This is the third instalment of a new series interviewing expats across the world. I’ve reached out to expats in different countries to hear why people might choose to move abroad, and how they do it. If you want to know more about moving to a particular country this is the place! If you’re interested in taking part, or want to see a certain place featured let me know!
This weeks interview is with Elizabeth and Dale from Elizabeth and Dale Abroad who are living in Joinville, Brazil. I haven’t made it to South America yet so interviewing this travelling couple has been a great chance for me to learn more about what expat life and living abroad in Brazil is like, especially in a smaller place outside of Rio! Read on to hear about the awesome social scene in Brazil and how you could make it your next expat destination.
Who are you?
We’re Elizabeth and Dale, an American couple living and working in Brazil while sharing our adventures around the world. We both have spent our lives travelling the globe.
Apart, we traversed the globe until one day our paths crossed in exotic Tulsa, Oklahoma! One of the things that brought us together was our traveling background and a shared sense of adventure. We’ve never taken ourselves too seriously and always have an awesome time together.
What made you decide to move to Brazil?
We decided to move to Brazil for Dale’s work. There was a couple from his company in Brazil already working and living there, but they wanted to return to the United States. We wanted to move overseas. This is Elizabeth’s third time living abroad. Dale was born abroad in Libya. He also lived in Singapore as a child before eventually moving to Texas. Dale wanted to experience expat life as an adult, and Elizabeth wanted another opportunity to live abroad, learn a new language, and travel.
Tell me about the cost of living. What’s the price of a beer and a loaf of bread?
When we first arrived to Brazil it was very expensive to live here. The Brazilian Real was 2.65:1 against the USD. Since then, the Brazilian economy has suffered a major crisis and the Real has fallen against the USD. It is now around 4:1. We are able to eat out in nice restaurants regularly and travel quite a bit. However, the Brazilian people are struggling and many businesses are failing at this time. It is very sad and we hope for the sake of our Brazilian friends that the economy improves.
Food in Brazil is currently inexpensive compared to in the United States. A liter of milk cost around 2.78 BRL or 0.70 USD. A loaf of bread is around 4.75 BRL or 1.19 USD. 1kg of chicken breast cost around 11.84 BRL or 2.96 USD. 1kg of beef runs around 23.45 BRL or 5.78 USD. .5 Liter of domestic beer cost around 4.23 BRL or 1.06 USD.
An inexpensive meal in a restaurant costs around 15.00-20.00 BRL or 3.75-5.01 USD. A Mid-range three course meal in a restaurant for two people cost around 100.00 BRL or 25.03 USD.
Basic utilities in Brazil run around 300.00 BRL or 75.10 USD per month. In the summer the cost increases depending on how much you run your air conditioners.
We currently live in a 4 bedroom 3 bath house in a nice neighborhood. Dale’s company pays for our housing but not our utilities. Rent for our house cost 3,000.00 BRL or 750.00 USD.
How do you make a living in Brazil?
Surprisingly, not very many people in the United States want to live and work abroad. Dale’s company has a difficult time finding people that are qualified that want to volunteer to leave their country, family, and friends, to live overseas. Also, for Dale’s position it is required that the person have an advanced degree in order to even be considered for the visa. We initially thought people would be lined up to take a job overseas. Especially in Santa Catarina, Brazil which has some amazing beaches and a great standard of living, but that was not the case. Dale works in Brazil as the President of a joint venture manufacturing facility.
Elizabeth works part-time as an English teacher at a private school. Her visa to Brazil allowed her to work legally in the country. Elizabeth applied for the Brazilian version of the “green card” which allows her to work in Brazil.
What’s the social scene like? How easy is it to make friends?
The social scene in Brazil is amazing! Brazilians are some of the friendliest people you will ever meet. They love any excuse to get together and have a party. They also are very curious and most Brazilians enjoy having foreigner friends. They will invite you to their beach houses, parties, etc. For us, in our 40’s and settled down, it gets a little exhausting. We are not very good at partying until 5:00 a.m. like the Brazilians. We like to be in bed by midnight!
