Tag Archives: uk

Brazil: I’ll do it tomorrow if that’s OK?

Business Daily on the BBC World Service today was focused on the possible decision by FIFA to cancel the World Cup games in Curitiba because the stadium is not ready. The BBC is being cautious and waiting for the actual announcement from FIFA, but ESPN has already started reporting that FIFA has taken this decision and Curitiba is officially out of the World Cup.

Of course this would be a disaster for Curitiba. It’s a fantastic city that is clean, safe, and has buses that people actually use. A complete contrast from the edginess of São Paulo or the favelas dotted all over Rio. It’s the last place that you might expect to fail when Brazil has also been building new stadiums in places like Manaus and Cuiabá.

But what I found irksome when listening to the BBC coverage was the vox pops they used when characterising Brazil. There was a university professor who talked about the culture in Brazil that everything can be done tomorrow. There was the miserable commuter who spends hours travelling to and from work each day – on a good day. There was the small business owner who said how terribly difficult it is to do business in Brazil.

The coverage wasn’t balanced or fair. I have complained a fair few times about the challenges of living in Brazil, notably things like the bureaucracy associated with buying an insurance policy or registering a car. Simple transactions that should really be easier, but on balance I actually like it here. It sounds irritating to hear the BBC doing a cultural hatchet job on how all Brazilians are lazy, feckless, and would rather not do anything today because there is always tomorrow.

I run a business in Brazil. If a contractor delivers anything late then I don’t pay them. If they let me down more than once I will never work with them again. If they don’t deliver a quality service then I negotiate a new price. I haven’t had very many problems at all with this idea that nothing ever gets delivered on time – I had far more trouble when I ran a business back in the UK.

Small businesses in Brazil benefit from a simple tax structure. You just pay tax on the revenue coming into your company. No need for complex offsets or depreciation, just pay a fixed percentage on your revenue. Imagine if Starbucks was doing that in the UK, rather than transferring profit to Switzerland therefore reducing the local profit to nothing and therefore paying little or no corporation tax.

And small business owners get paid on time in Brazil. When I send an invoice to a client I tell my bank that I have sent it and who it has gone to AND when they are going to pay. If the company doesn’t pay then my bank will chase the company – like my own debt collection service. Imagine if small companies in the UK could rely on their bank to help them this way? Why don’t they do it?

There is a very vibrant start-up culture in Brazil and loads of technological innovation taking place in the big corporates and the tiny micro-businesses. State governments are handing out cash to entrepreneurs all over the country without demanding equity in return because they are actively trying to stimulate the start-up culture and the benefits that one big success can bring to a region.

My own wife is a part of this scene. She is travelling all over Brazil meeting traditional artisans and joining them together into a collective called Gift Brazil, so they can harness the power of social media tools like Facebook to promote their traditional art and culture. Can you imagine the market a traditional artist in the middle of the Amazon might usually have for their work? Just the odd tourist wandering past perhaps… now they can be seen by the entire world.

I know that balance doesn’t make for a great story. It’s easier to get clicks on a story if you tell a miserable story, rather than try spreading the good news, but in the year of the FIFA World Cup Brazil is getting showered in bad news. Everything is late, the people don’t want it, it will all be a disaster…

Well there are some great interesting projects taking place in Brazil that are redefining how people work, people are demanding and starting to get more political transparency, and some of us are looking forward to the World Cup – even though I don’t have a single ticket for any of the matches!

Toucan eye

 

Photo by Doug Wheller licensed under Creative Commons

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Gringoes: why would you live in Brazil?

I’m a regular reader of the Gringoes.com website. It’s a magazine for foreigners living and working in Brazil and the downsides of being in Brazil are a regular theme of articles and discussion, particularly in the associated Facebook group where readers can vent their opinion openly without the need for an editor to approve what they submit to the magazine.

In the past day there has been an enormous argument raging on the Facebook group because one foreigner wrote a list of dozens and dozens of reasons why he hates living in Brazil.

Every foreign person living far from home has some reason to miss home, but for someone to sit and write a list of 66 – yes 66 – reasons he hates being in Brazil leaves me feeling rather incredulous. This is surely a hatred bordering on obsession?

