I’m Tom Le Mesurier. I grew up in Winchester on the south coast of England. I now live in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.
1. Why did you move abroad?
Back in 2009 I left my home in London and went on a 4 month trip to travel around South America. As the end of my 4 months approached, I realized I wanted to travel for much longer. I tore up my return ticket and carried on my travels into Central America. While I was in Nicaragua I met the Brazilian woman who went on to become my wife. 6 months later I moved to Rio and the rest is history!
2. How do you make a living?
I work as an IT analyst for a major Brazilian broadcaster. I have been working in IT for more than 10 years, but finding a job was only half the problem. I had to create my own Brazilian company in order to pay tax and comply with the very confusing Brazilian employment laws.
3. How often do you communicate with home and how?
Usually I Skype home about once every 2 weeks. On top of that I use emails and Facebook to keep up to date with my friends’ news. I also use by Blog to help them keep track of what’s going on in my life.
4. What's your favorite thing about being an expat in Rio de Janeiro?
My favourite aspect to life in Rio is the feeling of opportunity – this feels like a city where anything can happen. If you have a good idea and a lot of enthusiasm, people here are receptive. On a more immediate level, the weather and the beautiful landscapes make this a wonderful place to live.
5. What’s the worst thing about being an expat in Rio de Janeiro?
Bureaucracy is a problem for everyone who lives in Rio and it’s something you cannot fight. If you are very rich then you may be able to pay other people to stand in queues for you, but in my case I have learned to try to be patient. Getting frustrated and stressed by long delays and seemingly pointless procedures will get you nowhere. My advice for someone entering into any bureaucratic process in Brazil is to take a book and resign yourself to a wasted day!
6. What do you miss most?
I miss various types of food and drink from home (decent ham, proper British and French cheese, British ales). I also miss the sheer choice that a huge, cosmopolitan city like London offers. For example, if you want to eat Vietnamese food in London you have dozens of choices. In Rio there are around 3 or 4 Thai restaurants that may have a couple of Vietnamese dishes.
7. What did you do to meet people and integrate in your new home?
I married a local! Through my wife I have met many friends and become accustomed to local life in Rio. I also found that starting EatRio (my blog) has been a great way to connect to both locals and other expats. Also, even after 3 years, I am still taking lessons to improve my Portuguese. Without speaking the local language you will never integrate in any real sense.
8. What custom/ habits do you find most strange about your adopted culture?
I find the Brazilian concept of family very different to the British equivalent. Here it is common to phone your mother every single day (or expect to have your mother phone you to ask why you didn’t call!). Every birthday (even of extended family) means there will be a party involving the whole family. All this ‘family time’ doesn’t leave much time left over for anything else!
9. What is a myth about your adopted country?
Not every Brazilian is obsessed with football, carnival and samba!
10. Is the cost of living higher or lower than the last country you lived in and how has that made a difference in your life?
Rio was recently ranked the 13th most expensive city in the world (far ahead of London which was 25th). Taxis, restaurants and rent are all sky high and I often wonder who it is that can actually afford to pay the really high prices. My previous life in London was good preparation for Rio’s high prices and luckily I enjoy days on the beach (practically free), eating street food and using public transport.
11. What advice would you give other expats?
Learn the language and local customs. Make the most of the fascinating opportunities to learn more about your new home. If you’re just going to spend your time with other expats, eating expat food and talking about home, why bother moving in the first place? Finally, try not to find fault with the things you feel are ‘worse’ than your home country. Here in Brazil I try to take the rough with the smooth – you can’t enjoy the beaches and then complain (too much) about the bureaucracy.
12. When and why did you start your blog?
I started writing Eat Rio back in the spring of 2011. I had been in Rio for approaching 9 months and I was just bursting full of discoveries I wanted to tell people about! Every time I met a tourist or backpacker who was in town for just a week or two, I felt frustrated that they were missing out on so many of the great, less obvious experiences. I have been lucky enough to be introduced to local culture through my Brazilian wife and I wanted to share the rich, joyful, poetic elements of Brazilian culture that make life here such a joy.
Tom's blog, Eat Rio
To be considered for an interview (as well as other articles), add your blog to BlogExpat!