The Challenges of Working in Brazil

Date Created: 28.02.2014

I work as a 2nd mate on offshore vessels in the oil and gas industry. The job has taken me to many places in the world. In February 2010, I was given the opportunity to work in Brazil. A country I had never been to; not even a continent I had visited. This was to be my first true taste of being a Gringo!

I cannot claim to be a true expat as I work a rotation - 4 weeks on 4 weeks off. In my leave period I return home to the UK. However, I can offer some insight.

My first memory is one of disorganization. Don’t expect European standard logistics. If you are informed a meeting time, remember that it is Brazilian time – frequently 30 minutes after the quoted time.

Accountability, common sense and initiative are not strong points either. Presumably due to the corruption that Brazil has experienced in the past, front line staff cannot make decisions. They require your signature and their supervisor’s signature before they can attempt to do anything.

Remember, the education period for a child to adult is a lot shorter compared to Europe & USA, with typically only the wealthier going onto further education. Although there is a growing middle class so Brazil has a bright future.

I fly in and out of Rio de Janeiro so this is my only experience of Brazil I can relay to you. Don’t use the airport cash machines – too many of my colleagues have woken up to their accounts being abused electronically.

The language in Rio is that of the Carioca. Portuguese in Brazil is slightly different to how it is spoken in Portugal although they are trying to unify their dictionaries. But in Rio, it is vastly different. There is a lot of dynamic slang and the way the words are pronounced to a green gringo is incomprehensible.

The tourist attractions can easily be completed in a few days. The glitz and glamour that you see and hear on the TV is exaggerated. I was most disappointed at the lack of girls in thong bikinis. If any of you ladies like to tan all over your bodies, be aware that going topless is considered very rude.

Rio is actually quite dirty - a problem that they are trying to address in the run up to the World Cup and Olympics. Many Brazilians have disagreed to government spending for these events with many protests and strikes staged. Billions of tax payers’ money has been pumped into stadiums which they feel would have been better off being spent on education, infrastructure and transport to name a few.

Gazing out the Bridge window of my drillship, I can see the installation of Brazil’s newest FPSO. This is one of the growing numbers of home grown production units. They are very proud of it. Two weeks prior to time of writing Petrobras share price was about to dip under $10 as they have overspent on exploration drilling without seeing much income from production. If this and the other FPSO’s produces the goods, you can expect to see the Petrobras share price increase and the whole of Brazil benefit from even more financial income.

It makes you wonder, if Brazil can tackle their corruption and become profitable and organized with good transport links like their citizens desire, they could be an even more desirable place to live.