I’m keeping the interview mode on until the end of the week and am really happy to share part 1 of an interview I did with three great humans about their own experiences of arriving and living in the United States with you today. Meet Fernanda (Brazil), Mattias (Sweden) and Ly (Vietnam).
Also, if you’re a lazy bum and prefer to listen to the interview instead of reading it (I totally understand, no judgement here), just click on the corresponding audio files below (bonus material included, please excuse the wind in the audio).
Sandra: Do you remember the day you first arrived to Boston?
Ly: My husband picked me up at the airport and I was just so happy to see him. On our drive back home, I was just amazed by how big it all seemed, especially the buildings and how pretty the light was during that time of day. It was in the evening during the golden hour and the sky had that beautiful purple color, it was so romantic. The next day was a different story though. Without the romantic lighting the buildings just looked like concrete.
Sandra: That’s a nice first impression, what about you, Mattias, as seen from a Swedish perspective?
Mattias: I actually had the opposite experience. It started out really bad and turned out to be a really nice experience.
Sandra: How come?
Mattias: When we decided that we were going to come to Harvard, I had actually no idea where Boston was. I didn’t know it was that far up north. And I read that it rains and snows a lot, which I didn’t know. But I thought, ok, it’s going to be fine. The day we arrived, however, it was raining like crazy.
Sandra: What time of the year was it?
Mattias: The 28th of December.
Sandra: Wow, that’s a hardcore time to arrive here.
Mattias: Everything went well, we came to the apartment that we rented and then we needed to go to the supermarket. So we figured out that the closest shop was something called like Trader Joes. So we started walking there, and there were no sidewalks. Even though now we know that there are sidewalks everywhere, just on that particular patch there was no sidewalk. Then there was this sleet coming down, this mix of rain and snow, it was really cold and we came into Trader Joes and everything was super expensive. We were used to Chinese prices (red. before coming to the US, Mattias and his wife were based in China). But if we’ll go back to Sweden we might think s***, everything is so expensive. So on our first evening here, we didn’t really want to buy anything to eat because it was expensive, we came home totally drenched and cold…
Sandra: Did things get a little better the following day?
Mattias: Yes, the next day everything was a lot better. Blue skies, pretty nice.
Sandra: What about you, Fernanda?
Fernanda: When we got here, about two years ago, it was summer. It was my first time in America during the summer. And I seriously didn’t know it could get this hot. I had this idea in my head of Boston being so far up north that it couldn’t possibly be as hot as in Brazil. So I was a little disappointed in a way.
Sandra: Would you have preferred a crazy winter scenario like Mattias had when arriving here?
Fernanda: Yes, I was a bit disappointed but now I enjoy it especially after having spent two winters here. I’ve really learned to appreciate the seasons, which is pretty cool because we don’t really have changing seasons in Brazil, at least in Rio it’s always very hot. It’s been a while since I first got here and so I don’t really remember every detail anymore. I think we were very excited to be here. We had just gotten married, were living in our first home together and were doing everything together as a married couple for the first time. So it was a really special. And I think I associate this newlywed feeling with Boston. It was a good first impression.
Sandra: And if you think back, when meeting new people, what were people’s reactions when you told them that you were from Brazil?
Fernanda: I remember some people finding it strange that I was so pale. Because they have this idea about Brazilian people, especially from Rio, that they are tanned and enjoy the sun. Speaking of Americans, I can hardly say that I’ve met one. Like everyone that I know isn’t from here. I guess the most American friends that I have are Canadians (everyone laughs).
Sandra: Well I don’t know if they’d like you to say that about them…
Fernanda: It’s just very hard to meet locals.
Sandra: What about you Mattias and Ly? Would they know that it is Sweden and not Switzerland for example?
Mattias: Yeah, exactly that’s what I was going to say.
Sandra: No actually, you always win. It’s Switzerland that people here mostly confuse with Sweden and not the other way round I think.
Mattias: Maybe because you’re a woman. I think Americans associate Sweden somehow with women. But like Fernanda, I have only met very few Americans. When I went to buy fabric recently, they asked me where I was from. And then they said, ‘Ah Sweden’, that’s that tiny country with the nice chocolate.
Sandra: That’s so funny, it’s actually the opposite from what always happens to me. They will always end up meaning Sweden and NOT Switzerland.
Sandra: What about you Ly?
Ly: It’s a bit of a similar experience to Mattias and Fernanda. As Boston is such an international place, I haven’t met that many real Bostonians up until now. Most of the Americans I meet are actually my Uber drivers.
Sandra: Interesting, what about them?
Ly: First off they think I’m from China. But when I say ‘No, I’m from Vietnam’, they’ll say ‘Oh, you’re from Vietnam, I love phở’. I think phở seems to be very popular, so everyone seems to know and like it.
Sandra: That’s so interesting, so the first association people have is with phở.
Sandra: From the top of your head, what’s your favorite American food or drink item?
Fernanda: (very fast response) Mac and Cheese.
Sandra: That was very fast. Any other foods?
Fernanda: That’s the only American food I’ve discovered. All the other foods I’ve gotten to know here are not American, like Vietnamese food, which I really like.
Sandra: In terms of drinks any favorites?
Fernanda: Well, something I like is that craft beers are a huge thing here. My husband and I are really into it and it’s very easy to find specialty beers.
Sandra: Nobody says doughnuts, I’m so surprised. You don’t like doughnuts?
Ly: No, not really. It’s quite difficult to tell if a food is American because their cuisine has so many influences from different places. I actually really like Avocado toast.
Sandra: That’s very healthy.
Ly: I’m not quite sure if it’s a special dish but I really like it.
Fernanda: I think it started off as an Australian thing.
Ly: I think they put Avocado on everything here.
Sandra: Yeah, it’s trendy.
Ly: And it’s quite surprising for me. Even though we have a lot of avocados in Vietnam too, I never eat in a savoury dish, like on bread or in a salad, we eat it as a sweet. Normally we prepare it with milk and sugar or in a smoothie.
Mattias: I pretty much always eat at home, so I couldn’t say. The most American I do, is that I drink a lot of Diet Coke, which I don’t do otherwise.
Stay tuned for part 2 of the interview where we’ll cover American daily life. It’s a good one.
Have a fantastic Thursday everyone!