By Gringo Blogger
By way of introduction I’m a foreigner who’s lived in São Paulo city for a few years. I came here for romantic reasons with the hopes of finding a job, like many gringos (only to find out that getting work in Brazil is a near impossible task). So I’m not your typical wealthy gringo. Thankfully I am now working part time in a great job, but am still on the Holy Grail-like quest of finding full time work. I married my girlfriend early last year, so have some idea of the highs and lows of a multicultural relationship.
In my blog I’m just documenting some of the day-to-day events that happen to me, amusing or not, to give an impression of what it’s like for a gringo living in the bustling metropolis of São Paulo, and Brazil in general. It’s at times also meant as a tongue in cheek look at gringo life, so shouldn’t be taken too seriously.
The past couple of months have not seen any change in the employment situation, that is nothing in terms of full time and decent paying work. There have been one or two tantalising opportunities, one better than any to-date, at least both seemed that way at first.
The first was a call from what seemed to be a headhunter, situated somewhere near Ana Rosa. I was told they had connections with various Blue Chip companies, and had a specific IT job in mind for me, therefore would I go and see them. So I donned the suit, and headed out for the interview. When I arrived there something seemed a little odd, simply from the number of other people there being interviewed, and I began to smell a rat. I was called into an interview and the interviewer was friendly, but a little too friendly as if trying to sell something. I was shown a number of business cards in a holder from various large Brazilian companies and Multinationals e.g. Siemens, IBM, Microsoft. Once the spiel was over it got to the inevitable sting in the tail, which was that I’d have to pay to join their database which of course would lead to a great job”. I wasn’t quite so sure though, and the whole thing reeked of being a scam. It was also similar to an experience I’d had a year or so before with another supposed job agency in Av. Paulista. The other agency there wanted me to pay to take an exam, costing R$100, before I could be allowed on their system. So I declined with a polite “thanks, but no thanks” on both that and this occasion, and left feeling rather disillusioned.
The second opportunity was a little more realistic, and came via the Internet heavyweight Catho. I continue to hear good and bad things about Catho, but mostly bad for foreigners at least. I have been registered with them for almost 3 years, and have applied for many jobs through the site, albeit with pretty much nothing in the way of return so far. This particular position, in software sales, came out of the blue as a request to attend an interview the next day. It was a little problematic as the interview was at the company’s office in Brooklin, so it meant a rather complex trip across the city to get there on time, as unfortunately I don’t own, nor can afford to own a car. The interview was with a Human Resources consultant, that had been contracted by the company. It was quite a lengthy interview of about an hour, in Portuguese, during which all the typical topics were discussed. The salary was stated as being R$2000 (around 500/US$1000) which I was rather dismayed to hear. This was also a registered job, so would be subject to tax (it’s believed that around 50% of jobs in Brazil are “cash in hand”, hence bypass tax). R$2000 is around 25% of the average salary in the southeast of the UK, where I’m from, and around 15% of the best salary I’d had in the last few years of working in the UK. Despite this I didn’t think about it too much, and decided to push on with trying, although even after all this time living in Brazil I think I was still a little naive to the difference in salaries.
After the first interview I was told I would be called in a week or so about the position. A week went by and I got a call to attend a second interview. The time stated was difficult for me, so as I was used to in the UK I asked about the option to change to a later time. The HR consultant stated that I arrived at this time, or I didn’t attend the interview, simple as that. So with the lack of choice in mind I arrived at the interview at the requested time, again travelling across the city to get there. This time around there were a group of 6 others, all Brazilians, and all suited and booted. We were left in a room to chat, and called one at a time to do psychological tests. I was rather bemused that a lowly sales job required such extensive interviewing, but stuck with it, and sat through sets of cards with faces on that I had to judge as happy, sad, sympathetic etc. It didn’t help the test that the photos on the cards appeared to date from the 19th century. Following this we all had to write some text about various aspects of software (either Portuguese or English, and I opted for English), then a supposed email to a customer, only in Portuguese of course. Again we were told we’d be contacted in a week or so about whether we would proceed.
A couple of weeks went by so I had assumed that I hadn’t got the job, but then I got another phonecall from the HR consultant saying that they wanted to interview me again. “Again?!”, I thought. The interview time was a problem again, but negotiation for a different time was clearly not an option so I turned up the following day at the appointed time. This interview was with the sales manager of the company, and after some discussion with him, and some more discussion with the HR consultant, I was again told I’d be contacted in a week or so. The topic of salary was raised by the HR consultant, and she made it relatively clear that she thought that R$2000 was very low for the position. Even the sales manager queried that I was content with the salary. If there doubts weren’t enough, I was already starting to have some doubts of my own as to whether the position was worthwhile at this amount, as I already have two part time jobs that combined are not far off this full time salary (bearing in mind this was before tax) and don’t require travelling halfway across the city every day.
Again a couple of weeks went by, and I had started the IT course discussed in a previous blog entry. I had again assumed that I hadn’t got the job to the lack of contact, but then I received a message on my mobile phone during a morning study session that there was an interview that afternoon at 3pm, again at the company’s office. By this point I’d had a saco cheio as they say in Portuguese, that is I’d about had it with this particular job application. This was the fourth interview for a job that I wasn’t really sure about, mostly because the salary was too low. I’m all for adapting to living in Brazil, and the different ways of doing things, but even so I’ve only ever had one job application in the UK proceed to a second interview. So I decided, with a bit of disappointment, to give up with it and not attend the interview.
Combined with the job disappointments there have been financial problems. The money I earn part time is enough to pay the bills with a little extra over, but not enough to contribute towards a family, or for savings, or to fund the inevitable trips home (flights to the UK are currently around 800/US$1600/R$3000). After almost 3 years of living in Brazil it has finally dawned on me that finding work here for a foreigner is an almost impossible task, even more so with a salary that I’d be used to in the UK. It’s also dawned on me that I will always be struggling financially here, even more so with children. This was something that I had been completely naive to when I arrived. I had naively expected, albeit given some time, that I would walk into a job with a multinational as foreigners would be a prized commodity. Whereas foreigners applying for jobs here are pretty much at the bottom of the CV pile.
So I’m now facing the decision of whether to return to the UK, or face a markedly different life in Brazil to the one I had expected. The decision is complicated even further by other factors, such as the enjoyment of some aspects in Brazil, particularly my part time work and the climate. I still miss the UK lifestyle, even though it’s likely to only be afforded by a rather dull 9-5 office job. After several months of thinking hard about the topic I’m still no closer to making a decision, although with a return flight due at Christmas, and no money to buy a flight back to Brazil, my hand may well be forced.
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Previous articles by Gringo Blogger:
Brazil Blog: Studying
Brazil Blog: The Cleaner
Brazil Blog: Dealing With Doctors
Brazil Blog: Showers
Brazil Blog: Dia Dos Namorados
Brazil Blog: Fishing Trip Part 3
Brazil Blog: Fishing Trip Part 2
Brazil Blog: Fishing Trip Part 1
Brazil Blog: Feira Frustration“