What sort of work do most expats do?

Hi all,

As I've just moved to Brazil and still in the process of obtaining my permanent visa (with working rights) I'm wanting to get some ideas of what sort of work most expats do.  From what I can see teaching English seems pretty common, however I'd rather do something different if possible.  It seems like a lot of foreigners work in the oil/gas industry here also, or in tourism.   

Would be interested to hear what jobs others are doing and how you got the job.


From what I see from all my Foreign friends here...it's teach English or own a business. Not many other opportunities because of some labor laws here that state an employer must hire native first unless it's a specific skill set that a Brazilian applying for the job doesn't have. It's very difficult to get a regular job here. Good luck!

Thanks for the info, so to just get a regular 'office job' is not that common for foreigners?   I thought that if you have working rights, you are counted as a 'Brazilian' as far as labour laws go, and that that specific law only applies if companies are contracting people directly from other countries to come and work in place of locals (must admit I haven't really researched it too much).  Does seem like there is a high amount of unemployment here though.  :-/

What kind of work do you do Craig? (if you don't mind sharing) or are you a business owner.  Not sure if I have enough cash to set up a business at this stage.

Well it seems in your area you see the gas and oil workers. I'm sure its easier to get those jobs and those large companies probably have the right to hire permanent residents and foreigners. Where I'm at there is no situation like that. As a permanent resident I am able to work but doesn't seem like we get any consideration as an actual Brazilian. I see us still as foreigners but able to stay here for a long time.

Well I do a lot of things: Mr Mom, 2 MBA classes online with an American college, 1 Portuguese class at Federal college, teach a little English here and I'm also a retired veteran. I'm currently in the process of starting my own online business. It's going to take a few months but I think I have a great idea.

It's expensive here and if you don't find a source of income...you may be taking a slow boat home.

Yeah it seems like the salaries are quite low, yet expenses are high....... how did that happen????  I'm thinking I might be better off going home and working for a year or so, saving like crazy and then buying a place to live in as property seems quite cheap here (especially compared to back home).  Maybe could even buy 2 and rent one out, (if I can save enough), or the R$ keeps depreciating.

Oh and good luck with your online business, I'd love to check it out once it's all up and running.

I think the real will stay at 3.2 range for us Americans for the forseeable future. Taxes are high on property so figure that into your expenses. Friend request me and we can BS more.

Hi there, ive been here in brazil for almost 2 years now, and the only work i could see where i live in iguaba grande, was Building work, so ive started up a small building business, thats been going 1 year now, and at the moment iam quite busy, i should of come to brazil years ago,

Hi Spanishpete, Nice to hear that your business is a success.  Were you already a builder by trade before coming to Brazil?  What sort of projects do you do? Residential, commercial, renovations, new homes, all of the above?   Do you have any staff, or just do it all alone/subcontractor?  Sorry for so many questions :-)

Craig - Just sent you a friend request.

Hi you ask away, thats ok
back in the Uk Im a was in marine engineering and steel fabractor/ welder, and only very did building work on the houses i owned. in my time of engineering, ive seen lots of building work going on, but never did much my self
when i got here, i look at diffrent types of for things to do, theres no real work for marine engineering or welding
but loads of building work, and what i see of the building work in brazil, i count be any worse than the Brazilians builders,
I needed to buy some building equpment towork on my own place, and doing so started working on other places
at the moment i dont have any workers but i will need to get some, you dont get rich working your self, the problem here in Iguaba grande is finding good people, and at the moment ive not met any i can trust, they just keep leting you down
so far ive built one small shell ofa house, a 2 flight concrete stairecase 50 meters of 2 meter high concrete and block wall, i dug a 10 meter deep well for water, and at the moment im moving stairecases around and changing the way into someone house, but in the pipe line i have to increase the hight of 25 meters of walls,brackup 110 squ meters of concrete and then relay it, build 50 meters of raise flower bed walls
ive also dug-up and cut up and removed 4 15 meter high Mangrow trees

Thanks for the info spanishpete.  Are you in Iguaba Grande, RJ, near Cabo Frio?  From what I have seen the house construction is quite different to what we get back home.  The houses are constructed in a lot more 'simpler' fashion I'd say.  No insulation (I suppose due to the climate, however insulation is also great for keeping a house cool in summer) little to no frame, just a slab of concrete and tijola bricks.     

I've helped a foreign friend on a few building projects, and we built in a style that we were used to in our home country, however finding appropriate materials was also an issue.  Most of the locals were very surprised at the build quality, and as to how quickly we finished the project.  We even had some requests to work on their places (they didn't want to pay the extra for quality materials however, which is part of the problem).   

