Expand your social circle in Brazil

Hello everyone,

Moving to Brazil means leaving one's family and friends behind. Creating a circle of friends or joining an existing one should therefore be paramount in order to fight loneliness in your host country.

But how can one develop a social network in Brazil? Where and how to meet people there?

How easy is it to meet locals? What about cultural specificities?

Share your advice and experience!

Many thanks in advance,


I have found that most of the people that I used to know in England don't talk anymore, so Ive given up on them, and that includes my kids
and most of the Brazilian ive met, Here where I live, are very unreliable and seam interested, until there relies there not going to get any, of my money of you,  what little I have

If you have money to spend and you enjoy getting out in the big cities, you should be just fine for company. If not, then:

While Brazilians can be very warm and welcoming, most never encounter foreigners beyond a few from neighboring countries. (If you live in a big Brazilian city with cosmopolitan neighbors, then this doesn't apply to you.)  Since most Brazilians have never seen the ocean, much less an Uruguayan, they haven´t developed the customs of integrating strangers into their community. (If you are young, then enjoy the limitless socializing.  This will change with time.) You are fortunate if you arrive in Brazil with a ready-made community to slip into: colleagues, classmates, religious community, an extensive and well-connected family, etc.  However, many foreigners living here do not have these. They have to make an effort, and go out and make personal connections with Brazilians. If you remain passive, it´s likely that your friends will mostly be expatriates, even if you are married to a Brazilian.

I´m in my 40´s, married, and living in Porto Alegre with my Brazilian wife. I work for myself, not a multi-national. Aside from my in-laws, my friends are mostly ex-pats even though I´ve met thousands of Brazilians since moving here years ago.  I suspect that in smaller cities like this, it never occurs to most Brazilians over the age of 23 that they can go out and make new friends.  They live in the cities where they grew up.  They have endless obligations to attend weddings and birthday parties and family gatherings. In their thirties they begin several decades of endless obligatory birthday parties for  1- and 2- and 3-years-olds that would put the average foreigner off of salgadinhos and Marta Rocha cake for a lifetime.  You may find that these events are some of the best places to meet new people, but actually becoming friends might require an activity, a sport or a common purpose to pull Brazilians out of their demanding social routines of visiting every single weekend with their family and their life-long friends.

One exception to this is Brazilians who have returned from living abroad.  Some suffer from disappointment with their home country, and many are no longer part of their original social circles. Many are eager to make friends with out-of-towners, and are very generous.

I've benefited from fitting in with the Brazilian way of socializing. I do have some good friends back in the US I wish were part of my life, but since social life is so important to Brazilians and they reinforce their social bonds in so many little ways, I have lived here quite happily despite the challenges.

One additional note.  My Brazilian wife knows me well.  She loves me, trusts me and expects I will do what is right. But she will probably never surrender the expectation that one day another women could potentially smile at me, turning me into a idiot who breaks his marriage vows.  I doubt Brazilians cheat any more on their partners than Americans do, but I've heard about this same suspicion from other expats living here.  It could constrain your social opportunities.  For my own part, It's possible I'll never arrive home and tell my wife, "That woman at the office I told you about - she invited us out for a meal with her and her husband next week." What works in the US won´t always work so smoothly here.  Pick your own battles.

Interesting topic. I plan to write a mini-novel titled 'Sao-Paulo Friendship'. Met a tonne of people initially and everyone seems eager to be friends. They fizzle as eager as they come. It's not a problem for me though because I thrive on a lot of things. There are one or two couples that we keep in touch though. Summary is 'don't expect too much from São Paulo friendships'

Lanre2, I heard the same thing from a middle-aged, born-and-raised Carioca. He told me, "it's a real party in Rio, a lot of fun.  But if something goes wrong or you get sick, people disappear." On the other hand, some religious communities and small towns have the best of both worlds here: strong social scenes with lasting ties, and generous concern and support.

In reply.....
Most difficult in my case was the communication barrier, I beleived I had studied portugues well enough to get along before coming to Brasil.. i was wrong.
First and most foremost is adapting, learning the language at least to a degree you can interpret  enough to make yourself understood, and decifer what is being said despite the slang.
  It is important you find others who speak english, foreigners that have lived here, explain your situation and ask for guidance.
My social life was enhanced while working at sea on a Brazil contract, not American that is to say.
This was a driving force in communicating and finding freinds.
I don't know your situation but i have to say be carefull, I had problems when i first came here trusting some Brasileros who spoke english, I was a target for cons who considered me a mutt simply because I trusted them..
I'm 66 years of age, raised my family here and have experienced the good and the bad.
The majority of the folks here are hard working decent people, family orientated. Some are not.
There are areas you don't want to go to, be carefull, hot spots.
As for a social life, please find other foreigners that can guide you, alone you will have a hard time.
Wish you well..........Chris

I have got some experience and feeling very smillar to SkipStepOne.
I am in Fortaleza where the expat community is very small. There are a few retired people and some "adventurers"  (as would say the french "consul honoraire" in Fortaleza)  that is better to ignore.  Majority of expat are live on the coast of Ceará, living the dream of owning a pousada or restaurant on the beach...
So I focused on extending my social circle within Brazilians. Familly in law helped a lot at the beginning. 
I have got three children so between school and never endless birthday parties, I met sometimes people interesting.
Then we subscribed to a sport club which is actually as much a social club than a sport club (certainly like in was in the past in Europe). A bit "exclusive" for a Brazilians salary but 4 time cheaper than my gym club in Europe (and price is for the whole familly).
But the most decisive moment has been to rent a place in a coworking structure. I just started my second business there. I met other business owners, startups, freelancers.  Really I met great people. So actually my social circle is my professionnal circle like it was actually before Brazil. Possilby it means, I am now properly integrated in Brazil.

