Sao Paulo, Brazil Report of what it's like to live there - 08/14/19
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?
Fourth time living abroad, second tour with DOS (Department of State).
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?
NY/DC...9-10 hour direct flights or 15 hours with a layover in ATL or Miami. Periodic flight sales.
3. How long have you lived here?
One and a half years.
4. What brought you to this city (e.g. diplomatic mission, business, NGO, military, teaching, retirement, etc.)?
Housing, Groceries & Food:
1. What is your housing like? What are typical housing sizes, locations, and commute times for expatriates?
US Consulate housing is comprised of high rise buildings in the southern zone of SP. Expect 3-4 bedrooms. You can live in Moema, near the consulate, or near the schools. Commutes are typically 15 - 45 minutes but depend greatly on traffic. It's gotten better since the metro line to the consulate opened.
2. How would you describe the availability and cost of groceries and household supplies relative to your home country?
Varies greatly depending on neighborhood and which store you go to. Most neighborhoods have many American-style grocery stores and also have their own weekly produce markets. Anything imported his hilariously expensive (Stop N Shop pancake mix at my grocery store is about $12). Some things are really cheap (mangos). I think overall, I spend less on groceries than I did in DC. Though booze is really expensive unless you want the local cheap beers.
3. What household or grocery items do you wish you had shipped to post?
Peanut butter, paper products, and any detergents that are scent-free.
4. What typical restaurants, food delivery services, and/or takeout options are popular among expatriates?
You have BASICALLY everything here. SP is known for pizza, but honestly their style of pizza is pretty gross. However, there are many neopolitan style pizza places and even an Eataly. Japanese food is everywhere. Most places will deliver through one of the popular delivery apps. Beware though, Brazilians do not really like flavor beyond "ultra sweet" or "salty." sometimes I bring my own chili oil to ramen restaurants...
5. Are there any unusual problems with insects or other infestations in housing?
Not really. Some people have problems with small ants.
1. How do you send and receive your letters and package mail? Are local postal facilities adequate?
Pouch, but it's not really straight forward to send. I've yet to go to the actual post office here. We're waiting for our own DPO, which will be nice. Amazon prime usually arrives in about 2 weeks.
2. What is the availability and cost of household help, and what types of help are typically employed by expatriates?
Expect to pay around $180R (US$45) for a half-day of work. No idea about full time costs, but many people hire nannies, etc.
3. What kinds of gyms or other sports/workout facilities are available? Are they expensive?
The US Consulate has a gym/pool/tennis court that seem to get use. Through out the city there are tons of gyms. Pilates and crossfit are everywhere. Prices are similar to DC; for a nice gym expect to pay around $100USD/mo. Single yoga/pilates/spin classes can be up to US$20 each.
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?
My dermatologist and dentist don't accept credit cards, but the people selling cheap beer from coolers on the street do. All stores take cards. ATMs are mostly fine tho some people have had cards skimmed.
5. How much of the local language do you need for daily living? Are local language classes/tutors available and affordable?
You need Portuguese for almost everything, ESPECIALLY out of Sao Paulo. Upper class Paulistanos will speak varying levels of English. It's surprising for such a huge/international city.
6. Would someone with physical disabilities have difficulties living in this city?
Yes, with extreme disabilities. Sometimes the sidewalks look like they've been bombed.
1. Are local buses, trams, trains or taxis safe and affordable?
$1.25 or so for the bus or metro. Safe, but beware of pickpockets like in any major city.
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 small and with high clearance. Roads are really bad in the city (though the highways are lovely!) and parking garages are tight.
Phone & Internet:
1. Is high-speed home Internet access available? How long does it typically take to install it after arrival?
Internet can take up to 2 months to be installed. Some people can get it done in a week. it's a HUGE headache. Speed is fast, price is comparable to the US.
2. Do you have any recommendations regarding mobile phones? Did you keep your home-country plan or use a local provider?
Bring an unlocked smart phone and get a local plan. A bit cheaper than in the US but with more data.
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?
Pets are worshipped in Sao Paulo. They all wear boots and have jewels on their foreheads and bows in their hairs. Petshops are on every corner.
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?
Hard to get employment on the local economy. Some EFMs work at post.
