Before we made the big move to Joinville, Brazil, we researched the area extensively. Sadly, we did not find any other expat resources or guides for Joinville. Since starting our blog a few expats moving to Joinville have reached out to us. So we decided to put together this guide to help out fellow English speaking expats. The first part of the guide is frequently asked questions. The second part of this guide is a list of doctors we’ve used, where to buy what, our favorite restaurants, etc. If you have any tips or suggestions please comment below and share with other expats.
This seems to be the first question anyone asks when moving to a new country. Joinville has a lower murder rate than our previous city of Tulsa, Oklahoma. Most crime in Joinville is centralized in the poorer neighborhoods and involves the drug trade. If you avoid these areas and don’t use drugs you should be fine. I go for long walks alone, and I drive all over the city and have never been bothered.
Are people friendly?
Short answer, yes! Brazilians are overall friendly people and most tend to like foreigners and getting to know people that are from a different culture. You will get invited out to dinner, family beach houses, etc. by coworkers and possibly your employer. Brazilians are social people and are happy to show you Brazil. Don’t be surprised if you meet a stranger and they invite you to do something. However, please keep in mind that each region in Brazil is different. You may encounter snooty waiters in Rio de Janeiro or a rude person in Sao Paulo. Big city folks everywhere tend to be slightly more guarded and of course sometimes people are just having a bad day. We found that we have far more positive encounters with Brazilian people than negative!
Do a lot of people speak English?
No. Surprisingly few people speak English in Brazil. If you want to be happy living in Brazil we recommend that you study Portuguese. Many visitors to Brazil think that if they speak Spanish they will get by okay. I studied Spanish for 8 years and lived in Bogota, Colombia so I speak it well. Trust me your Spanish skills will not be very helpful in Brazil. So study Portuguese, at least the basics, if you want to get by and not be as frustrated.
Is there an expat community?
While there are many German expats due to BMW in Joinville you will not find many other expats. We’ve only met one other couple from the USA and they returned to the states. There is no organized expat community or meetings in place to our knowledge. Believe me, we have looked. You would be better off learning Portuguese and making some Brazilian friends. If you are looking to live someplace with a thriving expat community you may want to look towards Sao Paulo or Rio de Janeiro.
What is the weather like? Does it get cold?
It rains a lot in Joinville. Sometimes there is so much rain that the locals call this city chuville (rain-ville). The climate is sub-tropical so, even though there can be rain, the weather can be quite beautiful too. With the rain comes high humidity and mold. The rain makes us appreciate the sunny days. Joinville is located in Southern Brazil, so it does get cold here in the Brazilian winter. Be sure to bring sweaters and a light jacket. In the summer it can get quite hot. We have all four seasons in Southern Brazil.
Is Joinville child friendly?
Overall Brazilians love children. They take their children everywhere, and they are so well behaved, most of the time. It is not uncommon to see parents bring their young children with them to late night dinners in nice restaurants. Many restaurants have play areas for children. It’s also common for parents to bring toys and tablets for children to play with while out to dinner.
As far as green space though, Joinville is lacking. There are few parks in this city. The closest beach is a 45 minute drive though! If you are moving to Joinville with children I recommend looking for an apartment that has a playground and swimming pool or a house with a large yard.
Are there any international schools or daycares?
Yes. Joinville has an international school. Most of the students are Brazilian who are learning English. We hear through our Brazilian friends that these are excellent schools. There is an elementary school and a middle/high school. The school is through SOCIESC.
There are also several daycares in Joinville. Many of them have large play areas and are run much like a school with a structured schedule and fun activities.
