My assumptions about living in São Paulo

Everytime I think about this, my heart races. I’ve dreamed about living in a place I didn’t know for so long and now it is finally going to happen. From June 22 until August 10 I will be living in São Paulo by myself. The last two weeks my husband will join me and we will visit Rio for a few days as well.

So, even though I have never been, I did quite some research about São Paulo and Brazil in general. I’ve made some friends over the years and noticed some big differences between the Brazilian culture and whatever culture I am used to (roughly Western, I guess). My goal is to just live in Brazil, and dive into the Brazilian lifestyle head-first to experience it to the fullest. On paper I understand the differences, but I simply can’t know what it is actually going to be like. I thought it would be fun to write down my assumptions about what it will be like, to be able to look back on it after and see what I got right and what I was off about.

Please know these are all generalizations and based on information I have found in videos, blogs and from other people’s experiences. Don’t come for me.

My patience will be put to the test

I am used to being on time. I am used to things just happening on time. Generally when people here say a party will start at 8, it starts at 8. People will arrive even a bit early for it. In Brazil this is much different. If a party starts at 8 and you show up at 8, they will look at you strangely. I am not sure how I would handle this, but probably show up 30 to 60 minutes late? I hope this is not the same when you’re meeting people for lunch or something, because that is going to be rough on me. I can’t stand when people are late.

I know that public transportation in Brazil is an adventure. Subway trains will come when they come. There’s no real time table. And if there is, you shouldn’t waste your time on looking at it. São Paulo has a good subway system, but the trains don’t come when it says so on paper. Over here that’s much different. Generally when it says the train leaves at 12:35, it will leave at 12:35 and not a minute later. I think my patience will be put to the test in São Paulo.

There will be lots of hugs

Something I love about Brazilians is how affectionate they are. When you meet someone for the first time, there’s always a hug involved and often a kiss (on the cheek). Here, depending on the country, it’s a handshake or when you know each other a bit better 2 or 3 kisses on the cheek. Very rarely do you get a hug each and every time you see each other, or when you say bye. Brazilians are also fond of generally touching someone when they are talking. It may come across as flirting to Western people, but it’s just part of their culture as a way of saying “I think you’re cool,” in the most friendly way. I am actually looking forward to this because I am the same way and I naturally like to touch people when I talk to them (if I like them).

I will make lots of friends

Brazilians are extremely hospitable and open. They are known to want to talk to other people, especially when you’re not from there. I expect to meet many people and be invited to do things. I will follow a language course and I will partake in some city tours and I think it will be easy to meet people and make friends. I am writing this down quite hesitantly, because I do think to myself sometimes, what if I don’t meet anybody? But knowing myself, and knowing the Brazilians I’ve met in the past, that is not going to happen.

Lots and lots of new food

This is not an assumption, but I am pretty sure of it… São Paulo is a melting pot of many different cultures. I think I will enjoy that but I will mostly want to try Brazilian or São Paulo foods like feijoada, coixinha, brigadeiros, pastel, pão de queijo… Because there’s many different cultures, it would be easy to find things I am already familiar with like Chinese, Japenese, Italian, but my goal is to eat as few familiar things as possible and dive straight into the world of Brazilian cuisine.

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Finding an Airbnb in São Paulo

So one of the most exciting things I’ve done so far is researching where I am going to be living for seven weeks. I first looked at hotels, but I soon realized that Airbnb would be the cheaper and it would give me the more authentic experience. I spent weeks researching different neighborhoods because the topic of safety in Brazil is a thing…

Requirements

So I quickly realized that the areas around the main popular street in São Paulo, called Avenida Paulista, are the safest, but also the most expensive when it comes to apartments. Coincidently, my language school is also located in one of these areas. I knew I wanted to be around here, because this is also where things are probably most exciting and safe for me. Also, São Paulo has thousands and thousands of high-rise buildings, so a great view was high on my list of things that I wanted.

