Tips and advice to thrive in Brazil


When living in a foreign country, you have to adapt to a new environment, various cultures and different social codes.

How did you manage to adjust to Brazil?

How long does it take to feel at home? Would you say it is an easy process?

According to you, what is key for a successful integration process in Brazil?

Thank you in advance for sharing your experience!


I find Brazil is very difficult to adjust. Brazil is not very easy live like a home facing many problems, Main problem is language. But I think for live like a home and to adjust here will take six to eight months. However for key to successful for foreigners they need to know everything about Brazil before traveling from their home country.
However that is my opinions.

Good luck for all!

the main key to success in Brazil, Is to have your own money

From my 14 years of experience living in Brazil I will give these tips and advice in the order of their importance (my opinion):

1.  Learn the language - Portuguese is essential for living in Brazil for anything longer than a couple of months at the very most. Certainly you will not be able to obtain decent employment in this country without the ability to speak Portuguese at least on an intermediate level. English IS NOT widely spoken even in the workplace you will be hard pressed to find anyone who speaks English with even enough fluency to carry on the most basic conversation. Without Portuguese you will be locked within the expat community, if you can find any expats; and you will be charged more for almost everything because merchants well tend to see you as an easy mark / rich / or both. Speaking English in public may also put you at risk of being kidnapped for ransom.

Around 80% of expats who leave Brazil because they have failed to adapt to living here cite the language barrier as being the most significant issue involved in their failure to adapt.

2.  Patience - Being patient is an absolute must here in Brazil. The level of bureaucracy involved in even the most simple of processes is crushing. It dominates the lives of Brazilians and expats alike. Everything takes 3 or more times longer to do anything here than it would in any other country. Inefficiency is built into EVERYTHING so it takes longer.

3.  Do not expect to find work in Brazil unless you have some specialized degree or certificate (that you can have recognized in Brazil). Brazilian laws require all employers to prove that they have been completely unable to place a qualified Brazilian in any job vacancy before they are allowed to hire an expat to fill the vacancy. ALL UNSKILLED JOBS will automatically go to Brazilians - don't think you will be able to come here and find work as a driver, laborer, salesperson, waiter/waitress; it just isn't going to happen. The vast majority of expats who succeed in Brazil generate their own income buy setting up some kind of business venture of their own; or they have a steady source of income from their home country such as a pension, rental properties, etc.

4.  Watch your wallet and leave your sense of social justice at home - You will quickly find that Brazil is a country of extreme poverty. Everyone here has a sad story (whether it's true or not) and you will be constantly exposed to people begging in the streets, on buses, subways. They all have a sad story and they all want your money. Many of these are actually professional beggers who actually don't need any help at all. If you really believe a person to be begging because they need to eat, buy them something to eat and drink, but never just give money. In fact, if you were to offer them work and say you''ll pay them, the majority turn and run.

5.  Forget time - Forget any concept of being on time that you might have, Brazilians are always late for everything. Punctuality does not make up part of the Brazilian culture. If you've arranged a party for 8pm they'll start showing up at 9pm. If you tell someone to meet you at noon, count on them showing up around 1pm.

6.  Get used to the idea of finding litter everywhere -  Brazilians throw their garbage, old furniture, construction rubble wherever they please. The problem of pollution is unbelievable here and will never change... get used to it.

7.  Never be without a supply of sun screen and insect repellents - Even on a cloudy day or in the shade you'll sunburn if you stay outdoors too long. Always use sun screen. The problem of Aedes aegypti mosquitoes, which spread Yellow Fever, Dengue, Chikungunya, Zica and other diseases is out of control. Always use strong repellents and never be without it in your possession.

8.  Always have a supply of toilet paper -  If you travel about, even in the city, always make sure to have toilet paper in your purse, briefcase, or car. Even in many public buildings you will find that they don't have toilet paper - no fun being caught without. And while we're on the subject of toilet paper, do not flush it down the toilet - Use the wastebasket that you'll find beside EVERY SINGLE TOILET in the entire nation. Sewage systems in this country are old, poorly maintained and not capable of handling toilet paper.

