Sao Paulo, Brazil Report of what it's like to live there - 08/02/13
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?
First assignment with the Foreign Service,
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?
Direct flights to Dallas and Miami are easy to come by, the flight is about 9 hours.
3. How long have you lived here?
4. What brought you to this city (e.g. diplomatic mission, business, NGO, teaching, retirement, etc.)?
Housing, Groceries & Food:
1. What is your housing like? What are typical housing sizes, locations, and commute times for expatriates?
Mostly high rises, some areas are about a 10 minute commute to the consulate, others an hour. It's important to note that some days, even the normal 10 minute commute can take over an hour with the traffic here.
2. How would you describe the availability and cost of groceries and household supplies relative to your home country?
TOTALLY depends. Groceries at our house (family of 4) is about US$300/month TOTAL. But I am a shopper. I know to get certain things at certain stores and I take advantage of the local street markets. One could easily spend triple that.
3. What household or grocery items do you wish you had shipped to post?
Peanut butter, shampoo, conditioner, dish liquid, laundry detergent.
4. What typical restaurants, food delivery services, and/or takeout options are popular among expatriates?
McDonald's is here, but expensive, as are subway and Domino's. Food ranges from cheap to REALLY expensive. You can find good food in any price range if you are willing to look.
5. Are there any unusual problems with insects or other infestations in housing?
1. How do you send and receive your letters and package mail? Are local postal facilities adequate?
Pony express for letters. I don't send packages - too much hassle.
2. What is the availability and cost of household help, and what types of help are typically employed by expatriates?
It varies, the laws have just changed. Full time help is pretty affordable and very easy to find. (My experience, the average is US$600-$1000 for full time)
3. What kinds of gyms or other sports/workout facilities are available? Are they expensive?
At the consulate and at most of the apartment complexes. Private gyms and sports clubs are all over.
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?
Credit cards, absolutely. Debit cards - not so much. ATMs are fine, better during the day. The best bet is use the one at the consulate
5. What English-language religious services are available locally?
6. English-language newspapers and TV available? Cost?
Not to my knowledge.
7. How much of the local language do you need for daily living? Are local language classes/tutors available and affordable?
A LOT. No one speaks English.
8. Would someone with physical disabilities have difficulties living in this city?
The city is getting better, but older buildings do not have handicap accessibility. That can include apartment buildings and shopping. Also, some of the doors are very slim.
1. Are local buses, trams, trains or taxis safe and affordable?
Taxis are safe and readily available and extremely affordable.
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?
Nothing big: small, compact cars and SUVs are best. Parking spaces here are REALLY tight.
Phone & Internet:
1. Is high-speed home Internet access available? How long does it typically take to install it after arrival?
Yes, about US$75/month for a TV/Phone/Internet package.
2. Do you have any recommendations regarding mobile phones? Did you keep your home-country plan or use a local provider?
Bring an unlocked phone and get a SIM card here. Plans are cheap, phones are expensive (triple the price in the States).
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)?
They are readily available.
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?
2. What is the typical dress code at work and in public places? Is formal dress ever required?
Formal. Brazilians like to dress and be dressed nicely
Health & Safety:
1. Are there personal security concerns to be aware of at this post? Please describe.
Crime is a problem here. Most women don't wear their diamonds or other expensive looking jewelry on the streets. We have seen carjackings and petty thefts and have heard of more crimes, but thankfully, none where people were injured.
2. Are there any particular health concerns? What is the quality of available medical care? What medical conditions typically require medical evacuation?
Medical care is amazing. Albert Einstein Hospital is here and is one of the best hospitals in South America (if not the best).
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. The pollution here is a sinus nightmare
4. What is the overall climate: is it extremely hot or cold, wet or dry, at any time of year, for example?
Rainy season - expect rain. Dry season - DRY. Winter gets chilly, down to about 45F at night, but nothing a room heater can't solve.
Schools & Children:
1. What is the availability of international schools? What has been your general experience with them, if any?
There are a few that are most common, but we did not use them.
2. What accommodations do schools make for special-needs kids?
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 EXPENSIVE.
4. Are local sports classes and/or activities available for kids?
None that I know of, but my kids are not there yet.
1. What is the relative size of the expatriate community? How would you describe overall morale among expatriates?
Large. There is a huge community outside the consulate.
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?
It is easy to make friends and have things to do right away. Brazilians are very welcoming.
4. Is this a good city for single people? For couples? For families? Why or why not?
This is a great city. Period. It will be what you make of it. For families - there are plenty of places to take the kids, an amazing zoo and zoo safari, awesome botanical garden, arboretum and museums. The singles here love it because of the awesome nightlife. There is always something to do and someone to do it with.
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?
Not that we have experienced.
7. What have been the highlights of your time in this country? Best trips or experiences?
Emu das Arts is awesome. The beach is an easy hour drive. Hiking, biking is within a reasonable distance, but don't expect to walk out your door and find anything but another high rise. Short day trips are easy to come by, pretty cheap and worth the trip. Rio is only a 45 minute plane ride and flights are readily available and pretty cheap.
8. What are some interesting/fun things to do in the area? Can you recommend any “hidden gems"?
TONS within the city and even more just outside. There is a bike path every Sunday that runs the entire city, an amazing zoo, an awesome botanical garden, science parks and museums. There is always something to do .
9. Is this a "shopping post"? Are there interesting handicrafts, artwork, antiques, or other items that people typically buy there?
Handmade wood furniture and handmade baskets - very cool.
10. What are the particular advantages of living in this city?
The people are great, the food is good. Cost of living is affordable and you can make this city what you want it to be. The weather is pretty consistent, warm, tropical. During rainy season you can set your clock by the rainfall. Lots of interesting things to see and do outside the city.
11. Can you save money?
Yes, especially if you are willing to shop for daily goods.
Words of Wisdom:
1. Knowing what you know now, would you still move to this city?
Yes, we love it.
2. If you move here, you can leave behind your:
Winter clothes. We brought ours because our friend told us winter got "really cold"......we didn't know 50 was cold to Brazilians until we got here.
3. But don't forget your:
Shorts and clothes for the next few years. Clothes and shoes are expensive.
4. Recommended movies/DVDs related to this city:
Anthony Bordain did a No Reservations (or maybe it was his new show) in Sao Paulo. He hit it pretty good.
5. Do you recommend any books or movies about this city/country for those who are interested in learning more?
6. Do you have any other comments?
This isn't the easiest city to adapt to. It's big; there is smog; it's not pretty. BUT the people are great, the food is good, and it is not hard to find anything you may want. There are great schools and plenty of activity. All in all, it's a great place.