The first Brazilian that I’m featuring is Maria. She is a yoga teacher and small business owner in the Carolinas and I’ve had the pleasure to ask her a few questions about her journey through immigration, starting a business as an immigrant and her life and experiences in America.
Where are you from originally?
I am from Brazil, I was raised in a small touristy town in the mountains called Monte Verde. We lived a simple life, my parents had goats and a restaurant on top of a Mountain. I grew up hiking and building forts in the woods with my brothers and sisters.
How long have you been living in the United States?
On and off for 15 years.
Why did you decide to move to the United States?
The first time I moved here was with my mom who wanted a better quality of life after separating from my dad. When I got older I decided to stay and work here, because I thought that I’d have more opportunities and more financial freedom than I would’ve experienced in Brazil as a young professional.
How did you get your visa/greencard/citizenship?
My mother is American but she was raised mostly in Brazil. My siblings and I were lucky enough to get our citizenship through my mom when we moved here.
What was the most difficult part of your immigration?
The most difficult part for me as a child was being away from my dad, learning English, and being responsible for my younger siblings while my mom was working. We also didn’t live in a place where I could walk very much and there was no public transportation. It makes it hard for kids when they have to depend on their parents to drive especially when you’re being raised by a single working mother. The most difficult part as an adult is having a different background and fitting in on certain aspects of traditional American culture.
You’ve been living here for a while. What do you like the most?
There are lots of things I love about being here. I love how safe it feels. There’s less violence and crime. It’s convenient and the cost of living is affordable. Also, it is very convenient if you like to travel.
Is there anything that you miss from home other than family?
I miss the food, and the way people live. Brazilians tend to be more laid back, they take more vacation days throughout the year and get together regularly after work and on the weekends to socialize and spend time with family and friends.
What kind of food do you miss from Brazil and did you find a good source in the US where you can get it?
I miss home cooked meals. We ate mostly rice and beans with veggies. I skip the meat, which is a big part of the Brazilian diet. The fastest and cheapest way to get it here is at Chipotle, I eat dinner there three times a week. If you are looking for something upscale Chima Brazilian stake house in Charlotte serves delicious food. I love that they have live music and Caipirinhas. I definitely recommend it, if you like Bossa Nova.
What techniques worked best for you to learn English?
I had ESL classes at school. The best way to learn is to make friends and immerse yourself into friendships and socialize as much as possible.
You own a Yoga Studio in South Carolina. Was it difficult to start a business as an immigrant?
Starting a business is a challenge whether you are an immigrant or not. I’d assume it’s hard work no matter where you come from. Personally I believe that growing up in a town filled with small businesses and knowing many immigrants who are entrepreneurs in the US has been motivating and inspiring. I love owning a small business. Being involved in the local community through Om Yoga makes me feel like I’ve created a home for myself here. It gives me a great sense of belonging. I’ve grown close to some of the people that work at Om, the students who take classes here and other business owners in this area. Loving what I do and being part of a great community may have something to do with the fact that I love living in the US!
Looking back at your migration to the US, would you have done anything differently?
Nothing, I learned a lot from the experience of starting over in a new place, meeting new people and adapting to a different way of living.
Do you have any advice that you would like to give other immigrants about life in America?
Life in America is amazing. I have friends from all over the world here and we’ve all experienced reverse culture shock. When you go back to the place you grew up in it’s great, but if you’ve created a life you love here it’s hard to leave. It’s all about perspective, I tend to look at everything as an opportunity to grow and I try to experience life to the fullest every day no matter where I am. This is a good place for personal and financial growth. The quality of life here is outstanding. For people who are new here I’d say that we can adapt to anything, as long as we are open minded and ready to experience something new. “You are not a tree, so if you don’t like where you’re at… move!” Nothing is permanent and most of us have the freedom to experience the world and settle down where we want. I have a hard time thinking that anything is long term, wouldn’t mind a house on the beach in a more exotic place in the near future. Right now I am very happy to be here though!
If you live in the Charlotte area, check out Maria’s yoga studio Om Yoga at www.omyogasc.com. She and her staff is teaching everything from traditional yoga, paddle board yoga, kids yoga and more for all levels of experience.