In Brazil, the government pays for everyone’s health insurance, even foreigners. That said most of us purchase private health insurance. For us it is a benefit through my husband’s work. The reason? Well the government hospitals are underfunded and not the best. Wait lists for treatment can be long. With that said, I had surgery in Brazil and my private health insurance covered all my costs. The private hospital I went to treated me well. We’ve also been to several doctors here. Most doctors speak English, except for the doctor I saw in the Emergency room once. Don’t count on the receptionists and nurses to speak English though. I communicate with most of my doctors using WhatsApp. For some reason, it seems that doctors in Brazil are more available to their patients than in the United States. My doctors kiss me on the cheek, give me their personal cell phone numbers, and sent me messages every day after my surgery for a week to ask how I was feeling. I never got that type of treatment in the USA by doctors! Later in the article I will provide a list of English speaking doctors.
How do you find housing?
Most expats living in Brazil have housing provided to them. We were lucky enough to be able to take over the house of the previous expats so our transition was easy. If you are moving to Joinville for work, your company should be able to help you out. There are many real-estate agents in the area that can assist you with finding housing. They are called Imobiliarias and they have offices in every neighborhood and also advertise in the malls. You can find private rentals between just you and the owner by searching on-line. Popular websites for rentals are vivastreet.com and www.olx.com.br. For short term stays you can even look into airbnb rentals.
Where is the best location to live?
My answer to this question is it depends. If you are moving and do not have a car, or your spouse does not have a car, my opinion is that the Centro area is the best. There are many apartments in this area. It is within walking distance to the shopping center, grocery stores, and many great restaurants.
Another great neighborhood is the América neighborhood. This area has some nice upscale homes and apartments as well as a lot of restaurants, shops, etc. Depending on where you live in this neighborhood you can be within a mile or two of Centro.
I have friends whom live in other great neighborhoods but these two are my favorite.
Is it expensive to mail things from the USA to Brazil?
It all depends on the weight of what you are mailing. Also there is always a risk that customs will hold your package and charge you more money to get it. This happened to us when customs was confused by a cheap photo editing program Dale’s mom mailed us. Customs thought it was more expensive that it was. We ended up paying more than what all the items in the box cost just to get the package. Now we could have contested this, but the package would have been sent back and held by customs for several more months before it got sorted out. Be sure if anything new is sent to you via mail to have the sender take the item out of the original packaging and make it look a little used. If it looks expensive at all, customs may try and extort money from you. That said, food items and small packages are not that expensive and tend to make it to us easily.
Should we use a shipping container or buy everything new in Brazil?
This is up to personal preference. Our company found it was too expensive to send a shipping container to Brazil. So they had the expats before us buy all the furniture and household goods in Brazil. It turned out this was cheaper. Now the Brazilian Real is undervalued and low compared to the dollar. For people from the USA things are cheap. It won’t stay this way forever, at least for the sake of Brazil and business in Brazil we hope not!
If you do use a shipping container be aware that Brazil law is strict. When you leave you will also be required to send a shipping container home. You will have to bring back your furniture and items with you or at least the same amount in money that you sent down to Brazil.
How do I get my cell phone up and running?
You will need to either bring an unlocked phone or buy one here. We had our IPhone in the USA unlocked and brought them. Then you have two options. You can buy a plan with a carrier or pay as you go. We like the ease of pay as you go. I pay around 20 Reais a month for my phone so it is cheap compared to the US. You will have to pick your carrier and buy a Sim card. You can recharge your cell phone in the checkout line at the grocery store or at an ATM. It’s convenient. Many people here use the carrier TIM because it is cheap and Claro because it has better coverage.
You can purchase your plan or Sim card at the mall, either Garten Shopping or Mueller Shopping. One thing to keep in mind if coming from the USA or any other country with outstanding internet coverage, in Brazil it is (so-called) 3G coverage max almost all the time. So always have a backup plan if using your phone to navigate. We also have a GPS and I keep a paper map in my car just in case.
What is a despachante and what are the RNE and CPF?
One of the first things you will do when you move here is start to work on getting official Brazilian identification. Hopefully your employer will help you with this. If not, there are people you can pay to help you with this process that are bilingual. You will want to hire a despachante unless you speak fluent Portuguese and know how to manage the many layers of government bureaucracy in Brazil.
