Category Archives: Brazil Now What Migration Series

This series chronicles my quest to find work in another country.

Gone Sailing

On 2 November 2020 I decided to depart the corporate career path (energy engineer) for the rest of my life. My knee-jerk solution was to learn to sail and make sailing my occupation somehow. Regardless of what I do, I made the decision because of a fundamental idea: I am convinced that true progress in the next several decades will not be in new technologies, but in learning to use the existing technologies in a more wholesome way. As I went down the list of categories on my blog, I realized my decision affects almost every category.

Brazil Now What Migration Series: I once again do not know where I will go.

English Lessons: language is basic. Will I teach English from a sailboat?

Industrial Change Surfing: Industrial Change Surfing is about decisions – this was an enormous decision based on industrial changes.

Rage and Frenzy Politics: I believe the current polarized divisive politics partly arise from frustration with the diminishing returns of tech. (A pause for sailing is in order!)

Real Estate: boats are floating real estate. (the tax is maintenance!)

Travel: Sailing is the oldest form of long-distance water travel!

Ventures Quarterly: I have not been faithful to quarterly updates lately, but this obviously represents a ventures update.

Brazil Now What 10: Sailing

I have always been interested in sailing but I consider myself a land lover. I thought sailing would remain a dream unfulfilled, but now with the world freaked out by a virus, the ocean is calling.


Sailing Holidays, UK

World Sailing, governing body of sport sailing, UK

PR Sailing, Netherlands

Brussels International Sailing Club

Dr. Sails, Barcelona

The Moorings Yacht Charters, Clearwater

Dream Yacht Charter, Surbiton, Surrey

Sunsail Yacht Charter

Nautal, Barcelona

YachtCharterFleet, London

ClickandBoat, Boulogne-Billancourt

Sailing Enjoy South America, Buenos Aires

Brazil Now What 9: KU Leuven Master of Engineering: Energy

Of all the universities in the world in 2020, I feel like I was at one of the best ones. The academics at KU Leuven are challenging and relevant. The university itself was taking the real action necessary to stop the virus.

Yet they still went online. I tried. I don’t do online.

Thanks you KU Leuven for the effort. I continued at KU Leuven much longer than I would have at most other universities, I am sure.

Brazil Now What 6, 7, 8: Game Reset to Dream Job to Master’s Programs

Game Reset

On the 3rd of January, I arrived in Brazil with one mission: to find a job. I was also studying for the GMAT to enter business school – to help me find a job. It was simple, a full-time job search, 8 hours per day (or more). I rented a desk at a coworking space so I could have a public place to work, reliable internet, and not worry too much about where I was actually living.

I enjoyed the challenge of studying for the GMAT so I preferred that, but I knew it would be prudent to get the job search rolling as well so I could get some responses and some information.

Dream Job / Career

I found a posting for a job that I had thought of throughout my years in other types of work and never thought I would return to. It was like a dream that had passed. I found the posting within a week, probably ~10 January. I applied, but knew (probably correctly) that I would not be very competitive without recent technical experience and the job would have hundreds of applicants. It doesn’t do any good to be even top 10, you have to be #1. See job description below:

Check Out These ABB Videos

As I studied for the GMAT and applied to other jobs I kept thinking about this one posting and even found another similar posting with ABB Group in a different location. Finally, I started searching technical continuing education to see if there was a program that could refresh my degree and help me be competitive for such jobs on the power grid. Indeed there are such programs.

Master’s in Electrical Engineering

There are many master’s programs related to Electrical Engineering. They are geared for increasing one’s knowledge in a specific portion of the field and also open to refreshing outdated knowledge (my case). The large number of jobs in the field have moved universities to offer many programs and there is even a separate European institution called EIT InnoEnergy that coordinates joint programs among the universities of Europe.

