CIGNA Expat Health Insurance

Expat Advice: Culture Shock in Sao Paulo, Brazil

Submitted by alexrm1x

Comments Print

What is the name of the city or town that you are reporting on?

Sao Paulo

Did you receive any cross-cultural training for your move abroad? If yes, was it before or after the move?

I did not receive any cultural change training. My company used company EMDOC (very famous here for immigration services) to do some presentation about the city in one day, which was totally useless.

Moving to Brazil soon?

Choosing an expat health insurance provider is an important decision. Take a minute to get a quote from our trusted expat health insurance partner, CIGNA. Sponsored by CIGNA.

If they speak another language in your new country, do you speak the language? If yes, did you learn the language before you moved or while abroad? If no, are you planning to learn the language?

I'm learning the language now. I've been here for 10 months and now things are going smoother. I was impressed by the difficulty of Portuguese for a Spanish, I did not expect that. Italian or Catalan are very easy languages compared to Portuguese, specially with the pronunciation.

Were you worried or concerned about culture shock before you moved abroad?

I was not thinking about any problem regarding the culture shock before landing. It is interesting that the shocks appeared after 5, 6 months, when you become closer and discover the inners of the Brazilians.

How significant was the culture shock you experienced when you moved abroad?

On a day to day basis, and specially at the beginning, all was OK. I made a lot of contacts, and I also met people in bars and so on. I also traveled throughout Brazil and the people are open and like to speak. Meeting women is also OK, but there's some pre-juice about the foreigners intentions, related to sex primarily.

For me the shocks where in the trust part and in the bureaucracy. All people here is suspect, so you are simply not trusted. That happens when you book a hotel, you pay in advance, and you can not leave the room until someone has checked that you are not taking anything. Also if you rent an apartment, it is very difficult to convince the owner that you are taking care of the flat, and they take a lot of warranties and paperwork and photos to ensure that you will not damage anything. At some levels that is absurd. Second, and related to the bureaucracy, Brazil is VERY strict and you need official documents, like CPF and RG/RNE to just buy a cell phone without contract or simply buy an air ticket in local airlines. Ridiculous.

Also, if you want to live in Brasil for longer than the tourist period, you will find a lot of barriers and a few documentation to help you.

I found Brazil very strict with foreigners and it is not easy at all to find a job and get established here.

Finally the last surprise is that the city is ridiculously expensive, transport, renting, supermarket... very expensive compared to mid cities in Europe like Madrid, Rome or Lisbon.

Expats often talk about going through the "stages of culture shock." Examples include the honeymoon phase, the irritation-to-anger stage, the rejection of the culture stage, and the cultural adjustment phase. Do you feel like you went through these or any other stages as you settled into the new culture?

Honeymoon phase: Starts immediately, when you go out and you see the bars full of nice women smiling. Brazil is definitively the country to find your partner (women).

The irritation-to-anger stage: When you are continuously checked that you are not borrowing anything from a hotel, or you are requested to pay in advance almost anything.

Rejection of the culture stage: When your colleagues from Europe have to go back home because they don't find a job and don't get any visa. They have to leave Brazil after 90 or 180 days as maximum...and you can not just leave the country and enter again...you have to wait one year! Cultural adjustment phase: You go back to your country for holidays, but miss the caipirinhas and the beached, the women....everything.

What, if any, were some of the changes you noticed in yourself that might have been caused by culture shock? These might include things such as anger, depression, anxiety, increased eating or drinking, frustration, homesickness, etc.

The shock in this country I think does not reach the emotional level like anger, depression or anxiety. But for example, for women foreigners, this is a difficult country. Men are few, ugly and sometimes stupid treating women. A woman being a princess in Italy of Spain will suffer moving to Brasil.

What are some things you appreciate most about the new culture?

They are always ready for a party. Everything is possible They also share a lot with the poors, and everyone is enforced in some way to participate in caring.

What are the most challenging aspects of the new culture?

The language and they are also very isolated. All the newspapers and TV talk about Brazil and Brazil, not much about the rest of the world problems.

Did you "commit" any embarrassing or humorous cultural blunders? If you did and you'd like to share them, please do tell!

Yes. Here they call "gaiolas" to the bird cells, and the word gaiolas in Spanish is "spank the monkey, hehehe

Do you have any advice or thoughts about culture shock you would like to share?

Be prepared for a change, and always take the positive things. In Brazil the good side always surpasses the bad side of the things.

More Expat Advice about Culture Shock in Brazil

CIGNA Expat Health Insurance

Write a Comment about this Expat Report

Sign In to post a comment.

Comments about this Report

guest
Aug 30, 2010 15:20

Great, useful post. Thank you!

guest
Sep 7, 2010 01:09

Interesting comments. In the USA the main document is the driver´s license. In Brazil it is the Identity Card and the Brazilian IRS number the CPF. You failed to mention that there is no trust on the citizen who rent6s, etc because the Brazilian Law moves very slowly it it moves and people are always afraid of having losses that can´t be addressed in court. Yes, you are right, except for services everything else is more expensive in Brazil because of the high taxes. I don´t know how the Brazilians can cope!

guest
Oct 20, 2010 11:29

You are spot on everything. I am a Brazilian who lived abroad for quite some time. I am now back in Brazil and I have been as schocked as you were with some aspects of life over here; namely, (1) hugely expensive living cost (how can pretty much everythign be more expensive here than in big european cities is beyond me), (2) the total lack of trust amongst people and how this lack of trust ends up requiring an insane amount of paperwork for any sort of business deal.

guest
Jan 6, 2012 22:19

I am Brazilian and agree with you in many things. However, to say that men are few and stupid with women and women are better treated in Spain and Italy is ridiculous. In Spain and Italy they treat women like trash. Sorry, totally disagree in this point. About the visa for 90 or 180 days, it is no different from US or Australia. If you visa is for tourism for 90/180 days you should not even be looking for a job, it is against the law just as in all other countries. Can't understand you complain about this.

vferraro99
Mar 29, 2012 20:39

I am Brazilian by birth, born in Sao Paulo, and have been living in the US for the last 23 years. I will retire and move back in about 19 months. I can understand the culture shock, I'm sure that even though I was born in the country I will also suffer from a bit of shock when returning. I can relate to your frustration about lack of trust, but you could understand it better if you heard the stories the Brasilians can tell you about "gringos" that have stolen everything out of hotel rooms, including TV sets, linen, etc., and also stories of foreigners that have ruined rentals. This is unfortunate, but it is true. The honest have to suffer because of the not so honest ones. I'm sure you are by now going through the adjustment phase, and I wish you well.

Join Today (free)

Join Expat Exchange to meet expats in your area or get advice before your move. It's FREE and takes 1 minute!

Copyright 1997-2017 Burlingame Interactive, Inc.

Privacy Policy Legal