Sao Paulo, Brazil Report of what it's like to live there - 01/03/12
Personal Experiences from Sao Paulo, Brazil
1. Was this post your first expatriate experience? If not, what other cities have you lived in as an expat?
No. Nurnberg, Frankfurt, and Seoul.
2. What is your home city/country? How long is the trip to post from there, with what connections? How easy/difficult is it to travel to this city/country?
Wash, DC. The flight was 8 hours, direct, from Washington/Dulles airport.
3. How long have you lived here?
4. What brought you to this city (e.g. diplomatic mission, business, NGO, teaching, retirement, etc.)?
U.S. Consulate employee.
Housing, Groceries & Food:
1. What is your housing like? What are typical housing sizes, locations, and commute times for expatriates?
Typically high-rise apartments, which are all nice and vary in size, depending on the neighborhood. Jardins is a safer area, but apartments there are smaller than in the south or west part of the city. Traffic is almost always heavy.
2. How would you describe the availability and cost of groceries and household supplies relative to your home country?
Expensive, and limited, compared to the US. Farmers' markets have fresh veggies, fruits, and fish at reasonable prices. Cost of beef is reasonable, and better in taste than what we had in the US. Shrimp is expensive. The variety of some foods, such as cereal, is very limited. Remember, Brazil is a socialist country.
3. What household or grocery items do you wish you had shipped to post?
Bring EVERYTHING possible: electronics, clothes, dry goods of all sorts; paper products (napkins); school supplies; laundry detergent.
4. What typical restaurants, food delivery services, and/or takeout options are popular among expatriates?
Restaurants are very expensive. American restaurants in the city are Applebees and Chilis. Fast food is mainly McDonald's and "por kilo" (pay by weight) cafes.
5. What kinds of organic, vegetarian and allergy-friendly foods are available, such as organic produce, gluten-free products, meat substitutes for vegetarians, etc?
6. Are there any unusual problems with insects or other infestations in housing?
None in Sao Paulo, but the beaches and interior have mosquito problems that can be quite a bit more difficult to deal with than in the US.
1. How do you send and receive your letters and package mail? Are local postal facilities adequate?
APO and Unclas Pouch.
2. What is the availability and cost of household help, and what types of help are typically employed by expatriates?
Very reasonable, but most people have had problems with theft. If it is full-time employment, you will pay for limited benefits also.
3. What kinds of gyms or other sports/workout facilities are available? Are they expensive?
Yes, but they are typically around $175/month.
4. Are credit cards widely accepted and safe to use locally? Are ATMs common and do you recommend using them? Are they safe to use?
Use the banks and be wary of your surroundings. Availability is good, but more limited than in the US, particularly in the interior. But virtually every place takes a debit card, but don't let it leave your sight.
5. What English-language religious services are available locally?
Yes, previously mentioned.
6. English-language newspapers and TV available? Cost?
English language magazines are expensive, but cost 2 to 3 times more than in the US. Cable and SAT TV are available, but English-language programming is limited.
7. How much of the local language do you need for daily living? Are local language classes/tutors available and affordable?
Important. Store employees and most cafe employees do not know English.
8. Would someone with physical disabilities have difficulties living in this city?
Lots. The 'sidewalks' are horrible even for someone with no walking disabilities. Elevators are limited in stores.
1. Are local buses, trams, trains or taxis safe and affordable?
Metro and taxis are safe. I use both regularly, and have had no problems.
2. What kind of car do you recommend bringing to post, given the terrain, availability of parts, burglary/carjacking risks, etc.? What kind of car do you advise not to bring?
A small SUV, for its compact size and ground clearance. Roads are fair in Sao Paulo, but they do have pot holes. Parking is VERY limited, so you tend to pay for a parking space. Carjackings occur, but more so for high-end vehicles, such as Mercedes.
Phone & Internet:
1. Is high-speed home Internet access available? How long does it typically take to install it after arrival?
Yes. Cost is about $75/month.
