Want to know how's the life of Brazilians living in other countries? So, check the series of interviews I'll start posting. And if you live/has lived abroad and want to give me an interview, just contact me!
Our first interview is with Fagner Alves, restaurante manager and photographer who has been living in London since 2002.
- When and how did you go to London?
Fagner - I came to London for the first time in 2002 to have a year off University in Sao Paulo, which I was unhappy with. I had had an accident with my car at the time, and decided to keep the money from the insurance and come to the UK, which was my biggest dream. My first intention was to take a short course on photography and return to Brazil a year later to finish school. I did have to return in the end, however, I came back to London on the day after my graduation. I love this city.
- How did you find your first job there?
Fagner - Humm... First job. I worked as a cleaner in a few places, some friends got me these jobs. I collected rubbish, cleaned the bathrooms, apartments, and I even cleaned a sex shop weekly. I also distributed free magazines in the street. When you travel to another country you meet people in the same situation as you very easily and people help each other out a lot. Usually these people end up being your new family.
- And what do you do now?
Fagner - Now, I manage a restaurant in central London and work as a freelance photographer. I have had a couple of exhibitions last year and there are a few coming up during summer, it is really exciting.
- What difficulties did you have there at first?
Fagner - Money. Big time! I never had problems with the language as I worked as an English teacher in Sao Paulo before, however, I never thought I would go through certain things. The English Pound at the time was five times more expensive than the Brazilian Real. It was the hardest time of my life out of Brazil but luckily it only lasted a few months. One good thing about London is that you have different types of supermarkets with massive differences in prices (and also in quality). That means that even on a tight budget you can make do with what you have.
- What are the main differences between London and São Paulo?
Fagner - Not that I feel totally safe in London, but I take the night bus home very frequently without the slightest worry of being mugged. As a photographer, I can carry my camera at night, in the street, and I won't be scared. I love going out in London and I feel safe wherever I go. Sadly enough, I can't say the same about Sao Paulo (which I love). I have been carjacked, had my shoes stolen inside a bus in daylight, a cap taken from my head in the tube, and a watch stolen on Paulista Avenue. On the other hand, we have to put up with this horrible weather. Last week it snowed so badly even the banks were shut. London is grey, wet and cold. There is no sun for months apart from a few weeks during summer. The nearest decent beach is in Spain!
- Is there prejudice against Brazilians? What kind?
Fagner - Totally. Not on a professional level, but it does exist in our social life. It is understandable, though, some Brazilians over here are hard to believe. We are known for trying to get away with things, being illegal and meeting europeans for the sake of getting fake marriage to get their passports. It is not very funny sometimes.
- You graduated in college there, right? How does it work for foreigners?
Fagner - Yes, I graduated last year from Central Saint Martins College of Art and Design and I took a Postgraduate Certificate Course in Fine Art Photography. I had to prove I could speak English fluently, which was not a problem. I also managed to get the European fee, which is three times cheaper than the one for foreigners. Things were easier for the fact that I have been living here for a considerable time. Right now I am in the middle of applying for my Masters Degree in Fine Art. Things are easier for foreigners as they pay massive amounts of money to study here. The Colleges are very happy with that, believe me!
- What about a visa, do you have a permanent one? How does it work for foreigners who want to live/work there?
Fagner - I (finally) have a visa which allows me to work full time and have free access in an out of the country. It is not permanent, however, I can apply for my permanent one in a couple of years. For someone who wants to come to the UK (if you don't have an european passport), you need to enrol for a school accredited by the Home Office, and prove you have means to keep up with your expenses while abroad. You need to obtain this visa in Brazil, before you come. A student visa allows you to work 20 hours a week, which is half of what you need to make a living. I have seen people getting 2 different jobs with 20 hours each before.
- What are your favorite places there?
Fagner - The TATE Modern Art Gallery is to die for (it is just by the River Thames and it holds incredible exhibitions), Hyde Park for summer days (we dont have beaches over here, our summer days are all about going to parks), East London (where all the hype people meet, cool old bars with a really nice attitude). Oops, I nearly forgot, the Fabric nightclub.
- What do you miss most about Brazil?
Fagner - My mother and my friends. I see them usually once every 2 years and I really want to make that every 6 months. I also miss coxinhas, the "Pedaco da Pizza" on Augusta Street, Unibanco Cinema also on Augusta St, one sunny afternoon after the other, drinking at night in bars outdoors, going down to the beach, eating beans every day, and also pastel with sugar cane juice. Buying fresh food under the sun in street fairs. The list could go on endlessly.
- A message for Brazilians who want to live abroad:
Fagner - Make sure your papers are totally legal before you come. There is no need to be one more illegal immigrant in any country. It might be difficult, but I am sure you can make it, and believe me, it'll be worth every single pence you spend. It is amazing to live abroad and meet people from so many different places, it is mind blowing. You grow up as a person. And of course, you'll have the hell of a lot of fun.