I've also worked as a cabinet maker/joiner before, mainly building kitchens and bathrooms for residential properties.  From what I've seen here though, again the kitchens and bathrooms are quite different.  Not sure if there is a much of a market for  cabinet makers here, the start up costs are also quite high, considering the machinery required.

yes thats the place, the town of Iguaba grande is a bit run down, and if someone needs a bigger town theres 2 of them near buy, or the city Rio just a bus drive away, near all of them and a lot more as well, and its pritty cheap here as well here, its quite a dry place,here see plenty of storms but there in the hills some 10 kilomters away,
What there is a need for in the woodwork game is a good cheppy, the brazilians way of trimming wood is with a chopper, and not a plain,

if you cant find work, come here and try, i know theres woodwork work here

I concur with SpanishPete: There's a big shortage or carpenters (marceneiros) here in South Brazil, and the problem is almost acute in Sao Paulo. I've not been able to figure out why there's a shortage though ...

from what ive been told, while they being trained they dont get paid

Ah yes, that makes sense.  In the few marceneiro shops I've dealt with, the owners seem esperto in the extreme ... and the young guys seem a bit too thin.  :-/

good quality practical skills. and most of all Pirde in your work ,,,,is whats needed

Hey there!!

This news doesn't sound very encouraging. I've been living in SP for four years and I've sent out countless resumes and posted my resume on an online job website. The only responses I ever get are from English schools that only offer a few classes a week. Plus, generally, they all pay about R$20-30 per hour. I teach English now, giving private classes and working at a small school in the periferia on Saturdays. But at this point I need a REAL job. I have a bachelor's and master's degree in the social sciences. If what you guys are saying is true, am I wasting my time looking for jobs in SP? Is my only other alternative opening a business? Sao Paulo is ABSURDLY expensive and I need to find something FAST!

then i think you have to more to somewhere that less pricey

About 8 years ago, I was warned by a Scottish friend of mine--a journalist married to a Brazilian--that SP is an expensive, tough place to work; there's a lot of competition that many foreigners are not well-equipped to handle.  To be honest, I thought he was overstating the case when I moved here 7 years ago.  But he wasn't.  I've been working very hard at developing a consulting business for these 7 years and am only now starting to earn a (Brazilian) middle class living.  On a positive note though, Brazil is a much nicer place to live than where I came from and the hard work seems worth it to me.  Cheers, JMcL

I don't know where you from, but that must really be a kak place then

MrMarques72, yes people will confirm on this forum that only chance  to make a leaving in Brazil  for expat is to create your business (I don't speak here of people moving in Brazil within an expat contract and actually they are not on this forum). 
You know that "giving private class" is actually a business or more exactly: you should run that as a business. Get more students, more experience, gets online, etc...and you have got a proper business.
I am not in very developed city (Fortaleza) but I didn't meet yet 1 expat who work as en employee in a company...they all have their proper business.

Yep I have to agree with pretty much all of the above.  All the longer term expats that I have met here that are working have their own business.  I met one guy who started up a graffiti removing business in Rio, didn't work out in the end though.  He said a lot of his potential clients found it strange  to pay to get grafiti removed, only for it to be back again within a few weeks.  He also said he wanted to get contracts with the local council, however (as you can imagine) this was very difficult. 

There does seem to be many things (in everyday life) that seem to be missing/or could be done better, which would suggest there should be lots of start up business opportunities out there. 

Maybe us unemployed expats should come together identify a gap in the market and try turn that into a viable business idea?  Either that, or as Craig suggested, take a slow boat ride home haha.


Yeah I'm in the process of figuring out a business I want to start. Definitely don't want to take the slow boat home 😂. Mine are mostly on-line endeavors. Teaching English for beer 🍻 money 💰 is getting old. Although asking a Brazilian to say "world" is very enjoyable!

ive started a house building and repairing business that's doing quite well,

I think SpanishPete has it exactly right about the approach to earning a living in Brazil (or anywhere actually): Just find something that everyone needs and then do it.  I'm from the US and, after living here in Brazil for 8 years, I was ashamed to realize that most of the money I earned there came--one way or another--from the federal government.  Brazil is a poor country and, so, it's not easy to earn money here in Brazil in the "US professional" way; it's necessary to find out what people want and then provide it to them ... this will work but we have to work a bit harder because we're foreigners.  Cheers, JMcL

most of the brazilian i see working in the building industry, seam to work hard at making the work harder, where i work at making the work easy,
theres 20,000 people that live in Iguaba grande, i am the only one that seams to use a cement mixer when making cement or concrete, i let my tools do the work,

Something I saw quite often here is that people get 1 or 2 jobs. A full time one then at night the week-end. This is something quite rare in Europe, perhaps more comun in US.
What it means is that Brazilian work hard too, we are far from stereotypes about lazy Brazilians. 
Furthermore, we shouldn't think that knowing best practices/quality from first world countries, would let us make a leaving easily here...quite the inverse actually.
So no silver bullet I believe firstly, we need to learn portuguese to a very good level Invest, being flexible and hard working.