Also, we love to travel (obviously!), so on the weekends you will find us at the beach if it is sunny, or exploring a new area. At first we were invited all the time by our Brazilian friends to parties. We traveled so much and turned them down so often that they stopped inviting us to do things every weekend. So, if you are a very social person and love to party, Brazil will be the perfect fit for you. It is what you make of it, and it’s very easy to make friends.
Do you need a visa to live in Brazil?
If you are from the USA you need a visa to visit Brazil. This is because the USA requires Brazilians to have a visa to visit. So if your country doesn’t require a visa for Brazil, they you will not need a visa. Fair is fair!
If you come to Brazil to work, the visa process can be time consuming and complicated. They require background checks, a lot of forms need to be notarized, and you will need to follow all the guidelines of the Brazilian Consulate office exactly.
The visa, while time consuming, is actually the easy part. Just wait until you arrive and have to get your CPF and RNE. The CPF is your tax ID number and you will need this number for everything, including if you purchase a hair dryer from the store. Ha ha! The RNE is your Brazilian identification which also is necessary to do anything.
What’s the best thing about living in Brazil?
The best thing about living in Brazil hands down is the people and the culture. Brazil has some of the nicest people we have ever met. They have this “we are all in this together” mentality. Even in the elevator people will all face each other and have a conversation. They are all total strangers. It’s like this everywhere you go.
The other thing we love about Brazil is the diversity in the people and the countryside. Brazil is a huge country and, like the USA, it is very diverse. People of all different races live and work side by side. Brazil is most known for its jungle, but the landscape is so varied. There are dry grasslands, rugged hills and mountains, pine forests, wetlands, huge plateaus, and a long coastal plain. It is really spectacular!
What’s the hardest thing about living in Brazil?
Very few people in Brazil speak English. So in the beginning, getting around may be frustrating and difficult, especially if you do not live in a major city like Sao Paulo or Rio de Janeiro where there are more English speakers.
Also, seeing such extreme poverty is shocking for many. We live in a state that has one of the highest standards of living in Brazil, but there are still areas of favelas (slums). These are communities that have no public services and homes are built out of scraps they put together.
If we had just one day in Joinville, Brazil what should we not miss?
If you had just one day in Joinville I would say head out of town and drive to the beach. Ha ha! We live in a small city that doesn’t offer a lot in regard to tourism and entertainment. It is great in that it is located close to several beautiful beaches and the mountains. So it is a great base for exploring the state of Santa Catarina.
If you have just one day to spend in Brazil we would recommend going to either Rio de Janeiro or Foz do Iguacu. If you like mountains, cities, and the beach, Rio has all three. If you love nature and hate big cities, go to Foz do Iguacu. These are two of the most famous areas in Brazil (and the world) for good reason. If you have more time in Brazil it is worth it to go off the beaten path and explore this amazing country deeper. There is so much more to Brazil than just Rio and Foz. The states of Santa Catarina and Rio Grande do Sul are amazing and deserve some mention here!
If you could give one piece of advice to people looking to live in Brazil what would it be?
The most important factor that can determine if you have an enjoyable experience in Brazil, or if you are miserable, is learning the language. We can’t recommend enough the importance of learning Portuguese! You should invest your time, and a small amount of money, and study every day. In the area we live, you cannot rely on finding someone that speaks English to help you. If you live in Brazil, you must learn how to communicate in Portuguese.
Our second piece of advice is to be patient. You are in another country that is known for having a lot of bureaucracy. Brazil is one of the toughest countries in the world to do business. Everything will take twice the amount of time to do as in the USA. So, slow down and relax. Also, know if you can do business in Brazil you can do anything!
Have you travelled to Brazil and considered living there, or have you made the leap to do so? Share your story below!