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4 useful things to know before moving your family to Brazil

Moving your family abroad is a daunting task, from organising working visas and brushing up on a new language to packing up and shipping your possessions to your new home. Brazil is a country that comes loaded with stunning scenery, picturesque architecture and fascinating wildlife, and it’s also an increasingly popular destination for expats looking for a new adventure.


The largest country in South America, Brazil boasts interesting investment opportunities, great job prospects and a laid-back lifestyle. So aside from getting familiar with the Portuguese language, how best to prepare for a whole family relocation to Brazil? Here are a few things to keep in mind to make the transition easy for everyone.

  1. The best destinations for expats

Brazil’s major cities each have their own expat community, with large quantities made up of British, Australian, Canadian and American nationals. Rio de Janeiro, Brasilia and Sao Paulo are all popular choices and offer easy access to international schooling and healthcare, but lesser-known Florianopolis is also worth considering if you’re still deciding where to head.

Florianopolis is one of the safest cities in Brazil, closely followed by Sao Paulo, and has often been named as the best place to live in the entire country. While it’s generally accepted that you’ll need to speak at least passable Portuguese to get by in Brazil, English is widely spoken here and there is a strong expat community to help you settle in. Famous for its beaches and saltwater lagoon, Florianopolis is an ideal choice if you’re hoping to maintain that ‘permanent holiday’ vibe.

Sao Paulo’s wide range of international schools make it another great pick for expats arriving with children in tow, and as the commercial and industrial centre of Brazil it’s also becoming one of the most ethnically diverse cities in the world.

The city has a reputation for offering excellent private medical care, and it’s worth putting appropriate insurance in place so that you can access this if needed. Government-funded healthcare in Brazil can involve long wait times, and while the quality has improved in recent years many Brazilian nationals still travel long distances in search of better treatment. Sao Paulo gives you access to the highest quality private hospitals – meaning one less thing to worry about and a stronger safety net in place for you and your loved ones.

  1. Where to organise the best international schools

Public schools in Brazil can be overcrowded, and will likely only be suitable for children who are already fluent in Portuguese. While there are a range of higher-quality private schools across the country, your children may find it easier to make new friends and get a good education by going to an international school.

International schools offer the curriculums your child would be taught in Canada, the US, the UK, or in some instances France and Australia. The fees vary, but for the spend you’ll find that your children are educated in better facilities with high educational standards and smaller class sizes than other schools.

Sites such as the Council of International Schools and the International School Database can help you find the best choice for your child, though admission and enrolment procedures will vary from place to place so you’ll need to contact schools directly to organise a placement. Sao Paulo, Brasilia and Rio de Janeiro all offer numerous international schools, but areas like Belem, Manaus and Porto Alegre are also home to venues teaching American and European curriculums.

Whatever you do, don’t be tempted to home-school your children to try and save money – home-schooling is illegal in Brazil and there could be serious consequences.

  1. How to make your money go further

The cost of living in Brazil varies depending on where you plan to be. Living costs are highest in lively Rio de Janeiro, while in Florianpolis you’ll find rents are around half the amount you’ll pay in ‘the Marvellous City’. Like other everyday expenditures, the cost of rent in most cities gets lower as you get further from the beach.

To start with, make sure you apply for your family’s CPF cards (Brazilian Identity Cards) at your country’s Brazilian consulate before you depart. This means you won’t have to wait around living in a hotel while the CPF gets sorted like many expats do, as you can’t sign a lease until you have one. Your children do need these too, so try to sort them sooner rather than later.

When organising family-friendly accommodation it’ll help to have someone with you who is fluent in Portuguese if you aren’t yourself, to avoid any hidden extra fees and to help with negotiating costs. If you’re staying in unfurnished accommodation, ship as much of your furniture over as possible because furnishing a place from scratch can be far costlier than doing so in the UK or US.

While cars and fuel can also be expensive in Brazil when compared to places like the USA and Asian countries, public transport is generally very affordable. Keep transport connections in mind while you’re house hunting so you can easily commute to work, travel to school, and access shops.

The cost of quality schooling in Brazil is generally quite high, but you can balance this out by seeking out local produce and services. Groceries are inexpensive, and if you shop at local markets rather than upscale grocery stores you’ll get the best fresh Brazilian produce for a fraction of the price the stores will charge.

  1. Brazilian cultural do’s and don’ts

Brazilian people are often described as warm and welcoming, and the country as a whole is renowned for its great love of children. Learning about Brazil’s culture is something you can make into a game for your kids to help them feel at home, while ensuring that both you and they become familiar with the do’s and don’ts of your new place of residence.


  • One key piece of body language that catches many expats out is the ‘OK’ sign. The hand gesture that means ‘OK’ in North America, Australia and Europe is considered incredibly rude in Brazil and means something rather more vulgar. Get your family into the habit of giving a thumbs up instead.
  • Football rivalry is fierce. Cheering for your usual team is fine – unless they’re playing against Brazil, and unless your usual team is Argentina. See who in the family can memorise the names of the most Brazilian football players, and get ready to start cheering for Brazil!


  • Try to speak Portuguese – even if you aren’t very good at it. It’s polite, and will win people over much better than simply speaking in another language and hoping they understand. Learning a new language together is a great family activity, and if your children are learning Portuguese at school they’ll take great joy in one-upping your own skills.
  • Get familiar with usual greetings. Women will often greet each other with a kiss on either cheek, while men shake hands. Saying hello with a hug is also common among friendly acquaintances.

Before you move, be sure to put together a checklist that covers things to do before, during and after your relocation. Wherever you decide to settle, there’s sure to be plenty to keep the whole family occupied.

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