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Category Archives: Moving to Brazil

Buying expat stuff in Brasil

I’m not dead (well I’m sick and super tired, but not dead).  I’m just in the US, and have been for like a month now, letting our monkey visit the grandparents and great grand parents (and well doing a lot of flying for work).

And after a month, I realize while it’s nice to see the family I miss Brasil.  It’s grown on me.  I miss being able to walk to the stores, and buying fresh veggies and bread.  I miss the “Brasil” of it.  Of course while in Brasil, all I could dream about was all of the things from the US I missed.

It’s funny, I never bought sparkling pomegranate juice in the US, but now that I can’t find it for $3.50 in every store, I want it! I rarely ate cheddar, because I’m a havarti, muenster, jack fan, but now I want it, and I want to eat mac n’ cheese!  I also want havarti, muenster and jack, but they don’t have that in Brasil.  It reminds you of home, when the flavor hits your tongue you remember more than just food, you remember the place.  Cherry Caprisun reminds me of sitting on the edge of a hotel bed in Germany as a 7 year old… not that I like it, or drink it EVER, but every now and again I want to be taken back to Germany. Kind of like feijoada for my husband.  Even though my nanny swears she loves my black beans, my husband complains because it’s too American, not feijoada!  And now that I’m in the US, I want my morning Pão, and cooking everything with loads of garlic.  I miss food and baked goods made from scratch not a mix (gasp! I know, but I’ve really gained an appreciation for REAL cooking).

With that being said, here’s my list of the foods expats (American) miss the most:

Cheddar cheese: I’ve seen it at Pao de Acucar in Brooklin Paulista, and bought it (R$88 a kilo!) because I wanted mac n; cheese. I have also found it at the CEAGSP cheese stands.  Neither consistently.

Chocolate chips: They do have them here. Chocorob in Brooklin has it for R$5 for 250 grams.  It’s a bit waxy and not creamy like the good stuff in the US.  But I just buy the bars of Garoto chocolate they sell and chop it up, white, dark, semi-sweet, milk, it’s all really good.  If you get Crocante, you get the nice little toffee with the chocolate, and it’s better than a Hershey bar any day.

Corn syrup: My Pao de Acucar doesn’t have it, but my friend in Morumbi says Karo is in the same section as the honey.  I buy it for a tiny jar at Chocorob because I don’t cook with it that often ever.

Agave Syrup: They sell it and it’s expensive as is Maple Syrup.  I bring both of this in from the US, as a bottle usually lasts me about a year, so Merry Christmas to me… and I do buy the BIG bottles 🙂

Mexican Spices: I’ve found them, although they’re not cheap.  Same thing with Lemon Pepper.  It’s just a matter of learning what they call things. Like Nutmeg, it doesn’t come ground, but I’ve learned to love the freshness of grating my own nutmeg!

Cheesecake Factory Cheesecake: R$65 at Sam’s Club. I’d rather just make Cheesecake from scratch, and never really ate it anyways.

They do sell small avocados here, and they’re not sweet, they’re perfect for making guacamole.  The big ones are too sweet for my liking. It did piss me off to find Avocados for .44 at Walmart here…. in the snow… when they’re like R$5 a kilo back in the tropics of Brasil.

Everything else you want, you’ve got to make yourself.  Brasil isn’t like the US where you can buy everything pre-made. If you want black beans, you cook it from scratch. You want diced tomatoes with spices, you can buy a can of whole tomatoes (though most boil the tomatoes themselves) dice it and add your spices. That goes for rotel tomatoes. You want them, then boil the diced tomatoes, chop up some hot peppers, and add a bit of salt, boil, and you’ve got something pretty close. There are not huge sections of canned veggies and fruit, or ready made dinners.  Which is good as canned food is bad for you anyway right?

Tortillas are pretty much Wrap 10s, and they’re not that great if you like REAL tortillas… and if you do, well learn to make them yourself.. and give up on corn tortillas all together.

You want chicken broth, substitute their bouillon cubes, or boil yourself a chicken! I usually buy Swanson flavor packets, as they’ve got a great brothy flavor, but are just packets so easy to bring a bunch in the suitcase.  I’m too lazy to boil a whole chicken to get that yummy broth.

Things I have yet to find:

Clorox Wipes: I’ve seen a “how to make your own” online, but they don’t have the same super sturdy paper towels here.

Cheap Toys: Well you can buy them in Centro, but they’re “cheap” as well; you know ala China. Cool toys are more expensive here. So I’m loading up during the holidays for future birthdays.

Bath and Body Works: If you’re into room sprays, I would bring them over from Bath & Body Works, as they are super cheap during their sales. And all the smelly stuff is either lavender or something else yucky, or super expensive fancy stuff.  Like hand soap, if you want nice you go to L’Octainne (which I like) but would rather put out some froofy B&BW pump soap.


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.

All moved in

I have been mia as moving in has been a lot of time consuming work. But, we are in! We have internet! We have a tv, cable, and hot water (yes we had to call and get the guys to show up like all of our other orders), and the couch arrived today. The fridge and microwave have been in for a bit now, the washing machine is hooked up…the stove is another blog post….and we have beds….well sort of.


