Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Moving to Brazil? Some things to know

I got an email from an American Mom of a toddler who's moving to Rio de Janeiro.  It got me thinking of tips.  What does the American Mom moving to Rio with their pre-schooler/toddler/baby need to know?

First off, bring toys!  Pay the extra baggage cost and stuff a suitcase full. Better yet, buy a container and fill her up!  The good quality toys that we are accustomed to buying for $30 are R$150 to $300.  Buy some for the next age group or next bday just to cover your toosh. And have no shame in buying toys online and having them delivered to relatives or family who are coming to visit.

Bring clothes. Kids clothes are also expensive and are not the same quality.  This stands for all seasons except summer. Summer is HOT down here and I prefer Brazilian made summer clothes. They are a made of a much lighter cotton.

Bring some of your little guy's favorite snacks. When you travel, it's always an adjustment. For example, you can get something called honey ohs here but you can't get Cheerios. They taste different.  Bring some extra to help cushion the change.

Be prepared to cook from scratch.  If you or your little one have any  sort of special diet, look into it now. You can find a lot of stuff down here but there are some little things you may have wished you brought. For example, if you or your kid has Celiac disease (Gluten allergy), a friend of mine told me there's an ingredient you need to make your own bread that is difficult to find here.  While I'm helpful, I'm not that helpful because I can't remember what it is for the life of me.  Side note, in Brazil, all food products have to say with Gluten or Gluten free.  Makes things a lot easier.

If you or your little one use a certain medication or homeopath medication, bring extra until you can find it or the equivalent here.

If you are a stroller user, make sure you have one that can handle going up and down curbs and over bumps. We have a lot in Rio.

That reminds me, bring baby gear. Make sure your car seat will work for a while, bring a breast pump or monitor, bouncer, swing, anything and everything you plan on using.  We have it here but, again, it's expensive and you don't get the variety of choices you have at home.

Bring books and think about getting a magazine subscription. You can get some choice magazine subscriptions sent to your home in Rio. It's amazing what a favorite magazine or good book can do for homesickness.

Bring your blender, sandwich maker, food processor, or any kitchen appliance you love.  Bring it!  I brought my blender/food processor. I love it and I use it all the time!  I replaced the crappy plastic one I had bought here.

Get maid recommendations from other ex-pats or Brazilian friends.  A maid can make a lifetime of a difference even if they only come once a week.  This city is surprisingly dusty and mold grows like crazy!  A good maid can keep everything under control so you don't go nuts trying to do it yourself. And be prepared. You will get used to a whole new level of clean! I swear, in some apartments you could do surgery.  Plus your maid can cook some food for you and your family. My maid, Soccorro, comes twice a week. She cooks a meal both days and makes backup black beans that I store in my freezer and take out when I need them.

That's all that I can get out of my exhausted Mommy head at the moment. What tips do you ex-pats in Brazil have?  What questions do you future ex-pats of Brazil have?


  1. This city is surprisingly dusty and mold grows like crazy!

    New York? :)

  2. A few more:

    Find out where and when your nearest farmers market (feira) is. Great place to buy chicken and fish. I still prefer to buy my fruits and veggies at Hortifruit (a fruit/veggie supermarket).

    Try to find an apartment close to a pharmacy, bread shop (padaria), and one supermarket. If you live in Zona Sul, walking is a principal form of transportation. It makes your life easier when things are close.

  3. If you are going to ship a container (or half container) of things from home -- BRING A QUALITY MATTRESS and BOX SPRINGS. Nothing, at any price, is comparable here. It was the BEST thing we did! Bring sheets too!

    I agree - ALL THINGS KITCHEN. Bring them. Local versions of all appliances are crappy and cost a fortune.

    I would NOT bring a washing machine and dryer mainly because any and all repairs, replacement parts, etc. are going to be a drama.

    Also, we shipped a 42" flat TV only to discover it was built for the US and European markets and had to be converted to pick up the signal here in Brazil. By the time we paied extra for a shipping crate, the shipping and then the local conversion (and voided the warranty by taking it out of the country) we could have bought one locally for a comparable price.

    Just some thoughts...

