Attention all expats who are interested in leaving Rio! All you have to do is start hanging out with me and for me to become attached to you and I guarantee that before you know it, you will soon be transferred. I seem to have the "special touch"...
Attention all expats who are interested in leaving Rio! All you have to do is start hanging out with me and for me to become attached to you and I guarantee that before you know it, you will soon be transferred. I seem to have the "special touch"...
I get a lot of inquiries from people who would like to move to Brazil to work. My advice is to find a multinational firm operating here and get here on an expat package. As it's been said, Brazil is not for beginners, folks. We use all the help we can get our hands on! Make sure your have a generous living allowance...
So if you've read my blog entries and are still interested in job hunting for something that might take you to Brazil, here are some companies that are making waves in the media recently about either entering the Brazilian market or expanding their presence here:
55% of respondents said they work more hours here in Brazil than they did in their previous job.
I also asked what was the most rewarding thing about working in Brazil and the most frustrating. Let's start with the frustrations and finish on a positive note with the rewards:
Participants reported that their biggest frustrations working in Rio de Janeiro are:
Participants commented that the following makes working in Rio de Janeiro the most rewarding:
I thought I should put a feel-good post up for Christmas Day - I asked participants what the best thing about living in Rio is. My personal favorite things include the beauty, weather, the food, the healthcare, the fact that I can walk almost everywhere and that my friends live so close by, and that every day is a new, interesting adventure.
8 people declined to answer, but here's what the rest had to say:
Well, we'll soon find out, won't we?
Introducing the first annual Rio Expat Survey!!
I've put together a survey for Rio expats in hopes of broadening the perspectives to share with people making the move to Rio. So please, Rio Expats, help me out! The more of you who participate the more it will accurately reflect Daily Rio Life...
Also - if you no longer live in Rio but lived here in the past year, I am interested in your input too.
The questions are all optional so feel free to skip any you don't feel comfortable answering. It is all of course anonymous so please be candid. I will keep the survey open until the end of November and begin sharing the data in December.Click Here to take survey
A new little series on Frequently Asked Questions from readers, featuring my responses.
How long have you been in Rio?
I’m curious and more then a little afraid of our impending move to Rio for my husbands job.. We have 3 kids, and it frightens me a bit about how they will adjust. As for me, will I be more then lonely? I anticipate the adventure, but still I am worried.
Have you enjoyed all your time in Rio?
What sort of things would you think would be important for us to ask his work for in the moving package?
I have been in Rio since March of 2008.
Coming to Rio is certainly an adventure.
I would definitely try to get your kids' schooling covered by the company. It is EXPENSIVE here and even private school education here is not up to par with public schooling we are accustomed to back home (Sad, I know!)
With kids you will probably also want a driver, large apartment and possibly some help around the house. Try to get this and your utilities all included in your package if possible. This is all quite standard for expats. Also either an allowance for household items or a shipment (although they take months to arrive/clear customs sometimes). Also most importantly of course - health insurance! Our plan was terrible when we first arrived - didn't even cover me having a baby (we quickly switched).
I doubt you will be lonely or bored here. There is a vibrant expat community, and SO MUCH to do. You will definitely miss some of the comforts and I expect family/friends back home. Although the Canadians are eager to escape the cold and come visit, in my experience!
I expected to make Brazilian friends as well, but that has not happened for me, but that said, people with kids seem to have more luck with this (parents of their kids' friends, etc.).
I came across an article for expats moving to Canada the other day and it inspired me to do a bit of research about what frustrates expats about living in Canada, to put myself in their shoes. Which in this case means switching from Havaiana's to Sorels...
This is the time of year when everyone in Canada seems to be complaining, because they are ready for winter to be over! (It's one facebook status whining about the weather after another).
I wanted to see if I would get as defensive about Canada's shortfalls as some Brazilians have about frustrations or just experiences that I have commented on. I started reading the blog So, Are You New Here, which is about an American girl living in Calgary. I like her observations and certainly can't say I've been offended.
It's true that I have not finished my research - I still need to read my Will Ferguson books that I brought back this summer to get the full picture...
