By Aline Fernandes Thosi
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – When arriving in colonial America for the very first time in the seventeenth century, the English poet Anne Bradstreet wrote: “I found a new world and new manners, at which my heart rose.” The young poet’s heart rose in rebellion and horror due to the harsh living conditions people were facing back in the day.
Foreigners move to Brazil every day for many different purposes, and they all have their views upon the new land which will soon become their home. Some hearts rise in dismay, as Bradstreet’s; while others rise in hope.
The fact is that Brazil and its variety of cultures may be overwhelming for newcomers. Amongst many stereotypes, Brazilians are known for their welcoming behavior. Our natural beauty is undoubtedly inviting as well. Nonetheless, leaving one’s homeland to adopt a new lifestyle in a place such as Brazil, with its social inequality and political issues (to name a few), may be challenging.
Regardless of one’s nationality and reasons for moving to this country, building a new home in a new place is most definitely a complicated process – although its difficulties come in different levels according to one’s country of origin and social background. Homesickness and rejecting the adopted country as your new ‘home’ is not unusual. Language constraints, new cultural habits and foods, climate and social interactions are some of the many reasons expats experience anxiety while adjusting to the new conditions.
Avtar Brah problematizes the notion of ‘home’ when she questions: “Where is home? On the one hand, ‘home’ is a mythic place of desire in the diasporic imagination. On the other hand, home is also the lived experience of locality”.
Not all expats in Brazil are diasporic subjects. It is essential to consider those who left their homeland – unwillingly or otherwise – due to its socio-economic issues to build a new home in this country, which also struggles with such problems.
Although homesickness is a reality for many people in such a situation, in Diaspora and Cultural Memory, Radhakrishnan comments that the “uncritical nostalgia” for the home country, which may lead the subject to ignore the circumstances of the diaspora, is not a general feeling among individuals who are living far from their places of origin.
Thus, there are those who tend to adjust more quickly than others due to such critical gaze upon their homeland. Anh Hua explains that “For some of the Chinese and Vietnamese refugees who had painful and traumatic experiences in their homeland and during their exodus as a result of the Vietnam War, returning to their country of origin or looking back with nostalgia may not be a desirable option.”
The same happens in Brazil, which receives thousands of applications by refugees, mostly coming from Venezuela, Cuba, and Haiti. “Where is home” after all? According to Yi-Fu Tuan, a place is not merely a location, but it is a location created by human experiences.
New residents should be able to embrace the above-mentioned human experiences as an attempt to minimize the impact of leaving their previous ‘home.’ Blending in with the locals and sharing their own culture with not only Brazilians but also with other expats who are willing to learn is essential. Many schools look for people who want to share their experiences with students who are highly beneficial to both sides.
Although the reasons why people come to this country are many and distinct from one another, we all have this in common: we appreciate the sense of belonging and benefit from the warm feeling of coming back home at the end of the day. Thus, it is crucial to experience, as far as possible, the human experiences this land provides.