  4. Hi Rachel! I read about you on DRL's blog. I can't believe your housekeeper's name is Soccorro! Seriously? You're right on with all of your suggestions. Another tip, for kids and adults alike is vitamins. Bring them. They cost a fortune here. For kids, I've only seen one multivitamin brand here which my son dislikes. And also, if you're from the US and don't know the metric system, bring a farenheit thermometer. I've finally learned metric but when my son was a baby it was handy to have the farenheit version as a reference. Who wants to calculate when your child is sick? Why won't the US just convert to metric? And if you're a cook, bring a farenheit thermometer for inside of your oven too. One final thought, I miss having a bathtub! You won't find many here.

  5. Great tips! I brought a rectal thermometer (F) for my boys and vitamins. I had my Mom send prenatal vitamins for both pregnancies!

    One of the main reasons we bought the apartment we have is because it has a bathtub!

  6. I am SOOO jealous. A bathtub? Que sorte!

  7. Hi Rachel and other readers...such great advice, thanks for it all! I will follow all this advice very carefully. Some other questions come to mind that were issues when I lived in Paris (some questions seem silly, but they made a difference to me...little comfort things):

    For example...
    --Quality of the Saran Wrap (or equivalent)?
    --Quality of dental floss? (I can hear the laughter on this one)
    --Are dryers common?
    --Would a DVD bought in Rio work in an American DVD player (or better yet, would an American DVD player even work in Rio in the first place? perhaps this exposes my ignorance when it comes to electronics and compatibility, etc.)
    --Is a transformer necessary for anything that requires electricity? (because I can't imagine how many transformers we'd need since we do have a fair amount of little gadgets, etc.)
    --Anyone got any suggestions for a reputable moving/shipping company? Or advice on which ones to steer clear away from?
    --Based partially on what I understood from Jim's comment, should we buy the major appliances (washer, dryer, fridge, microwave, oven/stove, etc.) locally or is it better to get a furnished apartment?
    --Any idea what would be included in a "partially furnished" apartment?
    Any thoughts or feedback would be much appreciated...many thanks

  8. Bring dental floss! They have good stuff here but it's better at home. My Carioca husband brings it from the US.

    Dryers are not common but you can get them. Most common are washer/dryer combos. They work but aren't as good as we are used to. A friend of mine has one and she only uses the dryer for towels, sheets, and emergency need of certain clothing items.

    You can unblock your DVD player. We did.

    No transformer necessary but plug adapters are. We have the same electrical current (is it called that?) but different plugs

    I can't recommend a company but I suggest you do it with your husband's company. I've heard of people being blackmailed with, I'm going to leave your container open all night until you come tomorrow if you don't give me R$5,000.

    You can get fridge, oven, washer here. If you get the partially furnished apt, I'm guessing that's what it means. I'm not sure though. But rentals come empty, meaning no fridge, microwave, or any other appliance. If you get a container bring a microwave. You can get good ones here, american ones actually, but they are expensive and if you already have one...

  9. Saran wrap they have. the quality is ok and it does come in a box :)

  10. Rechargable batteries!! Lots and the good ones

  11. Early on I would bow at the feet of friends who brought us Hefty Ziplock bags. SO expensive for similar items here. Now I have a five year supply...

    We were very pleased with the moving company we worked with (neither of us were moving here within the context of an employer). Email me at jmshattuck at hotmail dot com if you would like more details. And the fear of dock workers extracting a bribe to release your container are often repeated. Our situation was trouble free I'm glad to report.

    Of all the major appliances I would only consider a sweet refrigerator (if you get excited about that sort of thing.) We are quite happy with our simple apartment sized single door fridge with tiny freezer inside. But if you want one of those stainless steel double door babies with a water dispenser in the door -- they go for more than R$5,000 locally. But again, repair and warranty issues may trump all that.

  12. My husband just corrected me and said that not all DVD players work here...

    Jim, I do miss a sweet side by side fridge... And ziplocks! I pad my suitcases with them every time I bring stuff back.

