A world in motion : Kari

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Welcome to our A World In Motion series. The last two years have been a time when many people confronted the significance of mobility and borders – in our own personal lives and the lives of others. With much talk of people arriving in South Africa, it is also important to acknowledge that many South Africans move to other countries too. Our world is one that is in motion.

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We speak to Kari Olsen, who moved from Cape Town to São Paulo, Brazil

Why did you decide to move to Brazil and what city do you live in?

I was living in Asia and met my husband, who is Brazilian. We then decided to move back to the city of São Paulo which is located in the São Paulo state.

What do you do there?

I am a Year 2 teacher and the head of digital learning at a British school. (St Paul’s)

Have you found it to be a welcoming country and city to live in? 

Brazilians in general are very welcoming but the language barrier served as a huge setback. Not many people speak English so simple things like getting a taxi or ordering food was quite a challenge. Often, they shy away from foreigners because they are scared of not being able to communicate so that can be hard too. Before joining my school, finding a job was challenging and made me feel quite excluded from the community as often businesses would not even reply to me post interview because of my lack of Portuguese.

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What are some things that you have done to help with your integration into the country that you are now living in? 

Learning the language was a huge turning point in my integration into the country and making friends. Team sports is another way however, sadly, the team sports they are most famous for (soccer and volleyball) did not form part of our school sports when I was at school. That said I have made some friends through work and horse riding.

Do you think it is important to make an effort to integrate into the new society you find yourself in? 

Most certainly, it is part of your duty as a foreign citizen to make an effort to get to know the local culture, what is considered acceptable and what is not as well as learning some of the basic language.

What do you miss about South Africa?

The food, the nature and of course my family and friends.

Do you see yourself moving back to South Africa in the future? 

I do not have any plans or see myself ever living in South Africa again. This is mainly due to the fact that my husband is Brazilian, and we have a good base here in São Paulo