Living abroad: three advices to make your life easier

My husband is american and after we got married I went through a lot of adjustments when moving from Brazil to the US. Some were easier than others, but I learned a lot from each experience I had. I thought sharing it may help others on adapting to a new country, language and lifestyle. Here are my three advices to a smoother transition:

1. Stay in touch with your roots

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Stay in touch with friends and family is such an easier thing to do nowadays. Whatsapp, Imesssage, Skype, Viber and FaceTime are some of the technological tools and apps we all can use in our favor to talk to those who we love and know us better. They might not understand your difficulties entirely, but including them in your new life is always a way to reassure yourself that you don’t have to loose the relationships you already have to create new ones.

Something that took me a while to realize, also, was the importance of local food on our daily life. Discovering Brazilian grocery stores became a habit and I try to restock on sweetened condensed milk (to make brigadeiro) and frozen cheese breads every opportunity I have. Having that one comforting treat once in a while is a way to maintain cultural traditions I had ever since I was a kid.

Finally, since I love to read, I started purchasing more and more books written in Portuguese, so I can still practice my mother tongue and keep up to date to the literary scene in Brazil. When I get tired of speaking and writing in English, I find comfort on reading the best Brazilian prose I can find. Some people also purchase Latin TV channels that include TV stations from their countries, but to me the investment was never justified. I don’t really enjoy Brazilian TV as much as literature, so it didn’t make sense.

2. Find other expat friends

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Getting to know expats who are living in the same city as you and networking with other foreigners has two huge advantages: they can help you understand how to position your peculiar point of view about your new country’s culture as one of your professional strengths and they are very likely to understand everything you struggle with when you first arrive. Plus, there is no better people to mock your new country’s weird cultural traditions with. They probably share the same views.

3. Keep yourself busy

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Finding something to do with your free time is such an important advice. When I first got to the US, I couldn’t work because I was still waiting for my visa, so I stayed home for longs periods of time. The feeling of being an outsider was deepened by my loneliness, and that wasn’t helpful at all. Being so dependable of a car in Ohio was tough, but after I bought my own I started driving our dogs for parks and dog parks and getting in touch with locals that were doing the same. Having a silly chit chat while exercising my dogs was a much appreciated way to interact with others, exchange recommendations for local restaurants and grow my social network.

Those encounters are great, but more important than that is having real friends. I was lucky to become good friends with my husband’s friends, but I missed having my own. Does it sound selfish? I guess I needed a life support system that was independent from him, his friends or family. Finding a job and meeting people with common interests here in Charlotte definitely changed that feeling. Studying, attending courses and local networking events or finding local communities online, these are all things one can do to meet new people and develop new friendships. The other day, somebody posted an invitation for women to play volleyball at a Charlotean park every thursday night on a local facebook community. I thought it was a great way to connect with others. If only I could make it.

Gingers taking over e-commerce

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Twitter, Facebook, Instagram. We are all out there, seeking for some relatable content, maybe something funny that would lighten up our day. Entrepreneurial companies like Ginger Problems catch my attention particularly because of how they attend a very specific group. For those of you who don’t know, Ginger Problems is an e-commerce website that sells clothes designed for redhead people, aka ginger, or ginger lovers. It is also a Twitter character (or personality?) with more than 160.000 followers, a Facebook page with more than 5.000 likes and an Instagram profile with more than 16.000 followers. I don’t have red hair, neither does my husband, but I do know an unusual number of Brazilian gingers (be noted: non-dyed) and I’ve seen some of what they go through. It is tough being a ginger when you have to deal with tropical weather, high temperatures and lots of sun, even during winter. Phrases like this, published on Ginger Problems Facebook account, make even more sense: “I’m a ginger and this crazy. But here’s my sunscreen, I use it daily”. Funny, perky, relatable: apparently, that is all it takes to launch your own business.

Here is my interview with Trevor Denton, the creator of it all, about how the business came to life:

quirksmag: How did the business idea come up?

Trevor Denton: I’ve always been an avid twitter user and when I saw what @WhiteGrlProblem was doing I thought, well surely there has to be a GingerProblems account. There wasn’t, so I decided to make one. It took off very quickly. A few celebrities started following and then it just kept snowballing from there. I was put in the position to constantly create content and become this internet comedian. I am no professional comedian, but I will say all you need is a sense of humor to have the ability to make people laugh. So GingerProblems is my attempt at being somewhat of a comedian to the ginger population.

qm: Were you surprised by the results?

TD: I was definitely surprised at what was happening when I started the twitter account. Once I was able to gain control and really understand it’s potential (starting the clothing line and branding the company), things kind of started happening the way I wanted them to. My vision was becoming reality.

qm: How did social media helped you captivate people and customers? Is there a secret?

TD: Humor. Everybody likes to laugh. Which reminds me of my favorite quote: “I hate laughing.” – Nobody ever. Social media works if you’re social. It works if you present something your audience can relate to.You just have to know your audience. Lucky for me I can tell by their hair color.

qm:When did you start selling clothes and why?

TD: When I started GingerProblems in November 2010, I sort of gave myself an ultimatum. I had around 1K followers. I told myself, once I hit 2K, I’ll come out with a shirt. If it does well, I’ll keep this going. If it bombs, then I’ll most likely put this twitter thing to rest and move on to something else. Needless to say, the shirts were selling out and I continued. I feel very fortunate to have fell into this niche market all by just wanting to start a twitter account for fun.

qm: Would you consider your business successful?

TD: I’d say it is successful. However, I will say that it is still young and is very much so still growing. I am still young too. I’ve learned a lot by starting GingerProblems. Lots of trial and error.

qm: How many shirts do you sell monthly?

TD: Our online sales are very consistant. We sell anywhere from 200-300 shirts a month.

qm: What were your initial expectations?

TD: My initial expectations for the company were to just be consistant and keep the customer happy. I’m a big fan of companies who include free stickers or cool artwork packs with orders being sent to their customers. So with every order, we include stickers or cards with different designs or coupon codes. I feel that its important to always give more. The customer is always expecting what they ordered, but when you go the extra mile and surprise them, it goes a long way. It’s all about gaining a trusting relationship, so they know whenever they order something from GingerProblems they can expect to get more. Always.

qm: What are the difficulties of having a small business nowadays? Is there something that makes it easier?

TD: Difficulties would have to be time and money. I think that is a common challenge for any business.I wish there were more hours in a day. You just have to be patient. Social media and smartphones make everything easier. I wouldn’t have been able to do this 10, maybe even 5 years ago.

qm: Would you consider yourself an entrepreneur? Why?

TD: Yes. I think anybody who has an idea, is passionate about it, and then goes out there and does it is an entrepreneur. I feel that I’ve built something that was once such a minor and innocent idea and now has become a living, breathing entity that is part of my everyday life.

qm: Any plans for the future?

TD: For the future, I’d like to see GingerProblems offer more than clothes. I want to be able to offer actual products people use and not just wear. I’d like to see us in stores across the globe. I want to make a bigger impact to the redhead community. No one’s done us justice yet.

On time: Many thanks to my sister, who sent me the picture! She bought one of Trevor’s shirts because her boyfriend has red hair and she thought it would be a cute way to say “I love you”. Plus, I must say: when I received the package for her, I opened to make sure everything was all right and I found a sticker and some postcards in the package. They were a very nice touch.