It is easy to leave. Even if his wife has a good job. Or she wants to be close to her family. He could just leave, return to the USA and swallow the cost of visiting regularly as being better than having to endure a life in Brazil.

But comparing things to home is normal. I knew a British guy who has now left Brazil and he would lament about the quality of shops like Boots. I actually think that the drug stores in São Paulo are pretty good – even if the generic drugs are too expensive.

I spent some time living in the USA teaching kids when I was younger. I had a health-plan provided by my employer and I never needed to use it, but now I am self-employed, I think that finding over $1,000 a month to ensure I can see a doctor when I need one would seriously put me off ever living in the USA – but it’s a place I love visiting.

I spent a lot of time in India and Singapore when I was working for a bank and I had all kinds of comments and thoughts about those places. Singapore is clean and safe and well ordered, but nobody has any real ability to criticise the government – then you end up wondering how much that right is worth if the streets are clean and you have no fear of getting mugged?

In India the poverty is oppressive, even in cities like Mumbai where billionaires and film stars frequent the beaches and luxury hotels. All my foreign friends living there had to be in gated communities, sealed off from the ‘normal’ people – is that really what life in India is about?

And so what about Brazil? It’s true that the country is saddled with an inefficient bureaucracy and it appears there is no desire to streamline any of it – just dealing with the cartorios (notary offices) alone by using biometric identity would sweep away an enormous amount of time checking and stamping forms – often for no other reason than confirming a signature is genuine. But there are probably millions of people working in these offices so the government would give efficiency with one hand and wipe out jobs with the other.

Brazilian drivers are very aggressive. I don’t mind most of the time, but when someone pulls a stunt like overtaking me on a sweeping corner (it happens a lot more often than you might think) and their stupidity is endangering me and my family then I get angry – and there should be no need to.

It is tough to negotiate life in Brazil sometimes. I’m grateful that I’ve got a fantastic wife who can steer me through a lot of the things that would give a foreigner an entirely negative view of the place. I know a British guy who was robbed at gunpoint in São Paulo in his own home, but his Brazilian wife chose a crappy neighbourhood for them to live in where he would obviously stand out – so who is to blame?

I’ve also been lucky to get great professional advice. The accountant for my business had never handled a company like ours before – lots of foreign clients, money coming from all over the world, only really dealing in intellectual property  rather than tangible assets. She studied all the relevant rules to handle our company and has been doing a great job – and it’s needed because even a small company here has to file a tax or regulatory report AT LEAST ONCE A DAY… I did mention there is a lot of bureaucracy here.

Foreigners on the Gringoes website complain of being ripped off – try catching a taxi in India then and asking the driver to use the meter. It won’t happen. They complain of the ‘culture’ in Brazil not being like back home. They complain about how they can’t complain without being ignored.

I have even seen foreigners on the forums talking about how Brazilian music is just not as good as it is back at home. Are they kidding? Have you been out in São Paulo recently? It is packed with live gigs going on every night of the week. I admit, seeing the big international rock acts is expensive, but there is a thriving art, music, and culture scene in Brazil.

And then, when Brazilians respond with a list of all the great things about Brazil it just so often seems to be full of clichés… is feijoada really one of the reasons why people choose to live in Brazil?

The reality is that you can’t define a place with a single broad stroke. There is no Brazil this or that in the same way that living in Louisiana is very different to California or New York. Living far from home is affected firstly by the place you have chosen to be and the people you are with.

For example, if you are used to life in central New York or London then life on a beach up in the rural north east of Brazil might seem idyllic when you first arrive. The sun, the beach, the endless opportunity to live next to the barbecue. After a while though you might start wondering when you are going to next visit the cinema, a theatre, see a rock concert, or meet a friend who has read the books of Anthony Burgess. Living an idyllic life by the beach can have downsides too.

And the people are important. Moving anywhere can be improved by having a partner from that country, but people are people. I’ve met many Brazilian people from São Paulo who don’t even know how to get around their own city. In my short time here I’ve learned more about the public transport infrastructure and different neighbourhoods than they have in a lifetime. And I’ve also seen locals setting up home with their foreign partners in completely inappropriate locations – as I already mentioned.

