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Category Archives: Cost of Living

Our Empty Home

Because we are in Brasil on a temporary basis, and because my husband’s firm offered to ship down 1000 lbs. of goods (and cover the import taxes), we shipped down a few items we felt were necessary, but went light on the homier items.  Now that I sit on our couch (purchased at Tok&Stok an overpriced Ikea of sorts) and look over my large, house like apartment I wish I would have brought a few more “nick nacks”.

My husband did a wonderful job of finding an apartment in Brasil, and has landed us in an older apartment building in Brooklin-Paulista. The newer buildings, with their shiny glass covered balconies are much smaller on the interior, so we are happy with our large and spacious old style building.  I also think the apartment has a charm to it, as it is old.  The street is a quiet, rarely traveled, one-way street with bits of the original, hand-lain brickwork poking through the modern asphalt.  The trees are covered in the emerald green moss, with roots pushing the narrow, bumpy sidewalks into further distortion.  As I stare out my apartment window with my son, I watch the never ending parade of Brazilian’s walking their dogs (which is definitely one of the drawbacks of Brasil, no one really picks up their dog’s messes).  In short, I really love it here.

I read on one blog about how no one ever walks anywhere, and people drive out of their driveways and back in again, never stepping foot on the sidewalk outside.  I think a life like this may have been something I experienced in Morumbi, where there wasn’t a cute corner bakery, or the local feira, or the really great restaurant that sells Frango de Asado (grilled chicken) every weekend that I could easily walk to.  I am glad we chose Brooklin.


I love that Orchid’s grow on the trees in front of my house, I couldn’t have asked for a prettier view!

Our balcony is much larger than all of the other balconies in the complex, and wraps along the entire side of our apartment.  I also have my own private balcony for our bedroom.  This will make for a great gardening spot I think, and an even better play area for my son, as there are no little bars for him to chuck random kid objects through, little legs, or big fat heads.


The common area comes with a Brazilian style bbq pit and from the looks of it a wood burning oven. To the left is the Olympic sized lap pool (for my son), and a little play area that I may let the little licker on one day when he stops being the little licker. Behind the play area is a soccer goal, and off to the side is the gym with sauna.  Overall not bad.

The interior of the home is all dark wood. I really feel like I’m living in an old Southern home.  I have a living room, with the attached dining area that has swinging doors that head into the kitchen.  I guess if I had maids and a cook bringing out delicious meals to me, that’d be a very helpful little door.  The kitchen has a breakfast nook and then flows into the full sized laundry room.  I absolutely LOVE that there are racks above the washer/dryer that I can hang my clothing from.  Living in a small apartment in Los Angeles, I found that our apartment was strewn with my “do not dry in the dryer” clothes every Saturday and Sunday morning.


In Brasil there is always the service entrance.  The maids, nannies, service men who come to your home always enter through the back door. Brazilians take this formality seriously (as my husband learned when transporting his suitcase up the main elevator).  The service entrance is where we leave our trash to be taken away by the building maid every day.  It is where our mail is left for us to pick up, and it is the door that leads straight into the laundry room.  Off of the laundry room is the maid’s room.  This could be where the maid kept her belonging for the day, or if we had a live in maid where she slept.  The room is not bigger than a small walk-in closet and is meant merely for a bed from what I can see.  Across the hallway is her bathroom.  I’ve tried to take photo’s to capture how awful this bathroom really is… think cruise ship, but worse.  Yes the shower head literally hangs above a drain on the floor between the sink and the toilet.


Overall, the apartment is large.  With a living room, and attached dining room, two bedrooms, an office, a master bedroom, 2.5 bathrooms, and the maid’s bathroom. Along the hallway are floor to ceiling closets, which change to mirrored doors in the master bedroom.  This is the main hallway, which leads to the master bedroom hallway (another 7 feet of hallway after the door until you get to the room itself).



On all accounts we are very lucky to be in a large apartment, versus a tighter apartment.  The only issue is we only have 1000 lbs. of belongings coming down, and most of that will go in the kitchen or the closets!

And rent, well the rent for this space is better than I could ever find in LA.


