Beating bureaucracy: Brazil vs. the Netherlands

Thinking about emigrating to Brazil, a lot of people probably imagine relaxing on a tropical beach with a caipirinha in their hand. Dream on. In reality it is a lot less relaxing unfortunately. ‘Cause if you want to live here you’ll have to spent many hours in many queues, fill out dozens of documents and wait, wait and wait a bit more.

Therefore, Brazilians are champions in ‘waiting in line’. The weird thing by the way is that during this time most people are just blankly staring into the distance. Just the odd person brings a book or a newspaper, and some people get their smartphone out. But apparently most people have no need to do this. Maybe they are just fantasizing about that tropical beach and that caipirinha.

Notary light
After more than four months in Brazil I’m now an expert in waiting as well. Because most things here are not arranged by standing in line only once. Mostly you’ll have to visit an institution at least two or three times, besides the visits you’ll have to bring to the cartorio (a sort of notary light).

An average visit to the cartorio will go like this: at home you’ll make a photocopy of the particular document, and then you will go with the original document and the photocopy to the cartorio. You’ll get a number, wait for a minimum of 30 minutes and then the person behind the desk will check if the photocopy is the same as the original. After he has decided that this is really the case, you have to pay 1,50 euro per document at another desk. In the meantime someone else will put a nice sticker and a stamp on your photocopy. Then the official ‘signer’ has to come to put his signature on the document.

Brazilian efficiency we’ll just call it. But how unique is that actually? One of my Dutch colleagues here in Latin America showed me a blog of the new VRT-correspondent in The Hague in the Netherlands. Sabine Vandeputte writes that with her Belgian bank account she can’t get a mobile phone subscription, without a sofinummer she can’t open a bank account, and with the telephone number she eventually receives, she can’t even make phone calls abroad for the first two months.

Is bureaucracy in the Netherlands worse than in Brazil?

Inflexible rules
Yes and no I think. It’s not without a reason that you’re always warned for the Brazil cost, the extra costs you make when you do business in Brazil. Except for high transportation and tax rates, the Brazil cost also includes the extra costs you make because of the red tape here.

But sometimes Brazilian bureaucracy has its advantages with respect to the Dutch. The main advantage is the difference between theory and practice. Of course I speak from personal experience, but Brazilians I’ve spoken to who visited (Northwestern) Europe, always complained about the inflexibility of the rules there.

Because in Brazil there is the theory of laws and rules and the practice of personal contacts. Of course you won’t make it without certain documents. A CPF (sort of sofinummer) is essential here, but at the same time very easy to get.

Friends
But most things in Brazil can be arranged because you know someone (directly of via via). So if you don’t know someone yet, make sure that changes as quickly as possible (also read my blog ‘That’s what friends are for’). Did you not succeed in befriending the person at the other side of the desk? Then there is always the despachante you can pay to arrange stuff for you.

Because in Brazil there is always a solution, the famous jeitinho. We managed for example to get a mobile phone subscription without a bank account and without a fixed address. And with that phone number we could also, unlike Sabine Vandeputte, make international phone calls.

So where is bureaucracy worse: in the Netherlands or in Brazil? I guess it depends what you prefer: the strict and clear rules in the Netherlands, or the long queues and personal chats in Brazil.

And those caipirinha’s? They taste even more delicious after you have spent hours in a queue.

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