I’m not suggesting that a foreigner moving to São Paulo has to live in a ghetto of foreigners. It actually annoys me when I meet ex-pats living in the city and they all gravitate to Jardins, Moema, or Brooklin. They are not really the most interesting parts of the city at all, but are considered ‘safe’ so foreigner-ghettos are created and then the cycle is reinforced – these are good places for foreigners to live because others are already there.

So the type of place, the location, the people you are with – these are all factors in creating your personal experience. The cultural complaints I read on Gringoes are all influenced by this – we are all in different places with different people so we cannot just assume the same about Brazil. The Brazil one person experiences can be entirely different to that experienced by another.

When I see the complaints about foreigners being treated differently, getting ripped off, I remember when I was living in São Paulo and every shop owner in my street would wave and say hello as I walked my dog down the street. I had a set of spare house keys in my local bar, in case I ever lost my keys. The taxi drivers at my local cab rank all said hello and were happy to do short or long runs at short notice. I never found any of the negativity I can see expressed on the discussion forums.

I was never burgled or mugged or witnessed any crime during my time in São Paulo, despite the statistics painting an image of the city as one step away from Gomorrah.

Now I live in a smaller town this has only become more accentuated. The paranoid may fear that standing out as the only English person in town might lead to being targeted by burglars or worse, but what have I found? Just a sincere welcome everywhere I go from the barber to the bakery to the bar to the local government – who are all excited about having a real English person help them with some music and culture related to the UK.

In fact, what have I found out about Brazil in short?

  • Business; running a business is bureaucratic. I cannot even personally deal with the number of regulatory and tax reports I need to file – it is more than one report a day. But my accountant does it all efficiently at a reasonable price and the corporation tax on my company is lower than in the UK. It takes a bit of effort to run the firm, but in short, the tax bill is lower than it would be in the US or UK so that can only be a good thing. I am better off that I would be back in the UK and I’m staying on the right law of the law and paying my taxes.
  • World focus; talking of business, I am busier than ever. Brazil is a great place to be as it has survived the global economic downturn and with the next World Cup and Olympic games coming here everyone is looking to do business in Brazil in this decade.
  • Home; I now live in a lovely spa town of about 30,000 people packed full of mineral water springs. I open the window in the morning and see mountains in front of me as the sun rises. I’ve got a pool and sauna at home and space to entertain friends when they come over. I can’t imagine having all this back in London – my last home in the UK was a small flat.
  • Nature; I’m surrounded by the most incredible countryside and real live toucans and parrots fly past – they are not just things you see on postcards from Brazil.
  • People; I’ve met so many fantastic people since I moved to Brazil – some locals and some foreigners living here. There is something about living away from your home country that encourages you to get out to meet more people than if you were back on familiar territory and this can be a wonderfully positive experience. I have even ended up working with the British embassy to promote the UK for business and tourism.
  • Weather; Brazil is an enormous country with searing heat in the north to snow in the south. Where I am living now will be dry until about September and I work outside in the sun almost every day. I’m pretty happy about that – would you prefer a balcony with a mountain view or a dull basement office?

In short, I have personally had a fantastic time since moving to Brazil and I have found opportunities and experiences that would just have never happened had I stayed in London.

There are things I would like to improve in Brazil. Maybe my voice and opinion can help to influence a few changes, but I see so many more positives than negatives. I think that the foreigners who endlessly whine about the problems of Brazil are living in the wrong place.

The foreigners may even be right. They might have a valid point, but if you want to while away your days complaining and dreaming of when you can move someplace else then why not just remember the words of John Lennon:

“Life is what happens to you while you’re busy making other plans.

Airport bus

New York City “ballet” : Nutcracker

I went to see the famous New York City Ballet Nutcracker last night. I’ve seen this show once before, back in 2007, and I left feeling unsatisfied then and I did again yesterday.

It’s not that the show isn’t worth seeing – it’s a great spectacle – but there are some major flaws when compared to the Nutcracker as generally performed by European ballet companies.

In short, the problem for me is that I go to the ballet to enjoy the music and dance, to see some fantastic dancers, great choreography and incredible live music. But the Balanchine Nutcracker is essentially a Christmas show for children that skips over major plot points within the ‘Nutcracker and the Mouse King’ story leaving it as essentially a disjointed series of skits – nice to look at, but not very satisfying if you came to the theatre expecting to see some ballet.

