Brasilia, Brazil Report of what it's like to live there - 08/18/15
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?
5th post: Tunis, Tegucigalpa, Buenos Aires, Cairo and Brasilia
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?
New York City. Haven't gone home in two years, but travel time would be most of a day or all night, depending on connecting flights. It requires at least two flights. The only direct flights from Brasilia to US are to Atlanta and Miami.
3. How long have you lived here?
2 years, with one more to go.
4. What brought you to this city (e.g. diplomatic mission, business, NGO, teaching, retirement, etc.)?
Government direct hire at U.S. Embassy.
Housing, Groceries & Food:
1. What is your housing like? What are typical housing sizes, locations, and commute times for expatriates?
Either houses across the lake, or apartments in the "wings" of the city. We live in Asa Norte, and it's a 25-minute bike ride or a 15 minute car ride to the embassy.
2. How would you describe the availability and cost of groceries and household supplies relative to your home country?
We don't buy anything imported because of the cost. We came with all the basics and just buy spices, fruits, vegetables and meats on the local market. Brazilian food is not expensive, and since we do our shopping at the Saturday markets and cook all our meals. it's cheap for us.
3. What household or grocery items do you wish you had shipped to post?
i prepared well since this is our 5th post, but bring all the liquids you might want or need.
4. What typical restaurants, food delivery services, and/or takeout options are popular among expatriates?
I don't know because we don't eat out, and don't do fast food, except meat on a stick ($1.25 each) or acai (yummy!). We do occasionally go to a by-the-kilo place with food from Minas Gerais ($11 the kilo).
5. Are there any unusual problems with insects or other infestations in housing?
i hear people in Lago Sul complaining of insects and animals, but in our apartment it's tiny ants only. My husband claims to have been bitten by mosquitoes, but in two years i have not had a bite.
1. How do you send and receive your letters and package mail? Are local postal facilities adequate?
Diplomatic pouch takes three weeks, more or less.
2. What is the availability and cost of household help, and what types of help are typically employed by expatriates?
I don't know since we haven't hired anyone, but I see plenty of ads, so lots of choices.
3. What kinds of gyms or other sports/workout facilities are available? Are they expensive?
Tons, all over the city, from tiny to very large, mostly frequented by Brazilians. I don't know the costs because the embassy is like a country club with tennis courts, basketball court, volleyball court and soccer field, a pool, a gym, etc.
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 use credit cards at the super markets. ATM at the embassy only.
5. What English-language religious services are available locally?
6. How much of the local language do you need for daily living? Are local language classes/tutors available and affordable?
A lot! Very few people speak English, so speaking Portuguese is a must if you want to get out and about.
7. Would someone with physical disabilities have difficulties living in this city?
This is a tough city for that. Sidewalks disappear, bike trails are disjointed, public transportation is not very user friendly.
1. Are local buses, trams, trains or taxis safe and affordable?
Taxis are safe but expensive. The local subway is cheap, but is only in one section of the city. Uber started up recently, and I hear people raving about their service. Buses, IMHO, are safe and affordable, but RSO says no. A woman who lives with us uses them daily, and it's a cheap and easy way to get around.
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?
Any car will do, and bikes are handy. Parts for cars are expensive, so bring new tires and spare parts.
Phone & Internet:
1. Is high-speed home Internet access available? How long does it typically take to install it after arrival?
It is available but I'm not sure of the cost.
2. Do you have any recommendations regarding mobile phones? Did you keep your home-country plan or use a local provider?
There are many choices, relatively inexpensive. We have Vivo.
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?
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?
No! The job situation is very frustrating, from what I have heard.
2. What volunteer opportunities are available locally?
3. What is the typical dress code at work and in public places? Is formal dress ever required?
Business casual at work. Brazilians dress nicely, but it's casual in Brasilia when they are out and about.
Health & Safety:
1. Are there personal security concerns to be aware of at this post? Please describe.
We have heard of houses being broken into, and in our apartment areas one hears stories, but I feel no danger. I bike a lot and hear stories of bikes being stolen, but usually that is out in the satellite cities.
2. Are there any particular health concerns? What is the quality of available medical care? What medical conditions typically require medical evacuation?
None that i know of. I have been seen for lots of medical stuff here, and the quality is good for both doctors and imaging work being done.
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?
I find the air quality excellent, but that's comparing it to Cairo.
4. What do people who suffer from environmental or food allergies need to know?
5. What is the overall climate: is it extremely hot or cold, wet or dry, at any time of year, for example?
Beautiful year round. It's either rainy season or not. 70s to 80s temperature, low humidity, brilliant sunshine.
Schools & Children:
1. What is the availability of international schools? What has been your general experience with them, if any?
Our son goes to EAB, and he's not fond of it. He much preferred his Cairo high school. There's a full IB program, but with limited classes. I'm not sure about other schools.
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?
4. Are local sports classes and/or activities available for kids?
Yes, plenty. My son has done varsity volleyball and soccer, but there are many other options.
1. What is the relative size of the expatriate community? How would you describe overall morale among expatriates?
Seems to be big, and morale seems good.
2. What are some typical ways to socialize, either with local people or with other expatriates? Are there groups or clubs that you can recommend?
There are concerts, and lots of parties, but I am not too plugged into that stuff.
3. Is this a good city for single people? For couples? For families? Why or why not?
It depends on what you want to do. There are lots of clubs and restaurants, but I find that most people don't speak much English. So if you can learn Portuguese, there's lots of socializing to do. If you are more of an introvert, like me, there's yoga and meditation, lots of biking groups, running and hiking groups, and lake sports activities.
4. Is this a good city for LGBT expatriates? Why or why not?
I think so. Brazilians are pretty open minded.
5. Are there problems with ethnic, race/racial minorities or religious prejudices? Gender equality?
Living with two people of color, one of whom is Muslim, we haven't noticed any prejudices. But we are foreigners, and Brazilians are generally very friendly with foreigners. Not sure what it is like for the Brazilians. There's a mosque and a synagogue, lots of churches of all kinds, a Buddhist temple, and many spiritual places.
6. What have been the highlights of your time in this country? Best trips or experiences?
Outdoor activities. We hike, bike, swim, dance, and do yoga. After living six years in the Muslim world, I love being outdoors and having no one paying attention to what I'm wearing.
7. What are some interesting/fun things to do in the area? Can you recommend any “hidden gems"?
We love going to Pirenopolis and to other areas in the Cerrado. Lots of water falls, camping, hiking, mountain biking (ok, technically, hill biking).
8. Is this a "shopping post"? Are there interesting handicrafts, artwork, antiques, or other items that people typically buy there?
9. What are the particular advantages of living in this city?
The weather, saving money, the outdoors, the weather...did I mention the weather?
10. Can you save money?
Absolutely, if you shop at CEASA and cook your own food, don't eat out, and don't buy anything imported.
Words of Wisdom:
1. What do you wish you had known about this particular city/country before moving there?
2. Knowing what you know now, would you still move to this city?
3. If you move here, you can leave behind your:
4. But don't forget your:
umbrella, rain gear, bike, and roller blades.
5. Recommended movies/DVDs related to this city:
6. Do you recommend any books or movies about this city/country for those who are interested in learning more?
7. Do you have any other comments?
The spousal employment situation is very very bad, and there are a lot of discontented people on that account. My husband dealt with it by becoming an avid golfer, but it's VERY frustrating for many.