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I looked at a ton of different options and I listed some requirements:

  • 24/7 security in the building (door man)
  • great view with balcony or something
  • safe neighborhood
  • walking distance to subway
  • walking distance to a grocery store
  • modern apartment
  • washing facility in apartment or building
  • Superhost (which is a trusted host on Airbnb)
  • Less than € 1,100/month

I had a favorites list on Airbnb of a bunch of apartments that I really liked and that were around my budget for the seven weeks. I read hundreds of reviews and compared many different locations and narrowed it down to a couple. Some were further out than others. Some didn’t have a balcony, others were a bit further away from a subway station.

Making the decision

I soon narrowed it down to two options. One was right off of Avenida Paulista, it was a gorgeous apartment with a fantastic view and a washer inside the apartment, but no balcony and also not in walking distance to school. But it was only 2 blocks from the subway and just 2 stops away from school.

The other choice was a gorgeous new apartment building with the most terrific view, laundry room in the building, pool, co-working spaces, walking distance to school as well as Avenida Paulista, just a bit more of a walk. It had big windows that could open to give you that balcony feeling, even though it isn’t technically a balcony. The neighborhood wasn’t as nice as the first option, though.

Avenida Paulista
Avenida Paulista

I then had to think about if I wanted to ride the subway to school 3-4 times a week. After much consideration I decided that no, I would like to be able to walk to school and be there in 20 minutes instead of having to walk to the subway, wait for it, then walk another half mile to school from the subway. So, I chose the second option.

It’s a gorgeous new apartment building in Vila Mariana with 24/7 security. I will probably write a post on it soon and obviously when I am there, take some pictures.

I wrote the host and he was really excited and nice. I booked it for the seven weeks. So there’s no going back now!

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Going to São Paulo

Well. It’s happening. I am moving to Brazil. I mean, it’s only for seven weeks, but still. I fell in love with everything Brazilian seven years ago. The culture, the music, the food, the language and the people. Ever since I’ve been wanting to visit Brazil. My husband and I passively made plans a couple times, but they fell through each time, mainly because we ended up going on vacation somewhere else.

Stepping out of my comfort zone

For over a year I’ve also had this urge to live abroad. Move away and step out of my comfort zone. My initial thought was Los Angeles, but I know that city like the back of my hand so where’s the challenge in that? So then I thought about Brazil. How scary is that? I do speak the language well, but it is a completely different world. I would be lost going there by myself. My next thought was: I want to do it! There’s something so liberating about exploring a new-to-me country and culture by myself. I wanted to go for an extended time so I could feel what it’s like to live like a local.

Learning through immersion

The perfect excuse for this trip was a language course. I found that immersion courses are something quite popular. It’s a language course where you learn through immersion. So you have regular classes and you get to know the city/country through activities. The language is being taught 100% in Portuguese.

Why São Paulo?

So I had to find a language school and decide where to go. I first looked into Salvador da Bahia and Olinda, because there’s some EF language schools there, but upon further investigation I found that big cities would be a bit safer and if I register myself, it would be much cheaper than doing it through an organization. Plus, this is another step of the whole “explore the country by myself” as well. Figuring things out without the middle man.

Anyway, I looked into São Paulo and Rio, the country’s two biggest cities. Rio sounds fun and when I talked to my Brazilian friends they told me I should go there. But when I asked them why, they mentioned the party atmosphere and beach life in Rio. “That would be more fun.” But this is exactly the reason I decided against Rio.

São Paulo
São Paulo

I’ve always been into São Paulo, or what I think the city entails. It’s a very cultural city, a financial metropole. Free-spirited. This is what draws me to it. So I soon found a language school that offers 5 week immersion courses and I registered.

The plan

On June 22nd I am flying out to São Paulo with a layover in Lisbon. I will arrive there in the evening and then go to my Airbnb (which, by the way, is absolutely amazing… blog coming!). The course will start the following Monday on June 24th. It will be 5 weeks. On July 27th my husband will fly in. I am so excited to show him around and to have him there with me. We will stay in São Paulo and do a 5 day trip to Rio as well. I also plan on going to visit a friend in Belo Horizonte one weekend.

All in all, this is going to be an exciting seven weeks and I expect to come back with a ton of stories to tell. And that is why I am keeping this blog, so I can keep everybody up to date and I can look back on my time there later.

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