Class of Brazil - 1st Lesson: We Have it Good

Since I came to Rio de Janeiro two days ago, it's been cloudy and rainy. It's still a great, beautiful and very impressive city, though, even in the rain. However, I must admit that the purpose of my stay makes it easy for me to cope with any kind of weather, since I'm not on a regular vacation.

bye:myself - Renata Green - byemyselftravels: Gustavo Prado called "Caminho Inverso"
This is what 'Bildungsurlaub' also stands for: Getting inspired by seeing things from a new perspective!
Here at Rio's Jardim Botanico, an beautiful, serene oasis not far from the beach of Ipanema.
There is not only an eclectic mix of untamed nature growing next to manicured lawns and flowerbeds, decorated with old, weathered statues and fountains. There is also an exhibition of modern art taking place.
My favorite piece is an installation by Gustavo Prado called "Caminho Inverso"/"Reversed Path". It consists of about thirty mirrors facing the top of the palm tree alley which shows you the plants from many, many....different perspectives!

Let me finally explain why I came to Brazil and what I'm doing here:

When it comes to Germany, everybody is raving about cars, soccer, and beer. Three things I could easily do without.

Strangely nobody seems to know what really makes Germany great: For one it's drugstores - I wrote a short hymn about these earthly branches of paradise in my post on Hamburg - and a fantastic invention called 'Bildungsurlaub'.

'Bildungsurlaub', loosely translated 'educational leave', is an incredible invention that seems to exist only in Germany: Every employee is entitled to take one extra week of paid vacation per year to learn or practice something, i. e. to take a class or do a course. There is also the option to do it every other year, so that you can take two weeks in a row.

That's it. You get a paid vacation - in addition to your holidays - if you take a class. This class doesn't even have to be related to your job or the field your working in. However, there are some strings attached, so that this option is not necessarily attractive to everybody: The institution where you're taking your class has to be officially approved for 'Bildungsurlaub' and you have to do at least 30 hours per week. So you cannot say, hey, I will sit next to my grandmother and learn how to knit or I'll visit my cousin in France and learn French talking to the neighbors. You have to find a knitting school that's certified or an appropriate language school and they have to grant you 30 hours class per week. And you have to pay for it - you, not your employer; and the intensive courses abroad are pricey, take it from me.

Anyway, I don't mind paying for an extra vacation where in addition I learn another language; because that's what I did every time I took my 'Bildungsurlaub': first I went for two weeks to Rome and learned Italian. Two years later I spent two weeks in Izmir and did Turkish.

On the third one - and here is where we are slowly getting to my present stay in Rio de Janeiro - I intended to learn Portuguese in Lisbon. I searched the internet and found only courses that were neck-cuttingly expensive. While searching for a reasonable Portuguese class, I came across language schools in Brazil that were qualified for German Bildungsurlaub. My eyes got all dreamy: Learning Portuguese in Brazil - how cool would that be?! Unfortunately by then I already wasted too much time searching for something appropriate so that Brazil, which needs a bit more planning, was off the table; but only for then, I've never forgot about it.
That year I went to Milan and brushed up my Italian.

But two years later - it was 'Bildungsurlaub'-time again - I still remembered Brazil. So I looked for a course, found a good deal, asked my boss for two weeks of 'Bildungsurlaub' - and, since Brazil is so far away, for another two weeks of my regular holidays to make it worth the long journey...and here I am, learning Portuguese - and much, much more! - in Rio de Janeiro.

Despite cars, soccer, and beer: We have it good; so good!

Who Brought Me Here

We have it good - and I have it particularly good since I was lucky enough to find a travel operator who shares my values: "lernen & helfen Sprachreisen" (learning & helping language travel) located in Cologne/Germany.

As I pointed out, to qualify for 'Bildungsurlaub', the course has to be certified by the Federal ministry of education - which only certain classes abroad are. "lernen & helfen Sprachreisen" not only offers a good number of certified classes in 'exotic' places such as Jamaica, Argentina, Ecuador, Peru and many more, but also makes sure that you are well integrated by staying with a local family and introduced to regional traditions, customs and everyday life. They want you to learn  culture and not just the language. Booking a language course at one of their dream destinations does not have to be 'Bildungsurlaub'-related. You can book a class on your regular vacation. Or you can do a combined trip - travelling and learning.
"lernen & helfen Sprachreisen" is certified by various organisations for their ethic, social, and ecological awareness.
In a world where travelling becomes more and more affordable, hence common, I find that this awareness has to be raised accordingly.
More travelling - less tourism.

Note to the curious reader: Like I did during my former trips like e. g. Cambodia, while travelling, I'll be posting little stories and reflections on my stay. At the end of the entire tour there will be an extended travel guide with all the relevant information including addresses, links etc. 
Until then, just enjoy some special moments with me.

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  1. Bildungsurlaub is awesome. I wish every culture did this. Though I am sure it gets abused. But it is awesome that you were able to combine it with your regular vacation. I think learning another language in a foreign country is genius as long as you practice it when your return home. My spanish always get better when I travel but when I return I forget most of it since I dont practice.
    But seriously I love the concept of Bildungsurlaub. What a great way to expand one's skills and knowledge.
    Enjoy Brazil!

  2. This is amazing! I hadn't heard of Bildungsurlaub until I read this post. What awonderful way to encourage people to learn and continue to progress in their lives. In Canada we don't have this, but instead some companies allow unpaid leave which isn't very popular as you can imagine! Have a fantastic Bildungsurlaub in Rio and enjoy learning as much as you can.

  3. Sorry to hear it's been a bit wet and overcast since you've arrived in Brazil. I've never been to that country, but it's definitely on my list for the future, so interested to see what else you get up to while you're there" x

  4. I didn't know about the educational leave bit in Germany but how cool is that? Getting an extra week off work to learn something new- absolutely perfect! Well, I hope you enjoy your 'Bildungsurlaub' (I hope I got the spelling correct!!) in Rio and the weather gets better.

  5. Ok, I'm officially moving to Germany so I can take part in this educational learning! I think that's fantastic the government supports this initiative; it makes so much sense why I always meet Germans no matter where I travel! Enjoy your time in Brazil, I still haven't been!

  6. Educational leave sounds like a really great concept to motivate employees to learn something new. I wish many other countries/ companies start this culture. So lucky you got to learn so many new languages and visit different locations through this program. Hope you keep learning many more interesting things in the coming years.


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