James Experts Team

Adapt and live like a Brazilian. Do not compare Brazil to whatever country you came from. It's different here 😂! Having your own money is paramount. I love it and wouldn't change a thing about the move!

100% in sync with james' post. I feel exactly the same.
Actually all people who are really thriving in Brazil show a great understanding of language, culture and "howto". Majority are so involved in Brazil that their spouse/partner is Brazilian....;-) I am not sure if this the reason of the consequence of thriving in Brazil but that's a fact! 
Indeed I don't speak here of gringoes arriving with "expat contract"; they are just long term tourists, passing through Brazil and waiting for next list).

James nailed it. I almost ran back but then, after a while, I got my bearing. I'm also an outgoing kind of person and made friends quite easily, so life became easier. I lived in a Pensão for a while - this allowed me to integrate with the average people (who I think are easier to relate with......might be wrong) - before moving to an apartment.
All in all, it's been a worthwhile experience, though tough sometimes. I speak passable Portuguese now (even passed the CELPE-Bras), so a handle on the language goes a long way to settling you. Opportunities abound, but like James already said..PATIENCE is key.
Wishing anyone come the very best.

I would say the biggest factor in fitting in in Brazil is of course the Language barrier

I am almost adjusted to life here in Brazil  after 8 months.....I am fluent in Portuguese,  I studied for 2 years before I came to Brazil .
I have an RNE , CPF , bank account and registered Job in my Carteira de trabalho at a good English school .I'm also busy getting my Drivers  License converted and pursuing my hobby  of Scuba diving by helping out at a local dive center. I would also like to get involved in playing some music when I'm more established.

Other than the Language , it's just minor cultural issues like figuring out how the people actually think and do things , which is helped by speaking Portuguese.
As was mentioned here , having a Brazilian spouse also goes a long , long way to integrating more rapidly and being accepted and taken seriously by the community. I would imagine it is very hard to just move here on your own without a Brazilian to help you figure things out , but once you have figured things out it's not too bad at all.

Sorry Bardamu,

As an American I arrived in Brazil on an 24 month expat contract in 1998 and returned home in 2004.  I purchased our house in the NE in 2008 and we moved back to Brazil in July 2015 (Retired).  So not all expats are tourist!

Language, language, language. Learn it, speak it as much as you can (gently refuse to speak English with Brazilians for at least the first year), read the paper in Portuguese, read books (children's books if that's what you can manage), listen to the radio, watch Brazilian TV. And just speak it!

For me, after language acquisition, the most important part about adapting was finding a community and Brazilian friends. Meet them at church, doing shared interests, taking a class. Get involved with a social movement (exercise your sense of social justice!), pick your issue -- health, prisons, trash, access to water, homeless, childhood nutrition, whatever. Just be persistent about getting involved because if you just send one email to an NGO or church pastoral and wait for them to get back to you it may never happen. It's better to show up in person at their offices or at a public meeting. It can take a while (a month or two, or maybe three) to get really involved with a movement or organization, so don't give up.

It took me about a year to feel like I was at home in Brazil, and no, the process wasn't easy. But it was worth it. Good luck!

Gotcha184. I hope I wasn't rude but I am sure you know what I mean. When poeple move here within an expat contract, they do not have any incentive to integrate. They know that in 3 years time, they will be off to another country. Furthermore, they salary/package/benifit is so high that they live in a different world. An ivory tower. That's it.
Clearly you're not in this category...met a beautiful brazilian woman I presume?

Bardamu...........I was the director of Loss Prevention for Wal-Mart Brazil from 1998 to 2004.  My wife is an American paralegal.  She worked with another expat in Sao Paulo and started their own business.  We both fell in love with the Brazil and when Wal-Mart moved us back to Dallas we just kept coming back on vacations until we decided to buy property in an area that we felt would serve us well when we retired.  It is true that with a big American company and the English environment that my Portuguese isn't as good as my wife's but we're working on it!

