Planning expatriate assignments in Brazil

Brazil has truly become a global player, both politically and economically, and it is therefore not surprising that it has successfully bid for 3 major sporting events within the past decade.

However, staging back-to-back major events does not come without its challenges in terms of infrastructure and security, knowing the expected numbers of visitors for the World Cup and subsequent Olympic Games may exceed 1 million.

Whilst the existing facilities in Brazil have always been sufficient to handle the requirements of Global Mobility Teams the influx of additional people will be sure to see an increase in demand for hotels and temporary accommodation as well as transport links and public services.

Brenda Bittencourt Goncalves lives and works in Rio De Janeiro for Technip, a world leader in project management, engineering and construction for the energy industry, and has firsthand experience with Brazil’s challenges. In discussion about the developments within Brazil, Brenda had the following to add;


“Brazil’s leading role in the Oil & Gas industry, due to the 2006 discovery of the Tupi oil field in the Campos Basin, has made the country particularly attractive to Energy specialists. The country has a huge housing deficit, exaggerated by an increasing middle class capable of buying more houses than ever before, which has been driving up the cost of housing. With the World Cup and Olympics just around the corner, an influx of people is making it harder to find suitable, secure accommodation for expats. Economic growth has added to the real estate boom, especially in Rio de Janeiro and São Paulo, and housing is a major factor in cost of living estimates. Some believe that after the World Cup the real estate bubble will burst.
A prime example of the unsustainable growth that we have seen is witnessed in Macaé- an area which experienced a population boom following Petrobras’ establishment of its headquarters in the Campos Basin in the 1970s. In the past 10 years, and certainly since the discovery of the Tupi Oilfield in 2006-2007, the area has seen 600% growth. This fast, disordered urban development process, has led to an increase in the number of slums as well as in the crime rate. In many areas, the city still lacks basic sanitation, sufficient infrastructure, reliable utilities, and highways. In Macaé, accommodating expats in an internationally acceptable, desirable and safe neighbourhood is not an easy task.
On top of the logistical trials, persuading expats to move to Macaé is in itself a challenge. There are very few or no movie theatres, museums, or international standards restaurants making it much harder for the expats and their families to adapt. The general population do not speak a great deal of English, either in Macaé or in fact in any other major city in Brazil, and so the simple tasks of grocery shopping or going to the bank, can be more than a little taxing for non-Portuguese speakers!”.


Planning assignments in Brazil

  • As in any international assignment, make sure you have selected the right expat for the post- someone who is flexible, can accommodate the culture differences and is willing to embrace the reality of their host location.
  • Choose someone who can already speak or is willing to learn the language- remember for Brazil that is Portuguese. “It becomes much easier to blend in, fit in, and for me it is also a sign of respect”, says Brenda Bittencourt Goncalves.
  • Set the expectation level correctly– an orientation trip in advance of agreeing to the assignment as well as a buddy system in place in the host country will work wonders in terms of the expat making an informed decision, and increases the chances of a successful assignment.
  • If the assignment is accompanied, then make sure you involve all parties from the very start – that goes for all destinations, clearly, but is even more important when faced with what can be a posting that has challenges.
  • Plan well ahead- visa and immigration formalities regularly take up to 3 months to be in place!
  • Set your budget realistically and ask your relocation provider on the ground to provide you with current pricing – although COLA information is readily available, it is generally not updated more than twice per annum, and market conditions can change dramatically. The Brazilian real has fallen by 15% in the past year alone.
  • Budget for additional costs in all aspects– Brazil like many other South American countries imposes considerable charges at the port, where containers can sit up to 30 days and more before being cleared and released. Your provider should advise you of these anticipated costs, which have to be paid up front. Port delays will also impact housing, and lead to longer and more expensive periods in temporary accommodation.


About the author: Brenda Bittencourt Goncalves of Technip, Brazil, and Bernadette Hillewaert of K2 Corporate Mobility
Brenda Bittencourt Goncalves is a market analyst for Technip and Brazilian national, although studied overseas. As part of Brenda’s role at Technip, she researches the market conditions for expansions within Brazil. For more information or advice on relocations to Brazil, contact .

Read more: Sources and references
Does Brazil Have the Answer?, New York Times, 20th January 2014 - Read more
Fragile economies under pressure as recovery prompts capital flight, The Guardian, 2nd February 2014 - Read more
Measuring Brazil's economy, The Economist, 10th March 2011 - Read more

IMAGE RIGHTS: Patrick Hutton (2013). Market in Peru. Available at: