Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Ask Rachel: Moving to Rio!

Q. Dear Rachel,

I recently found your blog on living in Rio from the ExPat blog and find it quite entertaining.  So many of the things you identify as Brazilian are things that I thought were peculiarities of my husband :)  God help me now that we are considering of moving to Brazil, I am going to lose my critical mass here in the States!

 My husband has a job offer and we are thinking seriously about moving to Rio in the next few months.  My husband is Brazilian and grew up in Recife. We have been living in the States for the past five years. That said, Rio would be new to both of us. I would love to hear any advice you have on moving to Rio and what areas are reasonable to live in. (I have read about your nightmares with realtors.) Do you live in the city or in the surrounding areas?   We have a 2 year old daughter, but I am not keen on moving to a suburb right off as I feel it might be harder to meet people and adjust. Any advice? My husband spent the weekend trying to get an idea of rentals, but it seems to be a tough market. 

Thanks in advance!    

A. I live in Rio de Janeiro, in Zona Sul. Renting in Zona Sul is difficult. As an expat and a Brazilian from another city, I suggest trying to live in Zona Sul initially. Will your husband's company help with rentals? With hiring your husband are they treating him as an expat hire? If so, they should be very helpful with rentals, schools, and general adaptation. 

If not, and even so, I suggest you look into the most popular neighborhoods like Ipanema and Leblon. If you are open to being a bit more native (and enjoying a slightly lower cost of living) I would also check out Flamengo and Laranjeiras. This also depends on where your huband's job will be located. For example, if his office is in downtown Rio de Janeiro (centro), my advice is right on. If he will be working in Barra, I suggest living in Barra. The commute to Barra and vice versa will take precious hours away from quality family life. You should realize that working in Brazil means that your husband will be working A LOT! There's no "it's 5pm and the work day is done" here. Most likely he'll also have to travel. You want to be somewhere you feel comfortable and have friends. 

It's also easier to find an apartment to rent when actually in Rio de Janeiro. If that means your hubs has to come before you and your daughter, so be it. If that is not an option you can always live in an aparthotel at the beginning. They are essentially extremely small apartments/hotels where you have all the conveniences of hotels with a sort of apartment life. They have them in every neighborhood. 

I also imagine you are nervous when it comes to adapting your daughter. While Rio de Janeiro is big city living, it is also very child friendly. You will find that you can take her everywhere. There are also nice and nice enough parks in every neighborhood. You should consider joining a country club. Some companies have connections and discounts for this.  They come in all ranges. For example, the Flamengo club in Leblon is reasonably piced and also very nice. The Club Paissandu in Leblon that is much nicer and less reasonably priced. There are many clubs to choose from and they can make daily life much easier for a expat Mom in Rio.

Food will also be an adaptation. Milk is different here. It tastes weird. It can sit on a shelf. It's just strange all around. Kids seem to get used to it anyway. Food is mainly homemade. If you love to cook and am a foodie, Rio de Janeiro is your heaven. You can buy plenty of cheap fresh veggies, fruits, fish, and proteins. Of course, if you are not it could be your hell.  Thankfully most restaurants deliver and you can hire a cook who comes to you place one day a week and cooks for the entire week. There's also the maid option. I have someone twice a week to clean and cook lunch. Many people choose to have someone full time. This depends on the family. 

All and all, I think that expats generally discover that living in Rio de Janeiro is amazing. The more open you are to it the more open it will be to you. You have an edge seeing that your husband is Brazilian. We should meet up sometime seeing that Mr. Rant's Mother is from Recife and Father is from João Pessoa. If you have the chance, you should visit the NE of Brazil (if you haven't already). It is truly amazing! 

Lastly, if you are set on a house, go live in Barra. You can find reasonably priced houses with a kind of yard there. They are in gated communities and are safer than houses in Zona Sul. You will have to be prepared for a lack of space. Cariocas are used to close quarters. Apartments and houses in Barra are generally larger. In Zona Sul you will have to fight and pay for a larger apartment. Houses are an entirely different story. If you are renting on your own in Zona Sul, principally Ipanema and Leblon, I recommend going to see apartments with all necessary papers in hand and possibly a blank check. It's quite competitive now and not uncommon for you to call back to an apartment the following day only to find out it has already been rented. My neighborhood (Laranjeiras/Flamengo) is more size/price friendly but renters lean heavily towards Brazilians over expats and companies. 

This is a lot of info I am vomiting out on you right now. Let me know if it brings up any other questions! 

Think about Rio, it is a great place! I choose it over the states daily. 

What would all of you add?


  1. Wow - lots of info. I would just add that living in Rio/Brazil is uncommonly expensive, so be sure you get a good deal from the employer - or think twice.

  2. I would add that there is a vibrant community of other internationals who live in Rio for Love. Great preschools, classes and places to explore with kids. Although it is a honeymoon destination,like anywhere in the world you will have good days and bad. That moving involves learning, adapting and growing is a lot of ways you don't expect. Most likely you will have less space, just as you would in NY but you will live IN the city so much more than you expect. The beach becomes your backyard and over time you don't need as much space. You don't buy in bulk but when you walk past the grocery store daily you buy what you need. Like any move you will miss the comfort and familiarity of what you knew but Rio is a special city. Slowly it will shift from the place you live to the place you call home.

  3. Do the apart-hotel while looking; the real estate market is competitive and crazy, but there are some real gems if you give yourself some time to search. It took us 2-3 months to find a new apartment, and I lost track of how many dud places we saw before we found the apartment we're now in. Also, stand your ground...I initially turned down this apartment as it was out of our price range, and the realtor thought I was negotiating...and SHE did the negotiating to bring it down to our price point!

  4. great post Rachel!
    I second Sarah: Most likely you will have less space, just as you would in NY but you will live IN the city so much more than you expect.

  5. Do things that require knowledge of the local market before you leave. Your current address and surroundings are familiar to you so if you need shots or booster shots for a pet for example get it done there.
    Info here.


  6. Thanks all! Any advice on whether or not to bring furniture/appliances (if it's on the company's bill)? Which would you say are best to get there?

  7. if it's on the company's bill BRING EVERYTHING U HAVE!

  8. I wouldn't bring everything, as it will be hard to find a place to put it all, but bring ALL appliances. Bring your couch, tv, electronics, dishes, towels, sheets, toys you'd want your daughter to have (toys are very $) here.

  9. ...and a transformer to use your appliances.

  10. It's because in Brasilia voltage is 220 so we need a transformer (the tech guy at my school says that's what it's called) to be able to use the coffee maker we brought with us, the rice cooker, wireless adapter, etc.

    Rio is 110v, right? I forgot...

  11. I get it now! Rio is 110v. So everything works. I love that

  12. Must be wonderful. I think my husband fried 3 of our appliances. They sure can smell bad when that happens.