Tropical treats

Being from Hawaii I grew up eating very fresh tropical fruit. I have missed yummy mango, huge avocados, guava, and passion fruit. I was sad that while I could find most of these in LA they were poor excuses for very delicious fruits. So I have VERY much been looking forward to Brasil. Pathetic, unripe fruit is obviously not the case in Brasil. My son will grow up eating the yummiest, and exotic of fruits.

I thought I would just go to the Feira and buy fresh fruits and mash them, but these are the exotic baby food mixes I can find here. This is guava with milk (bananas and apples), and a jar of cashew fruit.  I never knew cashews grew on fruits! Hubby says that it makes you thirsty so I don’t know how bub will like this. They were R$2.79 for the state 2 jars, so all in all not drastically more than the US … and well they’re exotic, so worth it.

We also picked up some mangoes at the Feira the other day.  Yes, I finally have a cheap farmers market close by (I never really liked the one’s on the Bank of America plaza in downtown LA, they weren’t really farmer’s markets). My son absolutely loved mango!  We gave him a strip to chew on, and he sucked it clean.  So we tried to take the chewed piece from him and trade for a chunk of fruit but he was mango crazed and snatched it back.

Don’t mess with me mom!

We have also fed him passion fruit juice, which he liked a great deal more than apple juice. I still can’t get him to drink apple juice out of a sippy cup, but passion fruit juice was not a problem. At least we know he knows how to use the cup now.

And of course, he threw a fit at the restaurant the other day so the waitress brought him pao de queijo (cheesy balls! Ok, only I call them that). You can see he is quite proud he scored free food.

imageIt is sooooo Good mom..give me more

Shopping at the mall

Fancy title I know right? I don’t have the energy to come up with something witty. Needless to say I have no desire to go to the mall again soon.  I’ve seen on a few blogs people mentioning their visits to the mall. Honestly, there is no draw for me.  The clothing is super expensive, and the quality just isn’t there for me. If I am going to pay high prices ($R100 for board shorts), I’m going to pay those prices for designer apparel in America. That and the parking is not free, so yes the country will get every last centavo you have.

So why was I at the mall then if I’ve already imposed a no shopping for shoes or clothing at the mall ban on myself? Well we need a cell phone (because I am a moron who left her tablet on the seat pocket in front of me, and was a trusting fool to think that the cleaning crew would turn it in), and a WHOLE house full o’ furniture.  So we headed to Casa Bahia and Fast Shop to price out …well pretty much everything.  Casa Bahia reminds me of those furniture stores from the 70’s… um yes I realize I wasn’t even born yet.  The selection was almost all purchased and mostly white.  Next door was Fast Shop, more of the Best Buy of all in one shops.  The interior was modern and fancy and all of the workers were young and cute.  Needless to say we were swayed by all of the silver appliances, and ended up purchasing all of our goods here.  No not really, we’re too cheap to be swayed that easily.  They actually will negotiate with you a lot on pricing if you are buying a bunch all at once, AND you have prices from next door that you are holding them to.  There are also all the “sale” items, which is pretty much what we bought.

Being someone who always lived in furnished apartments, it was kind of fun initially to pick out my own appliances. I finally have a sweet stove to get my cook on.  As the whole expedition took about 3 hours, by then end I’m not 100 percent positive what we bought. But here are the photos… I think. We may also have got a range hood and an air conditioner…or two, and I know at one point my husband went off to look at TV’s and found a 40″ TV (without internet, but with USB ports) for about R$1500, but don’t know it looks like to post a photo.  We could have got an LG 32″ for the same price that came with wireless internet. Either way, all done and said with delivery and install everything rounded out to around R$10,000 give or take a few hundred. For the record, HSBC’s debit card was part of the reason we were stuck in the store. The card would not let us run it through for even R$5000 (the daily limit), and we wanted to pay on debit as it was saving us R$500.  We ended putting it all on our Capital One, but boo to HSBC.  We finally left the store at 11pm, thanks to the whole HSBC debit card issue. And had we not been so tired, the husband is pretty sure we could have negotiated down further.  We did get them to give us a 2 year warranty on most of the items for free.

Of Death and Taxes

So I cannot be employed while we live in Brasil.  Several reasons. 1 I don’t have a work permit. 2. Brasil taxes my husband on his international income of both him and his spouse. So any money I make (even as a Consultant in the US) he would be taxed on (heavily of course).  This is after we have already paid the US government.  Thankfully as an expat his company provides a tax accountant, and will take care of the whole tax issue of double taxing, etc.

