Culture Shock in Brazil

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Expats moving to Brazil will experience elements of culture shockMuch like anywhere else, expats can expect that culture shock in Brazil will come in a number of stages. For expats moving to the South American country, the honeymoon stage may last a lot longer than usual.

Brazilians are incredibly welcoming and friendly, and the local population always seems to be happy and smiling.

Language barrier in Brazil

Learning basic Portuguese before leaving for the country will ease a new arrival's transition to Brazil. English is spoken in the larger cities, but because Brazil has so many enclaves filled with expats from a multitude of cultures, Portuguese becomes the easiest way to communicate in a social setting.

Gender issues in Brazil

Many male expats have reported that Brazil is a very easy country to adjust to, while female expats find it considerably more difficult. 
Like many Latin American countries, Brazil is dominated by a machismo culture and Catholicism also plays an important social and cultural role. These factors tend to dictate that women take on quite traditional roles within society and even in business situations.
That said, things are changing and more Brazilians are starting to believe in gender equality at home and in the workplace. Expat women who do find themselves at the receiving end of this kind of infamous Latino machismo should try to be aware that this is the result of the dominant culture in the country, and maintain a sense of humour.

Inequality and poverty in Brazil

Perhaps the biggest factor adding to the amount of culture shock expats experience when moving to Brazil is social inequality. Brazil may be a world economic powerhouse, but the disparity between rich and poor is blatantly obvious. Huge slums, or favelas, are visible in most large cities.

Expats in Brazil can generally afford to live particularly comfortably; domestic help is easily obtained and overseas and regional trips are the norm. Even private healthcare is easily accessible for expats in Brazil. However, this is not the case for a large percentage of Brazil’s population.

Time in Brazil

As in many South American destinations, locals in Brazil take a particularly relaxed attitude towards time, and it's not unusual for Brazilians to show up anywhere from 15 to 45 minutes late to social events. Taking time out to enjoy a siesta or spending hours at a social dinner are important aspects of life in Brazil. At the same time, while being late for social occasions is fairly common, punctuality is expected in formal situations.

Greetings and etiquette in Brazil

Learning the correct way to greet and address people is a vital part of living in Brazil. A stereotypical Brazilian greeting is the air kiss – a kiss hello on each cheek. While this is a fun way to greet people, be sure to learn the appropriate contexts for this greeting.

Brazilians are very body conscious, and as such, expats often need to adjust to what may seem like overly forward or brutally honest comments about their health, weight and even hairstyle.

Bureacracy in Brazil

Another small thing that may initially take some getting used to is the many levels of bureaucracy in the many government institutions; this is particularly evident when applying for a residency visa.
Brazilians try to maintain a balance in their social relations and general day-to-day activities; business meetings are important, but so is football and family time. Many expats will be impressed by the Brazilian people’s resilience, resourcefulness and ability to stay positive and greet life with a smile – which comes in handy when dealing with bureaucratic red tape.

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