Obviously a bit of hard work no-matter where you are, is always a fundamental element to success. However as Spanishpete mentions, we have to try and work smarter not harder.   I wouldn't mind putting in the hard yards for my own business or an idea that I was passionate about, but I don't want to be working full time (44 hours per week in Brazil right?) and then still have to get another part time job, (maybe it's a bit of westerner arrogance) but work/life balance is pretty important to me.   If it got to that point of having to work crazy hours for peanuts (with no signs of improvement), I think me and my wife would decide to move back to my country.

And just to be clear I don't think Brazilians are lazy, I see the struggle that many go through just to put food on the table. As well as the dedication of holding down a full time job whilst also studying that many of the younger generation are doing.

I would say that on the whole productivity is low here, but this is not due to laziness of  the workforce, but more so structural/societal problems that make things more difficult in general.

to get more votes,you give the people more time off to party,
brazil has the most days off to party, than any other country in the world
Up the works and power to those that dont want to work

When you start a business you have to do the howers, you have to put in the time, and most of all you have to put "you",
and you have to keep putting in everything, day in and day out,
my motto is "it's too easy to give up"  its not because iam from england, its beasuse iam from Essex, that makes me  the way i am

I am a software developer, do you have any information about computer and software business in Brazil?

Steve, LMAO, You have to be South African broer.  Only a fellow South African will recognise kak.

Yeah these Yankees and Brits have no clue about zen surfing in the 3rd world

ah Steve south Africa can not compare to Brazilian economy I have been to brasil twuce lived and saw Brazilian ..south Africa used to be nice I'm living here fir 25 years it's becoming a kak country and it's  not improving ..yet we know  every country has a problem  but Brazil is advancing watch out this new SA won't last long run by uneducated and low class people ..I'm sure you will have to agree

SteveFunk:  "kak" ... ha!  I suppose that's a fairly good adjective for it: semi-suburban Chicago ... striving hard to be the Heroin and Gang Violence Capital of the US (and likely to succeed to)!  Cheers, JMcL

you must learn to stop taking kak all the time

Teaching English privately is a viable career here in Brazil, but one has to be smart about it. One is never going to make enough money by teaching conversational English to Brazilians.

I've been a private English tutor for 1.5 years (I started teaching 7 months after arriving in Brazil) and currently, I have a full schedule and a waiting list almost 15 students long even though I charge top dollar for my time. None of my students are Brazilian -- I'm sure most Brazilians would balk at my hourly rate! All of my students are actually sons and daughters of parents working for multinational corporations here in Brazil; they are are high school students that are college-bound for the United States or their home countries. I help them prepare for English proficiency tests such as the TOEFL and SAT. In order to do what I do, one must have advanced reading, writing, and language skills and also be able to teach these skills to students.

Good luck in your endeavors!

How much do you make a month more or less?

I feel an INCREDIBLE avenue for expat work is to work for yourself. If you are able to blend the felxibility that it takes to work & adapt to this country WITH the organization/forward thinking of your home country, you can achieve great results. Because of the difficulty of doing business in Brazil, many expats are discouraged. This also means there is much less competition for many products & services available outside of Brazil. You must accept that things don't often go as planned here, you need to build an amazing team of employees and that the point you are here in the first place is to enjoy life a little more.

Hi Quinny1072, I agree very much agree with what you say but there is one aspect to the idea that there  is " ... much less competition for many ... services available [from] outside of Brazil " that foreigners need to be careful about.  I live and work in SP, providing technical financial management related services that generally are not widely available here (basically, statistical modeling and forecasting).  The problem is that, even if a foreigner can provide unique services, it is very difficult to create demand for the services as a foreigner:  People want what they want; not what people from other countries can do that are wanted elsewhere.  The difficulty in creating demand comes from the difficulty in being considered "sério" here.  It takes a very long time, unfortunately. :-)  Cheers, JMc

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