I’ve visited Fortaleza Brazil for the past two years. In 2015, I came here for the first time and it was definitely a huge culture shock. I was afraid to go outside at night, I was afraid of getting food poisoning, cockroaches crawling on me while I slept, etc. Before I came to Brazil, I thought it was going to a big jungle and small villages. But when I got here, I realized that there was actual civilization. I still find this surprising considering that we’re basically living in a desert (at least in Fortaleza). I only stayed for 2 months in 2015 because I still studying to get my Bachelor’s degree in English in the U.S. I came again in 2016 for two more months and that trip was a lot better. I didn’t have that much culture shock, but things were still new. The only difference was I knew what to expect - the smalls, the sounds, and the sights. As well as customs and infrastructure that are different from the U.S. Now I’m here for the third time. And rather than staying for only a couple of months, I intend to live here permanently. I came June 13th and today, it’s the 3rd of August. Being here for the 3rd time, everything that was once different or weird, is basically normal for me. I still don’t feel totally comfortable because of the language (I’m working on that), but over all nothing surprises me anymore. I’m no longer afraid to go out at night by myself, take the bus alone, or carry my cell phone with me (though of course I still carry emergency money with me just in case anything happens). I know to be cautious in the streets and how to be safe. I also have adapted to the food, but nothing is really so different here food wise compared to the U.S. Most importantly, I’m used to the way of life here. I don’t think it’s so different from the U.S. unless you’re extremely impoverished, but most people do what people in the U.S. do. They go work, school, they study, they go to the gym, they watch movies, they go to the beach, they have family problems, they have relationship problems. As much as people like to sensationalize the differences between countries, or the pros and cons of living abroad, it’s pretty much the same as any other place. Sure, the infrastructure is different, the language is different, but people are people. The same personalities I see in the U.S.
The reason why I moved to Fortaleza was because my husband’s from here. I met him while he was studying abroad at my university from 2013-2014, and we got married this year. I visited Brazil 2 times before living here, and he studied abroad in the U.S. and went to the U.S. 2 times after that to visit me. All in all, it worked out really well.
The only thing I guess there is to complain about is getting to Fortaleza. It is a trek in every sense of the word. If you don’t get a flight from JFK/EWR to Miami and then to Fortaleza, you’re looking at 2 layovers. Flights that go from JFK/EWR to Miami and then Fortaleza are usually more expensive, so I have never taken one like that (unfortunately). Usually, the flight will look something like this. EWR to ATL (3 hours). Waiting time in ATL (2 hours). ATL to RIO or SP (9 hours). Security and waiting time in RIO or SP (3 hours). SP to Fortaleza (3 hours). In all that’s, 20 hours of nonstop traveling. It’s a quick 10 hour flight from JFK/EWR to SP or RIO, but it will at least take 18 to 20 hours to fly to Fortaleza. Usually the plane is freezing and uncomfortable, but what didn’t you know?
I’m here on a Permanent Residency visa that I obtained through marriage from the Policia Federal. It was a long bureaucratic process (which Brazil is infamous for) of cartorios, declarations, copies, and going to the PF 3 times, but we got everything done within 2 exasperating weeks.
After that mess, I started looking for English teaching jobs at private English schools. I very soon realized how underpaid teachers are here and how confusing the process is. For most schools, they want you to take 17 reais an hour, and they only give you enough hours to make a minimum wage. Teaching is a skilled profession, we should be making REAL SALARIES. But anyway, this usually means you have to work at at least 2 different schools to make ends meet. In addition, you usually have to go to multiple trainings (some of which you will have to give up because they conflict with other trainings), and only after the hours of training will you know if you even got a spot at the school. As a native, I think it was a little bit easier for me, but just a warning, finding an English teaching job here is not a piece of cake.
Even though things are similar to the U.S., there are of course, different things. Here are some different things between New Jersey (where I lived) and Fortaleza (where I live now).
23 year old English major and ESL Teacher. Currently living in Fortaleza, Brazil. Feminist and kill joy with a cause.