Of course there is some dancing, for example the pas de deux in the second act just before the apotheosis, but this dance is usually enjoyed by Clara and the Nutcracker. In the New York version a couple takes the dance with no explanation as to who they are.

The Royal Ballet in London use the 1984 Peter Wright version of the Nutcracker choreography, but Wright himself drew heavily on the much earlier staging from London, which had in turn come directly from the Imperial Russian Ballet.

In short, the role of Drosselmeyer is explained, the family connection to the Nutcracker is explained, the main characters actually dance – they are not cast as children who just watch the other dancers perform. It’s a proper ballet with a wonderful score and there is even an epilogue drawing the various threads of the story together.

The NYCB production is a nice little Christmas show and they must make an absolute fortune staging it every December – it has been produced in this format for almost 50 years now. But if you are a ballet fan and expect to be watching some great dance then it might be wise to save your cash for another show – there are Broadway shows with more dance than this.

Beautiful Concentration

Photo by Pat McDonald licensed under Creative Commons

Brazil: Don’t step outside or you might be robbed!

The other day I met a British visitor here in São Paulo. It was her third day in the city and she was travelling with a government-arranged party, visiting various cities over a two-week visit.

During those three days she had only seen the inside of the hotel, offices, or a chauffer-driven car between the two. She was not in back-to-back meetings, so there was spare time available, but her [UK-based British government] hosts had advised her to not go out alone.

Her hotel was on Alameda Santos. For anyone who knows São Paulo, that’s one block away from Avenida Paulista, one of the biggest, busiest streets in the city – a place always full of life and excitement.

I know that any new place can be intimidating. I remember my first ever visit to Mumbai and despite my initial terror at the incessant activity all around, I still managed to take a walk around the Gateway of India and a few other obligatory sights. When I spent a lot of time working in Singapore I would regularly hang out in Serangoon on Sunday afternoons watching Bollywood films on a makeshift screen in a car park – I was almost always the only white face there, but always felt welcome.

In São Paulo there is the language difficulty for visitors, there is also the sheer size of the place… the city is enormous with the greater area having a population three times the size of London. It’s also a place without the touristic features of Rio – the obvious destinations that appear on postcards home.

But some cursory research would have shown that this hotel was in one of the safest places in the city and just a block or two from the art museum – hardly the mean streets of gangland.

She was immensely grateful as I not only guided her around the city centre, but also took her on the public transport system, and to an edgier neighbourhood to try the local draft beer. It humanised the city for her.

I am going to contact the Consulate about this – maybe I can help them to produce some more up-to-date information for visiting business leaders. It’s a shame for visitors to have the ‘dangerous Brazil’ myth thrust at them even by official advisors. Sure, there has been a wave of murders here recently, but it’s gangs against cops – nothing the ordinary person sees.

I’ve never felt any sense of threat at all while living here, but maybe that’s just from following the same rules anyone should follow in a major city – especially when unfamiliar with the neighbourhood. Don’t stand out too much (Versace suit when everyone else is wearing Vans), don’t hold your iPad at arms length placing a video call as you walk down the street, and if you are out after dark then just make sure you have an idea of what the neighbourhoods are like if you are wandering around a new place.

But then, this might just as equally apply to a Brit arriving in New York for the first time, or a Brazilian arriving in London. Be sensible and you can enjoy a visit to São Paulo just like any other place!

Sao Paulo

How do you see the United Kingdom?

I wrote something recently on Huffington Post about how British people need to consider that the eyes of the world are on them for the Olympics. Nobody likes wall-to-wall brands, road closures, and all the other inconveniences of the Olympic games, but if the British want to behave so negatively that the world wonders why we ever bothered bidding for the games then it will affect investment into the UK for at least the next 30 years.

I’m not kidding. Wall-to-wall images of the UK week after week all over the world can influence where people go on holiday and where companies invest. If the London Olympics is a roaring success then the money spent on it – even though more than expected – will seem like peanuts as holiday-makers flock to the UK and businesses invest cash.

