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Francois Bertrand

Living in Brazil, from Canada

"What a thrilling city São Paulo is. With a great international expat community that keeps in touch on InterNations."

Elin Gustavson

Living in Brazil, from Sweden

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Brazil at a Glance

Brazil: Housing, Childcare, and Education

As an expat in Brazil, you need to take care of your health, your kids’ education, and your accommodation. After all, there is more to living in Brazil than the Carnival, the Copacabana, the country’s rainforests, and its pleasant climate. Read our guide to find out all you need to know.

Expat Housing

Most expats opt for renting a home in Brazil. If you have just arrived and the local housing market is still unfamiliar territory, try to get a local to help you find a suitable home, even if you do speak Portuguese.  Especially in São Paulo and Rio, you should consider the distances in a big city and the less than ideal traffic conditions when looking for accommodation.

Buying property in Brazil is possible for expats, although it’s hardly advisable if you have just arrived in the country. Foreign nationals may need specific permission from authorities to purchase property in close proximity to beaches or agricultural land.

Renting Accommodation

The cost of living has been soaring over the past few years, and housing is definitely included in this trend. Rental prices in Brazil strongly depend on the location. Generally speaking, they tend to be cheaper in São Paulo than in Rio de Janeiro. Rio has become the most expensive real-estate market in South America, especially in the Zona Sul, which includes such coveted neighborhoods as Ipanema or Copacabana. In mid-2011, a modest one-bedroom apartment in this area cost a bare minimum of R$1,200 (or 700 USD), fees and tax not included.

An upscale two-bedroom apartamento for expatriates in São Paulo currently costs more than US $2,000 per month. If you rent your own casa, i.e. family house, expect to pay anything up to a good US $10,000 or even more, depending on the location and the luxuries included. Of course, your accommodation will probably have security measures and amenities that the less affluent part of Brazil’s population can only dream of. As hiring a domestic helper (empregada) is common in Brazil, both houses and apartments usually include an additional room with bathroom for the empregada.

Utility costs are relatively high. If they are not included in the rent, expect to pay at least another couple of hundred dollars per month for an average apartment with two or three bedrooms. Additionally, Brazil has a real estate tax which, depending on the contract, may have to be paid by the tenant.

Childcare in Brazil

Basic education in Brazil begins with Educação Infantil, the pre-school level, which consists of daycare centers and kindergartens for children up to three years and pre-schools for children aged four to six years. Public pre-schools are free of charge, although they tend to be rather poorly funded and overcrowded.

For those who can afford it, there are numerous alternatives available in the private sector. Hiring a nanny (babá) is also popular among Brazil’s wealthier population. Commonly, newly-arrived expats find good nannies through word-of-mouth referrals from other expats or by using a recognized agency.

Education in Brazil

Mandatory schooling begins at the age of six. All children attend Ensino Fundamental, elementary school and middle school, for nine years. Afterwards, students can choose to go on to Ensino Médio (high school) for another three years.

Public schools are free of charge. However, expat children can only enroll in public schools if they have adequate Portuguese skills and pass the adaptação exam set by the school in question. There are also a number of private schools, many of them run by the Catholic church.

International Schools

Most expat parents opt to send their kids to one of the international schools in Brazil. Quite a few international schools are available, most of them in expat hotspots such as São Paulo, Rio de Janeiro, Brasilia, and Macaé.

The majority of schools is based on the American or the British educational system, and may offer students the opportunity to acquire the International Baccalaureate (IB) in Brazil. To serve the need of children of the local elite who attend the international schools as well, some schools have created opportunities to study according to the Brazilian national curriculum.

InterNations Expat Magazine