Brasilia, Brazil Report of what it's like to live there - 05/08/17
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?
I have lived abroad before in Heidelberg, Germany and Vienna, Austria as a student.
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?
West Virginia, USA. The trip takes about 13-20 hours, depending on connections. The main flights out of Brasilia go to Miami, but often you are routed through Sao Paulo first.
3. How long have you lived here?
4. What brought you to this city (e.g. diplomatic mission, business, NGO, teaching, retirement, etc.)?
Housing, Groceries & Food:
1. What is your housing like? What are typical housing sizes, locations, and commute times for expatriates?
We have a very spacious apartment (5 bedrooms/5 bath) in Asa Sul. We are located very centrally and have a 5-7 minute commute to the embassy with our car. Most families live in either Asa Norte, Asa Sul or in Lago Sul. The apartments in the Asas are very large, some even split level with balconies, BBQ areas, and small rooftop pools. The houses in Lago Sul are very nice and generally have large yards and pools.
2. How would you describe the availability and cost of groceries and household supplies relative to your home country?
It depends on where you buy your groceries. Carrefour and PÃ£o de AÃ§ucar are larger chain grocery stores and they tend to be a bit cheaper than Oba. But when buying meat, I generally always go to Oba because the quality is better. The cost of groceries is comparable to the States; I would even say it is cheaper here. You can also buy fresh produce from the farmer's market at Ceasa every Saturday morning and save a great deal of money. Their products are very good quality and very cheap.
3. What household or grocery items do you wish you had shipped to post?
Paper and plastic products such as garbage bags, Ziploc bags, aluminum foil, Saran wrap and Tupperware containers. They are very poor quality here. We also order all of our diapers and wipes from the States through Amazon.
4. What typical restaurants, food delivery services, and/or takeout options are popular among expatriates?
Brasilia isn't exactly known for its culinary scene, but there are some good places in town to eat. For upscale restaurants specializing in steak, I would suggest, El Negro, Corrientes 348 or Rubaiyat. For brunch: Dylan's is popular (owned by a couple who spent many years in Australia), Ernesto's and Daniel Briand. For Italian food, we can recommend Cantina Da Massa and for sushi I'd say New Koto is the favorite pick among expats. Finally, Pauliceia is hands down the best place for churrasco.
5. Are there any unusual problems with insects or other infestations in housing?
Again, one needs to be cautious of mosquitoes. Other than that, we have had few infestations aside from moths and small ants.
1. How do you send and receive your letters and package mail? Are local postal facilities adequate?
We do this through the embassy.
2. What is the availability and cost of household help, and what types of help are typically employed by expatriates?
We pay our "diarista" (cleaning lady who comes 1 day/week) 175 Reais each day, which is a bit more than average. Other families with children often hire
For families living in Lago Sul, it is typical to hire a gardener, as well.
3. What kinds of gyms or other sports/workout facilities are available? Are they expensive?
We tend to use the facilities at the embassy. On Sundays and holidays, the main highway in the city is closed to traffic and many people enjoy exercising there (e.g. biking, inline skating, running, 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?
Yes, credit cards are used most everywhere; restaurants, grocery stores, etc. sometimes are low on change. We tend to use the ATM at the embassy, so we have little experience using them elsewhere in the city.
5. What English-language religious services are available locally?
I am not familiar with the English-language services available; we attend mass at Dom Bosco.
6. How much of the local language do you need for daily living? Are local language classes/tutors available and affordable?
One should have a basic working knowledge of Portuguese. While most expats speak English, you will be hard pressed to find vendors, wait staff or store clerks who speak English. There are several classes and tutors available. Tutors run about 80 or 90 Reais/hour.
7. Would someone with physical disabilities have difficulties living in this city?
The city would not be easy to navigate in a wheelchair due to the poor quality of side walks.
1. Are local buses, trams, trains or taxis safe and affordable?
We typically use Uber and have found it a safe and affordable mode of transportation.
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 have two cars at post: a Mini Cooper, which is great for the city (esp. in navigating the tiny parking lots) and an SUV. The SUV has been the perfect vehicle when we took trips outside of the city and the roads are mainly dirt. We have not had issues with carjacking, but we do have a private parking garage in our apartment that has a security guard.
Phone & Internet:
1. Is high-speed home Internet access available? How long does it typically take to install it after arrival?
Yes, it is. It did not take excessively long to install after arrival.
2. Do you have any recommendations regarding mobile phones? Did you keep your home-country plan or use a local provider?
We used a local provider, Vivo. In general, it was rather complicated and involved to get a cell phone account set up here.
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?
We don't have pets.
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?
