Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Finding a job in Brazil

Brazil is booming! There is a lack of skilled labor! Jobs abound!

Yes, that is true and these remarks were enough to convince A. to move to Brazil. He talked to several companies before moving and they all corroborated his views, said that fluent Portuguese was not a requirement, and that they would be happy to hire foreigners. But let me tell you a little secret: Brazilians are over optimistic. As a Brazilian I would know to discount what they were saying by at least 50%, and the Portuguese not being a requirement should be taken with a pound of salt. Not that there are no job opportunities for non-fluent Portuguese speakers, but in the area A. wants to work in, which demands exchanges with clients, it is a must-have. I tried to tell him that, but I ended up being the annoying wife that does not believe everyone wants to hire her husband.

Fast forward a few months... here we are in Brazil and A. is looking for a job. Since he has a permanent visa (equivalent to a green card) he does not need a work permit, which is a big plus. He's sent emails to all the contacts with the companies he met back in Paris... 2 straight forward "no"s come first... big hit. Then comes 1 interview: all in Portuguese! The whole damn thing, including calculations out loud! At this point he is cursing, but the search goes on. A few weeks later, another interview. Also in Portuguese, also no follow up. Tough... the situation gets tenser. It also does not help that he is not getting replies to many of the emails he sends. No big deal in Brazil, where people will rather not respond that say "no" up front, but it is very frustrating for A. There are also the nice replies that don't mean anything, like "we will get in touch next week".  It is a vague email, and as such, without a specific time set or a specific date, it means nothing. But Monday morning A. is cursing they have not gotten in touch... and nothing by Friday either, and nothing by the next week.

A. feels like Brazilians are deceitful, liars, and have misguided him on purpose. I've tried to explain that he is reading the culture wrong, that he needs to adjust the optimism, read in between the lines and don't expect a straight forward answer. Last week he asked a Brazilian friend from the school in Europe why had he been so enthusiastic when the reality is so different. His reply: "I thought you knew to discount what I was saying".

So where are we now? Job search continues, expanded beyond the dream list companies to others. Brazilians are still liars, deceitful and misguiding...


  1. sigh... no different than Desis who say similar things to 'save face' in India....hoping that A's luck changes soon!

  2. Good to hear from you after a long time. What pj said is true, Indians sugar coat stuff and are super polite in public. You should always take anything they say with a grain of salt. I'm surprised A bought into all this. Anyway, hope he finds a job soon.
    PS: Would you consider moving back to the US if things don't work out in Brazil?

  3. In Ghana, where I lived for a good number of years,it is the custom to say a job will take 2 weeks to finish when they mean 4. "Everybody" knows this except foreigners. Once my husband asked a gathering of businessmen why they said 2 weeks (or 3 or 4) rather than the truth of twice that amount of time. The answer? "But we would LIKE it to be only 2 (or 3, or 4)!

    A French friend of ours started a company selling and installing various types of equipment in buildings. He refused to "lie" and only told the "truth" in terms of timing. He was unable to stay in business because he could not compete because of the time issue.

    These types of cultural differences make it frustrating as well as interesting for foreigners ;)and it is really necessary to know what's going on and adapt.

  4. Hi pj and anonymous!
    Great to get comments! I've heard that Indians are similar and one of my reactions when A. complains about Brazil is to ask: "How would it be in India?". But he gets REALLY upset at that, so it seems to only throw fuel into the fire.

    Moving back to the US would be an option, but according to A. he is not considering a plan B yet.

  5. Hi Miss Footloose!
    I think this issue of flexible deadlines and time necessary to do things is very common around the world, especially in developing countries. As you say, the key is to learn what is going on and accept it.

  6. From what I'd read and heard about Brazil's booming economy, it seemed that finding a job - a skilled job - would be a piece of cake. Guess the reality is a bit different. I wonder if it is the same in all the BRIC countries, where these are supposed to be the vanguard of 21st century. Hope the situation changes for the better soon!

    Good to see you back though.

    ~ Krishanu

  7. Hi Krishanu!
    Nice to see you back too!
    I think that for skilled Brazilians it is indeed easy to find a job these days, especially when unemployment is down to 3%. However, as most developing countries, we are not used to having foreigners apply. Yes, we did have a lot of immigration but it sort of stopped 50 years ago. The labor laws are also not flexible, which makes hiring and firing harder and there is always a doubt about how long the foreigner is here for. And very few Brazilians speak any other language than Portuguese...

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