The hubby says it seems that everyone’s favorite pastime is complaining about taxes .  As a country they certainly love to tax everything.  Most everyone knows all imports are taxed at ~40%.  This is what makes the cost of living in Brasil so high, and why I’m sure a good smuggling racket could pull in some good money.

We just learned about some of the other nuances of Brasil. You can see a break down of the various taxes that will come out of your check here.

A few interesting things my husband has encountered:

  1. Employees receive a debit card for $420R a month for lunch *not sure if this is just unique to his firm.
  2. All employees below Manager status get paid overtime – salary or not. *too bad my husband is a Manager now.
  3. All employees are REQUIRED to unionize.  So you lose 1 pay-day out of a month for dues.
  4. Brasilian law calls for a 13th month salary to be paid at the end of the year, plus the vacation bonus equal to 33.3% of the monthly salary.
  5. Employers deposit 8% of the employee’s monthly salary into an account that earns interest and is monetary corrected (FGTS). In the case of termination without proper cause, the employee gets the fund plus another 40% contributed by the employer.
  6. Transportation Vouchers are given out and there are other mandatory benefits.
  7. He gets 30 days of vacation ON TOP of all of the Brasilian Holidays.

In the end, our extreme fiscal conservaty is at odds with a country that is fairly socialist.

Currently, we are still waiting to get into our new apartment.  Paperwork still needs to be signed by our company to “guarantee” us with the landlord.  The landlord has us a sign a 30 month lease (legally required by Brasilian law), and he cannot kick us out.  We can cancel the lease of course after 12 months.

My hubby also needs to get some money in hand to pick up his car.  He again needs the company to help in getting him set up with a local bank account…. so yes we still don’t have a car, and we still don’t have an apartment.

However, here is the apartment we want.

Maybe we will finally be able to get it before the end of the year! Wish us luck.

The House Hunt – a few tips

I ran across a great site today that had some good tips.  Brasil World Movers.  They also give a run down of all the various neighborhoods you may want to consider living in.  We are pretty sure we know where we want to live based on work proximity.

Although we would like to live in Moema because of that park, apartments there are automatically much more expensive because of the proximity to the park.  Also, everyone my husband has talked to said Moema is really crowded with lots of traffic.  Also, Moema is within that circle around the center of Sao Paulo where you can’t drive your car on one of the days of the week.  So, we are focusing our housing search in Campo Belo and Brooklin.

Ibirapuera Park

Ibirapuera Park near Moema

If you are planning on living in Brazil for any extended period of time.  The following tidbits from the above site are helpful to know.

  1. The RENTER is expected to pay for any repairs and improvements to the dwelling.
  2. Make sure that hot water is connected everywhere you need it. Two faucets on a sink do not necessarily indicate a hot and could water supply. This is particularly true in laundry areas.
  3. Have someone check the roof and ceilings for indication of leaks or other water problems. This is specially important if you will live in the penthouse (cobertura).
  4. Don’t look for central heating or air-conditioning in São Paulo. They exist only in rare cases.
  5. Make sure the house or apartment building has adequate water storage (caixa). You don’t want to rely entirely on street water.

This means that the beautiful photos you see online are the cleaned up, fixed up versions. Expect your home/apartment to need some paint, a good carpet scrub, or even new carpet.

Apartment buildings may have their own guards in addition to doormen (porteiros) and the building’s manager (zelador) who may or may not live on the premises. The zelador may be able to help with any maintenance or repairs, or at least be able torecommended trustworthy repairmen who have serviced the building before.


  1. Is street lighting adequate?
  2. Is there a street guard or private security?
  3. Is it near a favela or vacant lot?
  4. Is the wall/fence high enough to discourage intruders?
  5. Is the garage door automatic? If electric, is there a manual over – ride switch on case of power outage?
  6. Be sure to have all the locks changed on the day you move into your new home. The extra security is worth the hassle and expens

Vocabulary terms that will be helpful in finding an apartment and cleaning it up!