A despachante is a “document agent” or “go between”. Think of them as a personal assistant for anything business related in Brazil. They know people and know how to grease the system to get things done. This sounds a little shady yet, unless you like long waits, being told to go between numerous government agencies for multiple forms, etc., you will want to use a despachante. We used a despachante to buy a car and get it inspected, for our RNE, and soon for our driver’s licenses.
Now if you are still stubborn and want to try all this on your own, you can find a lot of information on line as well as electronic forms to fill out. For your RNE you go through the Federal Police website to get the forms. You will have to take a lot of documentation to the Federal Police in person and have photocopies and translation of your passport, marriage certificate (if applicable), etc. You can register on line for your CPF here. Again, there more to this process than just applying on line so that is why many of us expats get help.
Even using a despachante you will still have to go to many offices to file different forms. So be patient and friendly, take deep breaths, and come to grips with the fact that this is how things are done in Brazil and no amount of anger, frustration, or crying will change anything.
Your RNE is your proof of registration as a foreigner and your identification. It is called Registro Nacional de Extrangeiro in Portuguese. The number on your RNE card is the CIE or Cedula de Identidade Estrangeiro. That is the identification number most places will require when they need your ID.
Your CPF is your national tax ID number. It is linked to the Federal Revenue of Brazil. You will need this number anytime you purchase something large or expensive in Brazil. If you want to buy a cell phone plan, an air conditioner, in my case a hair dryer, you will need this number. I keep this number saved in my cell phone at all times along with me all other important information such as cell phone numbers, zip code, etc. Be sure and keep it someplace handy because you will get asked for it all the time.
Yes. In fact, we used our bank card from the USA the first several months we were in Brazil. You just need to find an ATM that is compatible. If you use your bank card or a credit card from the USA to buy groceries or other items and you do not have a chip and pin you may need to remind the cashier that you need to sign the receipt. They are not used to accepting foreign cards at most places in Joinville and get confused at times when they encounter a card without a chip and pin. Americans are so far behind the rest of the world in this!
One tip most of you should already know – make sure you call you credit card companies and let them know you will be using your card in Brazil so you do not get a security flag and end up with a declined transaction.
What is it like to set up a bank account in Brazil?
Banks in Brazil have a lot more security inside the bank than in the USA. So when you first enter a bank you will notice security guards, metal detectors, bullet proof glass, etc. If you are a woman and carrying a purse you will need to place your purse through a hole in the glass for the security guard to inspect, or put it in a locker. I managed to get stuck in the revolving door because I didn’t realize this. Ha ha!
We set up an account at an international bank (HSBC – but they recently sold their Brazilian operation to Bradesco. The transition hasn’t occured yet so we can’t make a reccomendation here either way yet) because it made transferring money to the USA easier. They also have an international call center and a private office upstairs with people that speak English. That said, there was a lot of paperwork and mistakes made by our bank and it took us about 3 months to get our bank account up and running. It was a hassle. It seemed they were calling us every other day asking us to come down and sign a form they forgot to have us complete the last time we were there. All the paperwork also had to go through Sao Paulo. They did give us a temporary account that held Dale’s monthly deposits from work, until our account was ready. We are not sure if it is easier to set up an account with the local Brazilian banks or not, but it may be worth a try.
Do you have to have a driver’s license to drive?
An international license will get you through your first 6 months in Brazil. After that you will need to start the driver’s license process which requires that you take a test. The test is in Portuguese but is not about actual driving or rules of the road. We think it is to rule out any brain injuries. You draw shapes and lines and follow directions.
What is it like to drive in Brazil?
