The hardest part of living abroad is adapting to the new culture and values. For a person who was born in Brazil, living in Canada is not easy. Brazil and Canada are culturally disparate. One may think that the big differences are the hardest. I personally think that the small differences are the hardest. I remember the first time I was invited to a dinner party that started at 5:30 PM. Gosh, if you know a little bit about the Latin culture you know that no one eats dinner before 9:00 PM. Not being able to ask "personal" questions also threw me off. In Brazil, after a 5-minute conversation you can get pretty personal. I also felt weird about the no-hugging, no-kissing, no-touching policy. For a long time I could not understand the meaning of "personal space" as I don't have one. In my mind, the closer the better. Drinking is not allowed in the streets. You go to a festival in the summer and you have to be confined in a fenced-in beer garden. It almost feels as if you are doing something wrong. You can't eat at a restaurant after 10 PM as the kitchen closes. The list goes on an on and it is always the small stuff that bothers me the most.
However, the hardest thing is the fact that I grew up somewhere else. My childhood and adolescence took place in a different setting. All my references are unknown here. You know when you are talking to people who are the same age as you and someone starts talking about the stuff they did when they were kids? Well, when you grew up somewhere else, you simply don't relate. You don't get it. And no one gets you. You feel culturally lost. I was wearing a cardigan the other day and someone said "You look like Mr. Rogers". Everyone laughed. I didn't get it. I don't know who the hell Mr. Rogers is. I asked who he was and the person said "How come you don't know Mr. Rogers? Everyone knows him." I don't. For the longest time, I felt really bad about this. I had a feeling I did not belong. I still feel that way sometimes. The opposite is also true: sometimes I go to work and I want to talk about soccer or Brazilian politics but I can't. There is no one I can talk to. It's hard.
I don't think you understand this until you experience it. I guess it is especially difficult in the first few years. As I continue to write my story in Canada it gets easier. Now I understand a lot more about Canadian culture than I did when I arrived here. This process also made me appreciate my culture a lot more. I don't think I had ever paid attention to the great things Brazilian culture has to offer: great music, fantastic food, friendly people, passion for soccer and so on. Culture is a powerful thing but you only realize that once you live in a culture that is not your own.