My name is Regan Zanes from the Instagram profile @thegringoinbrazil. I’m an American who has been living and traveling in Brazil as an expat for more than three years. I grew up spending the majority of my childhood living overseas due to my father’s job as a diplomat for the US government.
I was born in New York where the majority of my family is from. I’ve been lucky to live internationally in Thailand for three years, Germany for three years, Pakistan for two years, Holland for two years and domestically in Maryland for five years, Indiana for six years and Illinois for three years.
My passion for travel and photography developed at a very young age due to the unique experiences of living in different countries, experiencing diverse cultures and observing various forms of natural beauty in our world.
Moving to Brazil as an Expat
Brazil was actually never on my radar. I was working for a multinational conglomerate in a financial rotational program and the lone international rotation happened to be in Belo Horizonte. I’ve always had a desire to work and live internationally, so I volunteered immediately for the rotation.
Moving to Brazil as an expat was a mix of spontaneity, opportunity and good luck. However, my expat life in Brazil has changed dramatically in recent months. I now lead a much more nomadic life – living and traveling in certain cities/regions of Brazil for a month or two at a time.
I was settled in Sao Paulo for over two years but after that I decided to commit full time to travel. I’ve been living in Rio de Janeiro, Belo Horizonte, Sao Paulo and wherever else life takes me in this amazing country.
Once you get to know Brazil, you realize how big it is. There is so much to explore. Some people tell me I know Brazil more than anybody they know but I would say I have only covered 5-10% of the country. So many more places are on my bucket-list and the list grows longer every week!
My Top 3 Favourite Places in Brazil
As is true with any country, it’s tough to have a single favourite place especially in a country as diverse as Brazil. However, there are three places that have really stood out to me so far as being truly special destinations:
- Parque Nacional dos Lencois Maranhenses
- Parque Nacional da Chapada dos Veadeiros
- Litoral Norte de Sao Paulo
These three places are the most special to me because they each offer something unique. The nature, landscapes and energy of each will leave a lasting impression on you. Whether you’re moving to Brazil as an expat or just traveling through – make sure you visit these epic places!
Must-See Attractions of Brazil
There are quite a few destinations (in addition to the places mentioned above) that have blown me away in Brazil. To narrow it down to a few places that every traveler should experience, I would recommend:
- Paraty (RJ) – historical town that offers a charming colonia city, lush green mountains, waterfalls, stunning beaches and excellent dining options.
- Armacao dos Buzios (RJ) – coastal vacation town with a diverse offering of beaches, fun activities and great nightlife.
- Ouro Preto/Tiradentes (MG) – historical colonial towns located in the mountains of Minas Gerais that offer very charming atmospheres and great leisurely day activities and delicious dining experiences.
Expat Life in Brazil for an American
The people of Brazil are what make this country great. I would describe the people as welcoming, warm, friendly, funny, outgoing, caring and overall genuine. Brazil has a social culture where going out, having parties, barbecues, talking with friends and enjoying life is the norm.
I integrated into the culture almost immediately even without speaking the language. Being an American or foreigner didn’t hold me back in any way. Brazilians will do their best to make sure you are included, comfortable and above all else, they will make sure you’re having fun!
Incredible Food Scene of Brazil
Another huge reason why I love living in Brazil as an expat is because of the food scene. I was so surprised (and still continue to be) with the overall gastronomy of this country. Every state and region offers something completely unique and it’s a joy to dine out almost everywhere in Brazil.
I would describe the food style as “homemade” – reminiscent of your mom or grandma’s cooking in the United States. The meals are hearty and complete and almost always include meat or fish. You will definitely learn to love rice and beans if you visit or live in Brazil for a long period of time.
Biggest Challenge for Expat Living
The obvious challenge for any foreigner is the language barrier. Portuguese is quite a difficult language and takes a lot of time to really understand and speak it. Additionally, each region has a different dialect so if you travel like me, you have to constantly adjust to the accent and way of speaking.
Besides the language barrier, Brazil operates differently than other countries and at times requires patience to get things done and understand the processes. But that is just part of the experience in Brazil!
Tips for Moving to Brazil as an Expat
The main thing to keep in mind is to be open and ready for a completely different culture, way of life and be prepared to face obstacles as an expat. If you have interest in Brazil, then make sure you take the time to learn about the country, the culture, its people and try to learn basic Portuguese.
Brazil is not a perfect country (just like everywhere) but if you value the simple pleasures in life like friendships, travel experiences, dining out and just having fun then make the effort to move to Brazil! You won’t regret it!