Costa Rica Blog

Brazil - Expats and Americans Living and Retiring Abroad

Posted by Steve Linder on Fri, May, 27, 2011


Continuing in my series of comparing other countries to Costa Rica in terms of a destination for North Americans living in Costa Rica or elsewhere, let's take a look at Brazil today.

map of BrazilSome of the most iconic, exciting places in South America can be found in Brazil.  From the beaches of Rio de Jainero to the jungles of the Amazon to cosmopolitan Sao Paulo, the largest city in the Southern Hemisphere and seventh largest metropolitan center in the world, it’s an incredibly diverse country.

Its major cities are also known for having incredibly diverse populations.  SaoPaulo, for example, has the largest population of Japanese people outside of Japan.  Expats have been attracted to Brazil’s beauty and bustling culture for decades, and as a result many of the larger cities have expat populations that are so extensive you could live there for years and live an active social life without really getting to know any locals.  But that would be a shame, because Brazilians are known for being warm, sociable and friendly.  Learning Portuguese is essential to getting by in Brazil, however.  If you can speak Spanish you’ll be almost halfway there, because the two languages are similar, but don’t expect Brazilians to understand you if you talk to them in Spanish, because the pronunciation in particular is quite different.

Brazil beachThe wide variety of cultures in places like Rio and Sao Paulo means that are all kinds of cuisine and culture available, and the home of Carnival is also known for its energetic nightlife.  Rio will host the Olympics in 2016 and Brazil has a very robust economy.  Some of the smaller towns may not be as culturally vibrant but their beaches are bound to be less busy and polluted.  Depending on what kind of lifestyle you’re looking for, a smaller town with fewer foreigners may be more your speed.  Recently Forteleza has had broad appeal to the expat market.  Forteleza will host the World Cup Soccer tournament in a few years and there is a flurry of demand there as a result. 

And speaking of speed, Brazil isn’t renowned for being a country where things get done quickly.  Like most Latin American countries, the culture is more laid back and easy going than in the United States, and the government bureaucracy is notoriously slow – for example, it can take up to a year to receive a work permit after applying for one.  Foreigners in general will find securing employment may be difficult in Brazil, where unemployment is high and the cost of living relatively expensive compared with other Latin American countries.  There are also some cumbersome requirements necessary for foreigners who want to own property in Brazil.

Brazil has the greatest disparity of wealth in the world, with the richest 10% of the population receiving 50% of its income and the poorest 10% receiving only about 1%.  As a result, the cities are home to both skyscrapers many shantytowns, known as favelas, and crime is a problem.  However, in a country as large and diverse as Brazil, there are plenty of places which are safe.

Country Overview

Brazil is about the same size as the mainland United States, and is the largest country in South America. It contains 60% of the famous Amazon Rainforest and has one of the world's most extensive system of rivers.  Its terrain is diverse and includes hills, plains and moutains.  Because it is a large country, the climate conditions vary across Brazil, but for the most part the weather is tropical.  Northern Brazil lies in an equatorial zone and sees frequent rainfall, while central Brazil has more of a savanna climate and rainfall is seasonal.  Brazils economy is very healthy and it is expected to become one of the strongest economies in the world in the next few years.

Facts and Figures

Brazil’s population was 196,342,592 in 2008 and is estimated to be 209,401,000 by 2015.  Most people speak Portuguese, which is the official language.

In terms of crime, the rate of intentional homicides is 22 per 100,000 people. 

Political Instability Index (out of ten): 5.4

Quality of Life ranking (out of ten): 6.47


In terms of currency, one US dollar is roughly equal to 2.18 reals. 

Price of a round-trip flight to Sao Paulo:

From New York: $1138 (Expedia), $1,332  (American Airlines)

From Los Angeles: $1,148  (Expedia), $1,362  (American Airlines)

From Miami: $874  (Expedia), $1,550  (American Airlines)

Price to rent an economy car for 10 days in Sao Paulo: $334.40

Median price for an apartment in Sao Paulo’s city center: $2,616 per square meter.

Tags: Brazil, Brasil, expats in Brazil, Costa Rica compared to Brazil