But the real dirt was found on the boards... On the British Expat Boards under the topic "What's Wrong With Canada?": (My comments are italicized in brackets).
Interesting, for sure.
From the very tongue-in-cheek blog "Stuff White People Like" - #75 Threatening to Move to Canada
So, what was the verdict? Well honestly the complaints were pretty boring, except for the short pants one. The rest of them - things I complained about myself when I lived there!
Is a section of the blog that will be dedicated to household items that are either:
1) Impossible to find in Rio.
2) Difficult to find in Rio.
3) Very expensive in Rio.
I've started my own list and am compiling it with a bunch of submissions from expat friends I know in Rio. If you live here and would like to add to the list, comment here or send me an email: firstname.lastname@example.org
I get a lot of traffic from people planning to move to Rio and looking for tips on what to bring, so let's help them out!
How do you feel about expats receiving tax breaks?
I would imagine this depends on whether or not you are personally benefiting from this type of situation!
We pay property taxes on our former home (now a rental property) back home but do not pay income tax in Canada currently. Nor do we make any money in Canada.
I justify this in my mind because we do not use the roads, attend school, receive any healthcare benefits, or even vote in Canada. Yes, if something were to happen to us, as Canadian citizens we would still benefit from the services of the Canadian consulate here in Rio, but again that is just if something were to go wrong.
Points to remember: we do pay taxes here in Brazil. Here in Rio the cost of living is substantially higher than anywhere in Canada (it is one of the most expensive cities to live in in all of the America's, in fact).
Do you feel ex-pats should have to pay tax in their home country for work done abroad?
Should it be at the regular full tax rate?
Why or why not?
Forbes weighed in on the best places to be an expat, nope not one Brazilian city was named (but with the cost of living here and how dangerous it is comparatively, that is not shocking!)
Top Spots According to Forbes:
According to Forbes, there are plenty of finance jobs to be found in Brazil... check it out here. The article mentions industries such as banking, home building, healthcare and energy, and features tips from those who have moved abroad on how to establish a position in an emerging market.
On compensation of those working in Brazil: In Brazil, though, salaries last year were "well over what equivalent professionals were making in New York or London," says Levy Sandin. She says salaries are typically paid in reals with some exceptions, and with the Brazilian currency up 21 per cent this year against the dollar, expatriates can come out ahead in the long run.
Elections galore - here in Rio the municipal elections are taking place, so now Rio's streets are crammed with billboards with photos of candidates, their names, professions, slogans and ID numbers... yes ID numbers. Riogringa wrote about this topic as well recently - each candidate has a number which voters must memorize when they go to the polls. My guess is that the purpose of this extra loophole is to make voting accessible to the illiterate? But this is just my good faith that every bit of red tape in Brazil has its purpose and begins with good intentions...
The tactics candidates use to garner attention here are questionable, in my opinion. It is not uncommon to see trucks drive down the beaches with photos of candidates across the side of them blasting speeches being made by the candidates scratchily. In other words, annoying. Would you vote for someone who annoys you before they are even in office?
In Brazil, people actually vote. I know! (In Canada this is definitely not the case. Voter turnout in the most recent election was just under 65%. Sad.) In Brazil, eligible voters must vote or else they stand to lose privileges such as access to passports. As much as this seems controlling I think it's better than a 65% voter turnout. From the info I found one the net the rate is similar in the US as well.
Back home we are also faced with elections in Canada & the US. One thing I don't think most Americans realize is how closely the rest of the world watches their elections. I am watching both the Canadian & American campaigns with interest (but admit the American campaign interests me more. Especially the past week or so. Have you seen this letter that was written by someone who has known Sarah Palin since 1992? interesting to say the least.)
I am not the only Canadian who finds the US elections intriguing - facebook statuses of Canadian friends are frequently comments about the US election, and a running joke amongst friends of mine is that we remind each other that sadly no matter how closely we follow the American political situation (closer than some Americans do, surely), we still don't get a vote...
