Sao Paulo, Brazil Report of what it's like to live there - 04/17/17
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 - lived in a number of cities in South America and Asia. I've also traveled pretty widely.
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?
Home is San Francisco. There is a flight from Sao Paulo to LAX a few days a week which is nice because the onward flight to SF is only 45 minutes. It's on American and can be pricey and isn't every day. For business, there are direct flights from Sao Paulo to DC, although for the time being, the government contract fare is inexplicably on Delta, so now people on official travel have to lay over in Atlanta before flying on to DC. Sad!
3. How long have you lived here?
About two years.
4. What brought you to this city (e.g. diplomatic mission, business, NGO, teaching, retirement, etc.)?
The US consulate.
Housing, Groceries & Food:
1. What is your housing like? What are typical housing sizes, locations, and commute times for expatriates?
Here it's high-rise apartment buildings. They are quality, have 24/7 security, and frequently have other amenities like pools, tennis courts, gyms, BBQ areas, or other stuff. Commute times for most consulate people range from 5 minutes walking to 30 minutes driving. In the afternoons it's usually a bit longer - can be up to 45 minutes or more when it rains. When it rains, drivers melt down and can't drive right. Also the roads tend to flood.
2. How would you describe the availability and cost of groceries and household supplies relative to your home country?
You can find whatever you want, but if it is a luxury product, you will pay for it. Think brie, soy milk, nuts, berries, juice that isn't just sugar water, any natural food product that isn't loaded with preservatives and chemicals, etc.
3. What household or grocery items do you wish you had shipped to post?
Cleaning products here aren't quite as good as in the States. Honestly, though, I've heard people complain about it more than I've noticed it myself. Haven't found good cheddar cheese.
4. What typical restaurants, food delivery services, and/or takeout options are popular among expatriates?
Good Chinese, Japanese, Brazilian, Italian. Really they have everything. A good pizza in the nice neighborhoods here is ridiculously expensive (like USD$25 for a medium). Leave your expectations of tasty salads at home. A Brazilian salad is iceberg lettuce, a few slices of tomato, a few slices of white onion, olive oil, vinegar (not vinaigrette), and carrot shreds if the chef is feeling frisky.
Brazilian BBQ is great. You will probably also find yourself eating grilled ham and cheese sandwiches more than you are ready for. You can always get a plate of rice, beans, an overcooked hunk of meat and the aforementioned Brazilian salad for like USD$7. Literally on every corner.
There are not great burritos, and no deli sandwiches, which is a bummer.
Brazilian food traditions are awesome though. Beware the carbs. It's not uncommon for a dish to come with rice, beans, fries, and mashed potatoes. Sometimes even spaghetti.
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?
Pouch. It's pretty good. I have gotten flat mail delivered straight to my apartment and it's faster than pouch.
2. What is the availability and cost of household help, and what types of help are typically employed by expatriates?
Pretty cheap and pretty good. USD$50 a day for someone to clean the bejeezus out of your apartment, wash and iron your clothes, etc. Some of them will cook a dish or two if you want and are willing to forgo them spending that time detailing the grout with a toothpick.
3. What kinds of gyms or other sports/workout facilities are available? Are they expensive?
Anything you can imagine, they have. Pools, horses, basketball, soccer, baseball, skateboarding. It's cheaper than the States.
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?
A lot of people get their cards cloned here but it's kind of a fact of life. People use their cards for everything, even for small purchases. Literally the rag man on my route to work has a credit card machine (could this be why there is so much cloning?). ATMs are plentiful.
5. What English-language religious services are available locally?
6. How much of the local language do you need for daily living? Are local language classes/tutors available and affordable?
It's helpful to know Portuguese since most Brazilians don't speak English. But even if you don't know the language Brazilians are very friendly and very patient and like foreigners. You can fumble your way through anything.
7. Would someone with physical disabilities have difficulties living in this city?
1. Are local buses, trams, trains or taxis safe and affordable?
Yes. Uber is ubiquitous. Buses and metro are safe, cheap, and easy to use. The bus drivers are a little herky-jerky and I wouldn't eat off the seats, but if you can live with that, it's a nice way to travel and pretty convenient. Bus stops are close to the Consulate.
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?
Something that can handle potholes.
Phone & Internet:
1. Is high-speed home Internet access available? How long does it typically take to install it after arrival?
Yes. The Consulate helps with installation now. It's frequently installed in a week or two. I hear it varies based on the season.
2. Do you have any recommendations regarding mobile phones? Did you keep your home-country plan or use a local provider?
Use a local provider. 4G is reliable and affordable. If you get a Brazilian bank account you can pay your bills online. Otherwise you have to pay at the bank at the Consulate.
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?
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?
There are a few EFM jobs at the consulate, but many require some level of Portuguese. Similarly, you will want to speak Portuguese to be competitive on the local economy.
2. What volunteer opportunities are available locally?
Probably plenty, but see above. Most people here don't speak English.
3. What is the typical dress code at work and in public places? Is formal dress ever required?
Varies depending on the situation. Not dissimilar from the US in that regard.
Health & Safety:
1. Are there personal security concerns to be aware of at this post? Please describe.
You could get pickpocketed or robbed or shot. I think the crime concerns here are overblown. Petty crime exists like it does in most of the developing world. If you get confronted, you give up your valuables. As long as you aren't a drug trafficker, you probably don't have serious issues to worry about.
2. Are there any particular health concerns? What is the quality of available medical care? What medical conditions typically require medical evacuation?
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?
Surprisingly good. The AQI in Sao Paulo is usually between 20 and 50, putting it on par with a lot of US cities. It's humid here so your allergies could act up.
4. What do people who suffer from environmental or food allergies need to know?
5. Are there any particular mental health issues that tend to crop up at post, such as Seasonal Affective Disorder (winter blues)?
There is not a close community at post, so if you need that to get along, this might be a tough place.
6. What is the overall climate: is it extremely hot or cold, wet or dry, at any time of year, for example?
Schools & Children:
1. What is the availability of international schools? What has been your general experience with them, if any?
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?
4. Are local sports classes and/or activities available for kids?
1. What is the relative size of the expatriate community? How would you describe overall morale among expatriates?
Pretty big. Like people's moods in the States, morale varies here.
2. What are some typical ways to socialize, either with local people or with other expatriates? Are there groups or clubs that you can recommend?
BBQs, sports, going to dinner, clubbing, etc.
3. Is this a good city for single people? For couples? For families? Why or why not?
All of the above.
4. Is this a good city for LGBT expatriates? Why or why not?
Yes. Biggest Pride parade in the world is in Sao Paulo.
5. Are there problems with ethnic, race/racial minorities or religious prejudices? Gender equality?
There is a lot of racism in Brazil, and people with darker skin color will experience it here.
6. What have been the highlights of your time in this country? Best trips or experiences?
Getting to know Brazilians. There are so many places to visit in Brazil. You will not get to all the destinations you want to visit.
7. What are some interesting/fun things to do in the area? Can you recommend any “hidden gems"?
Saturday afternoon samba and feijoada. Go to a soccer game. See a theater production.
8. Is this a "shopping post"? Are there interesting handicrafts, artwork, antiques, or other items that people typically buy there?
No. There are some handicrafts and knick-knacks, but you gotta make sure it's not just Chinese, which it probably is. Clothes are expensive.
9. What are the particular advantages of living in this city?
Great dining. Lots of cheap Michelin restaurants. Also, Brazilians.
Words of Wisdom:
1. Knowing what you know now, would you still move to this city?
In a second.
2. If you move here, you can leave behind your: