Sao Paulo, Brazil Report of what it's like to live there - 08/14/08

Personal Experiences from Sao Paulo, Brazil

Sao Paulo, Brazil 08/14/08

Background:

1. Was this post your first expatriate experience? If not, what other cities have you lived in as an expat?

No. Seoul (two years) and Rio (one year).

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2. How long have you lived here?

Nine months.

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3. Travel time and best routes to this city from Europe or the US:

Dulles to Sao Paulo direct (about 10 hours).

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4. What brought you to this city (e.g. diplomatic mission, business, NGO, teaching, retirement, etc.)?

Government.

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Housing, Groceries & Food:

1. What is your housing like? What are typical housing sizes, locations, and commute times for expatriates?

Jardins to the Consulate takes 30 minutes in the morning and 45 minutes coming back. You should definitely have a car, if you can afford one.

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2. How would you describe the availability and cost of groceries and household supplies relative to your home country?

Everything is so expensive. Plan to spend all your money.

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3. What household or grocery items do you wish you had shipped to post?

Trash bags, hot sauce, peanut butter, mop, glasses, plates, DSL or Cable modem.

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4. What typical restaurants, food delivery services, and/or takeout options are popular among expatriates?

You shouldn't eat fast food, it's not good for you. There are a ton of fantastic restaurants around here anyway for comprable prices.

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Daily Life:

1. How do you send and receive your letters and package mail? Are local postal facilities adequate?

Pouch takes 2.5 weeks or so. Don't send anything you care about through the APO.

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2. What is the availability and cost of household help, and what types of help are typically employed by expatriates?

I pay US$40 for the maid to spend the day at my place.

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3. Are credit cards widely accepted and safe to use locally? Are ATMs common and do you recommend using them? Are they safe to use?

US$5 fee to take money out.

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4. What English-language religious services are available locally?

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5. English-language newspapers and TV available? Cost?

Don't have cable, but I think people pay about US$100/mo for it.

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6. How much of the local language do you need for daily living? Are local language classes/tutors available and affordable?

Lots. Spanish helps, but you'll need to know Portuguese to have meaningful communication with people.

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7. Would someone with physical disabilities have difficulties living in this city?

Tons.

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Transportation:

1. Do you drive on the right hand side of the road or the left?

Right, but that won't stop oncoming traffic from driving into your lane.

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2. Are local buses, trams, trains or taxis safe and affordable?

Yes. Taxis are maybe US$12 to go somewhere fun from where I live. RSO thinks the bus and the metro aren't safe, but I think RSO is wrong. I have never heard of a robbery in the metro. They're a great way to avoid traffic and, in my opinion, safer than exposing yourself to car jackings. Paulistas listen to their iPods on the Metro, giving you an idea of how safe they think it is.

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3. 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?

I recommend a small SUV, Honda CRV, Rav 4, or the Ford. There are a lot of potholes and dips in the road, so the extra ground clearance is nice. Folks with lower cars are constantly hitting the underside. But the lanes are small and so are the parking places, so trade-in your Ford Expedition for something more practical.

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Phone & Internet:

1. Is high-speed home Internet access available? How long does it typically take to install it after arrival?

Yes. US$100 for 4mps.$80 or so for 2mps. Expect the price to go up as the dollar weakens (this is calculated at R$1.5=US$1). I think Telefonica (speedy) is more reliable than Net. If you use telefonica, buy your own DSL modem (https://www.amazon.com/Actiontec-USB-Ethernet-DSL-Modem/dp/B000AD0AKW/ref=pd_bbs_sr_1?ie=UTF8&s=electronics&qid=1218742502&sr=8-1).If you're going to do cable TV, though, you should consider NET.

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2. Do you have any recommendations regarding mobile phones? Did you keep your home-country plan or use a local provider?

You can bring your American cell and they'll unlock it for you.

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3. What is the best way to make phone calls back home?

Skype or a VOIP service. With high-speed internet available, there's never a need to pay for long distance phone calls.

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Pets:

1. Quality pet care available (vets & kennels)?

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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?

Don't think so, not sure.

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2. What is the typical dress code at work and in public places? Is formal dress ever required?

Suit and tie for men. Women should also go formally, but not all do.

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Health & Safety:

1. Pollution index (Good, Moderate, Unhealthy, or Very Unhealthy)?

Moderate. Some people complain a lot about it, but I don't think it's that bad. It rains frequently, so that tends to wash away the pollution. Much better here than Los Angeles.