I expect the Canadian election to get interesting for me at about the same time as the new season of the Rick Mercer Report kicks off (he is Canada's answer to Jon Stewart). I don't think the show is slated to start until the end of September which is convenient timing for Harper to call the election... I don't think Mercer is much of a fan of his.
In Canada, tomorrow Prime Minister Harper is expected to call an election, to take place October 14th.
If you are a Canadian living overseas and wish to vote in the expected upcoming federal election, click on this link.
If you are an American living abroad, Gwyneth Paltrow among others from www.votefromabroad.org
have a message for you - that you can vote, (and that they will be voting for Obama), in this video which features a shoutout to Canada (and that it is in fact NOT part of the US) and Rio de Janeiro, where one of the featured will be voting from.
Click here to watch the video.
My husband travelled to the US this week for work and boy did I miss him! He was only gone for 3 nights and 2 days but it felt like a long time. I even have visitors here to keep me company and I still really missed him. Which is weird for me because we used to be apart for long periods of time (4 months once!) - several weeks on several different occasions and though we missed each other it was not like this!
I guess we have just become much more dependent on one another and closer over the past few months. One of our "shortcomings" as a couple before was that we were independent almost to a fault, so perhaps in the long run this will teach us balance.
Moving to a foreign country with only your spouse is stressful, and so above all else I am grateful that this is the feeling I have rather than "He is driving me crazyyyyyyy!"
The big news in the Brazilian business world today - some major arrests - among those arrested: prominent banker Daniel Dantas of Opportunity Financial Group, the former Mayor of Sao Paulo - Celso Pitta, and investor Naji Nahas.
These arrest were in connection with a government related bribery scandal back in 2005.
A word on doing business in Brazil...
I like to skirt around it a lot, but to be honest there are a lot of things that are still dodgy and not talked about. Like corruption. Like paying bribes to get things in and out of ports. Like paying some guy's brother R$50 to get your CPF for you. Like the term "custo Brasil" which just means it will cost you dearly here... Like having a Despachante to do your dirty work for you... oh come on even I've done it (and didn't even know it...)
There are also a ton of inefficiencies, ridiculously high taxes (which no one seems to understand), bureaucracies, and the list goes on. I realize it is always "who you know" in the business world wherever you are, but that doesn't even begin to cover it here. Check out this article on why young people should NOT move to Brazil to work. It can be tough. Doing business in Brazil is no picnic. I guess this is why none of us ever see our husbands...
The more people I talk to who are working down here, the more agree on one thing - although in the international media there are many references to Brazil being the next big superpower, there is a long road ahead, meaning massive changes will need to be made before that can happen. Makes you wonder if the people who wrote it have ever been to Brazil...or spoken with anyone who has worked here.
That said, I am pleased to hear of these arrests. It lends Brazil credibility as a place to do business, and gives me hope for the future. I'd say" "Wow leave it to a developing country to have problems like this," but we have stuff like this in Canada too! Sans the arrests in a lot of cases... (not that going to jail in Canada is all that rough, and besides even if you commit murder they won't leave you in there for long (but this is another post, yes, another post...)
Recently I've had a lot of hits from people making searches on expat compensation packages in Brazil. I'm no expert expat as I've said but I'll give you a rundown of what seems to be standard (at least with bigger companies):
- Increased salary
- Mobilization & Completion bonuses
- "Hardship" bonus of 30% of salary
- Apartment/living expenses/driver taken care of (fyi: most companies down here seem to have a budget for apartments in the $10 - 20,000 R per month range...insanity). Some include armoured cars.
- Language training
- Flights back home
- Shipping of household items (to and from Brazil)
- Intermittent shipments throughout the year (in case you really want more peanut butter, etc.)
This is in addition to regular benefits these jobs seem to have such as 401k/stock options/health insurance, etc.
1. Shyness is a luxury.
2. On the same note as above, being an expat is an excellent opportunity to develop interests and talents you've always had but perhaps never but into action.
3. Being an Expat Partner/Spouse adds a lot more complexity to a relationship, making essential relationship values such as flexibility and patience even more important.