About EIT InnoEnergy

I have applied to the following programs through InnoEnergy, links below. They would take place at KTH Royal Institute of Technology in Stockholm, KU Leuven near Brussels, ESADE and Polytechnic Universtity of Catalonia in Barcelona, and / or possibly some others:

Master’s in Smart Electrical Networks and Systems

Masters in Energy for Smart Cities

and also the following program directly through KU Leuven in Belgium:

Master of Electrical Engineering: Power Systems and Automation

Master of Engineering: Energy

Now What?

They release their admissions decisions in mid-April and the programs start in September. Now I keep job searching, but to be honest the master’s programs look even better than the dream job right now because I would be educated for two years and put in front of the various companies with jobs like the one I found and would love to have, including ABB Group specifically as an industry partner.

If I am accepted to a EE master’s program, I will go. There will be lots of prep work to do. Until then: GRE, GMAT, back-ups, and further job search just in case…


I finally completely switched from a desktop to a laptop. What a game-changer.

Brazil Now What 4: A Plan

I Have a Plan!

It is outside the box, but only by location. I intend to use my GI Bill for exactly what it is intended – to transition military experience to the corporate world through education. I have a lot of experience, but I need education. The GI Bill can provide it.

Step 0: Learn Portuguese

This path assumes you speak Portuguese. Click here for reasons why to learn Portuguese.

Step 1: Visit with a Plan on a Business (Tourist) Visa

Your US passport gives you 90 consecutive days in Brazil with up to 180 days in a year. This is plenty of time to arrange things.

Step 2: Find a school you want to attend.

My schooling plan. #1 is online to buy time while I arrange the other two:

  1. Technical courses online to refresh my Electrical Engineering degree while I prep for and take the GMAT, and interview at the MBA program.
  2. I would like to attend the OneMBA program at Fundação Getúlio Vargas (FGV), Escola de Administração de Empresas São Paulo (EAESP).
  3. Portuguese courses, possibly study abroad through Ohio State with PUC São Paulo.

Step 3: Apply and be Accepted

The school will accept you and give you documentation of acceptance without having the rest done.

Tradução Juramentada

To have some documents accepted here, you have to have them translated into Portuguese and certified.

I recommend Ala Tradução Juramentada, Address is Av. Paulista, 2073 – conjunto 1818. Ed. Horsai 1 – Bela Vista, 01311-940. You access Horsai building office 1818 from inside the mall at the address number 2073. Translation costs about R$55 per 1,000 characters.

They are conveniently across the street from the “notary.”

Cartorio (Notary)

Rua Augusta, 1638 – Consolação, São Paulo – SP 01304-001

Step 4: Student Visa

This covers your residence permit because you are not residing, just staying longer than a tourist or businessman.

Step 5: Pay / GI Bill

I am using the GI Bill, so I have to get it approved by the VA.

GI Bill at foreign school information for students from the VA.

Foreign program application information from the VA.

Step 6: Find an Apartment

I recommend Airbnb to help look for apartments because most of the landlords on Airbnb prefer long-term if they can get it. At a minimum it can give you two weeks to conduct a search.

Other search sites common here:

Quinto Andar. It appears that Quinto Andar has more options than I can even look at, so I will be using it.

Co-Working Space

There are many co-working spaces in Brazil. They are very popular. Today I visited 4 of them. For online classes, I want a space outside my apartment.

Volt Coworking, 1100

On Offices, ~900

Lab 48 Coworking, ~800

Google, does not rent spaces.

Campus, Inc.,

Coworking São Paulo, – should have visited, high reviews.

Step 7: Attend School

You made it! Go to school!