As an example, national TV here in Brazil was showing interviews with Londoners today who almost all said they hated the games, did not want them in London, and the comment from the Brazilian broadcaster was that the British are very miserable people. Is that how the rest of the world now sees the UK?

So I want to hear from you, so I can do a follow-up to the Olympic article that led to so many people posting negative comments. Send me your opinion on what you immediately think of when someone asks you what you think of the United Kingdom:

  1. As a place to take a vacation.
  2. As a place to do business.
  3. In general, music, culture, art.

You don’t need to write a long essay – I will only quote the best bits in the article anyway, but I appreciate anything you can send – especially if you are not from the UK. And do let me know if you want to remain anonymous, or give me the correct name, title to use when quoting you.

You can send your thoughts to me here: mail AT markhillary.com

London 2012 Gold Medal

June 1 2012: British Pub Quiz at the Queens Head in São Paulo

***VEJA ABAIXO PARA VERSAO EM PORTUGUÊS***
The “pub quiz” is a tradition of British pubs. Over 22,000 different pub quiz events take place every week in the UK making it a common way to enjoy a pint – and possibly win a prize.
http://j.mp/pub-quiz… Mark and Tim are both British, both are married to Brazilian girls (the best, right?) and both live in São Paulo – and love a pub quiz! So they would like to invite you to come along to test your knowledge of the UK, win some great prizes and have some British style fun at the Queens Head pub in Pinheiros.The quiz takes place on the eve of the Diamond Jubilee of Queen Elizabeth II (60 years as Queen), a few months after the 200th birthday of Charles Dickens, and just a month before the London Olympic Games – there is a lot for the UK to celebrate in 2012!The quiz will include six rounds, each one focused on a specialist area, with ten questions in each round. You enter the quiz as a team (maximum 6) and stay in the same team all evening – you can win prizes for coming first in a round as well as winning the grand prize for the best total team score of all rounds together.

The tradition of British pub quizzes is that your team name is amusing, so think carefully about what you want to call your team – there might be a special prize for the best name on the night!

Each team can play one round during the evening as their “joker” round – meaning your points for this round will be doubled. You must announce in advance of the questions that this will be your joker round, so pick the round you expect to do best on!

The rounds will focus on these topics:
. Movies
. Books
. Music
. Sport
. God Save the Queen (Royal Family)
. UK in Brazil

The quiz will start at 20:00 with the first three rounds, then there will be a break for 20-30 mins followed by the next three rounds – it should be complete by 22:00. You can enter even if you miss a round, but it will affect your chances of winning the grand prize.

During each round there may also be a question using London ‘cockney” slang with a link to the round topic:
http://j.mp/cockneyslang

Points to remember:

1. No cheating. This is fun, remember? Any team using Google on their phone or calling a friend to get answers will be disqualified and asked to go to the boteco over the road. There is no need to cheat and you won’t go to Heaven if you do.

2. The questions will be inclusive and reflect the British culture that many Brazilians will be familiar with – so you don’t need to be a professor of British history to come and enjoy this quiz!

3. The questions will be asked by Mark and Tim in both English and Portuguese – you can answer in either language. So even if your English is not fluent, you can still enjoy the quiz.

We look forward to seeing you. Please indicate on this event that you plan to come, please pass on the invitation to your friends, and if you already know who will be in your team then please post your team details on the wall here! See you at the Queen’s Head!

Please sign up soon – there are only 75 seats available so we need to know the numbers of people and teams planning to come – thanks! The quiz will end at 2200 and live music will start at 2230 until late : )

Click here for the Facebook event page so you can sign up…

Mark Hillary, CEO, IT Decisions
http://www.itdecs.com/

Tim Lucas, CEO, The Listening Agency
http://www.thelisteningagency.com/

——-

O “pub quiz” é uma tradição dos pubs britânicos. Há mais de 22.000 eventos desse tipo todas as semanas no Reino Unido – é uma boa desculpa para se desfrutar uma cerveja – e, possivelmente, ganhar um prêmio. (http://j.mp/pub-quiz)

Mark e Tim são ambos britânicos, casados com mulheres brasileiras e vivem em São Paulo – e adoram um pub quiz! Agora os dois estão convidando vocês para testar o seu conhecimento da cultura popular da Inglaterra e do Brasil, concorrer a prêmios bem bacanas e se divertir à moda britânica no pub Queen’s Head em Pinheiros.