Each city is different, but, regardless, I find it a little nerve wracking. There are city busses and motoboys flying by you on all sides at all times. You need to pay attention. There are few things to be aware of. Talking on your cell phone while driving is illegal in Brazil. They also have zero tolerance for drinking and driving, although you encounter a lot of drunk drivers along the coastal highway. Turning right on a red light is illegal. When driving on the highway, if you want to cross the street you must pull over on the right side of the highway, wait until there is no traffic and then drive across the street. You are not allowed to turn left off a highway. We were honked at a lot when we first moved here! Ha ha! There are speed traps all over Brazil and they will catch you and mail you a ticket. Each time you get a ticket you lose points on your driver’s license. Lose too many points and you can lose your license. Brazilians are smart and find ways to work around this like putting the points against their spouse’s license, etc. Also watch out for speed bumps that just appear out of nowhere. Trust me you do not want to catch air going over one of these because it can ruin your car. In the summer months be prepared to be stuck in traffic for many hours if you decide to drive to the beach. Always be prepared for long stops due to accidents, heavy traffic, protests, or road construction. We bring snacks, plenty to drink, and something to read. A funnel and cup to pee in may be handy too. Ha ha! And finally watch for pot holes. Some are deep and can damage your car.
How do I set up my utilities, water, gas, cable TV, internet phone, electricity, security?
Short answer, find a Brazilian friend or co-worker to help you out if you do not speak Portuguese. Also ask different people to help you with different things instead of the same person. You don’t want someone to get tired of helping you out all the time. For us, all these utilities were already set up but in the name of the previous expat. So it was easy for us to go in with our Brazilian documentation and change the information over into Dale’s name. Also, if your Portuguese is not great we find it best to go to the place of business in person rather than call. In addition we find that we get few responses when we email businesses in Brazil. You can also ask if a despachante can help.
All your bills come in the mail, except for the gas bill. You do not get a bill for gas.
We use Gas for cooking in Brazil. It is common and simple to get a gas tank. You just call the company and they will deliver it and you pay them. We paid around 160 Reals for a tank of gas that will last us close to a year. There are many gas companies but here are two that we know of:
Liquigas- Phone: 3473-6068
Fredy Gas- Phone: 9963-1484 or 9958-9429
There are two cable TV providers in Joinville: Sky and Net. I know, it sounds like a Terminator movie! You can buy an international package and get many channels in English and all the sports channels. We had this at first, but since we do not watch much T.V. we dropped it down to basic and we use a Roku player to access Netflix and Amazon. I also know some people that bring Apple T.V.’s. Our landline phone is also tied in with our cable and internet package.
How do I pay my utilities?
Paying your utilities is one of the few quick and easy things to do in Brazil. Once you have a bank account you can take your bills to an ATM machine, scan the barcodes and pay them. If you do not have a bank account there is a place called Lotteria. They are often in the basement of the major grocery stores. We have one in Angeloni. You can take your bills and cash, stand in line and wait until your kiosk becomes open and pay the bills there. It takes usually a total of 10 minutes. When we first moved to Brazil I would do our grocery shopping and pay the bills all at the same time. They also sell lottery tickets here so if they ask you if you want a lottery ticket just say no thanks.
Address: Visconde de Maua, 1975, Santo Antonio, Joinville
Phone Number: 3804-2477
The director is Rafaela. She goes by Rafa. She is nice and has helped me a lot. I taught English there and also took Portuguese lessons there. There are also many other language schools in Joinville you can visit and try.
This of course will all depend on the insurance you have so be sure and read your provider book. Most places in Brazil do not cover dental but it is cheap compared to dental care in the USA.
My dentist and orthodontist are at Ortoville. The do not speak English. I use google translate to email them or call to make appointments and Dotor Jonni used google translate with me during my first orthodontist evaluation. We stopped using it when he realized I speak enough Portuguese. He is nice and did my orthodontic work. His brother is a dentist and he cleans my teeth.
Address: Rua Quinze de Novembro, 811, Centro, Joinville
Phone Number: 3416-0030
If you need x-rays your dentist will send you to a place that does only xrays. They don’t do this in office. They will give you the address and you just go, check in and they call you back to do everything. Then they send the results to the dentist.
Ear Nose and Throat Doctor: In Brazil you go to an Ear Nose and Throat doctor if you get a cold. We have one that we like and he speaks fluent English. He also sees children.
