By Jack Arnhold, Contributing Reporter
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – Living abroad can be challenging at the best of times. However wonderful life is in one’s adopted country, and however acclimated someone becomes, there will always be times when they miss the familiarity and comforts of home.
Sometimes it’s as simple as wanting to watch an American Football game together, or tuck into a traditional British Christmas lunch complete with crackers (while pretending it isn’t 34 degrees outside), or simply to have a chat with people in your mother tongue about being in the same, occasionally rocky, expat boat as you.
In Rio, estrangeiros (foreigners) are lucky to have several varied societies who aim to make everyone feel supported in their adopted city, and who also provide the occasional home comforts when needed, as well as encouraging those who have fallen in love with the city to give a little something back.
The oldest of these societies is The American Society of Rio de Janeiro (AmSoc Rio), which recently celebrated one hundred years since its beginnings in 1917 as a way for American women to get together and make bandages for the war effort. Since then it’s developed into something much bigger, while maintaining a mission that’s just as vital.
According to Mateen Thobani, the current President of the Society, “The Society’s mandate as set out in the by-laws is to promote good relations with our Brazilian hosts, celebrate American holidays, contribute to local charities, and assist Americans in distress.”
Mr. Thobani also had the recent honor of being included in the Rio Times’s ten most interesting gringos of 2017. This year he is aiming to put on even more cultural events, social get togethers, and even some happy hours. Those interested in joining AmSoc Rio, can go on their web site, which is regularly updated. Membership is open and they are actively seeking new members to bolster their already 100-strong core.
Upcoming events include a Sculpture Biennale at Jardim Botânico on March 17th, and an Architecture Walk on April 7th. Those pining for some gustatory delights can look forward to a Pancake Breakfast at OLM on May 26th, or a Pakistani Lunch on June 10th.
Coming from similarly humble origins, The British and Commonwealth Society (BCS) was officially founded in 1948, after British citizens in Brazil came together to set up a ‘British Community Fund’, that raised the equivalent of £225,000 in today’s money, in order to help assist their country during the Second World War.
Almost seventy years later, and the BCS is going from strength to strength, supporting the Carioca Cricket Club, as well as hosting the annual Christmas Lunch, and a popular Beatles night. In true British style, they also host an annual Queen’s Birthday Party, which is very popular with its members.
The International Club Rio (InC), is another society that has been getting Estrangeiros together for a combination of fun and raising money for good causes since its foundation in the 60s.
According to its popular MeetUp page, which currently has 197 members, “The initial purpose of the club continues today: to promote friendship among members of all nationalities living in and around Rio de Janeiro. Moving to Rio can be challenging; the Club is here to help you get settled, to understand more about Brazil and life in Rio, and to make friends.”
Popular activities include a monthly Cafezinho as well as an upcoming visit to the studio of Burle Marx on March 13th. For more information, go to their Meetup page.
A relative newcomer, yet an exciting addition to expatriate societies in Rio de Janeiro, is the InterNations. The group organized around their web site which is set up like a social media hub and is where all their activities are listed, with a free and paid level membership.
Launched in 2007, InterNations has a reputation for hosting well-attended events, the most recent examples being a ‘Talk in The Sky’ with ‘Think Rio’ author Riccardo Giovanni at the famous Othon Palace rooftop bar, and an ‘Elegant Happy Hour’ at Casa Julieta de Serpa in Flamengo.