By Alastair Kinghorn
September 8, 2014

There are pubs in São Paulo, or so they tell me, because I have never been inside one since coming to live here six years ago.

Here we have bars, and every little mercado”, no matter how tatty or remote seems to have at least one white plastic table and chairs where you can squeeze in between the racks of crisps and snacks on sale and sit and drink while the world goes by. These places are a far cry from the social watering holes of my misspent youth. They are not laid out with conviviality in mind or littered with imbibers’ souvenirs of 101 lagers that can be brought back from the far flung corners of the globe. They do not possess a row of ancient tankards hung from polished brass hooks, or a mahogany bar to lean on. They are simply a place where you can down a quick “cachaa” to set you up for a day’s hard labour or where an ice cold can of beer is available. Nothing even remotely tempting or attractive to beckon you inside, except for the poster of the young girl with a cleavage the size of the Grand Canyon, but they appear to be successful for all that, and they mark the clear division between social drinking and regular drinking that sets men apart in Brazil.

I say men, because women seldom appear to drink alcohol, or when they do it tends to be either a discreet glass of beer, or a tooth dissolving concoction of condensed milk and some sort of sweet liquor, called a “batida”. Not that you would expect to find a lady drinking “batidas” in a bar. She might either be offered one at someone’s “festa” or go with her “namorado” to a “clube” for a night on the tiles, and then sneak back to mum and dad’s house in the breaking dawn to be a nice girl again for the rest of the week. This is because the social classes also mark the division between those who “bebe socialmente” and those who “bebe regularmente”. To be one of the first group marks you as one whose attitude towards alcohol is somewhat of the “dilettante” who prefers to drink Chivas Regal rather than Old Eight. Who would rather have their “caipirinha” made with Socatoba and who certainly wouldn’t be seen dead tossing back a 51 on the way to the office in the morning. To be one of the second group is to fall into the abyss, where hardened fellows will grab a can of beer while inside the bus waiting for a queue of people to board and gulp down the ice cold foam before you can say Brahma.

Like so many aspects of Brazilian life, polarisation is clearly evident when it comes to alcohol and nowhere is it more clearly marked than in the prices charged. A few kilometres from where I am writing can be found a little factory where the proud owner will happily fill up your empty 1 litre bottle of “cachaca artenesal” for the princely sum of R$1.50. That is 50p in real money. Now we are not talking about hooch that is watered down just to fill the bottle. This is 40% alcohol from a pot still as recent as yesterday. Enjoying this potent liquid is perhaps the wrong word to choose. To the aspiring “pinga” addict, it is the effect that is the attraction rather than the taste, and to those who suffer from insomnia, this is a sure fire certain cure, albeit with a sting in the tail similar to a kick from an entire football team.

On the other side of the tracks, I know a “botega” in a nearby town where the proprietor will lovingly cradle a bottle of Vive Cliquot vintage champagne in one arm and an authentic Napoleon Cognac in the other, and enquire if “patron” would like to part with R$2,000 for the pair. Not the kind of stuff to be found on one of those little white plastic tables.

2014 Alastair Kinghorn

Alastair is an expat originally from Scotland now living in rural Southeastern Brazil close to the city of São Paulo. He has led a variety of lives since leaving school at the tender age of seventeen. In the merchant navy he spent six years travelling the world including a trip to Rio and Santos in 1971. He then tried his hand doing a series of jobs in London as;- Mini Cab driver, Fashion allocator, Warehouse manager, Meat factory worker, before deciding to become an architect. He then went north to the Scottish Highlands for the next six years. Worked there as an architect, and as skipper of a pollution control vessel on the Moray Firth. He opened a shop selling stationary and art supplies. Started an arts group with an annual exhibition, became a member of the Community Council and ran as candidate in local elections, before returning south to London in ’86; due to recession in the Highlands. Worked in commercial architects practices in London during the ‘Yuppie’ years, before yet another recession hit the construction industry. Entered Local Government as an Estate Surveyor for Westminster City Council, then as Technical Manager for Camden and finally Repair Centre Manager for Greenwich. Took early retirement in 2006 and emigrated here to Brazil. Settled in Peruibe SP for three years before moving to Pedro de Toledo in the foothills of the Jureia mountains. Married and divorced three times he spends his time between his sitio, working part-time in a local imobiliaria, writing, photography and listening to classical music. Alastair decided to create Brazil: Abelhas
Brazil: Seguranca
Brazil: The Ghost of Ayrton Senna
A Scotsman in Brazil

September 8, 2014

This week in our continuing Foreigners Through Brazilian Eyes series we have an interview with Ana Gauz. Read on as Ana tells us about her impressions of foreigners, and gives some helpful advice also.

