Gringos, it’s time to find a job in Brazil

Earlier this year I wrote in Jungledrums about the foreign expats arriving in Brazil and seeking new opportunities (click here in order to read it) – sometimes entirely new careers.

A foreigner getting a work visa is one issue, but the language barrier is a bigger problem than all the paperwork hurdles you inevitably come across upon arrival. People come with their Brazilian spouse and find that they can’t get a job because Portuguese fluency is essential. People often read my blogs about Brazil and email asking if they can come to Brazil and get a job at a foreign company like IBM – just so they can just use English all day.

Of course, that’s possible. But even in a job where you can use English most of the time, colleagues who don’t use English as a first language will be all around and you will have to do things like socialise in Portuguese or even do basic things like asking for directions.

The most common route for the foreigner is to start teaching English. English schools are all over Brazil and they love to hire native speakers. The schools don’t pay very well, but I have friends who do one-on-one tuition with business executives and they get some reasonable cash for that.

Having said that, this change of career must be difficult to take for some. I have seen people from all walks of life, professionals with established careers, who come to Brazil with their partner and find that the only possible work open to them is teaching English. All their qualifications and skills are meaningless – either because the regular job market requires a fluency in Portuguese or their skills are just not valued in Brazil.

Brazil does have a lot of job-specific qualifications, especially for the public sector, that just don’t exist anywhere else so this can be an additional problem even for people with great work experience.

Thinking about these changes in the world of work and drawing in his own experience living as a gringo in Brazil , my husband Mark Hillary has written and published a very succinct but straight-to-the-point digital book titled ‘Reality Check: Life in Brazil through the eyes of a foreigner.’ Mark’s book was just released a few weeks ago and it focuses extensively on the problems faced by foreigners – especially those who arrive in Brazil and can’t speak Portuguese very well – but still need to pay the rent.

Some people see a move to Brazil as a new challenge, a new career, even. Some may only plan to stay in Brazil for a few years and so it’s fine to try something else, but for a skilled person with a standing in their own field to suddenly find that they have no employment options other than teaching English can be tough. That’s not to say that teaching is not a skilled option in it’s own right, but to find that all your existing skills are going to be wasted in Brazil can be a bitter pill to swallow.

Of course, not everyone has the inclination or ability to just create a new career out of nothing. It is hard enough switching career when you don’t need to learn a new language and make new friends at the same time. Add all of these changes together all at once and the need to change career because it is forced on you can be very stressful.

On that note, there are a variety of career options that rely on the Internet, such as writing computer software, graphic design, journalism, blogging, or anything that can be done remotely and then delivered online – but this kind of work often requires a good network of clients. If you don’t have that network established before leaving your home country then it’s going to be difficult to build it up from Brazil – you can’t go for a networking drink with some prospective clients without spending several hundred pounds on an air ticket.

There are many opportunities available in Brazil, but you do need to think first about how you could possibly get a work visa, then how well you will need to speak Portuguese, and then whether you can sacrifice your existing career. Brazil has a lot to offer so it may well be worth the upheaval and change!

For more information about the book ‘Reality Check: Life in Brazil through the eyes of a foreigner’ check out Mark’s Facebook page . The book can be purchased from Amazon UK here. 

One Comment

  1. Great post. Also echoes my wife’s experience when we lived in Switzerland for a while. Both of us are non-Europeans and don’t speak French or German. I was deputed to work at my company HQ, where English is the lingua franca, so that wasn’t a problem.

    As you point out, socializing with colleagues and acquaintances outside work was certainly a challenge. Just as it was for my wife who decided to be a stay-at-home-and-blog/surf spouse during that stint.

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