2. Do you have any recommendations regarding mobile phones? Did you keep your home-country plan or use a local provider?
Service is good, but expensive. Best to bring an unlocked phone, and use it as a pay-as-you-go phone. Chips can be purchased here for about $10.
1. Are qualified veterinarians and/or good kennel services available? Do animals need to be quarantined upon entry to the country? Are there other considerations regarding pets that are particular to this country?
2. Quality pet care available (vets & kennels)?
Employment & Volunteer Opportunities:
1. What types of jobs do most expatriate spouses/partners have? Locally based or telecommuting? Full-time or part-time? Can you comment on local salary scales?
You have to know Portuguese.
2. What is the typical dress code at work and in public places? Is formal dress ever required?
Business casual to Business.
Health & Safety:
1. Are there personal security concerns to be aware of at this post? Please describe.
Yes, crime is high, and it tends to be violent. Lots of poor people here, so they form gangs, and they will not hesitate to enter restaurants to rob the patrons, mainly at night.
2. Are there any particular health concerns? What is the quality of available medical care? What medical conditions typically require medical evacuation?
Superb health and dental care, but very expensive. The doctors don't take foreign insurances, so you have to pay up front, typically $275 - $325 per visit. Einstein hospital is EXCELLENT. Dentists are cheaper than in the US, but no foreign insurance is accepted.
3. What is the air quality like at post (good/moderate/bad)? Are there seasonal air quality issues? Does the air quality have an impact on health?
Horrible! You'll gasp when driving in traffic.
4. What is the overall climate: is it extremely hot or cold, wet or dry, at any time of year, for example?
Generally warm, but a little cool for some during the winter season. The summer can be humid. No snow or frost.
Schools & Children:
1. What is the availability of international schools? What has been your general experience with them, if any?
Graded is the American school. Chapel is a Catholic school. There are British schools. Most Americans attend Graded. Bullying is a problem, and the staff of most schools, even though American, prefer to have the rich Brazilian students attend. Graded uses google docs exclusively; Students in grades 6 and up need a laptop.
2. What accommodations do schools make for special-needs kids?
The public schools are of very poor quality. The international schools don't make considerations for special needs.
3. Are preschools available? Day care? Are these expensive? What has been your experience with them, if any? Do the schools provide before- and/or after-school care?
Yes, but the language is Portuguese. I have no children in pre-school.
4. Are local sports classes and/or activities available for kids?
Yes, obviously soccer. Many apartment complexes have a soccer court and a swimming pool.
1. What is the relative size of the expatriate community? How would you describe overall morale among expatriates?
Fair, but I heard that it is less than in the past as many businesses have pulled out of Brazil.
2. Morale among expats:
3. What are some typical ways to socialize, either with local people or with other expatriates? Are there groups or clubs that you can recommend?
Clubs; corner bars; theatre.
4. Is this a good city for single people? For couples? For families? Why or why not?
Not for families, but for couples or singles it can be o.k. Knowing Portuguese is a must.
5. Is this a good city for LGBT expatriates? Why or why not?
6. Are there problems with ethnic, race/racial minorities or religious prejudices? Gender equality?
No. There are two non-denominational Christian churches in English; one Catholic church in English.
7. What have been the highlights of your time in this country? Best trips or experiences?
Waiting for my trip to the deep Amazon.
8. What are some interesting/fun things to do in the area? Can you recommend any “hidden gems"?
Martial arts; movie cinemas have first run, English language movies; Plays, if you understand Portuguese. Beaches are about 2 - 3 hours away.
9. Is this a "shopping post"? Are there interesting handicrafts, artwork, antiques, or other items that people typically buy there?
10. What are the particular advantages of living in this city?
Weather is generally nice; no winter, but a rainy period. It is VERY expensive here, due to high import taxes, including food.
11. Can you save money?
Possibly, but limited.
Words of Wisdom:
1. Knowing what you know now, would you still move to this city?
2. If you move here, you can leave behind your:
Heavy winter clothes.
3. But don't forget your:
De-humidifiers and umbrellas.