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2. Are there personal security concerns to be aware of at this post? Please describe.

Lots of crime, but I think people tend to make too much of this. I've lived in Brazil two years now and I've never been robbed. That said, I don't ride buses at 3AM through favelas while scrolling through my iPod with an American flag on my shirt. As long as you take precautions, you're probably okay.

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3. Are there any particular health concerns? What is the quality of available medical care? What medical conditions typically require medical evacuation?

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4. What is the overall climate: is it extremely hot or cold, wet or dry, at any time of year, for example?

Rainy, gets down to the high 40s during the winter. Don't forget about the inverted seasons.

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Schools & Children:

1. What is the availability of international schools? What has been your general experience with them, if any?

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2. What accommodations do schools make for special-needs kids?

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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?

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Expat Life:

1. What is the relative size of the expatriate community? How would you describe overall morale among expatriates?

Pretty big. In Rio, it seems like every Brazilian treats an expat like a gringo tourist who's just passing through. In Sao Paulo, foreigner get a lot more respect. I feel like I'm treated the same way a New Yorker might treat a young, professional Brazilian working over there.

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2. Morale among expats:

My morale is high.

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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?

I left a night club once at 7am and there was a line of people about 100 deep, waiting to get in. There are limitless opportunities for a great social life. Also, if you can afford it, go to Salvador for Carnaval. No city in Brazil can compare.

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4. Is this a good city for single people? For couples? For families? Why or why not?

Like most places overseas, single men tend to do better than single women. But it's still pretty good all around.

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5. Is this a good city for LGBT expatriates? Why or why not?

It's got to be one of the best, outside of San Francisco. Very open GLBT community here, an enormous GLBT parade, which drew 3.5 million people last year. Brazilian girls say the gay clubs play the best music in the city. One gay friend of mine had no trouble finding a new boyfriend the same day he arrived.

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6. Are there problems with ethnic, race/racial minorities or religious prejudices? Gender equality?

Brazilians will tell you that there is no racism in Brazil. This, of course, means there's a great deal, but the society hasn't yet come to terms with it. It's not institutionalized, but if you're black, it's not going to be as easy to get into the premier nightclubs. Browse the photo gallery section of their websites and you'll see why. One person I know went to an members only style club and they told this person,

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7. What are some interesting/fun things to do in the area? Can you recommend any “hidden gems"?

Great restaurants, lots of travel opportunities, nightlife has got to be some of the best in the world.

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8. Is this a "shopping post"? Are there interesting handicrafts, artwork, antiques, or other items that people typically buy there?

Club admissions.

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9. Can you save money?

No.

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Words of Wisdom:

1. Knowing what you know now, would you still move to this city?

Yes.

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2. If you move here, you can leave behind your:

Mangos.

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3. But don't forget your:

Bathroom stuff! Shower gel, shampoo, hand soap, all of this stuff is scarce and/ or expensive.

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4. Do you recommend any books or movies about this city/country for those who are interested in learning more?

This book was really helpful for my Portuguese and also is a great introduction to Brazilian culture.https://www.amazon.com/Cr%C3%B4nicas-Brasileiras-University-Florida-American/dp/0813012465/ref=sr_1_5?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1218742159&sr=1-5

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5. Do you recommend any books or movies about this city/country for those who are interested in learning more?

This book was really helpful for my Portuguese and also is a great introduction to Brazilian culture.https://www.amazon.com/Cr%C3%B4nicas-Brasileiras-University-Florida-American/dp/0813012465/ref=sr_1_5?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1218742159&sr=1-5

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6. Recommended movies/DVDs related to this city:

Brazil has a world-class film industry.https://www.amazon.com/Best-Brazilian-Movies-find-Amazon/lm/3EQXPLFCIQ5G0. These are good, with the exception of Onibus 174.That movie goes on forever and will scare you. All of the favela violence played up in these movies is usually confined to the favelas themselves. It is sensationalized for the big screen.

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7. Do you have any other comments?

Sao Paulo is a great city. I've lived here and in Rio for a year each and I prefer the cosmopolitan lifestyle of Sao Paulo over the lazy beach Carioca vibe. People tend to complain a lot about the driving, crime, pollution, and high prices here, but if you're looking for a fun city, in a place you'll never be bored, this is a good choice. If you prefer small town atmospheres, I don't know if this is the place for you.

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