I came to Brazil a year ago half-expecting to have a similar experience to my semester in France. No dishwasher, no car, no dryer, but lots of new things to experience, public transportation to travel around, a slight hatred of me for being American, and lots of new friends. Turns out, the only thing similar to Europe is the lack of life-simplifying appliances.
I have met very few people that hate me (even slightly) for being American, so that's definitely an up-side. But making friends in this "warm" culture is not as easy as you would think. Especially when you don't speak Portuguese and you are a little doubtful of anyone that wants to be your friend after 10 minutes. For me, I have always been a little doubtful if someone is too friendly, I suspect that they are either drunk-friending me (usually the case), that they are really desperate for friendship because they are insane, or that they want something from me. And honestly, this doubt has usually been pretty spot on, even in the warmest of cultures you don't invite someone to have dinner at your house after a night at the bar. I don't expect to make friends in an instant and when weekend benders aren't a part of your lifestyle, getting to know people is a little more difficult.
As far as new experiences go, these are much easier to achieve in a place where public transport is readily available or if you have a car. Fernando and I have been to a total of 5 towns since we've lived in Brazil because travelling is not easy and definitely not cheap. I think people might be surprised by this, because it seems to be in every one's head that travelling to South America is cheaper than Europe. But without a strong infrastructure and a bureaucracy that would boggle the minds of the U.S. Congress, getting around is not a simple trip to the local train station or airport and 50 Euros. My first "real" trip will be in two weeks when I take my dad to Iguassu Falls and don't worry, I will take lots of pictures and (crossing my fingers) one of them WILL be a monkey or at least a toucan...
Though this past year has been one of the hardest of my life, I have experienced life in a different way. I've realized that stuff really doesn't make you happier, and that when you are without stuff for a long time, a desk made out of kegs and melamine boards is much more exciting. It's getting better all the time, and the longer we live here, I realize that you can make a life wherever you are with as much or as little money as you have and that you can still be happy.