Finding a Brazilian home away from home

It was a warm Wednesday afternoon in February when I first entered the doors at the GDDN site in Brazil. After a long day’s travel all the way from Sweden, I must admit I was quite jet-lagged and tired when I arrived. However, the welcoming smiles and greetings of everyone I met that day made me feel like I had just found a home away from home. This was my first experience of Brazil, and I had a great feeling about the upcoming two months I was going to spend there.

Johanna in front of GDDN in Brazil. Photo: Anton Nilsson.

GDDN is the Gripen Development & Design Network, and it is the site where Saab and its partner Embraer* work together to develop the new Gripen fighter. For me, stepping into GDDN felt like stepping into a Brazilian mini-version of our Linköping site. Many of our core competencies are represented at GDDN, and I was happy to learn a lot about the Gripen system development as I was involved in one of its sub-projects. Working with the Brazilian engineers was just like home – we are more alike than we are different, and I quickly realized that Brazilians are just as good (if not better) at having fika. If you ever travel to Brazil, don’t miss out on their “fika bread” Pão de Queijo – it’s amazing.

Brazilians are very easy going in general, and during my stay I quickly got into their way of life – I even noticed I started walking a lot slower than I do at home. Going to a colleague’s house for a barbeque was not uncommon, and I love just how open Brazilians are to inviting new friends to their home. I know that every country has their own barbeque culture, but I find that none is better than the Brazilian – it’s all about sharing. As I went to Brazil by myself, I am also very grateful for the warm welcome I got from my fellow Saab colleagues and their families. They invited me to all kinds of fun activities and helped me with practical stuff whenever needed. At times I felt like I was part of a big Swedish-Brazilian family and this definitely created a feeling of having a home away from home.

Johanna with small calves during a weekend at an organic coffee farm. Photo: Per Tibell.

Some of my best memories are the Carnival festivities, winning a bowling tournament amongst the Swedish expatriates, and a weekend-long visit to an organic coffee farm. However, the most memorable moment was when we were driving through the rain forest towards the coast of Rio de Janeiro state, and we stopped for some fresh sugarcane juice along the road. It was this super small kiosk and an older man who didn’t speak English came out. We could not believe our eyes when we saw what he was wearing: a red Gripen cap! It’s a small world after all…

Até mais,

*If you are interested in the collaboration between Saab and Embraer, here is a link to one of the episodes of ‘True Collaboration’ on YouTube