Pondering the Gringo Gain/Drain

In the past year, I’ve been noticing something that I’d call a trend or a movement among Brazil bloggers and expats…they’re leaving Brazil. Sure, they aren’t leaving for good as I’m sure they will return in order to matar a saudade or perhaps to retire, but still, they are leaving and that leaves me wondering why. Through my own experiences in their shoes, I can understand the hard parts of life in Brazil but still, I ask myself if they know something I don’t because most (if not all) have enjoyed longer stays than I.

In general, it seems they are going back to their own countries because their journey of adventure and self-exploration ran its course, which makes Brazil their testing grounds. Does this mean Brazil on its own is a special place for testing theories and doing experiments or do gringos simply find the country and culture to be at enough of a contrast to their own country that they allow themselves to exlpore (both themselves and that which is foreign)? There seems to be a correlation here with the rite of passage into adulthood which, in itself, could be deemed foreign. 

Extracting the ‘lifers’ (the long-haulers) out of the equation, we’re looking at in-country stays of anywhere between a few months to roughly two years. Take away the financial struggle of trying to stay afloat in another country and I’m wondering how many would gladly stay put in Brazil. The other question which remains is if expats in other countries follow the same patterns and keep time with the flow of the gringo gain and drain in Brazil, although I suppose there are too many factors to consider, mainly their type of visa (tourist, student, work or marriage). 

What is interesting about the drains is that Brazil is experiencing a boom leading up to the World Cup and the Olympics which means those that leave won’t be first-hand witnesses of what could be epic changes and the excitement that goes along with it. Then again, for us cultural lifers, Brazil has always had a cool factor so world-sporting events or not, we know that our time on the playing field, and not merely as spectators, gave us epic changes in our own lives. Where we go from here, only the orixas know.


3 thoughts on “Pondering the Gringo Gain/Drain

  1. As a Brazilian expat in Britain I think there IS really a kinda rhythm of satying abroad and a time when you start feeling fed up with all the alien culture and begin yearning for Home again. After 3 years in the UK I’m definitely going back early next year.

  2. Thank you for your thoughts! I would like to make this into a study or read a study about this as I’m sure, as agreed, there is a rhythm to it all. I will enlist some Brazilian expats to chime in from Brazil Com Z, on my links page.


  3. When I was flying into Brazil in 2008, I met a nice Brazilian guy on the plane.
    We sat and discussed my move to Brazil. I told him how I wanted to experience
    a foreign culture, try something new, learn a language, etc, etc. In the end,
    he laughed at what I said, and commented, “Dude, you’re heading the wrong way.
    Everyone is trying to get out of Brazil, not the other way around.”

    While I shrugged off his comment at the time, there was a grain of truth to it. The real clincher for me was when I ran into my immigration lawyer at the airport in Miami. She was the Brazilian who essentially helped me get citizenship and live in Brazil permanently. Here was this successful lawyer, who had invested a great deal of time on building her profession in Brazil, and yet she was happy to move to the States, where her law degree would mean little.

    I think that what you come to realize after living in Brazil is that, while it is a wonderful country full of learning opportunities, life here is fundamentally harder, especially if you are looking to “life-build”. Things start to add up and put pressure on the dream. Practical matters come to the forefront like, low paying salaries, high crime rates, bad infrastructure, difficulty of buying the basics in the US (i.e. car, home, cheap cell, etc.).
    Add to that, a great majority of your family and friends live elsewhere, and you have a recipe for wanting to come back home.

    I think, in the end, I could build a life here. I love this country, and could probably find some worthwhile opportunities to pursue. But when I look at the whole package, so to speak, coming home seems the smarter thing to do. Better to pick the option which provides more options. Better to earn money where the money is more easily earned, and visit Brazil when I can really enjoy it (on vacation!).

    This is just my perspective, as I’m sure Brazil is a far better place than the US for many.

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