Despite challenges like Sao Paulo traffic, foreign executives who arrive in Brazil will enjoy the country.
BY JESUS MAXIMOFF
About two years ago, when I first stepped off the plane at the International Airport of Guarulhos, in São Paulo, Brazil, I felt intimidated by the city’s sprawl and intricacy. Of course I had been to São Paulo before, both on business and as a tourist, but this time was different: I was going with the specific purpose of establishing a career and planning on staying for an indefinite period of time.
Although the professional opportunity dazzled me, I couldn’t help feeling a little uncertain about some aspects of my personal life, one in specific: my wife was 5 months pregnant. I was moving out of a beautiful place in California, surrounded by the wild, coming to live in one of the largest cities in the world with an amazing number of skyscrapers and cars in narrow spaces, and that didn’t seem an easy task.
To my surprise, adaptation and cultural immersion were smoother than what I expected. I was able to find a great place to live, not too far from work and with a view of a park. My wife’s pregnancy went perfectly well and the care and attention we received at the hospital were delightful. Although my wife had lived in many countries before, she was impressed with the devoted care she received from all the employees of the particular hospital we choose. The birth of our baby was a wonderful and happy experience. “Do you know what Latin American people have that makes them so different?”, my wife once asked. “They smile”, she said. I guess she was right.
Furthermore, one of the things that thrilled me the most about working in Brazil was the optimism and energy that one can feel in the air. The positivity and self-confidence of this emergent country is reflected on a great working environment. The majority of the population is friendly and vivacious. In the technology field, the sector I work in, Brazil is a very well positioned country, which makes my field of work much more interesting. Brazilians are connected to the Internet for an average of 24 hours and 49 minutes per month; this makes them the second most connected nation in the world, after France.
Brazilians’ communication skills and drive to use new technologies impressed me and has made my professional life more exiting, by living here I have been able to find out that this country offers amazing options for entertainment, from mountains to beaches, from the best restaurants in the world to theaters and night clubs that never go out of style. Just as amazing is the wealth that can be found here; São Paulo has the largest Ferrari sales and the second-largest Lamborghini and Porsche sales in the world also, the largest fleet of private jets and helicopters on earth.
This is precisely what leads me to the next aspect of living in Brazil. Obviously, not all that glitters is gold. It is clear to see that Brazil faces problems such as poverty, crime, drugs and arms. But these can be controlled internally. One of the major problems in the city of São Paulo is not the violence itself, but the lack of structure in traffic.
The commute time here is shocking. Going anywhere is a complex task, and one can get one or two things done a day, maximum. The idea of spending more than 2 hours a day to arrive at work is dreadful. Before thinking about living in São Paulo, a person should consider giving up on some luxuries. It is almost mandatory to find a place to live that is the closest to work as possible.
Furthermore, São Paulo is the third most expensive city in the world. Needless to say, I wasn’t happy to pay a much higher average price for my food, clothing, living and transportation. Government taxes are one of the highest of the world, discouraging consumption and slowing down the pace of industrial growth.
HIGH COSTS, TAXES
The cost of running a business is quite high. Labor costs are extremely expensive due to Brazilian’s laws. Taxes, mandatory contributions and administrative burdens are heavy for companies of all sizes. In addition, the country’s tax methodology is a bit confusing and vague. General principles of taxation are defined by the Federal Constitution, and taxes are levied at the Union, Federal District, State and municipality levels. It is hard to identify exactly what you are paying.
But despite the cultural differences, there are many more similarities between Brazil and first world counties than you’d think. The way I see it, Brazil is the land of opportunities. The country’s optimism, the winning spirit and the self-confidence that Brazilians carry have a direct influence on the business environment. Foreigners who come here to work will definitely enjoy Brazilians’ traits: an effective and yet easygoing people.
Jesus Maximoff is General Director for Latin America for Intel. The Spanish native joined Intel in 1996 and has worked as country manager for Spain and Portugal.