1. Where are you from in Brazil and what do you do?

I am from Rio (I used to live in Leblon) and I am currently working at a very nice store as a sales associate (my first retail job ever!). Back in Brazil, I used to work in the film industry.

2. What are the main obstacles for foreigners in Brazil?

I believe the obstacles are the same to any person that moves to a different country: adjusting to another culture, the food, how people relate to each other, the way they dress… Not to mention the language!

3. What are common mistakes that foreigners make in Brazil?

As tourists, I would say not trying (hard) to blend in, in order to avoid attracting burglars and scammers, as well as displaying their nice and big and expensive cameras at any place. In our online world, one should know better than visiting a place without learning about it in advance. About expats living in Brazil, I just don’t know.

4. What characteristic of other nationalities strikes you as the most different (eg. sense of humour, formality, dress)?

In the US, it’s the way people dress, especially bathing suits. I’ve been living here for 5 years and sometimes I think I will never get used to them. But I also believe it’s more so in the suburbs, where I live. Whenever I go to a big city, I usually see more people dressed more accordingly to what I was used to in Brazil. I mean, more contemporary and youthful.

5. Which English accent do you prefer and why (eg. Scottish, American, Australian)?

I love the English language. Period. Every accent has its own beauty. The American accent just flows, it’s music to my ears. The British one sounds sophisticated. The Australian and South-African accents are fun.

6. Favourite place travelled abroad and why?

Hawaii, hands down. Natural beauty that reminded me of Brazil (except for the volcanos, of course), but more developed, with better services.

7. Favourite foreign food?

Italian food. Portuguese desserts.

8. Favourite foreign band, book and movie?

Band – Queen Book – Pride and Prejudice, Jane Austen Movie – I can’t choose just one. There are sooo many! I love all Woody Allen’s movies, but there are so many others: The Untouchables, The Piano, Amlie, The Hunt, The Truman Show…

9. What is the difference between dating a Brazilian and Foreigner (if this applies to you or perhaps a friend)?

I have never dated a foreigner and most of my friends are married to Brazilian men. Sorry!

10. Can you share an incident, misunderstanding or ‘culture shock’ that you have experienced with a foreigner?

Sure! I have many incidents, but the one that struck me the most was when an acquaintance of mine told me, very straightforward, that she doesn’t mind hugging but she does not like being touched, after I rubbed her shoulder as I greeted her. I just said OK”, not knowing exactly what to think about it. But later, I came to the conclusion that I had to adapt, since I am not in Brazil anymore, where everybody touches each other all the time. I’d rather have someone saying that right away than feeling disgusted at my touch or starting to avoid me.

11. What are 2 things you would recommend for a visitor to do in Brazil to better understand Brazilian people and their culture?

Just be open, adventurous, try to enjoy the good things and be careful, a little more than Brazilians themselves need to be. Also, here are some practical tips (more than 2):

1. If you are invited to a party that is supposed to start at 9pm, do not show up before 10 or 10:30pm. The host won’t be ready. Not even business or school meetings start on time. It’s a cultural thing. 2. Try getting used to greeting a friend or acquaintance you come across in the streets, even if you are in a hurry, with 2 kisses on the cheek. Exchange some words, say you are in a hurry, and say goodbye with 2 more kisses. You only don’t need to do this if the person is a little far away or if it is someone you hardly know. 3. People are curious about foreigners, so expect a lot of questions. Obviously you don’t have to answer all of them, but be prepared. We, Brazilians, suffer from “the mongrel complex”. 4. People do not say “Excuse me” when someone is on their way. In Brazil, people just find their way through the crowd, without a word. I prefer the way Americans do.

