By Ruth Halcomb
Brazil is the future. Its natural resources dwarf those of most other countries. It is energy efficient, and despite the vast oil reserves, 90% of cars built here can run on efficiently produced sugar-based ethanol. The national debt is well under control, and increasing numbers of people are joining the middle class, with per capita income having tripled between 2002 and 2012 . A combination of state and private ownership of industry is driving Brazil's economy, now among the fastest growing in the world.
The fifth largest country the world in land mass, it has the largest population in Latin America with 19 cities of over 1 million in population. Most Brazilians live near the coast, leaving much of the country sparsely inhabited. In the interior are native people who have never been in contact with the outside world. Brazil also has the world's largest wetlands and the most diverse ecosystem. It has enormous wealth in natural resources, for the most part still untapped.
It is a land of opportunity with investment possibilities at many different levels. Its vibrant real estate market allows individuals to find their own paradise whether it’s for expat living or vacations or investment for the future. Tranquil breaches, lush rural areas, sophisticated mega-cities like Rio de Janeiro, São Paulo and Fortaleza, Brazil has it all.
What's best about Brazil: the Brazilians. Their love of life and their ability to enjoy the here and now: talking, sharing good food, creating and listening to music, dancing and walking on the beach. They have more fun, and they want you to have fun with them. What's more, things are usually settled peacefully here. As one tour guide put it, "Brazilians are lovers, not fighters."
Nowhere else are people as warm, outgoing and open. Upon meeting, men shake hands while women touch cheeks and kiss the air to greet each other and to say goodbye. They touch a lot, too, and stand closer to each other than North Americans. Don't be surprised if they reveal personal details about themselves and expect you to do the same. Be careful of controversial topics since Brazilians don't relish argument for argument's sake.
Their hospitality is boundless. Tell them what you wish for and they'll arrange it. Admire something and they may give it to you. They love to give presents. When buying gifts for them, avoid anything black or purple, the colors of mourning. Flowers, candy or champagne would be appropriate to give to a host and bring something for the children, too.
The main meal of the day is at about 1:00 PM. The evening meal begins at 9:00 or 10:00 PM or even later, and may also have several courses. Brazilians throw a party at the slightest excuse. A social event might start at midnight, and go on until the wee hours of the morning even during the work week. How on earth do they manage? For one thing, there's the coffee.
In any interaction with Brazilians their sense of time becomes apparent. They live in the present, and, except in the business world, don't take schedules very seriously. They'll get to the airport early to allow for farewells and contingencies. Contingencies are a way of life. Brazilians may put off decisions until the last minute (who knows what may happen in the meantime?) and can easily change plans; they're masters of rapid decision-making.
They're also masters of the jeito, which means the "way around" or the "quick fix." Brazil has a whole class of professionals or despachantes who can dar um jeito or find a solution for others who lack the time or know-how.
The jeito often provides a way of cutting through the bureaucracy. When the mayor of Curitiba decided to turn the main thoroughfare of the city into a pedestrian mall, he knew if the process dragged out over several weeks, objections would arise. So he called on all civil servants to work over a single weekend, erecting barricades and planters. By Monday morning the pedestrian mall was finished, and traffic was diverted to other streets.
Brazilians can trace their ancestry not only to Portugal, but to many other countries. Sao Paulo has the largest settlement of Japanese people outside of Japan. A great many people in Brazil have some African ancestry. Even so, some discrimination exists. No matter where theirs ancestors came from, however, they see themselves first and foremost as Brazilians.
Family is of primary importance, perhaps even more so than in other Latin American countries. On the other hand, machismo is not strong as with their Spanish speaking neighbors.
Brazil is full of surprises. For one, they genuinely like the people and the customs of the U.S. Their ad copy, signs and billboards are sprinkled with English words. Brazilians who can afford it take their children to Disney World in Florida.
It may also surprise some that Rio is home to IMPA or the National Institute for Pure and Applied Mathematics, where mathematicians from all over the world come to work toward graduate degrees.
Old style hierarchies still exist, and breaking the chain of hierarchy is disrespectful. Brazilians operate through personal connections, and they want to know the individuals they're dealing with. Typical "cut to the chase" attitudes won't work. Expect negotiations to cover many details, which will take time. Foreigners may need to hire a Brazilian contact or despachante. If you need an accountant or attorney, find one locally. People may be suspicious of outside experts.
don't have siestas (and chuckle at their neighbors who do), but they may
take two hour lunches. At a business lunch, wait until coffee is served
before bringing up business matters.
as Senhor and Senhora are used to address business acquaintances.
Often people may ask you to call them by their first names. Business attire,
and dress in general, varies. When in doubt, dress conservatively.
