Back in Germany, before I moved to Scotland, I had started chatting to Bruna, a Brazilian girl who at one point had commented on a video I uploaded to YouTube. When the relationship with my last German girlf(r)iend ended, we have been talking even more and at some point we met in person and realised that there was more between us that a chat-friendship on the internet.
After meeting up in Germany on Hogmanay 2009 and spending a whole month together in Scotland, we had started a long-distance relationship but had no idea when we would be able to see each other again. Even though I never believed in marriage, I decided to propose on Valentines Day, because there would be no other possibility for us to be together. I wanted to be together with her and would do anything for it and so I was obviously quite happy when she accepted. I did look into moving to Brazil at the time and shortly before I have flirted with Argentina for a very brief period, but since neither my Spanish nor my Portuguese were good enough for anything more than to order beer and food, we decided that it would be best for her to join me in Scotland.
The period from the 15th of February until the 30th of June 2010 was a single run behind documents and information. I had to fly to Germany in order to get my birth certificate and a “certificate of no impediment to marriage”, in this case a simple notarised letter signed by two witnesses who had to confirm that I am not currently married to anybody else. Those two including a power of attorney that would allow my future wife to sign in my name when putting up with all the bureaucracy across the ocean, had to go to the headquarters of a regional authority to be stamped (in order to notarise the notary public’s signature). After receiving them back from there, I had to send them to the Brazilian Consulate General in Munich for certification and after that straight to Brazil via FedEx so Bruna could have them translated and start the process to get a wedding date for us.
As hard and exhausting as it was, giving up wasn’t an option. After several problems on the Brazilian side of things, we finally had everything we needed and had our wedding date confirmed for the 1st of July 2010, exactly half a year after getting together which would make 2 super easy anniversary dates to remember.
I have had a couple of hard days before going to Brazil and could use the 4 weeks of holidays to get my thoughts off my constant bad luck and what my life in Scotland had become.
On the 27th of June, after being separated for 5 months, I arrived at Guarulhos Airport and could finally hug and kiss the love of my life again – about 1.5 hours later than expected, because Brazilians and time are two things that apparently don’t get along well…
It was the first time I had left the European continent, the first time in a tropical country, the first time in a winter that was well hotter than most Scottish summers in history and jetlagged for the very first time, which didn’t feel much different from waking up after a binge weekend. Pretty much everything I did there was a “first”.
On the first day I mostly slept and have been introduced to Bruna’s family on her mothers side. On the 2nd day, Bruna had to work in her job for the last time and I was supposed to spend the day with her cousin Jackie with whom we would be going to one of the fanciest Churrascarias in town for a nice Rodizio. Unfortunately my future mother-in-law absolutely fattened me for lunch so that I had still been stuffed at dinner time and could barely eat anything.
On the morning of our wedding day, everything seemed a bit hectic and everyone was running up and down the stairs, speaking super-fast Portuguese. Bruna’s uncle drove us to the cartorio in his old Opel (Chevrolet in Brazil) and we just made it in time for our appointment – which is great, because after all this hassle with the documents we could not take the risk to miss this appointment. It later turned out that Bruna had told her mum on purpose that the wedding was going to be half an hour earlier so we would be on time – and it worked well!
The ceremony was pretty short and uncomplicated. We just had to sign several pages and I had to have a translator present, because my Portuguese was not quite fluent. I decided to have a German translator rather than an English one, simply so my grandparents could watch the video and actually understand what is being said.
We had the most basic and most amazing wedding day when, after lunch, just the two of us went to the (Ibirapuera) park with a couple of cans and spent a romantic afternoon in between all those amazing plants and varieties of trees I had never seen before.
Due to its sheer size and a population of a staggering 20 million people, Sao Paulo was the biggest cultural shock I had ever suffered at the time. Coming from and having lived most of my life in an 800-soul village, I was not used to take metros and buses overflowing with people. One night on our way back from town, the bus was so full that I had to sit on the dashboard and every time we went round a corner, the driver asked me to duck down so he could see the road.
We went to town rather often as Bruna had been working in a hotel and had many good connections and vouchers for fancy restaurants in the city centre. One night we went to Anhembi in the very north of the city to meet some guys from the local Escort Cabriolet Club at a car show.
Another thing that gobsmacked me was the Paulistanos’ perception of distance. When we went to visit Bruna’s family on the fathers side, we had to go all the way from Morumbi to Itaquera and for anyone familiar with the infrastructure in Sao Paulo – that was before a time when the yellow Metro was as well-connected as it is now. My question how long we had to travel had been dismissed with a mere “Not too long”… We spent 2 hours in public transport that day just to get there – If I was going to travel as long from my home village, I AM IN FRANCE!