The Case for Portuguese

Portuguese language is a must to operate in Brazil. Brazil is awesome. If you want to live in Brazil, that is reason enough. Here are some other reasons to learn Portuguese:

  1. Portuguese is the most common language in South America. Brazil is only one country, while most of the other countries speak Spanish, but South America is really split in two equal parts by population and land mass. The Portuguese half is one large diverse country, while the Spanish half is split into many different countries.
  2. Portuguese is rare for Americans. After almost 4 years of going to Brazil now, I have met only 3 other non-Brazilian Americans who speak Portuguese. I have met maybe 5-10 who went to Portuguese language training by the US government for specific jobs, but they are on government career paths and do not seem likely to remain in Brazil once their assignment is complete. If there appears to be no demand, I would argue that zero supply prevents companies from seeking it because of the extreme rarity.
  3. You get a two-fer. Spanish comes along with it. This is true. Portuguese and Spanish are indeed similar. I recently attended a history lecture in Rio where the French lecturer did not speak Portuguese and he assumed everybody would understand Spanish. I understood his Spanish better than the Portuguese from Lisbon! Expose yourself to some Spanish along the way and you will see what I mean. After I visited Colombia for 3 weeks, I had to buy a Portuguese-Spanish dictionary to separate the languages in my head.
  4. Learn it “all the way.” You have to live at least 6 months in the country immersed in the language. Commit. Until you do this, the language is not really useful.
  5. Portuguese is easier than Spanish. I really believe this. People say Portuguese pronunciation is more difficult. I disagree. Portuguese has maybe two sounds we don’t have in English, the nasal -ã and -ão. They do not roll their ‘R’s. The Portuguese grammar is closer to English also in my opinion. Not so many ‘lo’ and ‘la’ and ‘le’ for no reason like in Spanish, less use of reflexive verbs, and overall fewer syllables.
  6. São Paulo. São Paulo is the business capital of Brazil, and by far the largest city this side of the Atlantic. São Paulo speaks Portuguese.
  7. Don’t forget Portugal! I have heard it’s nice! I have never been, but Brazil and Portugal are not the only Portuguese speaking countries. See the Community of Portuguese Language Countries.
  8. Learn a language, any language! Once you really learn a language as an adult, your next one will come so much easier. It becomes less of a magical impossibility and more of a travel task of a few weeks or months to get practically conversational.

I scored “Advanced Low” on the ACTFL Speaking. I think “Intermediate High” in a language would be good enough to get started working in a foreign country. At my level, I can easily communicate, network, and socialize, but I should still improve to continue here. I scored Intermediate High on the ACTFL Writing.

Brazil Now What 3

This video is representative of how things are going – a bit of a jerky ride – but I have met the right people!

11 total foreigners like me.
1 teaching English (business English)
5 business consulting
1 marketing consulting remotely
1 Italian making suits
1 visa consultant
1 investment adviser
1 architect

5 / 11 are American. Notice that they all have work and only one is teaching English… So I’m saying there’s a chance!!

Blank Slate Networking

A sociologist could probably study the path that I have taken to find the right people starting knowing precisely nobody one week ago.

As it turns out I am learning that I made my best decision when I was exhausted and hangry 20 minutes after arriving. I went to The Blue Pub for dinner. I then returned to The Blue Pub two days later and met an English guy who is a member of The American Society of São Paulo. From there and through EAESP Business School I have now met a recruiter and a professor in the MBA Program that I would love to attend. I have also met a visa consultant, whose services I will be hiring.

Two Separate Paths to One Connection

I met Ricardo, the MBA recruiter, two separate ways almost literally simultaneously. I had walked into the MBA program and passed my name and contact information around, which worked its way to Ricardo via a LinkedIn message. He received that message with my name as he was walking into the American Society of São Paulo group, where I was already hanging out. We shook hands and he showed me the message he had just received, saying “Oh, you’re this guy!” Must be fate!

Brazil’s Economy

By Graeme Harris, Retired English Oil Businessman, English Teacher, Part-Time Resident of Brazil

See links below for a more positive outlook.


A quick synopsis of my views.

Brazil Annual Growth Rates

1951‐1966: 6.3%
1967‐1979: 8.9%
1980‐2008: 2.5%
Since 2008: about 2% average but peaked at 8% in 2010
2016/17: Recession
Now – pootling along at about 1%

To understand Brazil’s economy you have to look at its history as many of today’s structural problems are long-standing.

