Who are you?
My name is Shawn Muller and I am 37 years old, I am originally from Port St. Lucie, Florida. I went on a working holiday to the United Kingdom in 2001, where I met my Brazilian partner. And ever since then I lived between these three countries. I relocated for the third time to Brazil in January 2012. I am currently living in the state Minas Gerais, I spent roughly three days of a week in a small town Formiga (The Sweet Ant Town) and the rest of the week I spend my time at a small holding next to the banks of Furnas Lake about 30 km from town. I work as a freelance art worker and teach English on those days in town.Where, when and why did you move abroad?
I moved abroad to broaden my experience and meet new people and cultures from the world. I believe that I am a tourist at heart. Since I left my country in 2001, my journey started in Northern Ireland when I took a connection flight to London. In London I meet my partner and soon I had so many great friends from all over the world and particular from Brazil. I soon started travel and ended up doing various professions in various locations in the UK. I have lived in more than 20 places in the UK and various countries I visited in Europe. Then in between, I then came to Brazil 2004-2005 and then back to South Africa 2006-2009 and then back to the UK 2009-2012 and now we are in Brazil. But I have been to Uruguay and Paraguay in Southern America. I am also a business person and developed various building projects in Brazil. I love Brazil, and love the people from the south to the north, where I have been to Manaus – Amazon, recently. My main reason is the feeling of growth – personally and financially.
What challenges did you face during the move?
The main challenges I face are the airports, the customs and actual traveling itself. As I only look forward to the arrival part. Everything in between is a hassle. From being nervous all the time, to make sure you have all the baggage and always be in the rush mode. And to be honest the discomfort of flying, I prefer the space on the bus tours, much more relax. But the other challenges are the day to day challenges. The different times and culinary habits. But also to communicate to everyone in a new language. But also the weather patterns, as it is completely different from each country lived in and visited. You have to be prepared to fit into the society and be part of community.
How did you find somewhere to live?
My initial visit abroad was through an invitation of friends. And as you get a long you will either start looking for bigger places or rearrange sleeping areas. But here in Brazil I already had the property before from previous negotiations. But I do have a new family here in Brazil, so I have loads of places to live and accommodation across the country. But when I lived in the city, I went through an agent. It is very hard to rent a place from an agent as we had to know someone who could you letter that lived in the area. And they very strict with the rules and regulations of the contracts. I have to repaint and make sure the apartment was given back in the same state or better than before.
Are there many other expats in your area?
My hometown, Formiga is a small village in the middle of the state Minas Gerais and I am about 150km from the nearest city, Belo Horizonte. I do not really know of expats in my area. I have learned to speak the language and I am communicating to all the locals.
I have met a few expats who lives in the bigger cities. I have a friend who moved to Brazil from England with his family. He is an English teacher. He also had to learn the language and make sure he fits in the society. Most expats I know in Brazil are in the teaching industry. I am not familiar with good social media sites in Brazil. But generally in the south of the country you will find a more diverse population. Traveling south of country give you a very European feel, the way of life is very similar.
What is your relationship like with the locals?
I have a very good relationship with the locals. Walking in town, I always greet the familiar ones. All of them treat me really well. They treat me with respect and they are happy with my efforts to communicate with them in their language. When I go to the local shops, I have my favorite sales people and I always try to support my local dealers equally. It is always an experience going to the shops because I always end up making them laugh with my attempts to speak proper Portuguese and most of the time they are friendly enough to make a silly joke of something no to be embarrassed. And the same is when visiting friends or family, meeting new people is always a wonderful experience, because here are not so many foreigners.
What do you like about life where you are?
In my area, all the neighbors are neighbors, even if the live a mile away. You can always depend on someone if you need a favor. Everything you need is a walking distance away. The social life is great and you can find most medical treatment and medicine locally. It is a slower pace of life and having positive, innocent people in your life. People here they listen to you and hear your voice and show interest in the stories you tell. You know you can always rely on people and they are very trustworthy. And what I like the most about my neighborhood is the teamwork. Everyone is looking out for everyone and everyone is trying to do their best for the other person. Here is more about those smaller things in life that count. But then again it is nature everywhere. You will see parrots, canaries, small monkeys everywhere. And you can have sunshine and thunder all in one day. You feel connected with the universe.
What do you dislike about your expat life?
What I dislike about my life as an expat is that you are always far from people that you truly love and miss always. So you always have to visit before you can actually travel. I always have to visit South African family. It is the hurt of leaving someone behind. There are also days where you have to sort things out, business or personal. It is always harder to overcome these hurdles but then again they are the day to day challenges in life. Especially the level of communication in English is extremely poor. And I find it harder to defend or explain myself in a foreign language. But in general you need to prepare yourself ten times more to overcome a lenitive issue.
What advice would you give to anyone following in your footsteps?
I would advise anyone to go on an extended holiday to the place you wish to relocate. Have a feel of the place and the people. Return if you need to. Create obstacle in real life scenarios because life carries on normally wherever you are. Learn the language and try to sort as much as possible at home. It is much harder to achieve your goals but the experience the worth it at the end. Balance your connections with your on both sides of the pond. And live each day as a new adventure.
What are your plans for the future?
My future plans are to continue to be on a working holiday and experience new adventures and creating new goals. I am hoping to live between South Africa and Brazil and visiting new places on the horizon. Therefore I am continuously creating my plans that include meeting new people, cultures and places around the world. I wish to someday return to the States to visit old friends and family, but for now I’ll continue to enjoy the simple pleasures and rich diversities of my new home, Brail.