Monthly Archives: September 2012

Primera semana

The first week in a new place. In a new country for this matter. This irritating feeling to have lost all reference points. And, even worse, not really being able to speak the language.
The nagging realization that in a week’s time, there is no plane to go ‘home’. Because ‘home’ is something I want to, I have to build here and now. The distressing insight that all friends, all acquaintances, all the little places I used to go are a solid 8000 km away…

But then, there is also the police officer who walks over and then doesn’t stop chatting with me for almost an hour. That helped to boost the confidence in my Portuniol! There is the moment when taking a sport class and three ladies come over to say hello. And the successful finding of this building I was looking for even though the bus dropped me off at a 20 minutes distance. There is the chat with the lady from the university secretariat. The professor is still not in but  now I know when he should be. And the ride home in a cab that a guy at the bus stop negotiated for me. Did cost only 0.50 reais more than the bus and was much, much faster.

Leaving life at is behind to build a new one. Never easy, but almost always worth trying.


Moving stuff

Shipping our belongings to Brazil turned out to be far, far more complicated than anticipated. Seriously: How difficult can it be to ship 200kg of books, clothes and china ware to another country? Our first inquiries either led  skyrocketing offers – over 5000 Euro being the top – or the information that shipping wasn’t possible. Of course, it doesn’t help if you want to get your stuff to Maceio instead of Rio de Janeiro or Sao Paolo. Surprisingly, it would have been much easier if we had tried to move an entire household. Or, as one of the many people I spoke to asked: “Only 200 kg? Don’t you have furniture?” If we had been able to fill a container, or at least half a container, life would have been simpler.

Additional to learning that for airfreight only weight mattered and for seafreight only volume, we were told that only household moving companies have permission to ship used goods to Brazil. Logistic companies such as UPS or TNT do not qualify as moving companies. This meant for us – having to chose a logistic company if we did not want to pay more for the shipping than our belongings are worth – that we were facing the risks that an ill-disposed customs officer could refuse the material on the Brazilian border. The logistics company would then have to send it back to Europe. Obviously, at our cost.

So far, so bad. One way around this threat, as we figured after weeks of inquiries, was that it is possible to send material to Brazil declared as unaccompanied luggage. However, that does  not include a 100%  guarantee that a moody customs officer allows the ‘luggage’ to enter the country, and it means once the stuff is in customs, that you have to get it out. Now, an additional round of fun starts.

We succeeded in the end of shipping our belongings this way and got it out of customs. Here below is the list of documents we provided and a few useful things we learned on the way. May it be helpful to many people out there!


  • Copy of the airbill
  • Proforma invoice for unaccompanied baggage
  • Copy of an electricity bill and visa (Cédula de Identidade de Estrangeiro)
  • A printout of the flight ticket
  • Copy an official document showing the address in the former resident country
  • Passport.

For all documents, originals are needed, copies are not accepted. After arrival, goods will be stored under customs control, at the airports warehouse. The maximum storage period is 90 days; after this goods are put on a public auction. There is a storage fee, due to the airport administration, which turned out to be surprisingly low. We did not have to pay taxes – as it was used goods we sent. So basically, with all the documents, you go to customs, they release your goods and you pay the storage fee. Never forget however, that this is only possible on working days during working hours. Planning minimum half a day to get this done is a safe bet. And don’t ship anything not allowed into the country like food, plants or wood. Not even that old cherished trunk of yours that you have since more than 20 years. If you try, there are additional surprises for you in the pot!

All together, this particular experience with the (in)famous Brazilian administration, was managed by us successfully. Not too bad or as they say over here: que legal!

Putting the puzzle together

You know this feeling when you prepare for something like – let’s say – the move to another country. You make every single step that’s needed, one after the other. But still, the final image – what all this really means – does not emerge till the very end.

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In the end, it meant for me to say good-bye to Belgium. And welcome to Brazil.


Though I don’t remember the exact date; it is a good 10 years ago that I left Germany. What started as an Erasmus year in Grenoble, brought me back to Berlin almost 4 years later. Only to leave again after the best world cup summer ever to go to South Africa.

From there to Belgium and now? Now, Brazil after five long though full and fulfilling years in Brussels.

When being asked if I don’t miss living in Germany; my answer is no. I sometimes miss my family but not much more. I love to visit Germany and I still feel very much German, especially when it comes to football, but already the few months I spent in Berlin in 2006 felt like a step back.

Living abroad, may it be France, Belgium, Brazil or Trinidad & Tobago, is never easy. It’s often complicated, sometimes tiring and occasionally annoying. Not being able to communicate, not knowing where to go when you have a problem, not being aware of different social systems all make it challenging. And still, this exactly what I like.

To me, life feels richer, fuller. I know that this is just me. Other people think differently, have different values. I remember when being all new and naive at university, not even 19 years old; I met a French student, fluent in German, studying Japanese and preparing her next big trip. And I thought: Wow, this is what I want too.

Looking back at the last 10 years, it is kind of what I got. Do I enjoy it? Yes, very much so. Was it easy to get there? Hell no!

So, what do we learn from this? Not much, sorry. Try to do what feels right to you; correct it when it feels wrong. Not exactly rocket science but worth remembering sometimes.