4. Culture shock is not something that may happen, but something that will happen.
5. Being an expat is something you don't recover from.
According to Bloomberg, HSBC anticipates its private banking operations in Brazil to increase assets under management by more than 50 percent in 2008. The cause... more foreigners seeking opportunities to invest, as more global investors than ever are willing to buy Brazilian assets. Assets under management by Brazilian banks are currently rising at a rate of more than 30% annually, Lywal Salles.
In other business news...
I would like to introduce this topic by saying that we were entertaining a colleague of my husband's last night who is in Rio for the first time and really hurting for a Starbucks coffee... I can't wait to tell him that Starbucks is planning an aggressive expansion in Brazil. Currently there are 10 Starbucks locations in Sao Paulo, by September there will be 15, and locations for Rio are in the works.
Let me help you decipher what your perk-laden, high rolling expat compensation package really means...
Countless times since we have arrived I've been a bit envious of the wives of fellows working for big multinational corporations here in Brazil. Why? It seemed to me that these wives had endless resources at their disposal, not to mention an automatic, prepackaged group of new best friends (a.k.a. all the other "expat wives" or "trailing spouses").
Never having been a fan of big companies in the first place, I've since re-evaluated this situation for myself and am not as jealous anymore. (Except of course when I think about how my internet is not hooked up and how if my husband worked for a huge company they'd have a person whose whole job it was to make sure that this was taken care of for me.)
With the perks come disadvantages. Below are the details. (This post is really not Brazil-specific, much of this applies to ex-pats and their spouses working anywhere in the world.)
Supposed perk: "Safety" Training and "Cultural Awareness" Training.
Actual downside: Basically it sounds like they
brainwash scare the s*%# out of these people upon arrival so that they deem themselves completely helpless and therefore are totally fine with all the restrictions they are about to put on them (see below... )
Although I admit I would not mind some self defense classes...
Supposed perk: Company-owned car and full time driver.
Actual downside: The driver tends to be a company employee. Meaning that his loyalty is always to his boss, the company (don't bite the hand that feeds!), which means that he has been specifically instructed on where he is and is not to take his passengers, which in a nutshell means that said expat wife's freedom is limited. As in: the driver dictates where they can and cannot go. For real.
IF the company allows its employees to drive these company-owned vehicles on occasion/weekends (and some do not!), rest assured the built-in GPS will monitor every place they go. One woman told me a story about how her husband's colleagues all watched on a computer as they got lost and went in circles on a recent excursion. Privacy? What's that?
(This brings up yet another reason I had pangs of envy - people at this company have time to fool around and do stuff like that? My husband has been working like a dog since we arrived.)
I have also talked to numerous people who said the company does not allow them to take taxi's or buses.
Most of the women I speak with who have full time drivers find that they are constantly waiting around for their drivers to pick them up (taking away the "convenience" factor significantly).
Supposed perk: Lots of time off to do what one pleases since the company won't employ them or help them get a work visa so that they can work elsewhere (see more on this below).
Actual downside: Forget the idea of volunteering or giving back, the company will deem most worthwhile volunteer opportunities as "too dangerous" and forbid them.
Supposed perk: A big group of new best friends aka the expat wives.
Actual downside: Now that the company controls one's whole existence (see above) it will also be the topic of one's entire social life.
The worst of all, inspiring this rant in the first place...
Many of the bigger companies will not help the trailing spouse acquire a working visa. In fact, we have some friends who recently left Brazil to seek greener pastures where both of them could work for the same company (before moving to Rio, they had both worked for the company that brought them to Brazil for over a decade. Only he was placed in a job when they moved here. Nice.) - not because they necessarily wanted to leave Brazil, but because of this and several other controls the company imposed on them which they did not feel the need to adjust to.
On the visa issue:
There is no way I would have wanted to be working the last three months, getting ourselves set up here has really been a full time job and I have been grateful that I did not have to work during this period of time.
That said, for a company to bring a family or couple to a foreign country and not provide the trailing spouse with the resources to acquire a working visa is absolutely a form of control in my opinion. Most of these women are told that they "can't" get a working visa (as in, that it is not possible). As far as I know, this is not true.
