Opinion, by Brennan Stark
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – I got mugged on July 5th. It actually wasn’t too bad, since they only took about R$70 and my jacket (they had jackets though, which was annoying), and left the girl I was with alone. Still, I would rather deal with a million of those little brats then have to spend one more day looking for an apartment in Rio.
No, seriously. Nowhere I have ever seen has it been so hard to find an apartment when there are so many. It’s not that there is a shortage, after all, the Marvelous City is marvelously big, as I found out on a two-hour bus ride to Cidade de Deus. There are roughly 13,000,000 people in the State of Rio de Janeiro, and I’d say most of them have somewhere to stay.
If you are a millionaire (no, really) then it’s easy, who cares? But unless your butler is reading this to you I doubt you are one, and you’ll likely have to do the hunting more personally. Which is where everything falls to pieces.
As I said earlier, it’s not that there is a shortage of apartments in Rio on the internet. A whole morning is spent copying and pasting email text to a hundred different addresses, and three days later maybe seven reply. None of them will include the price. There is a reason why this is not included in the email. I will give you a hint. Because it is probably insanely expensive.
But let’s use our imaginations and pretend that we actually found one we liked at a fairly decent price, one furnished and clean and has that “oh-so-close to Ipanema” thing about it. So you cross your fingers and send the email asking to make an appointment. But that’s not how it works here.
First, the only thing Brazilians hate more than making appointments is losing to Argentina. Second, appointments via email are equivocal to losing to Argentina, and Neymar breaking his leg. More likely you will be told to call them, and play phone tag for a couple weeks. And so the circle of life continues.
Now, please don’t get me wrong. I am from Southern California. We literally invented flakiness, and ambiguous schedules, and I think even the word “whatever.” The carioca lifestyle makes me feel right at home, with all its tentative plans, ultra-relaxed persona, and I love the absence of open-container laws .
I would even say it’s almost endearing that this laid-back atmosphere permeates even into the business world, except that I don’t want to spend all my beach time scouring over the Internet.
Now, it actually does happen. People do find apartments here. (If you are one, may I have your autograph?) But there is a difference between finding one and actually being able to stay in it for long.
My friend John recently landed a good one just two blocks from Copacabana beach. It was advertised as having a cleaning service and wireless internet. Of course, the advertisement should have read “cleaning services and wireless internet eventually.” Tomorrow, tomorrow, tomorrow.
Another story I heard was of a landlord who was renting out an apartment near Botafogo. Apparently it was a very nice place, because four people really wanted it. The landlord was so nice, he gave it to them all! Four strangers in a studio apartment. The best part is, he didn’t even try to run with the money. It seems that somewhere deep down he felt that these things tend to just work out. “Whatever.”
As for myself, I tired long ago of this game. I am staying long-term at a very fun hostel, the cheapest one in Rio for all I know. The atmosphere is amazing, Ipanema is one block away, and I don’t have to deal with any rentals anymore. Sure we have a bit of a bedbug infestation, but as long as I don’t have to send one more email begging for the listing price, I will let them bite as much as they want to.