Beautiful and best wishes!!!!

It is interesting how James have managed to find all these problems in Brazil and still manages to live here for such a long time! Im not denying we have them but I´ve followed you through a few times here on your comments and you Always seem to portray Brazil in a very nasty way! As I always heard when Living in Canada, Ireland and the UK, if you´re not happy with the country you`re living in you can Always go home where it seems better than here!
Brazil has its own problems, of course we do! Now portraying the whole brazilians as the description you just gave leaves me with no choice but to tell you that if things are not paradise here dont stay here. We´ve enough of our own I tell you pet!


James is our expert, he points out all the problems us Expats experience and the way to solve each problem. I'm sure he truly loves it here or he would of left a decade ago. You are way off base with what you think of him.

Marco.......James tells it as it is, something that usually is important to us (expats) and certainly from an expat point of view, his advice is used to over-come certain issues or decide that it is what is is and nothing can change it. If your looking for some place that is going to idolize Brazil and talk about how it is the Country of the Future, well, you maybe in the wrong place.  I (and I think James too) live here as a decision of our own will.........just don't expect me to embrace all of it's bureaucracies!


The days of "Brasil - ame o ou deixe o" are long gone. Those of us who have taken up permanent residence here and have Brazilian spouses and children as I do, have every bit as much right to point out the problems in this country, criticize the lack of political will to correct them and to call out for action on the part of our politicians. This would be no different than if you took up permanent residence in another country.

I have lived here for over 14 years, and if there is one thing that I have learned in that time is that Brazilians, because of their blind sense of national pride, view any complaint or criticism of this country as a personal attack on them. This is the most ridiculous attitude I'm ever come across in any other nation.

Another thing, for a population that seems to place such value on the Constituição Federal de 1988 as Brazilians do, they certainly don't seem to know it too well, or to embrace the principals of that document.

Art. 5º Todos são iguais perante a lei, sem distinção de qualquer natureza, garantindo-se aos brasileiros e aos estrangeiros residentes no País a inviolabilidade do direito à vida, à liberdade, à igualdade, à segurança e à propriedade, nos termos seguintes:
     IV - é livre a manifestação do pensamento, sendo vedado o anonimato;

So, it's clear that I have every bit as much right as a born Brazilian to express my opinions and observations. I'm well aware that Brazilians become offended when those that they consider "outsider" complain about the very same things that they themselves may complain about, or state OBVIOUS truths since they believe we have no right to do so. The Constitution makes it crystal clear that those Brazilians are sadly mistaken.

If you feel that I have stated anything that is incorrect or untrue, you are free to express your opinion. What you do not have a right to do here on is to make personal attacks on ANY member, or to express the tired old "if you don't like it here, go home" attitude. Those are clear violations of our BRAZIL FORUM CODE OF CONDUCT and of Terms and Conditions of Use.

Regarding what keeps me in this country, quite frankly that is none of your business. The fact that I don't candy coat the facts, or minimize the truth about this country being offensive to you, does not concern me in the least.

James Experts Team

Oh, and another thing Marco... if you don't look like the photo below
Brazil isn't really YOUR country either, so I wouldn't be so eager to tell anyone "if you don't like it here go home". Você não é o dono desse país, ele é.

James Experts Team

I've followed what it has been said in comment section I dare to say it's all true but despite all the negatives I want to share you my thoughts why and how I liked it here and managed to live it's because of the people first. They are very loving and friendly. I think that is the most important thing when you are an expat. Country means its not the mountains, the rocks, and the valleys etc.. it's the people. If you love the people you can easily integrate and manage to live because especially in Brazil as far as i'm concerned it's not how much information you have , it's how many people you know. The rest is yours. Enough said! Te amor Brasil e Brasileiros! Obrigado !

