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The United Kingdom attracts a diverse profile of Brazilians

The United Kingdom attracts a diverse profile of Brazilians

Tuesday at 2:30 p.m. After peak delivery hours pass, motorcycles begin to pile up on the narrow sidewalk in front of the restaurant. On the menu, pot roast, ribs or feijoada – all with rice, farofa and salad. It might be a common scene in a Brazilian city, but it happens again and again every day in London. On site is Feijão do Luís, a restaurant run by Brazilian Luiz Souza, who has lived in the English capital for 27 years.

One of the regular lunchers is Luann Lucas, 29. Born in Cristalina (GO), Luan was a gas station attendant and never left Brazil until a former brother-in-law who worked as a delivery man in London tipped him off.

“It was me and another gas station friend. I asked if I had the courage, he agreed. Then I resigned, he didn't (laughs). I was already without a job, so I went a little crazy”, he recalls, still in English after six years in London. He says he still has difficulties. “When I came, I had a lot of trouble. The diner said “bye” and I understood “hi” and waited. Today I can relax, but I don't know how to speak properly to answer.

Luan is one of 220,000 Brazilians living in the UK, according to the Brazilian Embassy in London. The United Kingdom, which includes England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, is the second most important destination for Brazilians seeking to immigrate to Europe, after Portugal. Delivery people on delivery services, such as Luan, who works for Uber Eats and Deliveroo, are part of a growing group, but not a majority, among Brazilians.

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According to official statistics, Brazilian immigrants to the UK are, in general, white (76%), upper middle class, highly educated (75%) and mainly from the South East region (57%). In particular, Sao Paulo accounts for more than a third of the total, as shown in the study “Brazilians in the United Kingdom” by Yara Evans, a researcher from Imperial College London.

New models

There are Brazilians in 33 London boroughs, with the largest concentration in the borough of Brent in the north-west of the city – the local council has even produced a booklet in Portuguese. The consulate says the change in the profile of Brazilians immigrating to the UK in recent years is largely driven by new work models – such as food delivery drivers. But reaching them is still difficult.

Journalist Helena Vieira fits the profile of Brazilians settling in British lands. Born in Salvador and a decade in London, he is editor of the LSE Business Review, a prestigious publication aimed at an academic audience. She lived in New York, Rome, Buenos Aires and Arusha, Tanzania, married an Italian and was assimilated. The 61-year-old says he is getting close to deciding whether he will one day return to live in Brazil.

“I have been out of Brazil for over 30 years. But the confusions in my head are likely to return. I no longer want to be so far away from Brazil that I don't feel part of it.

Louis, from the restaurant, has no plans to return. He is among the smallest group of Brazilians who have lived in the UK for 20 years or more (1%) – the majority, 43%, have stayed between one and five years. He traveled to Italy in 1981 as a driver for Osvaldo Sargentelli's controversial “mulata” dance troupe. He met an Italian girl, decided to stay, and then fell in love with an English girl.

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He accompanied her to London and set up a cart to sell ice cream in summer and peanuts in winter. He opened a restaurant in 1996, but it went bankrupt in 1998. Then came the turning point. Always asked by Brazilians where to watch the team's World Cup games, he decided to organize parties with caipirinha, coxinha, cheese bread and a big screen.

Lewis recently suffered a blow when it took over the building on Oxford Street where Feijoo do Lewis had been operating for a decade. He had to rush to an upgraded venue, a friend's bar. With this sudden change, customers are limited to a few deliveries and mostly to the Brazilian motorcycle courier community.

“Am I happy here? No. But this city is magical, man. Things happen. So I have to be here when that happens”, he concludes.