Interview #3 – Craig Bell


1. Please tell us a little about yourself (name, nationality, occupation, country of residence, etc.)

My name is Craig Bell. I’m a Kiwi living in Brazil, and after working in the corporate world for 16 years, for the last 10 years I’ve been self-employed and developing various projects.

2. When and why did you decide to move to Brazil?

I moved from México to Brazil in 1997 as the General Manager for the Mercosul region for Fonterra, a large dairy co-operative from New Zealand.

3. What were your thoughts on Brazil before you actually moved here?

I’d visited a couple of times and my first thoughts were that Brazil was playing catch up with the rest of the world at the time as it was just emerging from hyper inflation, and the range of goods and services wasn’t that high a quality. But I also thought it was a monster in terms of scale of opportunity.

4. What were your first impressions (good and bad)?

Well being based in São Paulo, I thought the traffic was driving too fast and there was too much of it! I thought “these guys have to be the world champions of bureaucracy and business complexity” (and they still are!). Basic infrastructure like cell phones or banking were awful at the time, and after Mexico it seemed a bit drab. But as I got to know the place, there was an infectious happiness in the people which has left a lasting impression on me, and that helps I guess to overcome the daily challenges of government and living.

5. Which have been the most positive and negative experiences in Brazil?

Bureaucratic red tape to get just about anything done including endless trips to the cartorio to get signatures notarized would have to be at the top of my list of negative experiences.

Travelling just about anywhere in Brazil has been real fun, and in helping to set up a farming business ( in the interior of the country it has been personally very satisfying to see a whole community develop largely as a result of our actions.

6. What is your advice to foreigners who are thinking of moving to Brazil?

Firstly here’s an excellent and funny blog that captures pretty well I reckon what Brazilians are like.

You’ll need patience to get most things done. If you’re thinking of setting up a business you’ll need an added dose of patience, and you must get good legal and tax advice. Keep every single bit of paper.

Be prepared to pay and pay well for health and education. Private services are great, public are poor.

7. How did you find or look for work in Brazil? (On site, internet, etc.)

I was transferred with my company, but anyone from overseas looking for work should tap into a network of ex-pats and put the word out that they are looking. I think that is probably the best way.

8. What was your level of Portuguese when you moved to Brazil and what language difficulties did you have when you arrived?

I had some average Spanish when I arrived, which was a bit of a help to learning Portuguese, but there really is no substitute to putting in a couple of hundred hours of serious study to pick up the language.

9. What were the challenges you faced regarding finding a job?

Not really applicable as I arrived to a job. But being self-employed for the last 10 years, I think the biggest challenges are staying disciplined while you think about and implement the next opportunity.

10. How did you distinguish yourself from other Brazilian candidates for the position?


11. What advice would you give any European that is looking for a job in Brazil?

Best to line something up before you leave Europe, as Brazil is expensive to hang around in.

12. How did you legally work in Brazil and did you run into any problems during your working visa application?

I applied for a RNE (now called a CIE). The process was just slow and bureaucratic, like a year on a protocol for some reason, and then I had to return to my New Zealand to pick it up in person. I think the process might even be longer these days. There’s all sorts of visas and they need to be researched to see what is most appropriate.

13. What was your overall experience working in Brazil?

It was and still is very enjoyable, due to the opportunity to create in an environment of hard-working but fun people.

14. How did you make friends in Brazil? (Online, bars, etc.)

There were a couple of people I already knew here, and I was fortunate enough to tap into their networks, and I also met a lot of people playing sport here.

15. Tell us about good and bad experiences you had making friends or acquaintances in Brazil.

Brazilians have a tendency to say “you must come around home sometime” but think of it as more of a ritual discussion than an invite! Overall though I’ve had some great experiences meeting people through sport, lunches, friends of friends etc, and have probably met an eclectic bunch I would never have met back in NZ.


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