Dr. Rodrigo-two big thumbs up! He is nice. He uses WhatsApp too.
Address: Rua Rio do Sul, 105, Bucarein, Joinville
Dermatologist: I have to been here but my friend says this dermatologist speaks good English.
Doctora Raquel Steglich
Address: Rua Alexandre Dohler, 129, Salas 806,807, Centro, Joinville
Gynecologist: I haven’t been in Brazil yet but two of my friends recommend these two:
Address: I’m not sure exactly the address but she is on Rua Blumenau and in the building across the street from Hospital Dona Helena.
Vitae Clinica Materno Infantil-Dra. Jocelyn Mara Meirs-She reportedly speaks fluent English. They also have a lab in this clinic where you can get any bloodwork done if needed.
Address: Rua Marechal Deodoro, 84, Centro, Joinville
For Emergency Care or on the Weekend:
Unimed Hospital/Emergency Room: I’ve been here twice and received good care both times. There is parking on the side of the hospital and a paid lot across the street. You go in and take a number and then they call you up and enter you in their system. We both have Unimed health insurance so this is where we go.
Address: Rua Orestes Guimaraes, 905, America, Joinville.
Home/Tool Supply Stores:
Casa de Agua:
Address: Rua Dr. Joao Colin, 2270 America, Joinville
Address: Rua Doutor Joao Colin, 2158, San Antonio, Joinville
Address: Rua Iririu, 2439, Iririu, Joinville
Etna in Mueller and Garden Shopping: It’s expensive but they have nice home decorations, towels, throw pillows, etc.
Casa da China: It’s a little like a dollar store in the USA. Full of lots of cheaper plastic containers, cooking items, cleaning items, crayons, school supplies, outlet adapters, etc. It is cheap compared to going to the malls or department stores.
Address: Rua Joao Colin, 2950, Joinville
Specialty Stores and Cafes:
Pitter Pan: They have costumes for different festivals including Halloween, items for Carnival, etc. Also, lots of candy and party supplies (for birthday parties mainly kids).
Address: Rua Blumenau, 1500, America, Joinville
Decathlon: This sporting goods store opened up recently. The first nice and big sporting goods store in Joinville. You can buy clothes and all types of sporting equipment here.
Address: Rua Quinze de Novembro, 2805
Doce Beijos: a Chocolate/coffee shop. They have one in the mall at Mueller but also a free standing one that is more of a café/coffee shop.
Address: Rua Aquidaban, 330, Gloria, Joinville
Amor e Canela: It’s a bakery with lots of delicious treats, donuts, etc. Upstairs they have a restaurant open for breakfast or lunch.
Address: Rua Dr. Joao Colin, (next door to Paviloche)-Paviloche is a restaurant but they also have an ice cream buffet. You build your own sundaes and pay based on the weight. Food is pretty decent there but we go for the ice cream!
Pantificadora e Confeitaria Isabela: They have a weigh your plate breakfast attached with lots of delicious cakes-yes people eaake for breakfast here. Ha ha! It is a café/bakery. We love the donuts and coffee here.
Address: Rua Dona Francisca, 4634, Santo Antonio, Joinville
Angeloni: Our favorite because it is close to our home and it is nice. Not just groceries, they sell home items too. More expensive though than going to a home store.
Address: Rua Doutor Joao Colin, 2500 America, Joinville-there is another one near Centro.
Giassi: We go here every once in a while. The meat is supposedly better than Angeloni, but I don’t notice much of a difference. You also have to get a parking ticket here and before you leave the store have the cashier validate it.
Address: Rua Joao Colin, 762, America, Joinville
Big (Walmart-sort of): This store is owned by Walmart but doesn’t carry as much as a USA Walmart so don’t get too excited. We buy our paper goods here because it is cheaper. You also have to get a parking ticket here just like the other stores.
