Brasilia, Brazil Report of what it's like to live there - 12/11/11
Personal Experiences from Brasilia, Brazil
1. Was this post your first expatriate experience? If not, what other cities have you lived in as an expat?
2. What is your home city/country? How long is the trip to post from there, with what connections? How easy/difficult is it to travel to this city/country?
Washington, DC. One connecting flight in Atlanta or Florida, about fourteen hours.
3. How long have you lived here?
4. What brought you to this city (e.g. diplomatic mission, business, NGO, teaching, retirement, etc.)?
US Embassy spouse
Housing, Groceries & Food:
1. What is your housing like? What are typical housing sizes, locations, and commute times for expatriates?
Housing is generally pretty good, although many singles and couples are stuck in miserable apartments with no outdoor space at all.
2. How would you describe the availability and cost of groceries and household supplies relative to your home country?
Sooo expensive. Everything here is pricey. A Barbie costs $50 (R$90). We go to CEASA(a farmer's market) on Saturdays for beautiful, reasonably-priced produce, but basically buy everything we can through the DPO.
3. What household or grocery items do you wish you had shipped to post?
We brought a trampoline and are happy we did. Anything you bring (especially outdoor furniture, bbq, etc) can be resold for what you paid for it or more.
4. What typical restaurants, food delivery services, and/or takeout options are popular among expatriates?
None. There is a McDonalds, but no such thing as a "drive-thru". A big Mac costs R$15, about $10. This is find with us, as we never went to fast food in the states.
5. What kinds of organic, vegetarian and allergy-friendly foods are available, such as organic produce, gluten-free products, meat substitutes for vegetarians, etc?
Moderate. Most stores have organic sections, but it's pricey. Haven't seen meat substitutes, but a vegetarian could do well here, despite the fact that Brazilians LOVE meat. There are plenty of grains and beans.
6. Are there any unusual problems with insects or other infestations in housing?
Ants, ants, ants. When the dry season switches to the rainy season, there is a plague of insects for several weeks. The occasional massive cockroach.
1. How do you send and receive your letters and package mail? Are local postal facilities adequate?
DPO and pouch
2. What is the availability and cost of household help, and what types of help are typically employed by expatriates?
Maid, about R$85 ($50us) per day, gardener, r$90 (60 us per day. Very available, and we've been lucky with great household help
3. What kinds of gyms or other sports/workout facilities are available? Are they expensive?
4. Are credit cards widely accepted and safe to use locally? Are ATMs common and do you recommend using them? Are they safe to use?
We don't use ATMs, and try to use cash only. Occasionally we use debit cards at certain grocery stores.
5. What English-language religious services are available locally?
6. English-language newspapers and TV available? Cost?
Cable is about what you pay in the us, a little more maybe
7. How much of the local language do you need for daily living? Are local language classes/tutors available and affordable?
No one speaks English. We came with no portuguese, and it has been really hard in every way.
8. Would someone with physical disabilities have difficulties living in this city?
Not many sidewalks, and even hotels have very limited wheelchair access.
1. Are local buses, trams, trains or taxis safe and affordable?
We were advised not to use public transportation by the RSO
2. What kind of car do you recommend bringing to post, given the terrain, availability of parts, burglary/carjacking risks, etc.? What kind of car do you advise not to bring?
We brought a giant SUV, which is great for going out of town with the terrible roads, but miserable for city driving. Parking is very limited and the spaces are tiny.
Phone & Internet:
1. Is high-speed home Internet access available? How long does it typically take to install it after arrival?
In some areas, and it's sporadic. Similar to us prices
2. Do you have any recommendations regarding mobile phones? Did you keep your home-country plan or use a local provider?
1. Are qualified veterinarians and/or good kennel services available? Do animals need to be quarantined upon entry to the country? Are there other considerations regarding pets that are particular to this country?
No, but customs is a nightmare.
2. Quality pet care available (vets & kennels)?
Yes, both vets and kennels
Employment & Volunteer Opportunities:
1. What types of jobs do most expatriate spouses/partners have? Locally based or telecommuting? Full-time or part-time? Can you comment on local salary scales?
Nope, and without portuguese, you're out of luck in the embassy, too. EFM jobs are scarce.
