New hemisphere, new life: Marcelo Priviatto compares life in Kansas City to hometown of Sao Paulo

Kate Baxendale

Marcelo Priviatto, a junior in the Henry W. Bloch School of Management, hails from Campinas, Brazil, a city just outside of Sao Paulo.

Priviatto is fluent in three languages and has traveled the world, visiting cities from Vancouver to Madrid to Shanghai.

His first exposure to U.S. culture was on a family vacation to Miami in 2005. It was then, at age 14, that he decided he wanted to attend college in the U.S.

“I thought about studying in California, but it wasn’t the best place for me to practice my English because many people speak my native language of Portuguese,” he said. “I am also fluent in Spanish, which many people also speak there.”

Priviatto said that a family connection to Monica Mingucci, the director of UMKC’s Applied Languages Institute (ALI), helped land him at UMKC.

“[She] said that Kansas City would be a good place for me to study because people in the Midwest speak more proper English than in other places,” Priviatto said. “The people here don’t speak with heavy accents.”

Priviatto moved to Kansas City in January 2010 to allow time to improve his English before the fall semester began, although he studied the language in Brazil since he was 8 years old.

“After visiting so many other American cities, I knew what to expect in Kansas City,” he said.

However, the move from a tropical Brazilian city of 11.3 million to a Midwestern city of 2 million—known for its unpredictable weather and temperature extremes—still proved to be a culture shock.

“I stayed inside a lot at first,” Priviatto said. “[In Brazil,] we are outside all the time. The weather is always nice.”

Priviatto said he purchased snow boots, winter coats and other cold-weather gear to adjust to Kansas City’s frigid January weather.

He was amused by some common misconceptions he has heard about his home country.

“People ask me lots of questions,” he said. “Many people think Brazilians speak Spanish, but we speak Portuguese. I have heard people say that we live in jungles, when in reality, Sao Paulo is the fourth largest city in the world.”

The demeanor of the American people is the most profound difference Priviatto said he has observed

“Here [in the U.S.], everyone you meet has a problem with personal space,” he said. “When I meet people, the interaction is reduced to a handshake. Almost everywhere else in the world people are much warmer.”

In other countries, Priviatto said the approach is less impersonal.

“We make extended eye contact,” Priviatto said. “We touch each other when we are talking. When we meet new people, we give hugs and a kiss on the cheek.”

Living in the northern hemisphere, which is experiencing winter when the southern hemisphere is experiencing summer, made the adjustment even more difficult.

“It’s hard to talk to people at home around this time because they are going to the beach and playing soccer outside while I am bundled up indoors,” he said.

Priviatto is also active during the summer in Kansas City, playing soccer at Durwood Stadium and going to the lake with his friends.

The American supermarket is another new experience for Priviatto.

“The food here is pretty similar, but in Brazil it is much fresher,” he said. “We eat lots of salads, rice, beans and vegetables.”

Produce markets like City Market on 5th Street downtown are the closest comparison to how produce is purchased in Brazil. Fogo de Chao, the Brazilian steakhouse on the Plaza, has authentic barbecue, according to Priviatto.

One traditional dish Priviatto misses from home is feijoada, which consists of black beans with pork sausage. It is the first dish he eats when he returns to Brazil twice each year. American coffee is much weaker than the world-famous Brazilian coffee, in Priviatto’s opinion.

“In Brazil we have espresso shots after a meal,” he said. “We drink dark coffee, black. Here I add milk or cream because it does not taste as good.”

At the Bloch School, Priviatto is a research assistant at the Peoples of Innovation Lab, which is part of the Research Engagement Program (REP) led by Dr. William Self.

“The REP has given me hands-on experience with business simulation research,” Priviatto said. “It is a good way to get involved with the Bloch School.”

Priviatto plans to finish his undergraduate studies at UMKC. He is unsure of where he will travel next, whether he pursues a master’s degree in London or returns to Brazil to finish his education.

He hopes that his international experiences could help lead to a lucrative business career.

“We are all interconnected,” he said. “We depend on each other for everything. The business world is perfect for me because I love to travel and learn other languages and cultures.”

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