Up until the war it was a largely agricultural country but with fast growing population (ergo domestic market) and some fine natural resources – by then they hadn’t got oil but they historically had coffee, agri products, think steel was starting around then – basically commodities, they had great fundamentals.

After the war the West was in free-trade heaven, I mean economies booming, tariffs reducing, rebuilding (largely on US money). So, what did Brazil do? PROTECTIONISM. Big time. Got away with it too, you could say. From about 1950 they had this policy of import substitution. Massive tariffs of 30%+ on imported goods, exchange controls etc. This worked pretty well for them at the time, as through the 50’s 60’s and 70’s they had some massive growth rates. Of course, they had some pretty big lurches, e.g. the oil shock of the 70’s, as you can’t really control exchange rates very well. But this was like their industrial revolution. By the early 80’s they actually had some domestic industry and a positive balance of payments. Most of that period was under dictatorship but the economy was growing …Yey!

Unfortunately this all turned to crap in the 80’s. This was when hyper-inflation struck and people were jumping off cliffs. Not exactly sure what happened – maybe just democracy??- but a combination of factors – global slow down leading to low foreign direct investment, inability to control exchange rates, sharp steepening in income distribution – i.e. Brazil has always failed to create a middle class. It was then and remains now rich or poor without much in between. with one of the steepest wealth curves in the world (trickle down doesn’t work). Series of pretty terrible governments, corrupto’s – you know the story. Plus I think, the public sector bureaucracy was starting to get out of hand. Meanwhile, although they tried to reduce import tariffs in the 90’s, they stayed way too high and basically ploughed on with their protectionism, way beyond its initial effectiveness.

In fact, I think we also went through the experience of excess in the 50’s-60’s. Ours (UK) went sour in the 70’s. The excesses of socialism if you like (although Brazil wasn’t socialist), but we had Margaret Thatcher in the 80’s who re-instated market disciplines – budget control, flexibilisation of labour (i.e. crush the unions), privatisation. Although I am not a “Thatcherite” I accept that this purge was necessary. We had basically gone overboard with the welfare state and let it get out of control.

Well, Brazil did something similar – but without actually creating a welfare state and without being socialist really. They had too much state control of markets, too much protectionism, too many rules, too much bureaucracy. BUT somehow failed to create what I would call an effective welfare state – i.e. no comprehensive healthcare, housing, education for the population as a whole, that would have helped them now.

This remains their problem now. They have had flashes of hope – early 2000’s Henrique Cardoso was getting more of a grip on things. The economy was going again. But then Lula got in. He actually rode a boom (kinda boom but not on level of the 60/70’s) but this was really mainly commodities prices globally – steel, soy, oil, rather than any domestic policy of his. In fact under his presidency, govt grew ever more rapidly, as did budgets, as did institutionalised corruption. He was really rather lucky that commodity prices were booming and saved the economy….. about the only good thing he did was introduce some welfare programs such as vive mas por menos, min wage, bolsa familia, social housing. All necessary, but his management of the economy and the political machinery was woeful.

Sooo, where now. The badly needed corrections are sadly long overdue. Brazil has allowed all of the above to get worse, so it now suffers from:

  • Too much government – simply too many people involved with way too good a package of bens – pensions, salaries, perks, everything. It is all just unaffordable.
  • Huge uncontrolled corruption on an institutional scale – i.e. amongst the political and business elite just robbing their way to oblivion.
  • Massive discrepancy between rich and poor and poorly-developed middle class – this impedes economic growth as you need this as a demand base for goods.
  • No social services or welfare to speak of. This matters. Brazil, along with many other places is proof that wealth does not trickle down. Brazil has its wealthy but its social infrastructure is shamefully impoverished.
  • The hangover from past protectionism – import duties are some of the worst in the world. this protects inefficient, poor quality local producers and perpetuates a situation of low productivity. It also perpetuates a low productivity culture – people work very long hours but do very little. It’s grossly inefficient but a product of “the system” that is broken.
  • Too many restrictive rules for everything – labour in particular but also regulation and imports. Again impacting negatively on productivity and a labyrinth of hugely complex indirect taxes and local content rules. All of this makes setting up business very difficult and foreign investment very unattractive.