Address: Rua Jose Viera, 720, Jardim America, Joinville
Makro: This is the only store I found where you can buy items in bulk. You have to sign up for a Makro card before you can shop there but it is free to sign up. It is similar to a Costco or Sam’s club but not as nice… We still like it though!
Address: Makro is directly off BR 101. It is huge and driving in and out of Joinville you will see it.
Mundo Verde: This is a health food store I haven’t been to yet but keep planning to check out.
Address: Rua dos Gymnastic, 60, Centro, Joinville
There are so many great restaurants in Joinville, many on Rua Gastronomica near Mueller Shopping. They are easy to find. We like:
Guacamole-sometimes you just have to eat Mexican food even if it is still not quite the same as back home. This is our favorite Mexican food in Joinville.
Pizza Slice-has amazing pizza.
Melhor Sucos do Mundo: A healthy and lighter option.
Agua Doce: I love the filet parmesan. They make the best caipirinhas in town.
Chimarrao: A traditional Brazilian steak house. This place is a lot of fun on a Sunday afternoon but it gets crowded. The food is good but there are much, much better Brazilian steakhouses in Curitiba. If you visit Curitiba be sure and go to Jardins Grill. It is awesome!
Here are our favorite restaurants around town:
Italia Massas e Pizzas: Our favorite Italian Rodizio. They will bring plates of all different types of pasta and pizza by your table and you pick and choose which ones you want to try. Save room for the dessert pizza. There is a set price for the Rodizio. You can also order a carte if you wish but I suggest giving the Rodizio a try!
Address: Dr. Joao Colin, 2287, America, Joinville.
Opa Bier Parc: This is several outdoor restaurants with covering. They have a sushi restaurant up on the hill and a seafood restaurant too.
Address: Rua Max Colin, 1589, America, Joinville
Santa Mistura: A bit more expensive but great steaks and shrimp dishes. This is more of a fine dining restaurant.
Address: Rua Otto Boehm, 648, Atiradores, Joinville.
Lanconete Rio da Prata: Everyone says the pastels are the best here! They are great. The view of the mountains is also wonderful, if you drive past this restaurant and up the mountain you will come to a lookout that is beautiful. This restaurant is about 15-20 minutes from Joinville.
Address: SC 418 Km 6, Pirabeiraba
Max Moppi: Just before you get to Rio da Prata. Another pastel restaurant. This one has a play area for the kiddos.
Address: Rodovia SC 418 Km 5, 5743, Pirabeiraba.
Poial Tropeiro: One of our favorite steak houses in Joinville! They also have other items you can order on the menu but most go for the steak. Reasonable prices too. They have a play area towards the back of the restaurant for kids.
Address: Rua XV de Novembro, 1903, Vila Nova, Joinville.
Joinville Iate Club: This seafood restaurant is on the bay and it is beautiful. It’s a little pricey but the view is worth going at least once! Parking is free. Just tell the security guard you are eating at the restaurant.
Address: Rua Prefeito Baltazar Buschle, 2850, Espinheiros, Joinville
Garten Shopping: Our favorite mall b/c less traffic and nicer stores.
Address: Aveninda Rolf Wiest, No. 333, Bairro Bom Retiro, Joinville
Mueller Shopping: We like this mall too but mainly only go there to meet friends.
Address: Rua Visconde de Taunay, 235, Centro, Joinville
Cidade das Flores: This is in Centro near Mueller. It is a lower end mall and much cheaper. You can find some good deals here. We bought a guitar here in the music store.
Address: Rua Mario Lobo, 106, Centro, Joinville
Address: Rua Princessa Isabel, 394, Centro
**To find local events and festivals get the Joinville paper or subscribe on-line. It’s all in Portuguese but it will tell you about all the upcoming festivals, many are at Expoville.
Also, to find great things to do in and around Santa Catarina and Joinville please continue to follow our blog! We hope that some readers find this article helpful. Please do not hesitate to comment below if you have any suggestions or advice for expats moving to Brazil. Also, if you have any questions please comment below or email us.