It is very difficult for spouses to work here due to language barriers. That being said, several have found employment in education or at the embassy. One can expect to earn 2-3 times less than on the US economy.
2. What volunteer opportunities are available locally?
There are several opportunities, such as teaching and volunteering at a woman's shelter.
3. What is the typical dress code at work and in public places? Is formal dress ever required?
Brazilians tend to dress up for daily life--women in dresses and heels, men in suits or at least dress shirt and pants. Formal dress is necessary for certain embassy events. Otherwise, I find the attire similar to urban attire in the States.
Health & Safety:
1. Are there personal security concerns to be aware of at this post? Please describe.
Nothing beyond the general caution you should exercise in any city. Petty crimes do occur, of course. In all honesty, driving here poses perhaps the largest threat to personal security. Accidents are extremely common and you have to drive very defensively.
2. Are there any particular health concerns? What is the quality of available medical care? What medical conditions typically require medical evacuation?
The quality of medical care is very good in Brasilia. I gave birth here and was very pleased with the care I received. We have a local pediatrician and have also seen various specialists and have been very happy with their care, as well. Some women do choose to medically evacuate to give birth back home and there was a concern about Zika, of course.
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 quite good. There is a dry and a wet season in Brasilia. I would say that the dry season has a stronger impact on health--you have to be careful to drink enough water, use humidifiers at home, etc.
4. Are there any particular mental health issues that tend to crop up at post, such as Seasonal Affective Disorder (winter blues)?
Nope, not that I know of. The weather here is gorgeous!
5. What is the overall climate: is it extremely hot or cold, wet or dry, at any time of year, for example?
The wet seasons runs generally from October to April and the dry season from May until September. The temperature never really dips below 60 degrees. The dry season averages mid-70s during the day and 60s at night. The wet season is a bit hotter. The climate here is extremely pleasant.
Schools & Children:
1. What is the availability of international schools? What has been your general experience with them, if any?
2. 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, there are many to choose from. Our son attends daycare half day (Parque Encantado in Lago Sul). We are extremely pleased with it. Daycare is very affordable here in comparison to the U.S.
3. Are local sports classes and/or activities available for kids?
Orange Tree Studio offers lovely art classes for children. Beyond this, I don't know since we have a toddler.
1. What is the relative size of the expatriate community? How would you describe overall morale among expatriates?
The size of the expat community is rather large, since this is the national capital. I would say the morale is rather good for families with children; less so among singles or young couples looking for more exciting nightlife. Sometimes people complain about the lack of activities in Brasilia and the general strangeness of the city--but I truly think it is what you make of it. We have had a very positive experience here.
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 is an expat group called Brasilia Connection that meets monthly. There is a Living Brasilia Forum on Facebook that can connect you with a lot of expats, as well.
3. Is this a good city for single people? For couples? For families? Why or why not?
As mentioned above, the city is best for families. It is relative safe and Brazil is extremely child-friendly. It is not a very exciting city for single people.
4. Is this a good city for LGBT expatriates? Why or why not?
Though I cannot speak from a personal perspective, I have several gay friends who seem very happy here in Brasilia. The city is very accepting of LGBTQs and there are also a few gay bars in the city. I get the impression it is a rather gay-friendly place.
5. Are there problems with ethnic, race/racial minorities or religious prejudices? Gender equality?
Not that I am aware of. Brazil still has a rather male-dominated culture though.
6. What have been the highlights of your time in this country? Best trips or experiences?
We love traveling to Chapada dos Veadeiros, north of the city. We have spent a great deal of time exploring, hiking, and swimming in waterfalls there. We also have enjoyed traveling to Pirenopolis.
7. What are some interesting/fun things to do in the area? Can you recommend any “hidden gems"?
Vagafogo is a "pousada" right outside of Pirenopolis. They have an amazing brunch on Sundays; all of their food is entirely homemade and harvested on their farm. Their whole property is a nature reserve and you can also take a nice leisurely walk through the forest and dip in the river.
8. Is this a "shopping post"? Are there interesting handicrafts, artwork, antiques, or other items that people typically buy there?
No, not really. Once or twice a year there are artisan fairs (international and local) where you can do decent shopping.
9. What are the particular advantages of living in this city?
Lack of major traffic, climate, child-friendly environment, cost of living.
Words of Wisdom:
1. What do you wish you had known about this particular city/country before moving there?
Brazilian bureaucracy is a nightmare to navigate. Offices also tend to be rather inefficient and often get things wrong (e.g. on receipts). Always double-check everything.
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:
Swim suits, hiking boots, bikes--outdoor gear in general!
5. Do you recommend any books or movies about this city/country for those who are interested in learning more?
"The Accidental President of Brazil" by Cardoso.