Did I miss anything? Probably. Anyway that’s enough.

What’s the future?

Well, Brazil went into recession in 2016 and is still in low growth doldrums. Bolsonaro is an idiot. He really has no vision – or not one that is going to help the country. There are some in his government that want to use the Bolso “opportunity” to carry out reforms but because Bolso is so incompetent (by which I mean that he simply does not do the job of persuading the Camara and the population of the need for reform, rather he blathers a load of besteira on social media to his followers – rather like the Donald). This really has created a policy stagnation. It has taken them this long to pass a kinda halfway house pensions reform – sadly needed probably 30 years ago – and tinkered at the edges of a trade policy. Meanwhile, Bolso is courting the US at the expense of China – which is in fact a larger market for Brazil’s products and more than likely large investor.

Unfortunately, it is all foolish incompetence. Now you can say that this same incompetence is encompassing the whole world at the moment. This is true but that doesn’t help Brazil any.

Brazil will/is being hit by Trump’s trade war with China and China’s slowing in growth. It is hurt by the strong dollar and, although commodity prices have recovered a little since their lows a few years ago when recession hit, they are hardly booming. Added to all this, there is a prospect of recession hitting the US at some point in the not too distant.

Without the fundamental reforms mentioned – at least some of them would be good – Brazil will not create what it really should have created already – i.e. a sustainable domestic economy. It will still be dependent on commodity exports to rescue it. I don’t see these reforms really happening any time soon. Its best hope in this hugely sub-optimal situation is a commodities boom to lift export earning – i.e. export led growth. The global market is unfortunately working against that too.

Don’t get me wrong, Brazil has strengths despite this – i.e. youthful population. Quite techy switched on. Natural resources in abundance. But …..short run….hmmm. Think more of the same is in order…. of course I hope otherwise as I am invested there but think we need to get clear of this period of political mumbo jumbo before we can move forward.

Hey man, as you know, I love Brazil and I hope this changes but I see some of these analyst views predicting recovery and think where from? Have you ever been there?

Other Points of View

TMF Group is an international business services company with a large presence in Brazil. These two articles are related:

Economic Development and Outlook in Brazil
Top Challenges of Doing Business in Brazil

Reconnaissance! Exploring Businesses and Business Schools in São Paulo

Answers to last week’s top questions:
  1. What is the best source of information about work, investment, and student visas? Answer: because the work visa application process is initiated by by the employer, I believe the best source is to speak with employers directly and inquire if they would be willing to initiate the process. Here is the Brazilian Ministério do Trabalho website.
  2. What is the best source of information about residence permits? Answer: I want to determine that it is possible to get a job before I apply for residence.
  3. What are the best MBA programs in Brazil? Answer: see below list of three programs.


Maintaining list on computer

Business Schools


One friend suggested that I look for NFL football games at bars in São Paulo to find Americans. Great idea. Sounds like fun, let’s watch some football. Go Browns!

I will be in São Paulo for NFL weeks 10 and 11:

  • The Blue Pub – Awesome
    • In Bela Vista on Avenida Campinas
  • O’Malley’s Pub – It’s OK, but usually packed.
    • Alameda Itu, 1529 – Jardim Paulista, São Paulo – SP, 01421-001, Brazil
  • Maevva
    • R. Prof. Atílio Innocenti, 376 (Av. Pres. Juscelino Kubitschek), São Paulo, SP
  • Buddies Burger and Beer
    • R. Clodomiro Amazonas, 556 (entre R. Macurapé e Av. Pres Juscelino Kubitschek), São Paulo, SP
  • See the list at this link:–sao-paulo