Lauren Holmes is from the UK but has lived in Brazil for over three years. The process to do so has had some huge challenges but in the end enormous rewards. As part of my ongoing series about expats who figured out how to live abroad I wanted to hear more. Here are the 14 things Lauren shared with me about living in Brazil.
#1 Brazil is not the place to go to save money
According to Lauren, “Brazil has gotten very expensive in the last few years. Since 2008 the prices have increased by about 140%. Now Brazil is at London prices, but the quality is not the same.”
#2 Prepare your patience and your wallet in finding a place to live in Brazil
Getting a place to live in Brazil is really difficult. If you want a long term lease, which is 30 months, you need someone to guarantee your rent if you want to live in Rio. If you do not have someone that will guarantee your rent, Lauren said, “you need to find a temporary let which is essentially a partially furnished apartment and not very nice.” However, “with perseverance and money you can get lucky or if you are willing to live outside of the main tourist areas or a bit outside of Rio you can definitely get some good deals. There are some beautiful little towns like Florianopolis and Buzios. It is a lot easier and cheaper to live in those places.”
“In Florianopolis you could get a job there during high tourism season. It is easier to manage places like that, that do not come with the challenges of the big city. If you are looking in the beach areas rent would be about 1000 GBP per month. If you are willing to live in Santa Teresa or in the center then you can get a place for about half that price. That is an option that people can definitely consider.” Lauren suggests using airbnb.com or zap.com to help you in your apartment search.
#3 People in Brazil Do Not Like to Say No
When I asked Lauren what some of the bigger cultural differences between Brazil and the UK she said, “The thing I learned is Brazilians love to talk about things that are not necessarily going to happen. They have what are called conversations with holes. You can have a long conversation about what you are going to do over the weekend, but it is never really going to happen. It took me a while to learn that.”
#4 Baby Visa
Thinking about having a baby? Want to live in Brazil? According to Lauren, “If you have a child in Brazil then you get residency for the rest of your life.” Keep that in mind future parents of the world!
#5 Making contacts is how you get a job
Lauren’s advice for finding a job in Brazil? “Start with meeting people. If you have an idea of the kind of industry you want to work in a lot of things are done with contacts and face to face meetings in Brazil. They are not going to hire you unless you have met face to face. I would network and go to events. There are a lot of expat events. The US embassy organizes things every month. There are also quite a lot of things on Twitter if you search for ‘Brazil jobs.’ Also consider international recruiters like Michael Page.”
#6 Learn the language or at least a little bit of it
“In Brazil knowing at least a little of the language makes a huge difference, especially when it comes to getting a job. Brazilians love it when you make an effort with their language. I would learn as much Portuguese as possible before going and then I would do a month intensive Portuguese class before looking for a job.”
“In Rio there are a lot of language schools in the center which is about a half hour from the beaches where everybody lives. Near the beaches there is a really good school called Casa de Camino which is where a lot of people go to learn Portuguese. It is run by an orphanage so all of the profits go to supporting the orphanage.”
#7 Brazilian life? Expensive. Brazilian food? Cheap
The good news is food is cheap in Brazil. “You can get amazing fruits and vegetables very cheaply. Every day there is a new market within five to ten blocks of where you are.”
# 8 Brazilians thoughts on foreigners?
“Brazilians are very nice and friendly people. It is easy to make friends in Brazil. There are a lot of people that really want to help you here. There are other people that have a bit of animosity towards foreigners and do not make it very easy for us. They are very protectionist with their government.”
“Brazil is amazing, but it can be really complicated. The payoff is incredible if you can get through it. In January you can leave work and go to the beach. There is an amazing vibrancy here. It is harder to live here than it used to be, but there are a lot of opportunities to make money with the World Cup and the Olympics.”
# 9 Brazilian visa rules: neither easy nor clear
In Brazil you can get a three month tourist visa that you can renew for another three months and you can be in Brazil for up to six months per year. However, as Lauren says, sometimes when exactly that six months starts can be a bit confusing. “Some say it is six months per calendar year, others say it is six months from the day you arrive and other times they give you more time than six exact months. It kind of depends and that is how Brazilian bureaucracy works.”
To get an official work visa for Brazil is, as Lauren says, “much more complicated. You have to prove that you can do a job that a Brazilian cannot and you have to pay a lot of lawyer fees. I have to give four references from past employers. It is definitely something they are cracking down on as there are a lot of people from Spain and Portugal that are trying to get jobs here.”
“You also have to be sponsored by a company. The company has to employ two Brazilians for every one foreigner. If you are going to move there and look for a job then you have to go on a tourist visa and if you find a job then that company will sponsor your work visa. The labor costs in Brazil are quite high, so a lot of time people are not on the books and a lot of companies do not have the money to pay for the visa process.”
#10 Brazil vs. Argentina’s visa process
When her tourist visa in Brazil ran out Lauren went to Argentina as Argentina is far easier with visa requirements. Lauren said she knows, “people who live in Argentina on a tourist visa for years. You are only supposed to stay six months, but every six months you can leave the country on a day trip to Uruguay and come back. This is the reason why there is a much bigger population of journalists and freelancers working in Argentina than Brazil.”
#11 Free public health (hurrah!)
If you have a job in Brazil your health insurance is covered through your job. Brazil does have a public health service. According to Lauren, “You can go to the private hospitals which are very expensive or the public hospitals which are much cheaper but of lower quality. In Brazil they have health posts which are free to everyone even foreigners.”
#12 Safety is about sensibility
In regards to safety in Brazil Lauren says, “I have never had any problems. You have to be sensible. We have a friend that got mugged, but she had a huge SLR camera around her neck in a part of town that is not great and yes, if you are doing that you are going to get your camera taken off you.” However, Lauren says, “If you are not very flash and are not standing in the middle of the street with a map, you will probably not have a problem. They have really cracked down on the crime rate for the Olympics. They are really improving the security of the city for the next four or five years. I go running along the beach at night alone and have not had any problems.”
#13 Salaries and costs do not align well in Brazil
Not only is Brazil expensive but as Lauren tells says, “salaries and the cost of living are not well aligned.”
#14 Best part of Brazil?
“There is not a country in the world that has had both the World Cup and the Olympics in the same year. I just got back from the London Olympics and everyone is talking about Brazil. I love the lifestyle in Brazil. I am 28 years old. Brazil is a great place to live when you are younger. You can go out at night and meet a lot of Brazilians whereas in London it is the opposite and much harder to meet people. In Brazil the people here adopt you.”
#15 Know Before You Go
Lauren on Twitter.