Although growth has slowed in recent years, the Brazilian economy continues to rise and Brazil remains a powerhouse in South America. As a result of increasing tourism, expansion of international trade, and development in specific sectors, paid jobs in Brazil for international workers will most often involve either teaching (especially English) or working in jobs that require highly specialized skills. Those who work in Brazil will come to appreciate the familiar phrase Deus e Brasileiro (God is Brazilian) after spending time among the vibrant locals in the colorful landscape that makes up the largest country in South America.
Brazil is not only the largest country in South America, it is the fifth largest in the world. The numerous cities in Brazil range from tiny historic colonial towns to the third largest metropolis in the world (São Paulo), with the greatest number of jobs in Brazil for foreigners being located in the following major cities:
Rio de Janeiro. Rio is not nicknamed cidade maravilhosa (marvelous city) for nothing. Surrounded by mountains on one side and the sandy beaches of the South Atlantic Ocean hemmed in by rainforest on the other, the cariocas (Rio residents) certainly live well. The ideal city for professionals looking to scratch their adventure itch during down time, Rio offers superb surfing, hiking trails, sailing, and dancing hot spots. As in any large city, crime and theft is not uncommon, so expats should use caution and take taxis at night, leave valuables at home, and avoid dark and deserted streets.
São Paulo. As the largest city in the southern hemisphere, it’s no wonder São Paulo is home to hundreds of ethnic groups, including the largest population of both Japanese and Italian communities outside their respective countries. Not to mention the noteworthy number of Arab, German, Chinese, Armenian, Lithuanian, Greek, Syrian, Korean, Polish, and Hungarian ethnic groups. Vibrant and somewhat hectic, individuals working abroad in Brazil will enjoy the countless cinemas, theaters, clubs, bars, bistros, gourmet restaurants, and even more that São Paulo has to offer.
Brasilia. Brasilia is the fairly recently declared capital city of Brazil, located in the Federal District. Thanks to its impressive and innovative architectural revamping in 1960, Brasilia’s layout forms the image of an airplane (or hummingbird) when viewed from above. Jobs in Brasilia often reflect its role as the country’s political center.
Porto Alegre. Located along the Lagoa dos Patos, Brazil’s largest lagoon, Porto Alegre plays an important role as Southern Brazil’s main port city and was host to the 2014 World Cup. While it has managed to maintain much of its original neoclassical architecture, Porto Alegre’s progressive nature has not only helped create a vibrant arts and alternative music scene, it has also contributed to the right for individuals in the gay and lesbian community to register domestic partnerships. Compared to other southern cities in Brazil, however, crime and grit has remained slightly higher during recent years.
Jobs in Brazil
Teaching. Host of the 2014 World Cup and 2016 Olympic Games, the amount of visitors entering Brazil has and will only continue to skyrocket; add to that the increase of international business thanks to Brazil’s exceptional economy, and you will find that the demand for English teachers across the country is very high. Opportunities to teach in Brazil exist in various capacities:
- TEFL/TESOL Certification and subsequent Teaching Placement
- Private Elementary Schools
- Private Tutoring
- Public or Private High Schools
Teaching jobs in Brazil at the high school or university level tend to be much more difficult to land and often don’t include the benefits typically of similar jobs in the U.S. However, teaching jobs of all types for teachers with all levels of experience exist in nearly every city and around the country, with the highest number of teaching job opportunities in Sao Paulo and Rio de Janeiro. Also worth noting, those who teach in Brazil will enjoy the laid-back lifestyle and animated classroom atmosphere that stems from the passionate and colorful vibe of the locals.
Professional Specialist Positions. Brazil boasts ever-developing industrial and agricultural fields, not to mention growth in the following sectors:
- Engineering and Environmental Management
- Food Manufacturing
- Oil and Gas Renewable Energy
With business investors not failing to take notice, highly skilled professionals can often find jobs in Brazil working for multinational companies. If you lack an in-country network in Brazil but hold a formal education and professional experience, this can be an excellent option for work in Brazil.