Oh for pete´s sake James! The point I was trying to make obviously did not get into your head I see :o  My intention was never to hide Brazil´s problem but to make my mind clear about foreigners that come to live here and bash about how bad things are here as if we are the only country on Earth that have the problems you mentioned. One of the things you metioned on your post was that "Brazilians trown rubish everywhere". Well I do sympathise with your comment on that matter but the way you expressed yourself seemed like all Brazilians are like that which is DEFINETELY NOT THE CASE PET! I myself know a lot, I mean a lot of people that not only try to keep the city & environment clean but also dissaprove that sort of behaviour as many other nasty things that uneducated lower class brazilians do.
Trust me, all the things you mentioned are not aproved by the marjority of Brazilians. If we only complain and never do a fecking thing about it it would never improve/change!
The other thing you mentioned was that we are "Always late for appointments". People that have no discipline in regards to time management is not only confined to Brazil whether it is a party or a coorporate meeting. I worked in Canada, Ireland and the UK and saw many natives getting late to work for unjustfiable reasons. And when they came to work, everysingle opportunity they had, they would go for a tea break. That delays were also common in parties, not as much as some undisciplined Brazilians think is cool but it happened.
"Bureaucracy" What country does not have bureaucracy tell me James? If you find one that doesnt  please let me know as I would gladly try by all means to move and live there (legally, just in case you mention again that Brazilians move to diferent countries illigally and get involved in all sort of dodgy things breaking the law as you putted in one previous article here). I myself hate bureaucracy and a lot of Brazilians cant stand that either, but remember, there is not much you can do about it so DEAL WITH IT!
Since you mentioned you´ve lived here for a long time which allows you to make your point in our constitution/political affairs, it also seems that you been infected by the way many Brazilians think about our country.
Yes we do have huge problems in infrastructure, education, health, corruption, but Brazil will Always be my home country and I will Always strive to make it a better like many other people I know in my circle, that is why i´m defending what is mine, dont care about the others, my bit I´m doing as I go about life. As someone once said to me, if you love you dont leave. I wonder if the people that came to live here love their country that much, just wondering thats all!

PS: About the native fella, no I dont look like him at all but I was born and bread here so were my parentes, grand parents. That comment really wasnt nescessary here I´m afraid, thats an American thing I heard a lot while in Canada, it has no place in Brazil pet!
I think we should stop here!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Marco, I will not even comment on your posting... it's just not worth the effort. Besides everyone here on the Brazil forum already knows who is speaking the truth and who is just trying to cover it up.

Please, don't waste your time here... or ours.

James Experts Team


"I myself hate bureaucracy and a lot of Brazilians cant stand that either, but remember, there is not much you can do about it so DEAL WITH IT!"  That pervasive attitude is exactly why Brazil will ALWAYS be a country of the future.  Her people can dream of a better life but they are not willing to put out the effort to make the change and bring the future to reality!

Seriously though guys....Lots of countries have heavy bureaucracy.....ever try to go through these things in South Africa , Thailand or god forbid the UK ....?
They are all just as difficult , if not more difficult than Brazil.
At least in my experience the Brazilian system is functional , fair and lenient.....

Try moving to the UK these days with their closed door policyif you're not EU , or navigating the Nationalist xenophobe Bureaucracy in Thailand .....not to mention the absolute chaos that reigns in the South African immigration system

Marco, I believe it is quite natural to speak about things we dislike in these type of forums.  Posssibly we are living in Brazil because there are things much more important for us and that we like a lot, like our familly for example. A lot of people here are in mixt couples and have bi-national children.
FYI I do not stop to critic my own country and it is quite normal, I have got a political point of view. I travelled a lot for work and leisure  (like a lot of expats here). So I feel I can express my point view and compare countries.
Actually this forum and another one on Facebook are my only contact with gringoes in Brazil.  I am not sure where you live in Brazil but what I see, hear and read everyday in brazilian media and social networks is much more critical of Brazil that what we can read here.  So possibly what you do not like is that gringoes critic your country? Well sorry forums are for that. Certainly this is a kind of anti-stress therapy for us.

Moderated by kenjee 3 months ago
Reason : Do not share contact infos on forum + please write only in English on the anglophone version of the forum.
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