Speaking of cultural shocks, I quickly got used to everything including the death-trap style of showers with wires sticking out everywhere and I didn’t really bother with the much lower standards as opposed to what I was used to from Europe – I actually loved all that! It was a real break from all the boring routine. I even believe that this trip is partially responsible for my travel addiction and desire to learn about other cultures nowadays (not that it would be a bad thing).
The only thing I find very hard to get used to is the fact that, due to the inferior drainage systems, toilet paper is not being flushed in Brazil but it actually goes into the wastebin.
A couple of days after we got married, we had to go to Rio de Janeiro, in order to apply for Bruna’s visa to join me in Scotland. The visa applications used to be outsourced to a company called “Worldbridge” back then. We had made an appointment in their Botafogo office and took a bus to Rio. I insisted to stay there for a couple of days, just in case that if any problem arose we could deal with it immediately, which turned out handy later on.
I had been doing months of research regarding visa applications and got really scared when I saw that a spouse visa in the UK would cost an application fee of around £800 which would have been impossible to afford on top of all the other costs – where would I get another monthly salary from? I always found online forums quite useful and in this case I also got lucky. In an immigration forum I was told that since I am an EU citizen, as opposed to a UK national, and not living in my home country I had to go the “European way” which would be free of cost.
For someone unfamiliar with all those visa procedures that might sound a bit unfair – wait a second, IT IS UNFAIR! A British citizen living at home in the UK may, as much as any foreign EU citizen, fall in love with someone else from outside Europe and they are being discriminated against for living in their own country! In the meantime this has resulted in a culture of EU citizens leaving their own country to work in another member state, in order to be with their beloved. Even though I did clearly profit from that legislation in this case, I would be pissed off as hell if I was on the other end. How is it possible that a foreigner can have more rights than someone who is a citizen of the country?
We had to provide a truckload of documents to prove that I am living and working in the UK, that our relationship was genuine and we had actually met each other before getting married. Chat-logs from our endless Skype conversations, pictures of us together, payslips and bank statements to prove that we would not be living off benefits. Since this was for the UK, at least I didn’t have to have all those documents translated as they were in English anyways. Only the wedding certificate that was obviously in Portuguese we had already handed over to our translator straight after the wedding ceremony.
The day after we had submitted the application, we received an email stating there was a document missing – a copy of my passport, notarised either by a German or a British consulate. Since the Brazilian bureaucracy we had endured over the last weeks was plenty, I didn’t want to deal with the German one as well and so we decided to go to the British Embassy that was also much more conveniently located and got a notarised copy of my passport. After we had send this on to “Worldbridge” via Sedex special delivery , we received an email a couple of days later, informing us that Bruna was granted the entry visa for the UK valid for 6 months.
We enjoyed a couple of days in Rio, which can be considered our honeymoon. After obviously visiting Copacabana, Praia de Ipanema and Cristo Redentor I think that 5 days in Rio are enough to see the most interesting stuff. I had been really lucky with the weather that year as we already had 30C at 10 am in Rio which I was told is not really common for July.
Upon our return to Sao Paulo it did not take long for our documents to arrive as well and the visa was included in Bruna’s passport. Finally we did not have to run behind anything anymore and could just enjoy the rest of our time in Brazil. We already had the flights back to Scotland booked for both of us together and could not afford to miss them, so we were happy that everything went according to our time plan. It had been hard enough and more than once we were just about to give up and thought about simply getting married in Denmark or Gibraltar.
As big a football fanatic as I was back then, I obviously could not leave Brazil without having been to the stadium and so Bruna took me to a game of her team – Palmeiras. They beat Santos 2:0 that night at the Pacaembu Stadium and we had booked VIP seats including stadium transfer and drinks with FutebolTour. The VIP section was very different from any European one and I almost witnessed a riot.
The last two days before our flight back we spent at my dad-in-law’s place, had Brazilian style BBQs – yes, plural! 2 days are plenty for at least 2 BBqs. I found it funny and also amazing that one of the BBQs was actually the birthday party of some neighbour and my dad-in-law just invited us to it. When Brazilians make a BBQ everyone, even strangers, brings something and they end up with tons of stuff. When I go back to Germany and tell my pals that I am around and having a BBQ, everyone comes and expects everything to be there – again a very positive cultural shock.
Our flight back was a 3-stop madness from Guarulhos to Edinburgh via Munich and Frankfurt and whilst we did not have a problem to catch all the connections – our luggage did and it was delivered to us via UPS the next day.
From a 31C winter we arrived back in Glasgow to an 18C summer with pouring rain to start our new life together…