  13. Points all very well taken, thanks! Will start to stock up on Ziplocks and plastic containers, etc. right away!! Once we get to Rio, I'll definitely be hunting for a fridge with a decent freezer (hope they exist). I do prepare and freeze ahead a fair amount of stuff for my toddler's ready-to-defrost meals.
    How about oatmeal? Available there? If so, a jillion and one varieties like in the US?
    And peanut butter? (can you tell I'm American?) ;-)

  14. Oatmeal comes in three varieties: whole, quick and finely ground. All good there.

    The standard "peanut butter" is a creamed mixture of peanuts, oil and honey. It is specifically produced for children. I make my own because I don't like the sweet, creamy texture/flavor. But others are reporting finding imported American brands at a price.

    You can definitely find a great fridge with a good freezer - but they are expensive. You can also get a small freezer (like the size of a dishwasher) that does the trick. Check out this retail chain that is everywhere

  15. Jim you are making me look bad with the whole making your own peanut butter thing! Daniel is now going to request I ground up my own nuts instead of spend the R$13 for some skippy ;)

  16. Thanks for all the additional comments. I've just loaded up at Target on a bunch of stuff! How I'm going to miss that place. Badly. Anyway...a few other questions came to mind as I roamed the aisles...should I stock up on:

    --Brita filters? (or is the tap water ok to drink)

    --Bug spray? (safe for kids, like no DEET?)...btw, what is the bug situation in Rio?

    --Sunscreen? (again, for kids)

    And here are some other random newcomer thoughts:

    --Is a safe or residential alarm advised? What about safe deposit boxes?

    --Are there highchairs in restaurants?

    --How's the public transportation, especially if tooling around with a toddler?

    --Is it safe to wear a simple wedding band? (I've read a lot about not wearing jewelry, etc.)

    --Are windows in apartments generally double-paned (to reduce noise)?

    --Smoking regulations in public places?

    Thanks in advance for any feedback!

  17. There are now smoking regulations. No smoking inside public places.

    Windows are generally not double-paned, sadly. You have to do that yourself. It's an expensive upgrade.

    We go old school with public transport. I never even try carseats in cabs anymore. Too hard. It's sad but true. If you have your own car, that's a different story. We'll see what happens come September when they'll be passing new car seat laws!

    I wear a simpe wedding band and have had no problems. No super bling and you should be ok

    Depends on the restaurant. I bought a portable booster seat and bring that when I'm in doubt

    I feel safe in my building. No alarm but we have a 24 hr doorman.

    I bring sunscreen from home and when I run out I use the Nivea baby sunscreen here. It's good too but the consistancy is really thick... I guess that's a good thing.

    They have good kids bug spray here. THey even have the non toxic johnson and johnson baby mosquito solution to rub on their skin. In the city is generally mellow outside of the season. It's outside the city and in the forests where you'll get attacked by bugs.

    I'd buy a filter here. I have one that works great. Or bring your brita and bring extra filters.

  18. Hi there,
    My husband has applied for a job in Rio and we might be moving next will take me that long to get used to the idea of leaving Texas and I am so happy to have seen this blog and I am keeping a tab of things I must bring...I have a 2 kids..7 and 5...what school seems the one that most use...of course, I will visit both..both American or British? Do most expats live in Barra?

  19. Hi Texas,

    There are expats in Barra but I would have to say that the majority live in Ipanema/Leblon.

    The American school isn't bad. If you live over in the Leblon/barra area, it's a better choice than the British school (which is across town). I think that the British school is a stricter. Ok, far stricter in many ways than the American school. But see them both and see what you think.

    Are you excited at the prospect of living in Rio?

  20. I am scared to death to be honest....thanks for asking...just finding out where most expats live and little tidbits is so huge!
    I think I am scared because it is such a major husband is Costa Rican and have been to Costa Rica..but to move to another country and then the language barrier...What is the major differences between Barra and Ipanema..what is the average cost of an condo/apt? If I move there, I would love to meet you.

  21. Barra is far from Ipanema. In Ipanema you can walk places and in Barra there's a lot more driving. Barra has cheaper apartments and ipanema and Leblon have the most $$$. There are other great neighborhoods but it depends on what you are looking for. Why don't you send me an email at racheljapi(at)gmail(dot)com