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Sunday, March 24, 2013

The REAL Scoop On Brazil | No Punches Pulled

Read This Only If You Want The REAL Scoop On Brazil That You WON’T Find Anywhere Else!

Now that I've gotten your attention...

Below is advice from one dude to another.

I haven’t made any posts on this site for a while.  I’ve been pretty busy lately, traveling and living offline.  I needed to write this post though as I receive a ton of mail from different people asking a lot of similar questions.

 (if you want to hear this from a female's perspective check out my wife's post on her blog here)

First off, I just want to thank all the people who follow this blog as well as the new readers and even the folks who just found this site while looking for pictures of Brazilian women or some other Brazil-related topic.

Now that I have gotten that out of the way, the reason I wrote this post is to answer questions for anyone looking to move to Brazil (or any other 3rd world country overseas).

Every week I receive emails from people who are intrigued by the possibility of living overseas, in particular in Brazil.  I’m cool with that as I can relate and understand where everyone is coming from.

To be honest after so many years of receiving these types of emails I am no longer motivated to answer this type of question over and over again so I am writing this post.  From now on I can refer people who are asking about moving to Brazil here and also to help people looking up this type of info online.

One of the MAJOR traits shared by 90% of the people who contact me about moving to Brazil is that the person has NEVER visited the country before.  Some of the people have traveled outside of their country of birth but many have not done so before.

Here’s my advice.

If you are considering moving to a country such as Brazil you need to do a couple of things if you are serious.  You absolutely need to physically visit the country.  I cannot tell you if you will like living here and neither can anyone else.  Brazil is very different from countries like the USA in multiple different aspects.


The first thing you absolutely need to do is get a passport and more than likely, a visa as well.  You will need to find the Brazilian Consulate closest to you if you are required to get a visa.  Once you do that, you have taken the biggest steps towards visiting the country.

nice Jamaica
Even visiting can be misleading if you only stay for 4 days to a week because more than likely you will be in a hotel or resort-type setting.  There’s nothing wrong with this, it’s just that this can skew your viewpoint of permanently living in Brazil.  I’ll use an example of what I mean to better illustrate.  Say you visit Jamaica and stay at a nice resort.  Everything is clean, high quality, and fairly modern.  You might be staying right next to the beach, with a wonderful view and sparkling clean water.

not so nice Jamaica
This visit to Jamaica may have you wanting to leave behind everything you know and high tail it to Jamaica.  Reality Check.  Unless you are making a lot of money you cannot afford to live full-time in a resort like your vacation spot.  You will find that most of the island is not as high quality and up-to-date as the resort either.  Crime and pollution are clear and present realities in the everyday life of the island residents in place of the calm and pristine state of the vacation resort.

In addition to this, even if you could afford to live in an area similar to the vacation resort there are certain inconveniences that you cannot escape.  Groceries, electronics, and quality products such as clothing are very expensive compared to a place such as the United States.  You may come to have an issue with how slowly things move compared to what you are used to.

With a country such as Jamaica for example you have to be completely real and honest about WHY you want to leave a country that most Jamaicans would pay to be able to live in permanently.  It wouldn’t make since for you to leave the US for Jamaica considering there are more Jamaicans living in the US than on the island!  The same goes for Puerto Rico as well.  If the homeland was so wonderful why are the residents leaving in droves and not returning?

Jamaica is actually trying to figure out what it can do to keep from losing so many of its citizens to the US and Britain (check the article).  Right now the island has nothing to entice its people to come back home.  Mexico may not have more Mexicans living abroad in the US versus within its borders but there are so many Mexicans who would risk life and limb to come to the US that it would make no sense at all for a US citizen to seriously consider moving there.

You have to pay attention to the trends.  The people leaving their homelands for the US in droves are not stupid.  They are heading to the US for a higher quality of living.  Even though Brazil is on the rise it still has far more in common with these countries than it does with the US.  From an infrastructure standpoint Brazil is possibly a century or more behind the US.

