23 comments on “Lesson No. 3: Brazilian Bureaucracy – Making life difficult for Brazilians since 1549

  1. That sounds really frustrating. The beer thing is just unbelievable (but so typical of Brazil). As for despachantes, they are not unique to Brazil. In fact, I’m dealing with one here in the UK right now. For a certain fee, this person is going to handle all the paperwork. She can navigate the bureaucratic process a lot faster than me to make sure my application gets accepted with no snaggles. I don’t have to use her services. I could do everything myself but I think her fee is worth the convenience. Sounds pretty much like a despachante, right? Only difference is her job title: she’s a mortgage broker.

  2. You know you’re in trouble when you go into a bar to buy a water. You get given a piece of paper on entry to the bar, which the barman marks down with your water. Then, you have to queue (of course) until a third member of staff stamps the paper, scribbles on it, writes something in a book, tears off a strip, stamps it again, staples the large piece of paper to all the others, then finally gives you your change and lets you out.

  3. That’s brilliant. Don’t know whether you watched the 1958 movie Orfeu Negro but there’s a scene which perfectly depicts that Brazilian bureaucracy, with hundreds of thousands of papers flying about.

    • Haven’t seen it so I’ll have to catch it sometime. Sounds exactly like one of those Cartórios you have to go to get things authenticated. Paper everywhere!

      • Cartorios are a purely Brazilian invention. Maybe they complicate to give work to despachantes, cartorios, lawyers…where would these people be without Brazilian document hell?

  4. Haha, I loved your post. Very funny. They have a saying here in Brazil: para que simplificar quando podemos complicar as coisas? Complicating things is part of the culture. They love it! By trying to simplify they make it worse. I suspect the bar-cash-customer interaction does not work because bartenders might have been caught stealing. They make it complicated so that they don´t lose money, not to simplify the experience for the customer. They didn´t believe you were married either, did they? The bottom line is, no one in Brazil believes what you say.

    • I think the most annoying thing about the visa is that we actually had the document authenticated in the Brazilian embassy in London. What else do you need to prove?? Instead we had to get two friends of the family to write and sign a letter to say that we are married, even though I’ve only met them since arriving in February. It can be very frustrating sometimes.

  5. Brazilian married to American here: it’s not a Brazilian thing wanting photos and witnesses to validate your marriage. It sure doesn’t say they need those at the USCIS* website, but try sending the papers without it. They’ll send it right back at you. As for the queue, yes, counter intuitive, the queue that gives the bracelet should also give the tokens, but believe me, it would be even worse if the same people had to do all 3.

    *US immigration service

    • I guess the annoying thing was that the Brazilian consulate in London had already validated our marriage certificate. Why would you then need to provide photos at a later date?

      I can only imagine how difficult the US immigration system must be. We found some cheap flights to go back to the UK at Christmas but they stopped in the US so we would have needed a transit visa for my wife, just to change flights, so we didn’t bother. If it’s that difficult just to pass through I can only begin to imagine how hard it is to get any sort of status!

      • Having lived in Japan I know that getting a Japanese visa can be even harder. It’s actually easier if, like me, you’re not Japanese-Brazilian or married to one. Otherwise you’ll have to show them not only one photo, but your full wedding album.

        I’ve heard there are photo studios that have fake wedding sets for people who for one reason or other could not convince the Japanese Consulate that they’re really married — or, which is more likely, for people who aren’t actually married in the first place.

      • I know another Brit – a school teacher – who has just moved from Brazil to Japan. In Brazil she waited two years to receive her ID card, but when she arrived in Japan they processed it for her whilst she waited in the airport queue!

        To be fair though, Japan is unique. My wife had to wait a months for hers in the UK.

      • To be fair, I remember Japanese society being wrapped in a lot of red tape too, but things seemed to move more switfly. Once I heard about Japanese corporate culture that corporations may take a long time to make a business decision, but once an agreement is reached, implementation comes at a fast pace. Maybe that can be applied to other instances of their collective life — you may even need to show a picture of your wedding cerimony, but rest assured you’ll get your stuff soon after that.

        Being a passionate Brazilian I confess I cannot distinguish well what makes our bureaucracy seem so strinkingly more deceitful than elsewhere. Apart from Japan I quite recall having had my share of trouble with French bureaucracy, having had a taste of civil servant uncooperativeness, too.

        Still it seems there is something distinctive about Brazilian bureaucracy that can’t be ascribed exactly to a purported laziness or even to cross prejudice…

      • I think it’s just a cultural legacy of the Portuguese and, thereafter, the Italians. You look at those countries now, especially the latter, and you can join the dots ;-)

  6. Being 10 months living in Brasil was sure a hell lot of bureaucracy that continually surprises for me here. Policia Federal documents and the long list of paper works. Been there, done that. Overall we can only say to everyone of us here….. You either love Brasil or hate Brasil.
    American married to a Brazilian

    • I think it’s important that rather than let little frustrations build up and make you resent Brazil, you have to just try and look back at them and laugh. For the record, I love SP and Brazil.

    • I totally hate it. Outta that hell for 23 years and despite the trouble to get into the US honestly, it was all worth it.
      Brazilian (from Rio) married to a British residing in the USA

  7. Brasil… ahhh Brasil… Good post! Barely grasps the real thing, but give the idea. Things are more complicated down here… Despachantes and Cartórios are different things… Did you already heard about the Zangões? They are Despachante’s fakers. They behave as Despachantes and got some privileges they should not have. They usual M.O. is hiding a 50 bucks bill among the documents to “express” the process (the clerk participates the deception). This is the reason brasilian events has 3 lines to get beer. Otherwise, the clerk’s would find a way to deviate money… There is a movie with Robert De Niro called “Brazil, The Movie” http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0088846/ that pictures our world very well. Mind the restaurant’s scene and the mother that recentlly had a facial cirurgy. That woman pictures with fidellity the brazilian high society.

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