English-Language Opportunities. If teaching just isn’t your thing and you posses no specific skill set, simply being a fluent English-speaker may give way to other various options for work in Brazil, including:
- Editing papers and articles written by non-native speakers
- Interviewing English-speaking candidates for corporate clients
- Assisting students and professionals through various application processes in English
Sports. Athletics is another area where foreigners can find jobs in Brazil. As the host of both the 2014 World Cup and 2016 Olympics, many sports-related job opportunities continue to appear for interested, eligible international workers, including livescouting and freelance sports journalism or media positions. Qualifications generally include Portuguese language skills and extensive knowledge of Brazil and various sports.
Language Knowledge. Portuguese is the official language in Brazil, and while it is not always a requirement, some level of Portuguese language skills will prove beneficial when working abroad in Brazil. It is also worth noting that Brazilian Portuguese differs slightly from European Portuguese in grammar and sound.
Work Schedule & Etiquette. While the typical work day begins at 8 a.m. and ends at 6 p.m., punctuality is lax and employees often leave work later than standard to avoid heavy traffic in larger cities. Presentation, on the other hand, is strongly emphasized in Brazil, so it is important to portray a professional appearance.
Salary & Affordability
The currency in Brazil is called the real. Compensation for paid jobs in Brazil varies greatly depending on the location and position, and may even be expected to increase as the upcoming 2016 Olympics nears. Smaller towns typically come with smaller pay, but it will coincide with the likewise a lower cost of living. While negotiation is possible, language teaching jobs in Brazil are especially competitive and schools often adhere to overhead limits.
Brazil is not cheap, but most paid jobs allow foreigners working abroad in Brazil to break even, at a minimum. The ever-increasing economy and recent increase in global attractions (i.e. Olympics), however, not only contribute to an increase in the cost of living but also make saving money difficult with so much to explore and do! How much you choose to spend on your accommodation with also play a role in the amount of expenses or savings accumulated while working abroad in Brazil.
When living and working in Brazil, it is a good idea to save some space in your budget for tipping. Ten percent is customary for most services, and is usually included and mandatory on most restaurant bills. Tipping is optional but appreciated for housekeepers, baristas, vendors, hair stylists, and shoe shiners which make-up minimum wage jobs, and parking assistance depend solely on tips for income.
Accommodation & Visas
Although all foreign workers are officially required to obtain a work visa to work in Brazil, teachers most often teach in South America on a tourist visa. All U.S., Australian, and Canadian citizens need a visa to visit Brazil, and tourist visas take no less than five to ten business days to process, so planning ahead is essential. The cost for a tourist visa can range from $20 to 160 depending on nationality, and it is valid for ninety days. For jobs in Brazil lasting beyond the ninety days, travelers must apply to renew no less than five days before the expiration of their current visa.
For those working abroad in Brazil outside the education system, a work visa will be necessary. Obtaining a work visa can be a lengthy and trying process, especially for those not filling specialized positions. Applying for your work visa is the responsibility of your employer, and it will remain valid for two years. At the end of the two years duration, employees looking to stick around may apply for a permanent visa.
Upon entry in Brazil, all visitors must fill out an entry/exit card. Half will be handed over to the immigration officials immediately and the other half should be kept in a safe place as it will be needed upon exiting the country.
Accommodation and standard of living alike will vary depending on the city one chooses to work in Brazil; in general, housing in Brazil will feature smaller rooms and more efficient spaces than what individuals may be accustomed to in the U.S. Expats in Sao Paulo, for example, will enjoy a higher standard of living by comparison, which usually includes a modest kitchen (considered the maid’s domain) with more lux bathrooms. Expats working in Brasilia, on the other hand, will find that large stilted concrete apartments are the most common form of living space, although single family homes are available.
Benefits & Challenges
- Strong Economy. As Latin America’s wealthiest country, boasting the sixth largest economy in the world, Brazil is clearly doing something right. Industry professionals will benefit from joining the thriving workforce while gaining the experience of a lifetime living in, arguably, South America’s most colorful country.
- Exploitation. A major concern resulting from Brazil’s steady economic growth includes the deforestation of the Amazon Basin and the threat it causes to indigenous plant and animal life. Several major cities in Brazil, including Rio and São Paulo, have been known to cause both air and land pollution as well as allow for illegal wildlife trade.