If you permanently moved overseas you will find that things also are nowhere near as convenient as they were back home.  All types of things that you used to take for granted will now be seen as commodities that are harder to come by.  One prime example of this that you will encounter in Brazil is that the houses are not built as sturdy.  If you thought contractors cut corners when building houses in the US you haven’t seen anything yet!  You have to be careful with things such as plugging in your high end devices to the electric sockets because the wiring is more than likely not very good and could blow out your device.  You also have to keep in mind that the extreme poverty of the majority of the local population will cause many to see you as a walking ATM machine.

That was just an example but it can be applied to many destinations that people want to expatriate to in Central and South America.  The grass is not always greener on the other side.

This is why it is very important to visit Brazil and be honest with yourself about what you are and are not willing to compromise on.


Everyone does not always agree or see eye to eye in the United States but the government is for the most part stable.  Brazil just got over a 20 year military dictatorship in the late 80s.  Brazilians who opposed the leadership in any way were murdered, tortured (including current president Dilma Rousseff), and deported.

The aftermath of this era has created a large percentage of the population that is still not inclined to speak out against corruption on a local and national level.  Brazil is a democracy now, but the switch over is still recent enough to be in the memory of current citizens.

You have to keep in mind that if you actually live in Brazil, versus just visiting there are many factors that lesson the quality of life.  I do not want it to come off as if I am bashing Brazil.  I actually like Brazil, know many people who live there, and have lived there myself.  It’s a great country with its own positives and drawbacks just like everywhere else.

There are multiple reasons why the United States always has millions of people attempting to gain residency.  Brazil does not have a list of millions of people waiting to immigrate there.  The quality of life in the USA is way higher than in Brazil.  For every person who is serious about leaving the USA there are literally hundreds of thousands, if not millions of people coming from nations such as Brazil who would give anything to be able to live in the USA permanently.

 There is a huge amount of the population of Brazil living in abject poverty unlike anything experienced in the United States.  When you visit a large city such as Salvador or Rio in Brazil you will see lots of high rise condominiums as well as slums (called favelas).  This shows the stark contrast between the rich and poor.   What most people do not realize is that the vast majority of the population lives in poverty.  There are literally seas of favelas on the outskirts of Salvador such as Cajazeiras that most visitors have never seen.  These slums are so large that they encompass everything as far as the eye can see.  This is where the majority of the population lives.



In many ways traveling to Brazil from the USA is kind of like going back in time to what I imagine the 1920s - 1950s would have been like.  I mean this in good ways and also in not so great ways.  On the bright side, family is still important in Brazil.  Relationships, whether friendly or platonic, are highly valued.  The older population is very well-respected and relevant, unlike the USA when many elders are pushed to the background and sent to nursing homes.  People still use donkeys and horses in the middle of the city to haul all types of things.  I have seen men on horseback in the middle of the street while people drove by during traffic.

One more thing I love about Brazil.
If you trip and fall or drop something and some teenagers are around...

In Brazil they will more than likely help you.
In the USA more than likely they will laugh at you.

Don't get me wrong.  They aren't innocent.  They are still teenagers but it's not common for people to be cold and mean-spirited in Brazil.

People are for the most part kinder. Not everyone but enough people on average that its officially part of the culture. In the same way that Brazilians are more family oriented and children are cherished.

The culture of the state of Bahia is so dynamic and vibrant.  People all over the world are amazed at the rich Afro Brazilian art, music, and cuisine that is similar to various aspects of African culture but at the same time unlike anything else in the world.  Salvador is the mecca for Capoeira and Candomble.  This site is filled with information showing you these wonderful aspects of Bahian culture.

Brazilian society overall still hasn’t fallen as far as the USA.  People still care about their neighbor to an extent and have morals.  They do not have a problem with school shootings.  Obesity, however, is a new phenomenon there (we can thank capitalism for that).  Genetically modified foods haven’t completely taken over the supermarkets although I have noticed more modified foods creeping in every year.

Life in general is simpler in Brazil.

