Expat Advice: Culture Shock in
Sao Paulo, Brazil
What is the name of the city or town that you are reporting on?
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.
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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?
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