O quiz acontecerá às vésperas do aniversario da Rainha Elizabeth II de 60 anos no poder, poucos meses após o 200º aniversário de Charles Dickens, e apenas um mês antes do Jogos Olímpicos em Londres – há tantas coisas para o Reino Unido comemorar em 2012!

O quiz incluirá seis rodadas, cada uma focada em uma área especializada, com dez questões cada. Você pode participar como uma equipe (máximo 6 pessoas) ou simplesmente aparecer no pub e a gente acha um time para você. Haverão prêmios para a equipe que ganhar cada rodada e um prêmio maior para a equipe com a melhor pontuação de todas as rodadas.

A tradição do pub quiz britânico inclui escolher um nome engraçado para sua equipe, então comece a bolar um nome legal para a sua equipe – você e seus amigos podem ganhar um prêmio especial para o melhor nome da noite!

Cada equipe pode jogar uma rodada durante a noite como a sua rodada ‘especial’ (o “joker” ) – ou seja, os seus pontos para essa rodada vale o dobro. Você deve anunciar antecipadamente qual será a sua rodada escolhida.

As rodadas serão sobre os seguintes temas:

. Filmes
. Livros
. Música
. Esporte
. God Save the Queen (Família Real)
. Reino Unido no Brasil

O quiz começará às 20:00h com as três primeiras rodadas. Em seguida, haverá uma pausa de 20-30 minutos, seguida das três últimas rodadas – precisamos terminar às 22:00h.

Lembrando que você pode entrar depois do inicio do quiz, mas isso vai afetar suas chances de ganhar o grande prêmio.

Durante cada rodada pode haver também uma pergunta usando “gírias” inglesas vinculadas ao tópico da rodada: http://j.mp/cockneyslang

Pontos para lembrar:

1. Jogue Limpo! Isso é só diversão, lembra? Qualquer equipe que for flagrada usando o Google ou o celular para obter respostas será desclassificada.

2. Não precisa ser um expert sobre a cultura britânica. As perguntas
refletem a cultura britânica que muitos brasileiros conhecem – você
não precisa ser um professor de história da Inglaterra para entrar e
se divertir neste quiz!

3. As perguntas serão feitas por Mark e Tim em Inglês e Português –
você pode responder em qualquer idioma. Assim, mesmo se o seu Inglês não for fluente, você ainda pode participar do quiz.

Queremos ver vocês lá! Por favor, nos diga se você gostaria de
participar e, por favor, repasse o convite para os seus amigos. Se
você já sabe quem vai fazer parte de sua equipe, por favor poste os
detalhes aqui. See you in the Queen’s Head.

Reserve seu lugar! Há apenas 75 lugares disponíveis e precisamos também saber quantas pessoas/times estão planejando vir. O quiz terminará às 22.00 e a música ao vivo começará às 22.30 até tarde : )

Clique aqui para a página do Facebook

Mark Hillary, CEO, IT Decisions
http://www.itdecs.com/

Tim Lucas, CEO, The Listening Agency
http://www.thelisteningagency.com/

Rose & Crown pub

I was not born in Belfast, but that’s what my Brazil ID card says…

I just collected my Brazilian permanent ID card. It’s taken many visits to the policia federal in Lapa to get this far. Though my permanent resident status was approved back in September 2011, it has taken about six months for them to produce a plastic card – and I had to go in person to fetch it.

The card says that I am British – quite correct. But it says that I was born in Northern Ireland – wrong. I was born in Surrey, England.

The police said that they cannot choose the UK, Great Britain, or England as a place of birth on their computer system, so they chose Northern Ireland as it is “pretty close”… I explained that it was wrong, but they said that my nationality is correct and I won’t have any problem using the card even if my place of birth is not correct.

Imagine that. The police and immigration officials can’t even put my correct country of birth on my ID card because of a computer system SNAFU.

Still, I don’t mind being from the Emerald Isle. It could have been worse, France is closer to Surrey than Northern Ireland!

Brazil ID