However on the not-so-bright side racial relations remind me of pre-Civil Rights Movement USA.  In some ways traveling to Brazil from the US is like the scene in the movie Men In Black 3 where Will Smith’s Agent J character is about to go back in time to the 60s.  The guy helping him time jump warns him that as a black man traveling in that time period, “It wasn’t the best time for your people.”

Where do I begin?  In the state of Bahia, the region with the highest percentage of Brazilians of African heritage it is very rare to find a black person with a significant position of power or prestige.  Take the banks for example.  There are virtually no black people working any positions besides the armed guards and the clean-up crews.  You may find a few light-skinned bank tellers but even that is rare (like a teller is a prestigious position, lol).                           

You can forget about any black mayors, governors, or senators.  Not in Brazil.  There are some black business owners and a few others who have managed to obtain high positions however they are the exception.  Brazil definitely has a lot of work to do in this regard.

With that said as an African American, I never experienced any racism aimed at myself in particular.  There are two things that skew my perspective though.  I am light-skinned.  While that doesn’t make any difference in the USA, it does make a huge difference in how one is perceived in Brazil. 

I didn't experience any racism directly however check this out.  One day two of my friends from America came to visit me.  I was living in a condominium with security at the front door.  The guards never let anyone in without calling my condo first.  So basically my friends were downstairs telling the doorman in Portuguese that they were there to visit me.  He didn't believe them.  One of them had to call me on his cell phone to let me know they were downstairs.

The doorman didn't even call me to tell me that someone was downstairs so that I could at least come and see who it was.  Oh yeah they were both darker complexioned than me and had dreadlocks.  I guess he took one look at them and just knew they were up to something, lol.  They knew my name, spoke English, and everything but he didn't even let me know they were downstairs because they were too black. (Shout out Joe and Amar!)  Another funny thing is, the doorman was black!

So the complexion of my skin did have an impact on my experience in Brazil.  My being American also had a huge impact on how people viewed and treated me in Brazil.  Americans are perceived of as being rich.   Race does not matter as much if you are American, or from another rich country like the UK.

I empathize with the plight facing black Brazilians.  It would be nice to see more parity in administrative positions, especially in places like Bahia that are overwhelmingly black.  The TV shows in my opinion do not accurately reflect the population either.  The majority of the TV stars, especially the novellas are white, with the only black actors in servant roles.  The only TV shows and movies I saw that featured black actors who weren’t servants or famous singers were American shows dubbed in Portuguese.  If it wasn’t for TV shows like Everybody Hates Chris or My Wife and Kids there would not be any shows in Brazil featuring a black family in a positive light.

There is a huge underclass in Brazil as well.  Brazil started out as a monarchy when the prince of Portugal decided to split from Portugal set up his own kingdom.  It is in many ways still similar to a medieval monarchy with the vast majority of the people living in peasant-like conditions.

In the major cities such as Rio de Janeiro these conditions are like a pressure cooker about to explode.  The police and military are regularly at war with the drug lords who control the favelas.  The crazy part is that in many cases the favelas are right next to million dollar condo buildings.

Do not take the crime factor for granted!  Seriously, I had three neighbors get robbed at gunpoint leaving the condominium.  It's ridiculous.  There was a poor neighborhood called Inferninho, "Little Inferno" or "Little Hell" right next to the nice buildings.  It's not a joke.  You have to watch yourself.

Hopefully for Brazil’s future the money being spent to clean up the country in advance of the Olympics and World Cup actually goes towards improving the lives of the majority of its citizens.

I do not think the governing officials have grasped the concept of how big an impact maintaining a huge underclass does to hold back the progress of the entire nation.  You cannot keep the vast majority of people living in abject poverty and lacking in education and expect to lead the world into the future.

With all the things stated, Brazil still has an allure that causes some people to forgo the luxuries of living in countries such as the US and embrace the laid back, tropical culture of this exciting nation. 

Personally my experienced was really soured by the public relations disaster that occurred last year when a fraction of the police force in Salvador decided to go on strike during Carnival.  I’ll share a rundown on what happened from the experience of someone who was at ground zero – me.