Disclaimer: I have been told that I eventually will get a working visa if I want one. I do not know if the same rules apply for American citizens as Canadian citizens?
To me, failing to help the trailing spouse obtain a work permit seems tactical on the company's part, much like encouraging employees to get mortgages or fancy cars, knowing they will be trapped into working forever to pay them off. Common sense, on the company's part. A single income family man will feel much more obligation to fulfill his employer's every whim to support his family. Not cool for the company to manipulate/create this situation for its employee.
Apparently, from a worldwide perspective, more opportunities are being created for trailing spouses. According to an article in the International Herald Tribune, legal barriers to working abroad are falling:
"France last year was the latest government to allow family members of multinational employees and skilled workers to take a job without obtaining a separate permit. Other countries - the Netherlands, Hong Kong, Argentina, Singapore and the United States - have also loosened restrictions."
The article also said that as more women enter the work force, more couples are refusing international assignments abroad if a spouse's job can't be transferred.
Companies addressing this issue have the right idea, long term. Why? According to the article and several surveys, spousal dissatisfaction is the number one reason for assignment failure abroad.
My final comments on the issue...
Visa issues aside, I realize that many of these restrictions and controls are put into place for legal reasons and for the intended safety of the employees and their families. Some of these policies are put into place after an unfortunate incident occurs, and are meant to protect people. However, it seems to have gotten a little out of control with some companies and is majorly interfering with the international experience some of these people are having. Believe me there have been times I wished there was someone, anyone, more concerned for my safety (as I wandered around on multiple occasions, lost, on foot, without even a cell phone, or a bank card that worked in this country, or having anyone who had a clue where I was... ) but my point is that even without these things, absolutely nothing bad has happened to me.
Not all big multinationals operating in Brazil impose such restrictions on employees. Large oil companies seem to have the most "policies" in place, but then the employees of large oil companies are probably the biggest targets as well. Our closest friends here in Brazil are here with a large multinational (not an oil and gas company) and have virtually no lifestyle restrictions. Nor do we, in our case it's because the company we are here with is too small to have any such policies in place (which has worked out well for us).
I figure that if I had children I would feel completely differently about this issue! I would want the armoured car, the driver who refuses to drive anywhere unsafe, the whole nine yards.
In closing, I just don't like the idea of a company controlling every aspect of its employee's life. Moving abroad makes everything revolve around "the company" enough, and I think some of these "perks" should be optional.
Looking for an overseas assignment? Thinking of moving to Brazil? Want an office with a view of Copacabana beach? There are several multinational companies currently hiring in Brazil, particularly in the IT and telecom industries, from what I could gather... here are some links to companies currently hiring in Brazil. Good luck.
Research in Motion
Nortel - Operations, Project Management, Accounting
GE - Jobs in its Enterprise Solutions, Infrastruct, Consumer & Industrial, Healthcare, Corporate, & Money Divisions.
Oil & Gas:
Teaching & Writing Positions
Now that we have a place to put people, I can't WAIT to get some guests. I am having a lot of fun decorating my guest rooms as well so that adds to it. I will post photos as soon as the rooms are photo-worthy...
Plus I can't wait to share this city with the people I love (not to mention get to see the people I love!)
We have several "reservations" made for later this winter, and are expecting some "friends of friends" for about a week at the end of June. I am really excited about this.
I recently heard about this organization called Couch Surfing - "A worldwide network for making connections between travelers and the local communities they visit" it basically is a matchmaking service between travelers who want a place to stay and people who have a couch or room they are willing to put them up with. I think it's a great concept but admit I am a bit scared - although everyone has references, etc. and they assure you it's safe. The goal of the organization is to promote sharing and tolerance throughout the world, which is admirable... Plus I think the experience you would get as a traveler staying with people is totally different than staying in a hotel!
For now, I have the three girls who are friends of friends coming in June as I mentioned, and from there, we'll see! I can't wait to see Rio through their eyes (and I plan to tag along with them for some of the touristy stuff I have missed along the way so far...)