Friday, August 27, 2010

Finding the groove

It’s pretty much understood that Brazil is an expensive place to live these days.
When I first visited Brazil it was totally different, mostly because the currency exchange rate back in 1999 was 4:1 Real to the Dollar. So every US dollar bought 4 Reais worth of goods/services. We were living large back then, coming to visit with US dollars in our pockets.

The problem these days is two-fold: living here, shit is expensive and wages are stupid low. Plus the exchange rate has cooled to 1.7:1 Real to the Dollar. That is, one dollar only buys 1.7 real’s worth of goods/services. A far cry from the previous spend thrift days.

We are living local. Exchange rates are nearly irrelevant, except when we occasionally transfer funds from the States. For the most part we earn our wages here and pay the cost of living here. And it is not easy. Brazil is an expensive place to live.

Many ex-pats are earning US wages at their local US company office, plus getting perks above and beyond their wages like housing, maid service, nanny service, car and/or driver service, health club membership, travel costs to and from the US several times/year, and on and on. It is another world.

But I’m here to say that you can live here on much less. While travel and entertainment costs can be high, just enjoying a normal life at home is quite affordable. This is where the Brazilian focus on family and friends comes into focus. It does not cost anything to enjoy our friends or to spend time with our family.

Luiz and I definitely took a hit on the income front when we moved here. But we have re-learned the joys of personal relationships as life enhancers. Less (stuff) is more.

Ultimately I would rather work less and spend casual time with my friends than work constantly (like we did before) and focus on brief getaways for respite.

Everyone has their own priorities. We have found ours and are quite happy.


Danielle said...

Love it!
The price (and therefore priorities) of things in Brazil certainly beat the California consumerist out of me. But I think you'd agree that we're better for it. The prices of things here reflect what's really important in life (expensive iPods; cheap veggies and healthcare!).

I don't feel like my salary is too low to enjoy a good life here. Of course life is harder for people in Brazil who didn't have a chance to go to college, so I agree that like, minimum wage laws should be changed. But if you get your priorities in line with the cost of living, then the living is easy! :)

Have a great weekend :D

Rachel said...

So so so very true! It´s impossible to make a little go a long way here. Hell, it´s hard making a little go a little way.

But the quality of life, is just that, quality. LIfe here is so wonderfully social, active, and relaxing at the same time. I´ll give up target for that. tear. Hey, I didn´t say it´d be easy ;)

Linds said...

I completely agree with you. It was tough in the beginning to just slow down and stop going crazy buying all kinds of crap just to make myself feel better like I used to (one reason is that now i can't AFFORD to buy all kinds of crap). The point is, we're all better for it!

Fiona said...

yes, Brazil is way more expensive than I expected it to be!

But the range of prices of things are different than I expected, too. In my small town, the cost of our rent is 600 reais, whereas a bag of rice (imported sushi rice) in Sao Paulo is 180 reais. At 8 reais a kilo, I will not buy pears. I'll stick with the local pineapple. And I won't go to Wizard for Portuguese lessons at 80 reais per hour. I guess it helps to really see which are the luxuries, and which are the basics. Friends and family are pretty basic here...that's nice! I appreciate your posts about the qualidade de vida.

Fiona said...
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