In a nutshell this is what went down…

A few weeks before Carnival in 2012 there was talk that the military police in Brazil would go on strike.  Strikes occur every year in Brazil pretty much across the board.  Everyone from the banks, public transportation, to the school teachers go on strike on a yearly basis.  This is basically how the workers get their wages increased.  For everyone else it can be annoying as the busses may be down or on limited service for a few days or even a week.  The schools close down and banks are not open so anything that you can’t accomplish at the ATM will not get done.  There is basically nothing you can do about it when they occur.

Now, back to the police strike.  Brazil has three main police forces that make up a hierarchy.  The military police patrol the streets and deal with the riff raff on a daily basis.  They are the lowest paid and make up the bottom of the pyramid.  The civil police investigate crimes.  Basically they are the detectives and form the 2nd tier of the power structure.  The federal police handle national crimes such as trafficking and smuggling and are the top paid division on average.

The military police are paid so low on average that many of them live in poor neighborhoods.  Seriously, I don’t understand why the government doesn’t pay them better.  A faction of the military police wanted to go on strike for better wages.  Their commanding officers informed them that they were not in a good position to go on strike.

I believe the reasoning behind their leaders decision was that a strike would be illegal or maybe they were wise enough to know that going on strike during Carnival would make Brazil look bad to the world.  Either way, this faction did not take heed to their commanding officers and organized one of the dumbest strikes in history.

They did this a few days before Carnival was set to start.  Maybe the masterminds behind the strike thought this would panic Bahia’s governor but it did not work.  Basically nothing happened.  The state government ignored their demands and business carried on as usual.  The strike in essence was not a well-thought out idea.  The strikers only comprised 20 percent of Bahia’s 31,000 state police force.

While thousands of striking officers decided to stay off the street there were still well over 20,000 active police officers in Bahia who were not on strike.  There was no increase in crime.  This is when things started to get really stupid and scary.  The leaders behind the strike began to cross the line into criminal territory.

The striking police officers started committing crimes to strike fear into the hearts of the people.  They literally robbed and killed people.  They donned masks and organized the local stick-up kids to carry out their dirty work.  Officers with hoods on their heads roamed the streets armed and pulled over buses to threaten the people inside.  The entire state of Bahia was on lock down as it became very dangerous to leave the house.


 It got so bad that the governor called in the military to help restore order and also to arrest the striking police.  The military presence did make things safer because more people were able to leave the house and carry out their daily duties without a fear of being robbed or killed.  The presence of soldiers armed to the teeth with assault rifles on the street and patrolling the beach was also very intimidating.  It made Brazil look like an unstable war zone.
maybe it's just me but armed soldiers makes me want to stay away from the beach

Basically it sucked.

The leaders behind the strike had barricaded themselves in a public building for days.  They held out during Carnival and had to be apprehended by the military for the strike to officially end.  The situation was very tense and messy for Brazil as officers in other states were considering carrying out similar strikes.  Brazil could have easily been in a state of turmoil.

This event put a black eye on the image of Brazil right on the heels of the government sending troops and tanks into the favelas of Rio to exterminate the drug lords and crime rings in the previous year.  Most tourists decided to stay home or party elsewhere for Carnival 2012.  I can only imagine how much money Salvador lost because of that event.

This police strike was messed up on so many levels.  The strikers killed and robbed people, but worst of all they extorted the people of the state of Bahia.  They played off of the ignorance of the general public and created a state of fear in order to get what they wanted.  The bad part is that this is very easy to do in Brazil.
I don’t know about Britain but in the US people have the right to own as many guns as they want.  Brazilians have no constitutional right to bear arms.  The police would not be able to extort the people like that in the US (not that they would be stupid enough to try).  Americans don’t like being pushed around either.

Don't just take my word for it...Click the jump.

So why did I share this story?

 Because Brazil is more than just beautiful people, beaches, Carnival, samba, and booty (threw that in to see if you were paying attention, lol).  Brazil is a very complex nation, just like everywhere else, with its own advantages and drawbacks.  It is very easy to fall in love with the place, especially if you are just visiting.

