Adventures of a foreigner in the south of Brazil.

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

There are two things you need to know about Brazil if you are going to live there:

For starters, it is essential to understand about cartórios. A cartório is, unlike yourself, an officially trustworthy person. Your main business with a cartório is going to be twofold: He is going to witness document copies for you (and a lot of them, believe you me). He will also witness your signature to make sure it is really yours and not that of, for example, Richard Lion-Heart. Not being Richard Lion-Heart and having this legally certified is key to achieving things in Brazil.

Personally, I recommend always getting your signatures legalized. You don't want your friends to get into trouble about dodgy birthday cards or something like that and they will appreciate your thoughtfulness.

Having a legal signature is key to the second thing that you are going to need: The CPF. The CPF is your tax number. With a CPF you are an official tax payer in Brazil. Without it you're not even a person. You will not be able to open a bank account, activate a cell phone and any number of other things. You may be able to get a drink, and by now you are going to need one. Mind you, it is actually possible to get a CPF even before you have a visa: All you need is a ton of documents, a cartório, and another immigrant who can tell you how it works. Try to find the immigrant first.

I now have it on official authority that I am not Richard Lion-Heart. I also possess a CPF of my very own. I still do not have an active cell phone. Thoughtfully my provider shut it down again just after I put some money on the prepaid card. (In hindsight picking an Italian company in Brazil as my phone provider of choice might have been a misjudgement.)

Now I'm in luck, since thanks to the splendid customer services of my provider re-activating a phone is easy. You only have to call them and, in the happy event that you reach anybody, give them your CPF, your address, passport number, eye-colour, preferred brand of espresso and the height of St. Peter's cathedral in centimetres. Then activation takes only an hour, try again next day if it doesn't work.
For the record: It's three weeks later now and I still cannot make any phone calls.