A city of almost
20 million, it is an enormous, sprawling place with a tangle of streets
that confuses even the local people. The question expats need to ask,
when considering a job here is, how long is the commute? There
are subways, buses and even helicopter taxis, but most people drive cars
and pollution is noticeable. Traffic is bumper to bumper, but not start
and stop; it moves. Cars all travel at about the same speed, gracefully
changing lanes and missing each other by inches in a way that seems choreographed.
Most drivers listen to music, and even if it's not the same music, their
cars all seemingly move to the same relaxed rhythm.
São Paulo is
very cosmopolitan. Paulistas here look at those from other parts of Brazil,
even Rio, as country cousins. Ethnic restaurants, musical and theatrical
productions, fine shopping, bargain hunting -- it's all here. The city
has 70 museums, many parks and over 200 cinemas. Books
in English are sold at Agencia Siciliano, Av. Brig. Faria Lina, 1191:
Book Centre rua Gabus Mendes 29, near Praca da Republica; Litec Livros
Tecnicos, Rua Timbiras 257 and Libraria Cultura at Avenida Paulista 2073.
live in the zona sul, or southern part of the city. The Jardims
is a popular and convenient area, with good shopping, galleries and restaurants.
Higienopolis and Morumbi offer both luxury apartments and single-family
houses. Alphaville and Tambore, about 20 km west of the city, have American-style
communities, but the commute is long and stressful.
Rooms are typically
smaller than in the U.S., and space is used efficiently. New houses may
not be equipped with light fixtures or appliances. Kitchens are modest
(they're the maid's domain) while bathrooms often have nice tile and even
marble. Children's bedrooms and guest rooms may have their own private
baths. Stores sell large pieces of furniture that look like built-ins
and take the place of chests and dressers. Central air conditioning is
rarely available, and usually isn't necessary.
Expect to pay
one month's rent in advance, plus another month's rent as a security deposit.
Note: Renters also pay property taxes, utilities, and, in condominiums
or apartments, share a common expense fee that covers the maintenance
of the lobby, elevators and garbage disposal. Find out how much such fees
are likely to be.
from two to three years and normally provide for an annual rent increases.
Leases are signed by a guarantor in addition to the property owner and
tenant. One's employer can act as guarantor.
Rio used to be much nicer, but it is still spectacular with its hills
that thrust almost straight up from the water, its beaches and high-rises.
It's a crowded city, with 7 million Cariocas, and about a third live in
the favelas that cover many of the hillsides.
the Brazilian lust for life. A mecca for tourists, it's not a bad place
to work either. Public transportation is efficient, and traffic keeps
moving although pockets of pollution exist. Also, summer weather is hot
books in English at Livraria Leonardo da Vinci in Edificio Marques do
Herval open weekdays and until noon on Saturday. Also Livraria Siciliana,
a chain with several branches. Some of the bookstores in Ipanema also
class housing is in the zona sul, which is separated from the zona
norte by the mountains called Serra da Carioca. Ipanema and Leblon
and the Avenida Oswaldo Cruz area of Flamengo are among the desirable
the capital of Minas Gerais, is a planned, easy-to-navigate city, Brazil's
third largest, with a population of 2.2 million. Not a tourist destination,
but travelers go through it on the way to the colonial city, Ouro Preto.
Asked where he would live in Brazil if given the choice, Doug Trent of
Focus Tours, replied,
"In a heartbeat...Belo Horizonte." Cooler than Rio, it has brief rainstorms
daily from October to February.
of Parana, Curitiba, was settled by immigrants from Italy, Germany and
Poland. A planned city of 1.5 million, it is one of a few places where
Brazilians have been persuaded to abandon their cars for public transportation.
Buses holding up to 400 passengers stop at specially built mini-stations
where passengers pay their fare before boarding. Much of the city is taken
up with parks. Roger Gallo praises Curitiba in his book, Escape from
America. (See http://www.escapeartist.com)
When I asked
Brazilians where they'd most like to live, most named Florianopolis, which
is where many Brazilians and other South Americans vacation. The capital
of Santa Catarina with a population of under 300,000, it is known for
its low crime rate and its many extraordinary beaches.
The city has
two parts, one on Santa Catarina Island and one on the mainland, connected
by two bridges, one of which is the longest suspension bridge in Brazil.
The island part is the oldest and is the part many people prefer. In the
mainland part of the city, some districts have retained the look and feel
of countryside villages with handcrafts and folkloric festivals.
are beautiful, and it's easy to get around on foot or by bus. Housing,
which ranges from beachfront high-rises to colonial houses on tree-lined
streets, is considerably cheaper than in Rio. The climate is subtropical,
with most of the rain in the summer, that is, in December and January.
the capital of the state of Ceara, is a top tourist attraction for native
Brazilians. Brazil's fifth largest city, it has over 2 million inhabitants.
