Sao Paulo, Brazil Report of what it's like to live there - 04/12/21
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. I have also lived in Madrid and Mumbai.
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?
Los Angeles, CA, United States. The trip from post is relatively easy however flight restrictions due to the pandemic have made it a bit more difficult.
3. What years did you live here?
2019 - 2021.
4. How long have you lived here?
5. 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?
All housing is in high-rise apartments that tend to have good amenities (pool, tennis, indoor pool, gym, etc.) Housing that is more centrally-located in Moema is smaller and has fewer amenities.
2. How would you describe the availability and cost of groceries and household supplies relative to your home country?
Easy to find anything you might want. Prices have gone up during the pandemic but it is still very affordable compared to grocery prices in the U.S. There is a lack of good cheese available but there is enough selection to get by.
3. What household or grocery items do you wish you had shipped to post?
Paper products - local paper products are poor quality (toilet paper, etc.).
4. What typical restaurants, food delivery services, and/or takeout options are popular among expatriates?
You can find a mix of everything here. It is a bit more difficult to find some types of foods (Indian, Mexican, Asian cuisines). There is limited food diversity for those of us from large cities with lots of food diversity but overall there is plenty of selection.
5. Are there any unusual problems with insects or other infestations in housing?
Moquitoes can be an issue in certain places (parks, etc.). Some people have tiny ants in their homes.
1. How do you send and receive your letters and package mail? Are local postal facilities adequate?
I use diplomatic pouch. Local mail is fine but a bit slow/unreliable.
2. What is the availability and cost of household help, and what types of help are typically employed by expatriates?
Lots of availability. I think people pay about US$50 for a day of work. People frequently have domestic help for cleaning, cooking, and childcare.
3. What kinds of gyms or other sports/workout facilities are available? Are they expensive?
Gyms and other types of exercise classes are widely available. Not sure about cost. I took an indoor cycling class similar to Soul Cycle which was very affordable ($10 - 15 per class).
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?
You can buy everything with a credit card, even popcorn from a street vendor. ATMs common and safe to use. You should, of course, be careful because card cloning can be common but it has not happened to me in two years of frequent card usage.
5. How much of the local language do you need for daily living? Are local language classes/tutors available and affordable?
Portuguese is essential. There are local tutors and classes available, even through apps. Your experience will be much richer with good language skills. Portuguese required for simple tasks like getting a taxi and picking up delivery to traveling anywhere outside the city.
6. Would someone with physical disabilities have difficulties living in this city?
Yes, I think it would be a challenge but not impossible. Lots of potholes and sidewalk issues. Do not know if public transport is accessible to those with mobility issues but I would imagine that it is not.
1. Are local buses, trams, trains or taxis safe and affordable?
Yes, safe and affordable. Trains are not widely available aside from metro in the city. Very easy/cheap to rent cars as well.
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?
Smaller cars are easier to park and drive since lanes are very narrow. A car is honestly not necessary and Uber is very cheap/accessible.
Phone & Internet:
1. Is high-speed home Internet access available? How long does it typically take to install it after arrival?
Yes. Equivalent to the U.S. Installation usually occurs within a week.
2. Do you have any recommendations regarding mobile phones? Did you keep your home-country plan or use a local provider?
I use a local provider because it is very cheap. We pay 60 reais for two cell phone lines and data. Many people have Google Fi for convenience but economically it makes sense to have a local provider.
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?
No quarantine required. There are tons of vets, pet shops and this is a very pet-friendly country. Many people adopt/purchase dogs here. Very easy to be a pet owner in Sao Paulo.
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?
Most spouses work within our diplomatic mission. Positions on local economy seem sparse as the economy is somewhat depressed. Average local salary for educated professionals probably around 4,000 Reais.
2. What volunteer opportunities are available locally?
There are opportunities but you have to go out of your way to seek them out.
3. What is the typical dress code at work and in public places? Is formal dress ever required?
Pretty formal dress code. People like to look nice here.
Health & Safety:
1. Are there personal security concerns to be aware of at this post? Please describe.
Theft on the street of cell phones, wallets, bags, watches VERY prevalent. We have never been robbed but have witnessed three to four robberies. You have to be aware of personal security and try not to go out with big-ticket items.
2. Are there any particular health concerns? What is the quality of available medical care? What medical conditions typically require medical evacuation?
High quality local medical care in the private system. Truly top of the line physicians and care. Many people have babies here. However, local providers don't usually speak a ton of English, so Portuguese is essential.
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?
Moderate. Definitely not great air quality but does not compare to places like China/India. During non-rainy season it can get pretty hazy but it does not impact your daily life too much.
4. What do people who suffer from environmental or food allergies need to know?
Pollution can cause irritation for those with asthma, etc.
5. Are there any particular mental health issues that tend to crop up at post, such as Seasonal Affective Disorder (winter blues)?
No. However, the sense of community is not that strong within our diplomatic mission and people tend to do their own thing.
6. What is the overall climate: is it extremely hot or cold, wet or dry, at any time of year, for example?
Moderate, comfortable weather year-round. Not as hot as I thought it would be in Sao Paulo since it is at a higher elevation. Other cities outside Sao Paulo get very hot.
Schools & Children:
1. Are local sports classes and/or activities available for kids?
They are widely available for adults so I would think so.
1. What is the relative size of the expatriate community? How would you describe overall morale among expatriates?
Probably very large but people do not get together. There is not a cohesive expat community as there is in some places. It is a bit tough to find a sense of community 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?
Sports, classes, etc.
3. Is this a good city for single people? For couples? For families? Why or why not?
I am not single but I think so. Lots of night life, places to go out, online dating selection, etc.
4. Is it easy to make friends with locals here? Are there any prejudices or any ethnic groups who might feel uncomfortable here?
No. Easy to talk to people and chat on the street but hard to build sustained relationships.
5. Is this a good city for LGBT expatriates? Why or why not?
Very LGBT friendly.
6. Are there problems with ethnic, race/racial minorities or religious prejudices? Gender equality?
Yes. People of color report discrimination in our apartment buildings, etc.
7. What have been the highlights of your time in this country? Best trips or experiences?
Quick weekend jaunts to the beach. Most of my time in Brazil was during COVID so I probably have a skewed sense of reality as I spent a lot of time at home.
8. Is this a "shopping post"? Are there interesting handicrafts, artwork, antiques, or other items that people typically buy there?
No. There are not great handicrafts in my opinion.
9. What are the particular advantages of living in this city?
Easy weekend trips, metropolitan and everyone can find something they like
Words of Wisdom:
1. Knowing what you know now, would you still move to this city?
Yes, but it is not somewhere I want to stay forever.