2. What is the typical dress code at work and in public places? Is formal dress ever required?
Work: business/business casual. Everyday life...similar to the US. Though there is a very noticeable Brazilian style. On the beaches, expect to see the skimpiest bathing suits ever...on all sizes/ages of people.
Health & Safety:
1. Are there personal security concerns to be aware of at this post? Please describe.
High-crime post. lots of pick pocketing, some robberies. Lots of homeless people with drug problems, especially in Centro. Have your wits about you, take Uber at night.
2. Are there any particular health concerns? What is the quality of available medical care? What medical conditions typically require medical evacuation?
Excellent healthcare here, and the best hospital in South America! Health concerns: respiratory issues are rampant, though med and management don't seem to believe staff concerns.
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?
Air quality at post is generally relatively bad and comparable to a big US city. There are air monitors on lots of street signs. It's usually green-yellow, rarely red.
4. What do people who suffer from environmental or food allergies need to know?
You can find most things for special diets here. Sunscreen is expensive.
5. Are there any particular mental health issues that tend to crop up at post, such as Seasonal Affective Disorder (winter blues)?
The tension/pressure of living in a high crime city and the weight of how difficult it is to do simple things here can really weigh on you.
6. What is the overall climate: is it extremely hot or cold, wet or dry, at any time of year, for example?
Great climate. Mild winters (i've seen my breath just a few times) and warm/hot summers. During summer there's a rain storm every day right when we're leaving work...
Schools & Children:
1. What is the availability of international schools? What has been your general experience with them, if any?
1. What is the relative size of the expatriate community? How would you describe overall morale among expatriates?
I'd think the expat community would be larger. I'm always surprised when I meet another foreigner out and about! There must be tons of them given how SP has headquarters for so many major international companies. Morale is...mixed. some people love it, some people hate it. It depends on what you make of it really. Go out and take advantage of this massive amazing city, make local friends, get out and travel, and you're happy. Stay isolated and fearful, let the traffic get to you...you're miserable. At work it really depends on other factors, and that's a whole other discussion.
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?
Bars, restaurants, trips, night clubs, and exercising.
3. Is this a good city for single people? For couples? For families? Why or why not?
Amazing for single people! Young, vibrant, so much to do. A negative side though is that we are housed in neighborhoods that cater mostly to families. Young professionals live more towards the city center. Couples seem to do as well as singles. Families have issues sometimes with how far away schools can be and with living in high rises w/o yards.
4. Is this a good city for LGBT expatriates? Why or why not?
Maybe the best in Latin America. Close your eyes and imagine it and it's hear for LGBT people. Pride parade is one of the biggest in the world. Certain neighborhoods seem to be predominantly LGBT-oriented/occupied. The nightlife is great. However, there are concerns with the new government's attitudes towards LGBT people and with high levels of violence against trans people.
5. Is it easy to make friends with locals here? Are there any prejudices or any ethnic groups who might feel uncomfortable here?
Very easy if you put in the effort. Brazilians love foreigners!
6. Are there problems with ethnic, race/racial minorities or religious prejudices? Gender equality?
Very large problems with racism. Brazil had more slaves than the US and had slavery longer. The scars are still VERY visible.
7. What have been the highlights of your time in this country? Best trips or experiences?
The beaches! Especially the northeast. All the restaurants, museums, and nightlife.
8. What are some interesting/fun things to do in the area? Can you recommend any “hidden gems"?
This list could be so so so long. I'll just say that you NEVER run out of things to do. You always have to choose between multiple amazing activities/trips/events.
9. Is this a "shopping post"? Are there interesting handicrafts, artwork, antiques, or other items that people typically buy there?
Ehhh. Cheaper than in the US for furniture. clothing and electronics are expensive.
10. What are the particular advantages of living in this city?
The restaurants, nightlife, culture, museums, events, markets. Sheer number of people from all over the world.
Words of Wisdom:
1. What do you wish you had known about this particular city/country before moving there?
How hard it is to do anything official. How fun the city is. How we don't live close to "happening" areas of the city.
2. Knowing what you know now, would you still move to this city?
3. If you move here, you can leave behind your:
Heavy winter jackets, ideas of what Brazilians are like; it's just as diverse (if not more so) than the USA., and expectations to get easy tasks done quickly.
4. But don't forget your: