Brazilians living abroad are returning to Brazil in record numbers, in part because of Brazil's strong economy, and in part because of a lack of jobs in Europe and the U.S. Some are seeking entreprenurial opportunities, or taking advantage of Brazil's growing tech space. In this series, I'll interview Brazilians who were living abroad and decided to return home. If you or someone you know would be interested in being profiled in this series, email me at riogringaconsult at gmail dot com.
So far, the Brazilians I've spoken to have returned to be closer to their families and also for jobs. They're thrilled to be back at home and have found great opportunities, though many complained about high prices and adjusting to life back in Brazil.
Andrea N. lived in New York for ten years, after moving there in 2001. She married her American boyfriend in 2002, and lived in Prospect Heights and the Upper West Side. She had a variety of interesting jobs, from interning at a TV production company, to waitressing, to working as a movie extra, to freelance translating and editing, to doing narration work in English and Portuguese, and working as a production assistant at the TV & Media Department at the Wildlife Conservation Society at the Bronx Zoo. After her job at the zoo, she worked at Columbia University for seven years, working as a development coordinator for Global Initiatives in the fundraising department. While working at Columbia, she also took several elective courses, including Spanish and news writing.
But in the end, she decided to move back to her hometown of Santos, in São Paulo, since her parents were getting older and had health problems. Her parents are better now, but she's happy to be closer to them. She moved with her husband and dog last October, and is currently doing freelance translation, editing, and narration work, as well as teaching English. She loves being near the beach, where she walks her dog every day, and being with family and friends. She also enjoys the weather and eating healthier, since she no longer eats processed food and eats lots of fresh fruits and vegetables. But the move wasn't easy; it was an expensive and bureaucratic process, and she had to bring her dog in the cargo compartment since she's so large, and she sent her belongings in shipping containers. She noticed a change in Brazil since she's been back. "The US has been having such tough times, economically and politically, and though it’s hard to pinpoint exactly how, there’s a pervasive sense that we should be doing much better. In Brazil, where the economy is strong, the middle class is growing, and poverty is on the decline, there’s just a much more optimistic mood in the air," she said.
Cássia Martins is a Carioca who worked in finance in the U.S. and returned to Rio de Janeiro to follow her dreams as a writer. Born in Petrópolis, she moved to the U.S. when she was a teenager. She got her B.A. in Economics from Boston University, and worked in business for five years before getting her MBA at the University of Pennsylvania. She lived in a number of cities, including Boston, Chicago, Stamford, Philadelphia, Boca Raton, and Miami. After finishing her graduate degree, she decided to return to her hometown of Rio de Janeiro. She spent a year in Brazil, where she wrote her first book, called Born in Rio. After that, she decided to move back to Miami, so she could be closer to her family and promote her book.
But living in Rio was an inspiration. "Besides writing a story about a woman’s quest to uncover her roots, I was really aiming at capturing the culture and energy of Brazil as the plot unfolds," she said. "The beauty and nature of Brazil never seizes to dazzle me, people are friendly, and the Rio lifestyle is a very easy going one." She said that she enjoyed the emphasis on relationships she found in Rio, as opposed to a focus on work and business back in the U.S. "In the U.S. the first question people usually ask me when they first meet me is 'Where do you work? What did you study?' In Brazil I would often hear 'Where is your boyfriend? How come you are not married?'" she told me. Though she worried about safety and high prices in Rio, one of the other interesting things about going home was seeing the changes taking in place in the city; she says she hears more English in Rio than in Miami, and that she met many foreigners in Brazil for work, not for tourism.
Adriana R. is one of the trailblazers. She lived in the U.S. for four years, spending a year as an exchange student in San Angelo, Texas, and another three years in Ithaca, New York studying hotel management and working at a hotel. Thirteen years ago, she decided to return to Brazil to be closer to family and friends. Now, she owns her own ecotourism agency, which specializes in trips to Fernando de Noronha, for foreigners who don't speak Portuguese. She loves being close to her loved ones, though she also had a hard time adjusting to "bureaucracy, inefficiency, lack of respect for consumers, slow pace of our law system, and higher prices now that the economy is booming." She commented on some of the challenges she's faced: "It just feels more difficult. Everything here takes longer. It is not always nicer or better, in fact, most of the time, it is just of lower quality and when not, it is extremely expensive. Everything is just so bureaucratic, and therefore we need paperwork for everything."
Tatiana Perreira lived in Japan for 12 years, and also spent 3 months in Perth, Australia. After she graduated from high school in Brazil, she wanted to be closer to her mother, who moved to Japan after getting divorced. Once she got to Japan, Tatiana started working at a car parts factory, and spent five years working at factories, like many Brazilians do in Japan. She returned to Brazil for a year in 2003, to visit family, study English, and buy a house with her mom. She went back to Japan in 2004, working at factories and saving money. She managed to save enough to study in Australia, which she loved. "Living in Australia was for few years a dream, until I dated an Australian guy who broke my heart so I never really felt like going back there anymore - I still think it's a great country, though," she said. She then returned to Japan, working at factories until 2007, which she got a job as a telemarketer at an international phone company, where she worked for four years.