Alcohol Alcool
Backyard Quintal
Bathroom Banheiro
Bedroom Dormitório
Breakfast room Copa
Broom Vassoura
Brushes Escovas
Bucket Balde
Building Edificio / Prédio
City Cidade
Clean Limpar
Cleaning fluid Removedor
Closet Armário
Cold water Agua Fria
Condominium Condominio
Country Campo
Den / office Escritório
Detergent Detergente
Dishwasher lava louça
Disinfectant Desinfetante
Downstairs Embaixo
Dust Tirar pó
Dust pan
Dust rag Pano de pé
Employer Patrão
Family room Sala Intima
Fireplace Lareira
Floor Andar/Piso
Furnished Mobiliado
Furniture polish Lustra Móveis
Garbage Lixo
Garden Jardim
Heated Aquecida
Hot water Aguar quente
Iron Ferro de passar
Iron Passar
Landlord Dono
Laundry room Quarto de Serviço
Library Biblioteca
Light Luz
Liquid / powder Liquido em pó
Liquid bleach Agua Sanitária
Living room Sala de Estar
LP gas Gás
Maid’s room Quarto Empregada
Make the bed Fazer a cama
Master bedroom Dormitorio de casal
Pantry(expenses) Despesa
Party room Salão de Festas
Polish Lustrar
Pool Piscina
Real estate Imóveis
Rent Aluga
Scrub Escovar
Sell Vender
Sink Pia
Slum Favela
Soap Sabão
Squeeegee Rodo
Suburb Suburbio
Sun room Jardim de Inverno
Sweep Varrer
Teletel. Telefone
Terrace /deck Terraço
Upstairs Em cima
Vacuum aspirar
Vacuum cleaner Aspirador
View Vista
Wash Lavar
Washer Máquina de lavar
Water plants Molhar / Regar
Water storage Caixa de Água
Wax Encerar

Temporary Housing

Part of the reason I am blogging from the cold front of Utah, and hubby is baking in the heat of Sao Paulo is because I just cannot be without a stable internet connection due to my job.  We agreed that I would spend time with the grandparents and great grandparents (meaning the baby of course), for Christmas.  This is hard, but we figured manageable with the technology today.

Today was my husband’s first real day in Brazil, so my first official report of life in Sao Paulo.  Our church is close and the people are all genuinely nice.  There are a few who speak English, but he said we will be attending a ward in Portuguese! Ack, maybe I should study better.

At church he met an American guy who was visiting on business, so they got together and did some exploring.  They (and I guess the rest of Sao Paulo) headed to Ibirapuera Park is right next to Moema.  The park is one of the reasons we are considering moving to Moema.  Having a monkey and living next to a park is a huge deal for me 🙂  He said the park is like the beach in LA, everyone goes to hang out, work out, and even tan.

They then headed over to the mall for lunch… why both of them decided to eat at Pizza Hut while in Brazil is beyond me. But he said a slice of pizza and coke was about $15R.  Kinda steep right?

As for his hotel room that’s $100 R a night and is supposed to have the following amenities:

Plaza Luxo -D iária Single:
Apartamento com área privativa de 32 m2 com : its size
Sala Living com sofá: Living room and sofa
Bancada para refeições:  Refrigerator
Cozinha completa padrão americano OU Área de Trabalho:  American standard full Kitchen.. OR work area
Banheira Jacuzzi com hidro OU Box com Ducha: Jacuzzi tub
Work Station com pontos de energia para computador, impressora e conexão a Internet  em Banda larga: Work Station with power points for computer, printer and Internet connection to Broadband

So how does this translate into reality?

Well as this isn’t just a hotel room but living quarters for the next month, one would think they would give us the room with the full kitchen. Nope.

The Jacuzzi tub is interesting- it’s a shower with a tub that has jets. Kinda disgusting.

Here are the photos online

And here is a brief tour of the room. Forgive the quality, it took us an hour to get connected as Broadband internet really translates into… “not dial up but not great.” Checking email was a chore and half the time hotmail timed out.

You’ll notice the “poop bucket” conversation.  This is in reference to the garbage can that one is to throw their toilet paper in. Yes that’s right, no flushing here.

The American he met is staying at a similarly priced hotel that is better, so he may be moving hotels. For now this is the hotel that we are calling home (or at least hubby is).

Hotel Campobelo Plaza
Rua Demóstenes,748