Barbara Lowenstein

  1. Brief introduction: name, age, occupation, family, country of origin…

Born in Miami Beach, Florida,    I was raised in New Jersey, and spent my university and working years in New York City. I’m 64 years old, and my husband, Mark, and I just celebrated our 25th wedding anniversary.


  1. Where are you currently living/staying in Brazil and why are you there (tourism, study, business, work…)? How long are you planning to stay?

Mark and I moved to Búzios, Brazil in 2002, when we were both approaching retirement. We weren’t sent to Brazil for work, we’re not busy raising children and we’re not just passing through on a whim. We’ve lived here 14 years now, and have no plans to move.

  1. What were your expectations about Brazil before travelling?

We had traveled extensively in Brazil for at least ten years before the move, so I  already felt pretty comfortable here. I was good and geared up for whatever lay in store, and really had no “expectations” per se. I knew that we’d have to learn new procedures, new systems, new rules and a new language, but all of that was energizing. I will say, though, that even with all the information available these days on the Internet, there’s really no preparing for the bureaucratic side of setting up legal residence in another country. At times it might have seemed as though the paperwork was invented merely to frustrate us personally, but the United States makes it equally hard for foreigners to move there legally.


walking on beach


  1. Which of those expectations proved to be true and which proved to be false?

Again, I didn’t really have any “expectations” as I think you mean them. I knew that as a retiree my new life would be quite different from my hectic New York working life, and I was right. I expected I would paint, write, travel, tend the garden and create fusion meals, and it didn’t take any effort to get used to that!

terrace view at sunset

  1. What do you like and dislike the most about Brazil?

My husband and I have never been happier, never been healthier or more stress-free, never had better friends or a higher quality of life. I am privileged to have a spectacular view that fills my heart every day. I love being able to walk down the beach, directly from my house to the nearest shopping. I love the easy friendships and the level of discourse. And I treasure what I’ve learned about life and living from our Brazilian friends.

I don’t like the pervasive violence, this has become our number one worry here. I don’t like the bureaucracy, the corruption, even the annoyance I might feel when I’m up against a seemingly illogical or less efficient way of doing something. But when I balance the good with the bad, Brazil, and specifically Búzios, still wins out hands down.

  1. What was the coolest place you visited in Brazil? Why?

Brazil is immense. Can it really have a “coolest” place? I have a number of favorite places that I’ve visited over the years, and they include Foz do Iguaçu, Salvador, Rio de Janeiro, Penedo, OuroPreto, Tiradentes, Paraty, Petropolis, Campos do Jordão, Gramado . . . but my husband and I chose to settle in Búzios, the place that for us stood head and shoulders above all the others. After all, Búzios is a magnet for expats from supposedly 96 countries, which provides an extraordinarily interesting mix with the local fishermen families and with Brazilians from all over the country.

  1. Can you describe one experience in which you had to deal with cultural shock and how you managed to overcome it?

Since we’d been traveling to Brazil several times a year for a decade prior to our move, we really never experienced any culture shock. Will I ever get over celebrating Christmas in the summer? No, never, but that’s climate shock, not culture shock! Will I ever stop pushing a door that says “puxe” on it, instead of pulling it open? No, and I’m told that that goes for Brazilians in the other direction as well! I’m a bit sorry to disappoint, but the truth is we’ve found Brazil to be pretty straightforward on the “culture shock” level.

santa on beach


  1. What advice would you give to a foreigner planning to travel or move to Brazil?

Always remember that you are a guest in their country. And keep that in mind especially when you begin to deal with the bureaucratic side of setting up legal residence, be it temporary or permanent. Keep a sense of humor and a sense of balance.

Educate yourself about your destination in Brazil (the country is vast and the regions very distinct), but don’t worry about having all your ducks in order before you move, because then you might never do it. Many things are easier to sort out on-site and in person anyway.

Learn Portuguese if you don’t already know it. It makes all the difference both in the richness of your experience and in how you’ll be viewed and treated by your neighbors.


*Barbara has a great blog in which she shares more about her life in Brazil. Learn more here:

Post Author: Juliana Pavao

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