Hi, thanx for your message, introduce me to your social network. Tell me the do,s and other things necessary to be in the group

Spot on with that kids birthday stuff ....What is it with these damn kids Birthday parties here....I have never experienced or even given much thought to the importance of attending a two years olds party but in Brazil it's like the biggest deal that exists ....people travel across state to attend a two year olds Birthday it just me ? Am I the only one who finds this kind of thing kind of annoying and wierd, that I am expected to drop my whole life and go and sleep on someones floor because Maria Valentina is have her two year Birthday in Santos ???   and it never ends , then its Leticia , Beatriz , Juliana, João etc

LOL! Relax Steve. I've learnt to act like a Roman in Rome, otherwise, the irritation will flow forth. I think its all about cultural differences. What I do is I attend when its slightly convenient and make my excuses when it isn't. Believe me, Brazilians know we foreigners struggle to cope with these things and they are quite forgiving when we don't join in the festas

I just send the wife, on her own, she like's birthday party's,
I don't even go to my own birthday party
grumpy Brit, I am

you are absolutely right, very strange custom to make such a big deal about a young child's birthday with adults.   this does not exist in the US at all.  young children parties are for children and their young friends.  the mother usually can not drag the father to the party.

Exactly, thats how it was when I grew up in South Africa, in Brazil they take this stuff seriously, people can get like seriously offended if you don't attend your nieces 2nd birthday or something like that....I don't care though.....I'm not traveling intercity to attend childrens parties

I live in Campinas and am married to an expat who moved to Brazil when he was a small child and has lived in Brazil for over 30 years. I am self-employed and don't have any opportunities to befriend Brazilians in my line of business, but fortunately, my husband, who works for a multinational, has plenty of Brazilian co-workers. Our social life mostly consists of dinners with his co-workers and their wives/girlfriends and every now and then, we get together with his high school and university friends who live in Sao Paulo or PIrassununga. These various groups include both Brazilians and other expats from my husband's native country. I'm fortunate because my husband already had a small but established social circle before I arrived here, and in his case, getting married to me only strengthened these social circles. My husband and I are both foreigners, yet neither of us have ever felt unwelcome in this country, and this says a lot about Brazilians' general attitude towards foreigners because my husband has lived here for a long time, and one would suspect that he would have had at least one or two bad experiences. That said, we are both from wealthy, developed countries, and in my experience, many Brazilians welcome foreigners like ourselves with open arms though they might not be as receptive towards say, a foreigner from neighboring Paraguay.

If I want to befriend other Brazilians and not limit myself to the social circle that I've mentioned above, I'll first need to improve my Portuguese. (I am working on it, but after receiving private lessons once a week for over a year, my Portuguese is still not at the level that I would prefer.) Fortunately, the majority of my Brazilian friends speak English, so I haven't had any real issues communicating with them; however, since we usually only converse in English, I don't have many opportunities to practice my Portuguese.

Lastly, my husband and I don't have children and at this time, have no plans to have children. However, we do get invited to kids' birthday parties every now and then, and in my opinion, the parties here are no different from the birthday parties that I used to attend when I lived in Los Angeles. In fact, some of the kids' parties I used to attend back in LA were much more elaborate and over-the-top. Maybe it has to do with the social circle that I used to run with in LA, but kids' birthday parties were always a big deal, and it wasn't unheard of to have spent thousands of dollars on a kid's birthday party. For instance, my sister rented out a posh restaurant; hired an event coordinator, florist, and balloon maker; rented popcorn and cotton candy machines for the kiddies; and had an open bar for their parents at my nephew's first birthday party. Over 200 guests showed up - it was like a wedding. (Way too much for my tastes! But her guests seemed to appreciate the effort!)

You have to start forcing yourself to speak Portuguese to those friends....I find it's very difficult once you set a precedent for speaking English to Brazilians who speak it, to then start speaking Portuguese with them....
Another strategy is to use some Portuguese at home even if it's just little phrases to get yourself in a habit of feeling "Comfortable" to just throw words and phrases around....I imagine your husband must speak Portuguese to an almost Native level if he came here as a child? It's super tough though when it's not natural, I know :)
It's really nice when you can communicate freely with Brazilians who don't speak English and they accept that you speak their language....I would focus more on Pronunciation and intonation as well as trying to have perfect grammar and let the vocabulary and expressions fill themselves in Naturally .

As for the Birthday Parties it's not the elaborateness or money spent, but the level of social pressure to attend these's a really big deal here, especially when you have Brazilian family

Steve, I'm fluent (can read, write, and speak) in 3 languages, but I fear that I may not have room for another language in my head.  :sosad:

Thanks for the tips!  :top: You're right - unfortunately, I set a bad precedent by speaking only English with my Brazilian friends, and now it's come back to bite me! (When I first got here, they could speak English, but I couldn't speak Portuguese, so English naturally became the language of choice.)

Actually, my Portuguese is progressing - I'm just hard on myself. I've been told that my pronunciation is "excellent" by several Brazilians and that I "don't speak Portuguese with an American accent." I can also text and write in Portuguese pretty well considering I have been living here less than 2 years. When I was recently in Rio, I had entire conversations with Rio's cabbies about Zika, politics, and the Olympics. Simple conversations, of course, but I had no issues communicating whatsoever. However, since I don't converse in Portugeuse every day, my listening and speaking skills and my vocabulary aren't as advanced as I would like them to be. Again, I'm just being hard on myself!

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