2. What is the typical dress code at work and in public places? Is formal dress ever required?
Work is business attire, public less so, but most Brazilians don't wear shorts, except for the kids. Brazilian women usually wear high heels.
Health & Safety:
1. Are there personal security concerns to be aware of at this post? Please describe.
Robberies, home invasions, credit card theft, although we have never had a problem. We follow the RSO's guidelines and are very careful.
2. Are there any particular health concerns? What is the quality of available medical care? What medical conditions typically require medical evacuation?
It seems okay, we have had limited experience. Dengue, sand fly bites which become infected easily. Lots of mosquitos.
3. What is the air quality like at post (good/moderate/bad)? Are there seasonal air quality issues? Does the air quality have an impact on health?
The air quality is generally pretty good, except for in August/Sept. when it's so dry that fires are easily started and spread.
4. What is the overall climate: is it extremely hot or cold, wet or dry, at any time of year, for example?
Rainy season and dry season. The dry season gets pretty miserable toward the end, when humidity levels can drop to 10%.
Schools & Children:
1. What is the availability of international schools? What has been your general experience with them, if any?
My children attend EAB (American School of Brasilia). We have had a mixed experience with them, largely dependent on the teachers. Some are great, others are terrible. Communication between home and school is sporadic and terrible. That being said, our kids are really happy and have made some wonderful international friends.
2. What accommodations do schools make for special-needs kids?
3. Are preschools available? Day care? Are these expensive? What has been your experience with them, if any? Do the schools provide before- and/or after-school care?
Yes, people seem happy with the preschools here.
4. Are local sports classes and/or activities available for kids?
Soccer, anyone? The American school has a variety of programs as well.
1. What is the relative size of the expatriate community? How would you describe overall morale among expatriates?
Pretty big. Brasilia is where all the embassies of the world for Brazil are located. We've met some wonderful expats here.
2. Morale among expats:
Good, depending on your outlook.
3. What are some typical ways to socialize, either with local people or with other expatriates? Are there groups or clubs that you can recommend?
Lots of BBQs, and home parties
4. Is this a good city for single people? For couples? For families? Why or why not?
Very good for young families. For teenagers, there is not a lot to do here but go to parties, and Brazilians tend to hire bartenders to serve the kids alcohol. There is a LOT of teenaged drinking. I was told that Brazilians at EAB were very clicky, and that seems to be true in the younger grades, but the teenagers seem to all get along. My younger children have made no Brazilian friends, but many international ones.
5. Is this a good city for LGBT expatriates? Why or why not?
I have a few gay friends here who seem pretty happy, but aren't into the club scene, so I can't comment on that.
6. Are there problems with ethnic, race/racial minorities or religious prejudices? Gender equality?
It hasn't been my experience.
7. What have been the highlights of your time in this country? Best trips or experiences?
The weather, meeting new people, travel outside of Brasilia.
8. What are some interesting/fun things to do in the area? Can you recommend any “hidden gems"?
Leave town. Caldas Novas, a hot water resort town about four hours away, Pierenopolis, a quaint town with beautiful waterfalls, and a few other places within driving distance, but Brasilia has very few things to do here.
9. Is this a "shopping post"? Are there interesting handicrafts, artwork, antiques, or other items that people typically buy there?
10. What are the particular advantages of living in this city?
The weather is perfect. Rarely too hot, rarely cold at all. Low 70s to mid 80s usually. In the rainy season, it's more humid, but the rains cool everything down and don't usually last long.
11. Can you save money?
Words of Wisdom:
1. Knowing what you know now, would you still move to this city?
Yes, we love it here, despite not knowing the language yet(language has been the biggest obstacle). Brazilians love children and this is a wonderful family post.
2. If you move here, you can leave behind your:
Warm clothes and big car
3. But don't forget your:
Patience and portuguese. Waiting in line is a national pasttime. Humidifiers and dehumidifiers are a must. There is quite the birthday party circuit for kids, and gifts are expensive. I keep a stocked gift closet from the states.
4. Recommended movies/DVDs related to this city:
5. Do you recommend any books or movies about this city/country for those who are interested in learning more?
6. Do you have any other comments?
Customs here is a nightmare. We did not get our UAB for three months and our HHE for four months. And that is considered average to good.