A Cautious Hopefulness Prior to the COVID-19 Outbreak: My Cost-of-Living Survey in Brazil

    Jun 16, 2020 @ 05:45 AM / by Zenab Tavakoli

    Rio de Janeiro during AIRINC cost of living survey

    View of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil before Carnival. Photo taken by AIRINC Surveyor Zenab Tavakoli.

    A pervasive sense of hopefulness

    Before my trip to Brazil, I heard both positive and negative impressions of the country. Since it was my first time visiting, I was interested to see which kind of experience I’d have. It ended up being a bit of both.

    I surveyed in January and February, prior to confirmation of COVID-19 in the country, and there was a pervasive sense of hopefulness among everyone I spoke to. Specifically, there was faith in President Bolsonaro’s ability to reinvigorate the economy after years of internal corruption. I didn’t expect this widespread support given the overwhelmingly bad press Bolsonaro receives abroad. This attitude is also interesting in retrospect, now that Brazil is in such a state of turmoil from the ongoing pandemic.


    Warnings about crime, especially in Rio de Janeiro

    One of the main warnings I heard about Brazil was its high crime rate. Brazilians advised me to take precautions to protect myself and my belongings, especially when I mentioned I’d be traveling to Rio de Janeiro, which many consider to be the most dangerous city. Rio was the last stop on my survey and, whenever I told someone I was going there, I was greeted with grimaces or hissing through teeth.

    I surveyed Rio the week before Carnival, and there were already throngs of people dressed ornately and drinking heavily. This time of year is notorious for pickpockets preying on revelers, and I witnessed a robbery on the afternoon of my arrival. A man snatched a phone from a woman’s hand on the beach and ran through the crowd. The woman pursued him, joined by some of the police officers who lined the boardwalk attempting to dissuade criminals. The crowd tried to help, shouting and pointing after the thief in a wave of sound and movement, but he quickly disappeared in a sea of beach umbrellas.

    After that, I noticed how careless people were with their phones and wallets, leaving them on exposed tables while seated at open restaurant patios or holding them loosely in their hands. As for me, I was particularly cautious for the rest of my trip.




    On-site Insight: 

    This post is part of AIRINC's On-site Insight series. On-site Insight provides readers with an exclusive “behind-the-surveys” perspective of new and existing expatriate locations based on commentary and photos from our global research team. Included is information on general living conditions as well as changing costs for both Goods & Services and Housing & Utilities, along with much, much more.


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    Topics: Housing, On-site Insight, Hardship, Expatriate Housing, Brazil, Global Mobility, Insights and Experience, Rio de Janeiro

    Zenab Tavakoli

    Written by Zenab Tavakoli

    Zenab joined AIRINC in 2013 as a surveyor, and later research coordinator. As part of the research team, she traveled to over 70 countries. In 2021, she transitioned into the role of data analyst. She received her B.A. in Anthropology and French from Harvard College. Zenab speaks English, French, and Spanish, as well as some German, Norwegian, and Italian. She is based in Cambridge, MA.