Most people that move to Brazil find themselves constantly setting back the threshold of what they are willing to tolerate in order to keep up the idea that they can live and thrive in this perplexing nation.  People who move to Brazil say things like I can go without hot water coming out of the faucet” or the dog shit and trash everywhere doesn’t even phase me”.  Oh yeah, I almost forgot, "I don't mind not being able to drink the water".

One can only pretend for so long though.  There’s absolutely nothing wrong with wanting to live somewhere where life is more convenient and the quality of living is higher.  The water thing is serious though.  I mean just because you are drinking bottled water doesn't negate the fact that you are still cooking and bathing in the unclean water coming out of the faucets.  It's still soaking into your skin pores.

Most people I know talk like that while they are in Brazil and then as soon as they get back home they realize how much they took everything for granted.  On the other hand, some people just complain about everything while they are in Brazil (which makes no sense, why don’t they just leave?)




Between the USA and Brazil there is absolutely no comparison between the quality of life.  Right now at this very moment there are millions of people in the world who would marry you (if you are a US citizen) in a heartbeat so they can obtain the right to stay in the US legally.

If you have plans on investing in Brazil, just want to travel and explore, or even if you are after the beautiful women don’t let this article deter you.  Definitely go for it but do it with your eyes wide open.  I’m not on the payroll for the department of tourism so you can rest assured I’m just keeping it real.

If you are seriously considering purchasing property or any other business venture in Brazil get some consulting beforehand whether its someone you can trust or someone you hire (contact me).  You don’t want to get taken advantage of.  Unfortunately, no matter what some people in Brazil will always see the gringo (YOU) as an ATM with deep pockets.  You definitely need someone looking out for you if you plan on circulating any serious money in Brazil.

Keep this in mind, right now real estate prices are rising in Brazil, in some cases like Rio and Sao Paulo the rates are ridiculous.  Financially well-off Brazilians are buying up real estate in the US, especially in Florida because they feel it is more stable than the rising condominiums and homes in their country.  Prices are rising at an outrageous pace because of greed fueled by the anticipation of foreign investment in lieu of the coming Olympics and the World Cup.

You don’t want any piece of this housing bubble when it bursts.

If you come to Brazil in search of beautiful women do your thing but here is a piece of advice.  How do I say this?  If you choose to wife one up, DO NOT BRING HER TO THE UNITED STATES!  It’s not a good idea.  Chances are that she will become Americanized which would completely ruin the point of marrying a Brazilian women in the first place.  Trust me, you don't want her to copy American women.  Brazilian men pretty much have it made.  Once she gets a taste of how American women are living you will have to replace her.

There is also the possibility that she is secretly plotting on marrying you so that she can attain the highly valued green card.  LISTEN!  If you are planning on returning back to the States together she may be planning her escape from your ass once y'all touch down.
don't do it!

Seriously, don’t delude yourself in any way.

Keep your eyes wide open when you are dealing with Brazil and you can have a great experience!

Brazil is a great place to visit but overall it is a work in progress.  There is a lot of work that needs to be done.  It is going to take a while and some serious commitment to cleaning things up.  Of course there is also the argument that nothing in Brazil needs to change.

That is a valid point as Brazil is already perfect as it is in its own little way.

Peace out,
Feel free to comment below

 (if you want to hear this from a female's perspective check out my wife's post on her blog here)

7 comments:

  1. Hey Sharif - nice article. I just wanted to challenge your interpretation of the motive why people emigrate to the US from poorer countries. Taking Mexico as an example, most Mexican migrant workers aren't in search for a "better life" as much as they are for better financial opportunities. In other words, if they could make enough money to sustain their families in their hometown, they would most likely stay, since most people don't like to leave their homes, especially not for a place like America where they know would face strong discrimination and cultural exclusion. That being said, Mexico has a fairly large and fast-growing middle class of people who remain comfortably in Mexico with neither the need nor desire to leave the country. So if an American or other foreigner were looking to move to Mexico, he shouldn't look at what the migrant workers are doing to assess what his quality of life would be; he should look at what the people with financial means similar to his own are doing. The same goes for any other country. As it turns out, Mexico has one of the largest expat populations in the world due to the high quality of life/cost of living ratio in certain areas.

