bothering to check if I am actually OK anyway.

The reality is that this is only a mild annoyance, but it’s symptomatic of wider issues around bureaucracy in Brazil. Just because a process exists does not mean that there is a reason for it to exist. Someone should question it.

My gym could easily put a sign on the wall saying ‘by entering this room you accept liability for your own health and cannot sue us…’ But if they did that, the doctors would probably complain about all the cash they are losing, just by taking a few seconds to stamp a form.

Who is right and who is wrong?

The Doctor's Tenth Incarnation

Photo by Rooner’s toy photography licensed under Creative Commons

Only an Englishman would write about pubs in a book about Brazil

Anyone who does anything creative is always interested in seeing what others think about their work. Not just the supportive comments from friends and family, but the online reviews and comments from those in the media – and just regular readers. I’ve got musician friends and I know that they are just as interested in how people react to songs as I am when I publish a new book.

Reality Check: Life in Brazil through the eyes of a foreigner [Kindle Edition]

I have been really delighted with the reaction to the Reality Check book. There has been some good press coverage, many journalists are looking at the book now because they have expressed an interest, and all the reviews on Amazon itself are 5 or 4 star. It all looks good. And knowing that it has been spending some time in the number one slot has also helped. To see that it’s the best-selling book in English on the subject of Brazil is quite something.

But one review on the Amazon UK site really stood out for me. It’s by someone named Socrates – I don’t know who Socrates is and what country he is from, but he has clearly read quite a few books about Brazil as he references them in the review. He wrote an interesting comment on the book and how it has a certain ‘charm’ though:

“Any faults with the book are part of its charm. It’s does feel like a sketch for a longer book, but at the same time this is a great example of how self-e-publishing means a book like this can get on virtual shelves without an advance from a publishing house. It is also very fresh. Many of the issues discussed, like the June 2013 protests, are still news. Also Mark’s guide to bars and drinks is something maybe only an Englishman would dedicate a chapter to in such a brief guide, however as someone that also lived in London for much of my adult life I found this very useful and charming.”

I like this comment. The reviewer has noticed that maybe there are some quirks in the book. It’s more focused on the reality of my own induction into Brazil rather than some laborious run through the last 1,000 years of history, or a detailed analysis of the work visa application process.

I think there is plenty of useful information in the book and it really does include stuff on visas and going to the pub – because as a Brit moving to Brazil, these were both topics that fascinated me.

The idea of it as a sketch for a bigger book is interesting though. I have published big fat books with regular publishers and I deliberately wanted to avoid that experience in this case. As the review mentions, I really did manage to keep some of the comment right up to date – making some final edits just before the publication button was pushed. But it is a full-length book that feels short – it can be read pretty fast because it is punchy and direct, but it would be almost 200 pages if it were a regular paperback so there is some meat on the bones.

I felt that the personal nature of this book and my desire to release it globally as soon as I possibly could meant that it had to be released using Amazon. But it is doing well. There will be a lot on attention to Brazil in the next couple of years so if a big publishing house came to me now and suggested I add some additional content so they can release it as an airport paperback then I wouldn’t refuse – how could I?

But for the moment, I’m already working on a new book anyway. All my writing projects stretched into the future are exploring how work is changing – with the Brazil one fitting into that agenda just by exploring the difficulties of moving across the world and trying to slot in.

It was never meant to just be a sketch, but maybe it could be a stepping stone to a much more detailed analysis of Brazil? Maybe that’s an idea for 2014…

Reality Check

My book ‘Reality Check’ is at number one on Amazon!

When I got up this morning I had a quick look at Amazon to see how my Reality Check book is doing. It was only published a few weeks ago on September the 1st, but has been steadily getting more attention.

It has been in the Amazon top 20 books about Brazil since publication so I knew that people were noticing the book, but this is what I saw this morning…

Reality Check: Life in Brazil through the eyes of a foreigner [Kindle Edition]

It is now the number one book about Brazil and number two book about South America. That was a great start to this week 🙂 Excuse me while I enjoy some Champagne…!

And all of this for a book that has only been released on the Kindle. I’m planning to also release a paper version of the book, but it will not be until the second edition – planned to come out just before the World Cup football competition in June next year. For now it is electronic-only, but doing spectacularly well.

If you are interested in the book, or my next book project, or any of my old books, then please do come and join my Facebook here:

www.facebook.com/markhillarybooks

Champagne na praia #praia #beach #camburi #cambury #saopaulo #newyearseve #reveillon #champagne

England v Brazil at the Maracanã in Rio

England (and Brazil) fans arriving for the match in Rio on Sunday need to be aware that there is just one venue in Rio for ticket collections on the day of the match – Fluminense football club. [map here]

If you are in Rio earlier then the ticket agent has a number of venues where you can collect tickets. All the details are here on www.futebolcard.com

If you need to get tickets on the day of the game then there are some conditions:

  1. You need to have ID that proves you do not live in Rio.
  2. You need the card you used to buy the tickets.
  3. You need to be at Fluminense FC between 10.00 to 14.00.

There is no ticket sale or collection at the Maracanã stadium on the day of the game – this is the venue for the game. And be aware that Fluminense is not close to the Maracanã so you need to get organised if collecting on the day of the game.

I’m going to the game along with some other Brits. We will probably meet in the Botafogo area of Rio at lunchtime.  Tweet me or send a message via Facebook if you want to join us!

Original email message from Futebol card:

A retirada exclusiva dos ingressos para os torcedores que não residem no estado do Rio de Janeiro, poderá ser realizada no dia da partida SOMENTE na sede do Fluminense (Rua Álvaro Chaves, nº 41 – Laranjeiras), das 10 às 14h.

ATENÇÃO: NÃO HAVERÁ RETIRADA NO ESTÁDIO DO MARACANÃ NO DIA DA PARTIDA.

Football's Coming Gnome (earlier than some expected)

Photo by Duncan Hull licensed under Creative Commons