It boasts cathedrals, museums, cultural festivals, a university and an
exuberant nightlife. Boulevard Beira Mar is often compared to Rio's Copacabana.
As in other
large Brazilian cities, many people live in high rises. However, on the
city€s old narrow streets, one finds homes of brick, wood and stucco.
Because of the climate, many of which have no glass in the windows, just
shutters. Near the Equator in the northeast of the country, it has consistent
temperatures of around 80 degrees, with night slightly cooler. The sun
shines 350 days a year. The relatively dry air and ocean breezes make
it an ideal climate € and keep insects to a minimum.
The state of
Ceara has some 300 miles of beaches, considered to be among the most pristine
in the world.€ Oceanfront property is still available at reasonable prices.
city of João Pessoa is the capital of Paraíba, also in the northeast,
between Ricife and Natal. A seaside city with white beaches, it has a
population of about 650,000 with an additional 270,000 in the surrounding
metropolitan area. Tourism is a major: the city hosts mainly Brazilians
and is yet to be discovered by Americans and Europeans. Costs here are
are a mix of modern buildings with historic ones from colonial times.
The third oldest city in Brazil, it was founded in 1585 and has a rich
architectural heritage including some beautiful baroque structures, such
as the church São Francisco and the convent Santo Antonio, dating back
to the 17th century. It has a wealth of museums and cultural institutions
as well as abundant nightlife and excellent restaurants. It is also known
for local crafts, especially in clay.
climate is tropical and semi-arid. With many green areas, natural forests
and parks, it has been called the greenest city in South America. It also
boasts the Ponta do Seixas, the most easterly point of South America,
which can be seen from the Cabo Branco Lighthouse.
Conti writes, "Such a safe, welcoming , relaxing place.... It was all
I wanted and hoped Boca Raton would be but never was... "I found it paradise,
a place a person could live like a king for so much less.... In fact,
we loved it so much we are planning on constructing a private community
there for ourselves and our friends both American and Brazilian alike.
We will call it Vila dos Amigos - Village of Friends, on the beach, of
course." For Richard Conti's article, see, http://www.gringoes.com/articles.asp?ID_Noticia=943
capital was designed in the shape of an airplane, with north and south
wings. The city is divided into sections for housing, schools business,
government offices, malls and entertainment, and churches. Although some
single family homes are available, most of the population lives in large
groupings of concrete apartment buildings set above the ground on stilts.
It is not a pedestrian friendly city, public transportation is less than
adequate and navigating by automobile can be a challenge.
is pleasant and the air is clean. The pace is less frenetic and crime
is less of a problem than in the larger cities. Local and international
schools are excellent.
increasingly see Brazil as a land of opportunity. More than 200 American
farmers, including a Mennonite colony, now own farms in Brazil and more
are on the way. One Iowa farmer purchased more than 7,000 acres here as
a way to bring his son into the family farm operation. Some have sold
farmland in the U.S. Midwest to buy acreage in Brazil. Investment pools
are being set up for farmers who see opportunity in Brazil, but who don't
have enough capital to invest on their own.
land in Brazil is available for $400 to $500 an acre as compared to $2,400
to $4,000 in the U.S. About 120 million acres have been cleared for crop
production and pastures and another 200 million acres are in reserve.
costs in Brazil are also lower, and the tropical climate supports two
crops a year. The Brazilian government is committed to agriculture as
a vehicle for economic growth, and there are few restrictions on foreign
ownership of land. Brazilian officials have visited the U.S. to talk with
Americans considering farming.
Your Own Brazilian Paradise
Besides having many large cities, Brazil has many small towns that are charming and welcoming. One I visited was visited São Miguel do Iguaçu, with about 25,000 inhabitants in
Parana, near the fabulous Foz do Iguaçu. Although not much English is spoken
here, residents go out of their way to make foreigners feel welcome. Nearby are rolling hills and farms,
even some Indian villages. Although there is poverty, the local citizens and the government
have many programs to deal with it.
visited Campos do Jordão, which has a population of about 45,000
and looks like a German or Swiss village. Campos has fine vacation
homes beginning at about US$40,000. Just three hours from São Paulo
by bus, this is where Paulistas go to cool off or commune with nature.
Hydrangeas and lilies of the Nile grow wild, and you see a few of
the increasingly scarce Parana pine trees. An electric train from
Campos to Santo Antonio do Pinhal offers great views if clouds don't
Beach or green hills, tropical or temperate, Brazil has it all. The country is politically stable and is among the most prosperous in the world, having recently surpassed Britain as the world's sixth largest economy. More than ever, the mood here is exuberance, and with good reason.
And this DVD