As we had a brand new crib, we shipped it to Brazil. Our shipment arrived yesterday, so we will se how long it takes to get released. As such the bub is bedless. I am not oppossed to him sleeping with us. In fact we used to sidecar his crib. However, now that he crawls the bed doesn’t work. So we have him sleeping in luggage…yes, hubby’s Ogio luggage.  I don’t want to get a barrage of comments about what a bad mom I am; I realize it is not that safe. However, it is temporary, until I build him a better make shift crib, as he can escape from this one.  I found he had crawled over to his noise maker, and unplugged it from the charger (which is of course when he yelled out).

My husband’s coworkers tell him that this is something a Brazilian would do, so I guess we fit right in 🙂

And we are off! ~~~~

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Ironically, I was more anxious/excited for our trip to Japan last year than for a move to Brasil!  I think it was because I knew Japan was 2 weeks, and there was the nervousness of forgetting or missing something. Knowing I am leaving for 18 months means I will have plenty of time to soak in all that Brasil has to offer.  My calmness may have something to do with the fact that we have had 6 months to plan the trip.  Granted there are a few things that I wasn’t able to get/do before we left, and I still have to run out to Joann Fabric to buy some Velcro (future post on why later), but in the end whatever I don’t get done, I don’t get done and life won’t end.

These are the massive beasts of luggage I am taking.  All Ogio, so plenty sturdy.  And all right around the 70lb limit.  Let me just tell you, standing on a scale, holding a 70lb Ogio bag is not my idea of fun.  But I wanted to make sure the scale was accurate, as the last thing I want to do in the cold winter of Utah is to be sitting at curbside checkin strategically repacking things! edit-turns out international flights do not allow curbside check-in!

I actually could have got away with 2 bags, but filled that large black one with ~400 diapers I picked up at Sam’s Club.  If you have the room, why not right?!  And yes, I am just nutty enough to measure each bag to make sure they were not too “big”

I am not taking his car seat on the plane, as I will be carrying my bub in the Ergo Baby Performance carrier. It is supposed to be cooler, so we will see.  On the trip to Hawaii when he was 3 months old, he slept soundly in the Moby wrap the whole flight, so I’m hoping for great results on the 10 hour Brasil flight today too.  I’ve heard several people tell me to “Benadryl” my child, but I just couldn’t do that to the little guy.  In fact, my biggest worry is not how he will behave on the plane, but what I am going to do with all of the luggage once I get off the plane and need to go through customs!!!

Wish me Luck!

Good things come to those who wait

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My husband has been rather frustrated with the length of time it has taken for him to be able to get his car.  First, just getting the money to buy the car has been quite a process. We made sure to sign up for an HSBC bank account while in Brasil, so we would be able to transfer our US money into Brasil with the least amount of “Bank Fees” withheld.  As HSBC is an international Bank, one would think that the first time you attempted to transfer money from your US account to your Brasil account it would be second nature to them.  It was not, and it took 3 hours for them to figure out how to do this.  Once you initiate the transfer, it then takes between three and five days for the money to be released.  I’m okay with this, as I understand you don’t want foreign drug money floating around your country.  If you are transferring a substantial amount ($15,000 R), you will then need to prove where the money came from.  Again, the drug money legitimacy.

Second, there is the irony of trying to find a car while not having a car – how do you get to all of the cars for sale?? The car I had found on internations was stick, and we didn’t want to deal with that.  So we found a leather interior Toyota for sale for R$40500 at a dealership.  It was a bit fancier than we wanted, but we figured we would be able to sell it for close to the same amount.  The keys to this beauty of a car unfortunately have not passed through my husbands hands.  Having the car today would have been nice as my husband started work today. It is necessary to pick me and the bub up on Saturday am.

Well the point of all this.

I got an email this week from Internations again, someone had a  Honda Fit – Automatic Transmission for only R$25000.  The honda is a better car for Sao Paulo, as well it’s not as flashy, it has a few dents, so we don’t have any worries about it getting any more scratches– kinda the same theory we held for our cars in LA.  As the seller is moving out of the country, we were able to completely go around HSBC Brasil, and transfer money from our account into their account. Poof! Instant transfer, amazing.

Now, if you DO ever buy a car from a private seller, you do want to go to the Federal Police and speak with a despachante.  You will need the registration number for the car and the sellers CPF.  This is free. When we did it we discovered there were R$2500 in parking tickets and back taxes unpaid.  This step is very important, as these type of fees are linked to the car, so should we are buying the car AND the unpaid fines. Crazy right?  You can also check for these fees online at the DETRAN.

It’s hard being alone again

I am a pretty independent person. In fact if you ask my husband, he’ll point out sometimes I am stubborn about things just for the mere fact that I want to show that I can do things on my own.  For instance, if he tells me to do something, I flat-out will not do it because he “told” me to do it.  He knows this, and will occasionally be extra bossy just to push this REALLY big button of mine.

