Portuguese explorers began moving to Rio de Janeiro in 1502. As they thought the bay at which they landed was the mouth of a river, they named the city “River of January”. However, it took until 1530 for colonization to begin, which was closely followed by a serious conflict with the French who were also trying to seize the area.
The first people moving to Rio de Janeiro settled in the district which today is known as Castle Hill. From there, the city developed into a popular port, especially after gold was discovered in the late seventeenth century. In 1822, the country gained its independence from Portugal, following which the state was eventually transformed from a Monarchy into a Republic. Rio de Janeiro was declared the country’s capital and remained so until the inauguration of Brasilia as the capital in 1960.
Any expat moving to Rio de Janeiro will immediately notice two things: being the second largest city in Brazil, its colossal size, and the tourists. The city is located at the Atlantic coast on an inlet in Guanabara Bay, at the foot of the Sugarloaf, a 1,300 foot tall mountain at the entrance of the bay. Rio de Janeiro is also often referred to as “the Marvelous City”.
Contrary to common belief, the weather is not always bright in Rio de Janeiro. In fact, expats moving to Rio de Janeiro should be ready for an impressive amount of rain (although it usually doesn’t last more than a few days). As soon as you hear the words frente frio on the Brazilian news, prepare yourself for rainy days. These “cold fronts” (which are not cold at all) are particularly common between December and March, when average temperatures are around 26°C. Ironically, the average temperature between June and August is only around 20°C.
As Spanish is the dominating language throughout Latin America, expats in Rio de Janeiro might expect to get by with a basic knowledge of Spanish. While this is partially true (understanding Spanish may indeed help when moving to Rio de Janeiro), the official language spoken in Brazil is Portuguese.
Although Portuguese is not exactly easy to learn, you should at least try to pick up some expressions and learn how to pronounce certain words and street names. Right after moving to Rio de Janeiro you might still be able to get away with speaking Spanish, English, French, or Italian. However, as soon as you decide to wander off the trodden path, you should learn a few basics.
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