Ten things I learned from my two years in Sao Paulo

After returning from Europe, I took a management job. I should have known it wasn’t going to last very long because I was starting to feel antsy. I decided to enroll in graduate school and attend classes in Brasil. One thing for sure, it was a culture shock. Here are the ten things I learned from living in Sao Paulo.

  1. Spoken Portuguese is nothing like Spanish. I managed to study a little before flying down, and I figured the likenesses will make things easier. Boy, was I wrong. From what was explained to me, from a linguistic standpoint, it is much easier for a Portuguese speaker to understand a Spanish speaker. I am fluent in Spanish, and for a while, I could only make out one word out of twenty if I was lucky.
  2. You learn to look forward to Sunday morning farmer’s market! Fresh veggies as far as the eye can see. The produce section at the supermarket is pretty expensive and the Kale smelled like fish (at the dia supermarket by my building at least), so Sundays were a definite picnic.10420268_10203874196794047_7909846223784024997_n.jpg
  3. Paperwork, paperwork, paperwork. Maintaining one’s legal status is a full-time job. On top of that, regular document copies are not accepted, and notarized copies are needed for every document submitted to any government agency. The language barrier at the government offices was a definite hurdle, but things ultimately worked out.
  4. Cachaça is life.

    10422266_10205991647328987_7615725329164776799_n.jpg
    $1.00 USD per bottle… A college kid’s best friend.
  5. Beware of pickpockets. Although arguably less prevalent than in Rio, It is important to stay street smart. My friends and I were all warned about the widespread crime and were pleasantly surprised when it wasn’t as bad as it was made out to be. I have, however, seen kids in bikes snatch briefcases and cellphones from careless passersby. I was fortunate enough not to have anything stolen, unlike my friends who passed out drunk on Copacabana beach, Rio de Janeiro and woke up with their valuables missing.
  6. Portunhol sneaks in. After months of using Spanish as a fallback language and becoming more comfortable with Portuguese, one will notice the inadvertent mixing of the two languages. Even though I am guilty of resorting to Portunhol when I am too lazy to use the Portuguese vocal muscles, I have returned to the USA with what my friends and family call an irreparable Brazilian accent and habit throwing in Portuguese words during Spanish conversations.
  7. Public Transportation. Imagine this: You are making your way down to the platform to join a few hundred folks who are waiting for the same train. The relatively new trains automatically stop, but you can’t get in. Some try to tackle their way in, others wait. You will typically wait for 3-4 trains on average before finally entering one. Once you are inside you are twisted like a pretzel, and there is a person’s mouth intimately close to ear, nose and every other body part. Your stop is next. Too bad, you can’t get out. You must wait until you reach one of the larger stations where a good enough amount of people get off for you to escape. Once that happens, you are free to take the train back to your desired stop.Metro-de-Sao-Paulo.jpg
  8. Shopping is expensive. Some Brazilian brand names are relatively inexpensive, but when it comes to lower priced items, you get what you pay for. Brand named clothes and electronics that we in the USA are accustomed to as being moderately priced, all of the sudden seem uber expensive. $100.00 USD for Ralph Lauren polo? No way, Jose!
  9. The real city that never sleeps. Sao Paulo is one of the ten most populous cities in the world. New York doesn’t even break the top 20. As a native New Yorker, who also happens to be nocturnal, I felt right at home in Sao Paulo, with many late night eats, activities, and a cultural melting pot that only Sao Paulo can offer.
  10. The people. It is true that regardless of your location, big city folk tend to be more cautious of others. Once you do get to know them on a personal level, they become the greatest of friends. Behind that tough, concrete exterior, Sao Paulo is a big softie at heart. Sao Paulo, I miss you.1374865_10202219460911012_134051860_n.jpg
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