Brazil is one of the top expat locations in the world, and although the majority of foreigners living in the country are from neighboring regions, more and more people from the UK are choosing to move to Brazil, whether for work or retirement. There are many reasons for this, including of course the beaches, the food, the music, the warm and fun-loving culture, the weather, and the booming economy.However, as with any other expat location, there is much more to the country than is widely known, and it’s important to be fully informed and consider all the possible aspects of an expat life in Brazil. Here are some of the most commonly shared tips from Brits who have already made the move.
This is probably the most important and often repeated piece of advice. Only a relatively small proportion of the local population speaks English. If you can understand and speak Portuguese, it will make your day-to-day dealings with people much easier and more productive. Struggling with hand signals and a few basic words is fine for a few weeks as a tourist, but when you’re living there, it can quickly get frustrating. Not knowing Portuguese can also leave you feeling a bit isolated. Sure, you can meet up with other expats, but what’s the point of living in a new country if you’re going to spend all your time in an expat bubble? Making friends with locals will give you a richer, more immersive experience in Brazil, and knowing Portuguese will be a huge help here.
Make the extra effort to make friends
Yes, Brazilians are warm, friendly, and welcoming, but again, being an expat is different from being a tourist. The people you meet as a tourist are often in either leisure or party mode; but when you’re an expat, you’re busy living your life, and so are most of the people you meet. The fleeting nature of your interactions as a tourist also lends them a certain intensity that you’re less likely to find as an expat. However, it’s still possible to make friends. You’ll need to make a little more effort, and you’ll also need to be patient. Initial friendships may be superficial, but with time, some of them will get deeper and more intimate.
But don’t lose touch with old friends
Make a point to keep in touch with friends and family back home. Being an expat in a faraway country where the language is different and most things are done differently can make you feel painfully unmoored and lonely. Old friends and family, even if they’re far away, are a great anchor.
Don’t expect everything to be cheap
Expats from Britain (and elsewhere too) often go to Brazil expecting the cost of living to be wonderfully low. It isn’t. Some British expats say that Rio de Janeiro is as expensive as London. Certain things will of course be cheaper than others, but on the whole, when it’s all added up, it’s about the same. (The smaller cities and the rural areas are of course cheaper, but that’s a given anywhere in the world.)
Income inequality and poverty levels are high in Brazil, and so is the crime rate. Things are much worse in the big cities, especially in the favelas. Expats say there’s no need to live in fear – it’s quite possible to live a peaceful, trouble-free life in Brazil. What you should do however is get to know your surroundings well, and be sensible and cautious about where you go and what you do.
Expect chaos and slowness
The cities are chaotic, and getting things done, whether within private businesses or government departments, can be quite confusing and leave you feeling like you’re not getting anywhere. Expats who’ve been there long enough sometimes say there’s a system underneath the chaos, but most just learn to accept the chaos, and some even learn to enjoy it.
Things like house renovation, opening a bank account, and furniture delivery can take weeks, if not months, longer than they would back home. (Experienced expats recommend paying in installments whenever possible, so that you have some leverage.)
Finally, however, the culture is an important reason to move to a country, and the Brazilian approach to time is an important part of the culture – learn to embrace both its good and bad sides, and you’ll be happier.
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