If you are Brazilian, or know a Brazilian, who has traveled abroad or has considerable experience with different nationalities here in Brazil, we would like to hear from you. Please send an email with contact details and a brief description of yourself to

Previous Interviews

Daniel Reschke
Adriana Schmidt Raub
Kledson Pires
Juliana Barroso
Maria Cristina Skowronski Flynn
Antonia Sales
Augusto Gomes
Tatiane Silva
Regina Scharf
Rebecca Carvalho
Augusto Uehara
Ana da Silva
Daniel Bertorelli
Marco Cassol
Ana Clark
Vanessa Agricola
Ubiratan S. Malta
Brescia Terra
Renata Andraus
Ana Vitoria Joly
Helio Araujo
Adriano Abila
Anderson Ferreira
Sandra Partridge
Samara Klug Szachnowicz
Flavius Ferrari
Daniela Ribeiro
Adriano Gomes
Elizabeth Sacknus
Geberson Coelho
Rosaly Loula
Andreas Saller
Elvis Renato Barbosa Lima
Bruno Santos
Maria Cecilia Schmidt Maluf
Marta Dalla Chiesa
Cludia Ramis De Almeida
Vivian Manasse Teixeira Leite
Fernando Saffi
Gabriela Kluppel
Patrcia C. Ribeiro
Fabiano Deffenti

September 8, 2014

So, you’ve made the decision to start looking for a job in Brazil, now what? The following guide suggests five of the best ways to improve your chances of getting a job in Brazil.

After a decade of low unemployment, decreasing income inequality, a growing middle class, a quicker recovery from the Global Financial Crisis than any other emerging market, and sky-rocketing hiring of foreign workers, Brazil’s economy seems to have slowed down and stagnated. This is particularly apparent in the job market.

Further, bureaucracy is slow and complex, which negatively impacts visa applications and taxes. Nevertheless, there are opportunities if you’re prepared to make the effort to find them. Read on to find out where to look.


If you’re lucky enough to work for an international company that has offices in Brazil, this is the easiest way into the Brazilian workforce. The visa process is much simpler for a transfer employee than if you move to Brazil without a job. Moreover, your employer will usually help you with things such as finding accommodation, transportation, and health insurance.


Brazil’s younger population is becoming increasingly educated so the competition for graduate positions is intensifying. If you’ve worked and gained some experience before moving to Brazil, it will be a huge asset. The major industries in Brazil are the large and well-developed agricultural, mining, manufacturing, and service sectors.

The growth industries include the renewable energy sector (in particular biofuel), water and waste management, and the automotive industry. Appropriate qualifications and work-experience in any of these industries should serve you well. More so if your occupation is one of those in short supply: engineers, environmental management consultants, and IT professionals.


While the international companies in Brazil often use English as their company language, you may have to deal with Portuguese-speaking clients, partners, advertisers, etc. Furthermore, knowing how to speak the country’s language is greatly beneficial outside of the office.

Don’t forget: even though the written language is very similar to European Portuguese, the spoken language is different, and unique to Brazil.


If you aren’t able to simply transfer to a position in Brazil, then networking with the expat community in Brazil is the second best thing. Connecting with expats in your industry will give you an idea of what local demand is like, what positions are available, and which companies are currently hiring. They may even be able to personally submit your CV to their company’s HR department.

From a social point of view, fellow expats can also help you settle into the Brazilian lifestyle, deal with any culture-shock you might experience, and meet other friendly expats and locals.


Some industries, such as oil and gas, are big recruiters in the region. Others, requiring specialists to operate modern technical equipment, also make an effort to recruit foreigners. Current growth areas for foreign recruitment include: 4G telecommunications, business development, industry, and insurance and reinsurance.

Nevertheless, finding a job in Brazil as a foreigner is difficult. If you don’t fall into these categories, consider submitting your CV to a global recruitment agency. The labor laws are rather strict in Brazil so make sure the agency has offices in Brazil or a good understanding of the relevant legislation.