Her definitive move back to Brazil came for a few reasons. Her sister was getting married, and she and her mom wanted to go to the wedding. She also missed her family and friends, after being away from them for eight years. While she and her mom were planning their return, the 2011 earthquake hit Fukushima. Even though it was 300 kilometers away, her mother felt it and was "freaked out." Tatiana moved back in April 2011, helping her sister plan her wedding. She then went to San Francisco to meet her American boyfriend's family; they'd been dating in Japan, since he's in the military and was stationed in Okinawa. They just recently got married in South Carolina, and are planning a wedding ceremony in Brazil after he gets back from a second deployment in Afghanistan for 7 months. After he finishes his service next year, they may go to the US, or her husband may move to Brazil, where he'd like to start a business.
In Brazil, Tatiana had a hard time finding a job, since she doesn't have a college degree. She started teaching English, and discovered that she really enjoyed it, despite the meager salary. She also dreams of going back to school. She loves being close to her family, which is "priceless," and also feeling at home. "Being able to speak my own language and express myself anytime, anywhere and everywhere I want makes a difference," she said. She doesn't speak fluent Japanese, so she sometimes had a hard time in Japan. She also didn't like the health care system in Japan, and now feels more secure about medical issues in Brazil. She's still getting used to São Paulo, especially the traffic. Even though she's happy back in Brazil, she misses life in Japan. "I could go anywhere easily by train, bus or even by bike. I used to have money to buy whatever I wanted: clothes, shoes, make up, travel -- I've been to 10 countries," she explained. She had friends from all over the world, and admits she was well known in the "Tokyo party community." In Brazil, she has to take precautions with things like jewelry and cell phones because of security. She also finds that everything is much more expensive, since the prices are higher and she's making less money than she did in Japan, even from when she worked at the factories. Still, she says, it's the first time in her life she's had a job she likes, where she's happy to wake up to go to work in the morning.
Valerie R. lived in Astoria, New York for ten years, the heart of the New York Brazilian community. She worked as a secretary, and went to Parsons to study interior design. She dated a Brazilian, who she lived with for nine years. After her boyfriend finished college, he decided to return to Brazil, and she also went, a year later. She's been back in São Paulo for a year and a half, working as an executive assistant to an executive at an American company. She was happy to see her family, though she misses New York. "I still haven't gotten used to it here; sometimes I still can't believe I'm back," she said. She also tends to compare the two cities a lot. But her professional life in São Paulo is better than it was in New York, and she sees her family all the time.
Julie, a Paulista, lived in Saint Louis, Missouri for six months. She had grown tired of her life and job at home, and decided to quit her job and sell her car to move to the U.S. She wanted to learn English, and picked Missouri because she thought there wouldn't be any Brazilians, so she'd be forced to learn English faster. But she ended up finding Brazilians, making friends with one who'd lived there for a decade. She studied at the University of Missoui, learning English as a second language and meeting people from all over the world. She also worked as a nanny, which she enjoyed to be able to work with kids and learn about American family life. She decided to move back to Brazil since she was on a student visa, and she didn't want to overstay and live undocumented after she finished her program. She returned to Brazil a little over a year ago, and now works at ABB, an international technology company, as an import/export analyst. She's also had a bit of trouble adapting, having to start over and "familiarize herself with disorganization." In São Paulo, she works a lot, and she misses having time to travel and have free time like she did while she was studying abroad.
Aline T. lived in Sacramento, California for almost seven years. She worked as an au pair, and then went back to school. She lived with the same host family the whole time she was in the U.S.After she graduated, she had trouble finding a job during the economic crisis and didn't want to babysit, and decided to move back home. She had other friends who had returned home from living abroad and were doing well, so she was more confident about her decision. Now, she's been back for a year and a half. She's finishing her BA, since she had a hard time validating her American college degree. Now that she's back in Brazil, she's had an easier time finding a job because of her fluent English, and has been able to work at several large companies.
Aline likes being closer to her family, and also the "sense of belonging" she gets from voting, paying taxes, and contributing to her retirement account. "Before I was just living in the U.S., but I was not an American," she said. The hardest part about coming back was adapting to a different way of life; she had lived in the suburbs in California, and went back to the city of São Paulo, where she hasn't gotten used to the traffic, the crowds, or the jeitinho. Now that she's working and studying, she has more responsibilities. "Now I can start thinking about buying a car, saving for a house and retirement; before I just needed to save for my next trip or gadget," she explained. She's also excited about Brazil's growing role. "Because of the World Cup in 2014 and Olympics in 2016, there are some great expectations in the country and it has been nice to experience all these changes that it is happening now in the country," she said.