So when I came to the realization tonight that I actually miss him being around to be his normal bossy self it was kind of startling.  Especially since we have been apart for longer periods than this before.  Last year in my first trimester (yes the trimester when you are super crabby and grouchy because you are sick and your hormones are playing games with your emotional state) he decided to head to Brasil for 2 and a half weeks.  This did not bother me in the slightest and I welcomed him not being home. This meant I could go to bed at 7pm every night, and eat chicken wings from WingStop to my craving’s content.

So why the sudden change of heart? We are speaking more now than we did last time he went down.  Yes the internet connection is heinously choppy, we constantly lose connections, and are always saying, “Sorry, can you repeat that you froze/cut in and out.” But we talk for at least half an hour every day.

However this time around there are lots of decisions and preparation for Brasil to be done.  I have two cars to sell, baggage to pack, things to buy, and decisions to make. I have to figure out how to root, unlock, flash a European ROM, and not destroy my phone in the process before we go down.   If I weren’t married would I feel cheated out of the support of my husband? Probably not.  But now that I know I have someone to lean on, to do the things I don’t want to…I miss that. I miss that he always took out the trash (yeah I COULD do it, but I hate to do it).  I miss that he liked to be anal about lists and what needed to be done and in what time line (if he reminds me of this post in the future while trying to manage me to one of these lists, I will of course claim no recollection of this particular item).  Again, yes I could do that, that’s kind of my job at work, but I don’t want to… because well that’s my job at work and this is my personal life.

I also feel cheated, I guess, because part of me knows I COULD be in Brasil if things just moved a bit faster.  So now that I’ve waxed poetic about how dear my husband is to me because of all he does for me, here’s the mini Brasil move updated:

  1. Automatic Car purchased at a car dealership.  Unlike America you cannot take home a car same day, so hubby gets the car Wednesday (Merry Christmas to him). Car dealerships will also sell your old car for you on consignment, so this is what we will do when we leave. We figure we’ll get all but $5,000 R back.  What type you ask.. well a Toyota of course.
  2. We found the apartment of our dreams, after some finagling with his HR team they’ve agreed to guarantee for us.  See the apartments rent is almost as much as my husband’s monthly salary… haha (his Brasil side monthly salary… the other portion comes from the US).  Either way, the HR team now makes fun of him because he lives in an apartment worth as much as he makes.
  3. My husband now has his RNE and his CPF. So he’s legit now.

It’s all about the scissors

Things are looking up for my husband.  The monkey has been timing his naps around when daddy calls… it’s like he knows he just needs to stay up for a few more minutes.  We have a car we are looking at tomorrow from an expat we found on Internations, and we have a potential apartment that meets our high standards.

Sooo… on to the story about scissors…

Today my husband headed to the Federal Police to get his RNE.  Now earlier I posted about how we took a bunch of photos for Brasil at Wal-Mart so we could save money (for those of you who know my husband you know that he really is this cheap).  Well hubby brought one such photo today for the RNE. He brought all of the paperwork that he needed (his company helped him with this part), the photos, and met with a despachante. They’re an administrative officer who pretty much helps with the process. Well it turns out that hubby didn’t look up what type of photos you need.

US photos are 2×2 in.  Brasil photos are 3×4 cm.  So simple problem right? Find a pair of scissors and cut it down to size.  Well my husband’s swiss army knife with scissors (super micro tiny swiss army knife) was confiscated on his trip out, so he didn’t have those to try and use, so the despachante frantically searched the Federal Police office.  I guess they don’t keep scissors there (make a mental note of this people).  So he decided to go across the street to the photo place, where they take photos for $15 R.  As they were walking across the street my husband sees this office and figures they would have scissors.  So he makes the despachante go in and ask.  Of course this guy is utterly embarrassed that my husband is having him do this. And the woman at the desk flat-out tells them they don’t have scissors.  By chance a pair of scissors are actually sitting on the desk behind her, so my husband asks what about the scissors behind her. In a typical non confrontational Brasilian way she states, “Oh those are another workers, and I couldn’t let you use hers as she is not here to ask.”  Hubby would have continued the quarrel, but the despachante was already embarrassed enough and made him go take a photo at the photo place.

For those of you EVER planning on going to Brasil, a nice little page that walks through the various documents and what you need can be found at Anglo Info:

Within 30 days of arrival in Brasil, a foreigner should go to the Federal Police office closest to their place of residence, taking the following documents:

  • Two recent photographs, size 3x4cm (colour, white background, smooth paper)
  • Passport and photocopies of the used pages of the passport or travel document
  • Embarkation/disembarkation card

Fingerprints are also taken. There is a fee, payable at a branch of Banco do Brasil (Federal Police offices have a branch of Banco do Brasil within the same building).

Once the application has been made, the applicant immediately obtains a protocol number (protocolo) which serves as temporary evidence of residency status. An individual is considered legal in Brasil with this document even if their visa expires. They may also apply for a Carteira de Trabalho or work-permit, valid until the process is complete and they may seek employment in Brasil or set up their own business.