Life Stories

22 Ways You Know You Grew Up As a Brazilian Immigrant


Back in 1998 when I wore a blue crochet hat with tiny braids in my hair while sporting my bright red Looney Tunes shirt, all I was worried about is if I looked cute enough to go to this new “Estados Unidos” place that my mom had been talking about. I was immigrating to the United States and had not a damn clue how completely different my upbringing would be from the rest of the kids who were born in the land of opportunity. Don’t get me wrong, different isn’t always bad, it’s just different. So here are some things that I’ve experienced first hand after growing up in a suburban town in the middle of Amurica as a Brazilian immigrant child.

1. You have to translate legal documents for your parents when you’re 12 and they’re 37; you grown boo boo

2. Doing homework while in elementary school was a nightmare because you had no one to ask for help


3.You had a digital dictionary to fill the void

4. And when your class had a field trip, you’d sign your own permission slips because explaining where you’d be going was extremely frustrating

5. You most likely babysat yourself because your parents were always at work (i.e. raising other kids as a nanny) and couldn’t afford a babysitter

6. You learned English with Barney, Face from Nick Jr., and Gullah Gullah Island


7. You’re a professional carpenter, cleaning lady, or painter before the age of 16… or all three like me

8. You learn how to make rice and beans in the event that mom got stuck at work and you had to cook for the family


9. Your family back home makes fun of you for your Americanized accent

10. Your friends in The United States make fun of you for your Brazilian accent

11. You feel super bada$$ when you get pulled out of class to translate for some new immigrant kid


12. Your friends never understood why your parents, and then later why you, were ALWAYS working

13. People always try to touch your hair to see if it’s real


14. You’ve been asked ignorant things like “oh did you take a boat to get here,” or “was your house a tipi in The Amazon?”


15. You don’t drink underage because you’re afraid of getting deported

16. You don’t skip class because you’re afraid of getting deported

17. You don’t even cough in front of law enforcement because you’re afraid of getting deported

18. You never took vacations, unless it was that ONE time where you went to Disney World


19. What’s an allowance?

20. You know how to navigate through the intricacies of an international calling card

21. You absolutely can’t leave the house without showering, or else people will know you’re dirty

22. You suffer from and identity crisis and it’s a part of who you are for the better; you use the Brazilian card and the American card to your full advantage

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  • Elias

    Amazing 🙂

  • jenny

    yass! the identity crisis. i mean. i can relate because I’m a first generation american. as mexicans who say “Ni de aquí, ni de allá”

    • Rightttt!!! we’re from no-(wo)mans land, which makes us more interesting in the end :)!

  • Interesting read! Totally forgot about Face from Nick Jr. Brings back childhood memories lol.

  • Matheus Silverio

    Ohh My God Jo! Estou com os olhos cheios de lagrimas de ler isso, porque me sinto da mesma forma, e mesmo que as vezes parece ser triste, há aquele sentimento de que tudo está/irá valer a pena no futuro. É tanta experiência, e maturidade que temos que desenvolver, e a saudade do Brasil e não poder ir lá por questões documentalistas, ficar dividido assim… Ahhhh como é bom saber que alguém já passou pela msm situação, mas que porém boje, depois de tudo é tão incrível quanto vc! Obrigado de verdade!Uma inspiração! Um abraço!

    • Oi mattheus! obrigada por ter lido o meu post! e maturidade mesmo que a gente ganhar bem cedo! adorei ler a sua reacao! obrigada voce!!! continua lutando!!!

  • Necole

    Most of your upbringing sounds a lot that of someone born in America that has broke parents. I can relate to everything in this post minus the translating parts.

  • Eddie D’Abruzzo

    I myself was born in Brazil, but moved to the United States at a young age though I came here at 11 months I still understood the struggle of growing up a Brazilian Immigrant. XD