A survey conducted by InterNations, the largest network and information site for people working and living abroad, asked foreigners in Brazil what they love and dislike about living in this year’s Summer Olympics host country.
The result is sobering: Brazil ranks 57th out of 64 countries in the overall ranking of the Expat Insider 2015 survey. Factors such as the insufficient public transport, ongoing environmental issues, poor healthcare standards, safety concerns and language difficulties may pose serious challenges to foreigners spending time in Brazil.
According to estimates from the International Olympic Committee, 480,000 fans are expected to flock to Brazil this summer as the Olympic torch is lit for the very first time in this country, and the survey results suggest that there are a few things foreigners should keep in mind during their stay.
Challenge #1: Safety Issues
With the country making it into the headlines regularly as the hub of one of the highest crime rates in the world, it comes to no surprise that Brazil occupies the 61st spot out of 64 countries when it comes to health, safety and well being.
In fact, only one percent of the survey respondents in Brazil rate their personal safety as very good, which is a whopping 41 percentage points less than the global average. Indeed, 11 percent even go so far as to consider their personal safety in Brazil to be very bad.
Challenge #2: Poor Healthcare for Foreigners
The quality of medical care in Brazil does not receive much appraisal, as only 7 percent of the survey respondents rate it as very good, whereas the global average stands at 21 percent.
Those traveling with children should also be aware that Brazil ranks shockingly low when it comes to the health and safety of children: a third of expat parents in Brazil regard this factor negatively, with four percent even going so far as to say it is very bad, in contrast to the twelve and one percent worldwide who say the same about their children’s health and safety in their respective countries of residence.
Challenge #3: Transportation and Travel
About 26 percent of foreigners living in Brazil agree that the state of the transportation infrastructure is bad or even very bad, which is around twice the global average. In fact, Brazil places 51st out of 64 countries in the Travel & Transport subcategory, sandwiched between Bahrain on 50th and the Philippines on 52nd position.
Also, the country lags behind in terms of travel opportunities with only 28 percent considering this factor as very good, whereas the global average stands at 45 percent.
Challenge #4: Breathing
Two in five respondents regard the quality of the environment — including the water and air quality — negatively, compared to 23 percent worldwide. The statistics reflect the ongoing environmental issues Brazil is dealing with.
According to the OECD Better Life Index, 73 percent of people say they are satisfied with water quality in Brazil, lower than the OECD average of 81 percent. Air pollution is another concern for residents in Brazil, with the level of PM2.5 pollution not only higher than the OECD average, but also exceeding WHO guideline limits.
Challenge #5: Portuguese Language
Close to 80 percent of the respondents agree to a certain extent that without speaking Portuguese, it is difficult to get by in Brazil. That is a staggering 36 percentage points more than the global average.
More than half even say it is very hard to get by without speaking the local language. Foreigners traveling to Brazil for the Olympics should take this into consideration, as their lack of Portuguese language skills may inhibit their travel plans.
Luckily, befriending the local population does not seem to be too difficult regardless of the language barrier: 59 percent of survey respondents in Brazil find making local friends overall easy, which is higher than the 44 percent global average.
Aliki Kostopoulou, a Greek expat and InterNations Ambassador who has been living in Rio de Janeiro for two years, agrees: “Rio is a big urban city, but you can feel very welcome from the time you step your foot on its land.”
Despite this plethora of challenges, the largest Latin American country is in full swing with its final preparations to host the Olympic Games this summer.
Just like the 2014 World Cup, the Olympic Games are expected to help position the country as a global player, as Kostopoulou, who works for the Olympic Broadcasting Services, states:
“The Olympics are an excellent opportunity for the city to be more open to foreigners. Actually, in the last few years I have noticed a big difference in the number of foreigners deciding to live in Rio, rather than before, where they were mostly passing by or having long vacations.”
About the Survey
For its annual Expat Insider survey, InterNations asked more than 14,000 expatriates representing 170 nationalities and living in 195 countries or territories to rate and provide information on various aspects of expat life, as well as their gender, age, and nationality.
The ratings of the individual factors were then used to draw up topical indices: Quality of Life, Ease of Settling In, Working Abroad, Family Life, Personal Finance, and Cost of Living.
These were further averaged in order to rank 64 expatriate destinations around the world. In 2015 the top ten were Ecuador, Mexico, Malta, Singapore, Luxembourg, New Zealand, Thailand, Panama, Canada, and Australia.
With more than 2.2 million members in 390 cities around the world, InterNations (http://www.internations.org)is the largest global network and information site for people who live and work abroad.
InterNations offers global and local networking both online and face-to-face. At around 4,000 monthly events and activities, expatriates have the opportunity to meet with other global minds.
Online services include country and city guides created by a team of professional writers, guest contributions about life abroad, and discussion forums to help members with topics such as local housing and job searching. To ensure the quality of the network, InterNations membership is by approval only.