by Dan Clarke
Dan works for The Real Brazil
1. Sao Paulo
Known in Brazil as ‘O Gigante’ or The Giant, everything about Sao Paulo is big. The buildings are big; business is big; the nightlife is epic; and the traffic… well, the traffic has to be seen to be believed. Unfortunately, as a TEFL teacher you’ll probably have to put up with the traffic and the rather grey climate, but there IS an excellent Metro network, and Sao Paulo offers plenty of advantages besides. If you’re at all interested in art, fashion or music then there simply isn’t anywhere better to be in South America: it’s Brazil’s creative hub and just about anything important – culturally speaking – is likely to pass through Sao Paulo at some point. Add to this the continent’s best Japanese food and arguably the best nightlife in South America, and it can be a fantastic place to spend a year or so. Of course, the other major factor in Sao Paulo’s favour is simply that there are more TEFL positions here than anywhere else in Brazil, so finding or changing jobs is rarely a problem.
Pros: Nightlife, Number of TEFL positions
Cons: Climate, Pollution
There’s little doubt that Rio is everyone’s preferred destination when they’re looking for a TEFL job in Brazil, and the demand from the tourist industry here means that there are always plenty of positions. Hotel and restaurants staff, tour guides, drivers and just about everyone else who has any contact with tourists are keen to improve their English, and Rio’s second only to Sao Paulo in the business stakes as well. Rio’s nightlife is also famously good, and of course you benefit from two of the best city beaches in the world, in Ipanema and Copacabana. It’s not without its downsides, however. Many people feel that it can be surprisingly provincial and insular, and it’s certainly true that it can be quite closed to anything outside of Rio. Many people also find that even with decent Portuguese, you only really feel comfortable in a few areas of the city, so you can feel hemmed-in in a way that you wouldn’t expect. The major factor, however, is the cost of living. Rio can be stunningly expensive, and TEFL pay rates don’t always reflect that. It’s not that you can’t earn decent money, but if you want to save any of it, you can forget any idea of living a couple of blocks from the beach and spending your evenings in Ipanema bars…
Pros: Glamorous location, Lots of work
Cons: Hugely expensive
Right down in the south of Brazil, Florianopolis is famous on the backpacker scene as Brazil’s surf capital. Located half on the island of Santa Caterina, there are nearly 40 different beaches within the city limits, and it’s a Mecca for surfers from all over South America. It’s also one of Brazil’s high-tech centres, however, and there’s a large business population here. It’s a largely very prosperous city with a young demographic and it’s definitely growing in popularity as a TEFL centre. There’s nothing like the volume of work here that you can find in Rio or Sao Paulo, but it’s a very pleasant place to live and work with few of the problems of those cities – it scores really highly on those ‘quality of life’ surveys that Australian and Canadian cities do so well in. Because you’re further south, the climate is more variable, and you won’t be heading out to the beach in winter, but in summer it’s a real party town and can be great fun.
Pros: High quality of life, Great beaches
Cons: Very quiet out of season
Aside from Rio, Salvador is the only real city in Brazil that has any tourist industry to speak of. People come to see the colonial Old Town, and Salvador is also the centre for the country’s Afro-Brazilian culture. Candomble, Capoeira, and even Carnival all originate from Salvador and so if you’re at all interested in this aspect of Brazilian heritage then it can be an interesting place to be. It’s also got good city beaches and a great climate all year round. There’s one big, big downside to Salvador, though: crime. Brazil in general can often get a bad press on this, but it does have to be said that particularly at night, Salvador can feel seriously dodgy. Obviously there are sensible precautions you can take, and common sense rules to stay out of trouble, but given the choice, wouldn’t you rather live somewhere you didn’t have to worry so much?
Pros: Great stuff to see during the day
Cons: Can feel ‘unwelcoming’ at night
The final city on this TEFL tour of Brazil is, unsurprisingly, the capital. In common with most other purpose-built capitals, Brasilia can sometimes feel a bit sterile, but that’s changing. Stepping back from the bizarre modernist architecture, it’s one of the fastest-growing cities in Brazil so there’s a young, growing population and it’s becoming much more of a ‘proper’ city with a genuine identity and vibe to it. It’s still hells-hot in summer, and can’t compare to Rio or Sao Paulo, but if you don’t mind teaching junior diplomats and civil servants’ families, there are lots of TEFL jobs to go for, and the money is good too…
Pros: Good salaries
Cons: Just a bit… dull