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  2. Peace Ness, Preciate it. I hear where you are coming from. Yeah a lot of Mexicans who immigrate to the US may not really feel like life in the US is better. However there are also many who leave for better financial opportunities and find that the infrastructure in the US is far superior. They can drink the water out of the faucet without getting sick, for example. That's just one example but there are multiple things that work better such as the sewage system, electricity and the housing is better constructed in the States. We tend to overlook these things and take them for granted because we have the privilege of looking to other places with the perspective of wanting to get out and see the world. You may not think having easy access to relatively clean water is a big deal (you might drink bottled or filtered water)however it is just one of many factors that make the quality of living index higher in the US. People who come from less developed nations do not have the same viewpoint that we may have. Expats who can afford a nice lifestyle in Mexico can enjoy themselves however the vast majority of the Mexican population is living at or below the poverty level. I have children and for me it was not worth paying to put them in the private schools (which were far superior to Brazilian public schools) at all. The private schools we saw were charging over $400 per month per child, not including books, etc and the schools did not have anywhere near as many resources as most decent public schools in America. I mean when we were touring the facilities they are showing us a couple of computers like it was something special (which it probably was for them) however we were not impressed. I educate my children at home but I can't play around with their future like that sending them to a school that I know is not the best option. I wouldn't even feel right paying to send my children to a school when I know they can get a superior education FOR FREE. Someone coming to the US for better opportunities cannot possibly have the same perspective as we may have when we travel.

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  3. Hi Sharif, Loved the way you started the article & appreciated your experience of living in Brazil. I agree with maybe 70% of topics you touched on, but I think that someone serious about living in any country needs to be serious & smart from the onset. After living here in Rio for 7 years I would actually recommend living in Brasil even after coming here after I put living in the states on hold when 911 happened. It depends on what you find valuable in life. Its not easy, but I know many brazilians also who wouldn't trade it, especially if they could obtain the financial dream here in Brazil. It is a huge country & therefore you could possibly have 1 million different experiences & another million conversations about the future of this country. One thing it does have is an energy that many countries lost in the developing & processing stage. .Overall It makes a change reading the blog of a male who has been there & done it , & comes from an educated & grown perspective. Please also take a look at our project we started www.afronegocios.com to see what we are starting to do to make a difference within the black population. At the moment portuguese only,but we aim in the next few months to develop English content. As you speak the language it won't be a problem for you but For anyone else interested google translate the site.

    ReplyDelete
  4. Peace Nicky,
    Preciate the comments. I hear you and I would recommend Brazil to someone who has there stuff together and maybe has experience traveling. There are definitely opportunities and like I mentioned in this post there are various things about this exciting country that can really make it grow on you.

    The majority of people who contact me have no idea what they are getting into as far as Brazil is concerned. 95% of the material on this site is mentioning different positive aspects of Brazil with a focus on Bahia. I wanted to present a balanced approach that discussed some of the good and not so wonderful things that make this place so unique.

    Thanks for sharing your link, I'm digging the site. I just liked y'all on Facebook.

    ReplyDelete
  5. One more thing I love about Brazil.
    If you trip and fall or drop something and some teenagers are around...
    In Brazil they will more than likely help you.
    In the USA more than likely they will laugh at you.

    People are for the most part kinder. Not everyone but enough people on average that its officially part of the culture. In the same way that Brazilians are more family oriented and children are cherished.

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  6. Peace, and thank you for writing such an important and in depth article! Brazil is home to the largest Black population outside of Africa, and so in bringing up the issues of race and poverty in the country, you have given those of us who seek to help our people across the diaspora context. I have always heard nothing but good things about Brazil and intended on moving there at some point. Whilte your article hasnt disuaded me, its definitely injected a dose of realism in what I thought was complete paradise. Nevertheless, Im still going!

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    Replies
    1. Peace and Thanks for sharing. You got the main point of this article. I don't want to show Brazil through rose-colored glasses. It's not all bad or good, it is what it is.

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