So what are you thinking? What was I doing there? I was on a study in Brazil for full 3 months, based out of Sao Paulo, and made some visits to Rio. It was a completely new setting to me. To summarize the experience in one word, it was different.
Brazil is a mystery to many people, only known for Samba and babes. Let's explore it further:
-- First things first: the beauty, what you have heard is true and its amazing! Though, my Colombian colleague was fairly disappointed by the brazilian 'standard', claiming that Colombians are better!
Those girls have highly well-toned body, and not surprisingly, many have gone under a knife! If you know portuguese, its a heaven!
-- Which brings me to the next issue: language. Portuguese is the only language spoken in Brazil. Very few people speak English even in Sao Paulo which is considered to be highly cosmopolitan. All the business is done in Portuguese. After going there, I have a new found respect for Hindi and have been trying to use it more in business discussions (with Indians of course).
Tip: Always have a card with your address written to show to the taxi driver.
-- Talking about taxis, they are expensive, but drivers are very friendly and honest (unlike some Dutch taxi drivers). I tried Metro once, and I must say Mumbai metros are much better than brazilians. People have little sense of discipline in getting in and out.
Public infrastructure is good, but under tremendous pressure with long traffic jams, very similar to some of the big Indian cities.
-- Which brings me to a comparison of the two countries. Goldman clubbed India and brazil together in BRIC, I don't know why! Brazil is far ahead of India (at least 5-8 years) in terms of quality of life and living standards. And I am comparing apple to apple, Delhi/Mumbai to Sao Paulo. To give you simple real life scenarios: everybody in a family has a car, roads are much better, 'normal' employees travel abroad on personal trips frequently, etc.
On the other hand, focus on growth is much higher in India. Financial markets are more sophisticated, and companies are more aggressive in international expansion. I found Brazilian companies inward looking and lacking on ambition. Focus is still on commodities, and their strategy is to milk the cow as long it exists.
-- Cow reminds me of beef and food. All my team mates met a vegetarian for the first time in their life! I was starved there, living on pasta with tomato sauce throughout the week. My main meal was breakfast and lunch was always rice with chilli sauce. There was one Indian restaurant which served the worst food I have ever eaten. Lately I developed a liking (or addiction) for hot chocolate cake with ice-cream. No doubt, I didn't lose as much weight as I should have.
More to follow...