São Paulo, the largest city in Brazil, the Americas and the southern hemisphere, bristles with skyscrapers and pulsates with energy. It is Brazil’s financial nerve centre, boasting the highest GDP in the country and ranking among the top ten most expensive cities for expats to live in, ahead of Paris, Milan and New York City.
São Paulo is a city of superlatives, where the local mega wealthy class wields the spotlight against a backdrop of abject poverty. With no fewer than 1500 bank branches and 70 luxury shopping centres, the affluent side of this city lives to spend. The hangover from decades of hyperinflation is beginning to dissipate. These days, credit is free and São Paulo has adopted a serious work hard, play hard ethic. It is home to numerous high-profile events, festivals and parades and now boasts the highest concentration of German and Swedish companies in the world.
Nicknamed the city of drizzle (Cidade da Garoa), São Paulo is notorious for its unreliable weather. Fortunately, if the pace of the city and the rain become too much to bear, the rest of Brazil - in its glory of beaches and mountains - is right on your doorstep.
What is special or unique about your city?
Brazil is the largest country in South America, stretching almost 4,350km from end to end and covering nearly 3,300,155 square miles. It extends from the Andes Mountains eastward to the Atlantic Ocean and borders every country of the continent except Chile and Ecuador.
Although only slightly smaller in size than the United States, Brazil has a population of over 198 million (2012) approximately 60% of the US population.
For hundreds of years, Brazil has ignited the Western imagination like no other South American country. The country is blessed with warm and pleasant weather year-round; friendly, relaxed and diverse people; beautiful, abundant nature and myriad cultural and social attractions.
Situated inland near the port city of Santos, the city of São Paulo is a vast urban agglomeration comprised of a mosaic of districts, ranging from ultra-modern urban high rises and business centres to impoverished shantytowns called “favelas.” In many ways, São Paulo is Brazil in a miniature, a striking contrast between opulent towers and grimy shacks, gaudy riches and grinding poverty, striking success and endemic failure.
As you can see, Brazil is a study in contrasts: from the mad passion of Carnival to the immensity of the dark Amazon, it is a country of mythic proportions.
What are a newcomer's first impressions of your city?
It is a huge city with friendly people, many contrasts, nice weather (no hurricanes, earthquakes or seaquakes) and a lot of attractions; its soil is rich and its coastal plains spectacular in their beauty. It is very easy to adapt to life there.
Are these impressions likely to change?
What is the local language?
The official language of Brazil is Portuguese.
Away from the big cities, most Brazilians have little or no command of English. Many are able to understand Spanish, however, due to the similar nature of the two Latin-based languages. In a São Paulo business setting, it is more likely that a Paulistano will speak English instead of Spanish as a second language. In general, Brazilians look favourably upon any effort to communicate with them in their native language.
How easily could I live in this city without knowing this language?
It is recommended that you acquire at least a basic knowledge of Portuguese prior to departure. Once in Brazil, enrolling in language classes is encouraged. Below are some commonly used Portuguese expressions that you might find helpful:
Good morning = Bom Dia
Good afternoon = Boa Tarde
Goodbye = Tchau
Please = Por favor
Thank you = Obrigado/a
Yes = Sim
No = Não
What are good things to remember in order to avoid offending the other residents of this city?
There are no fixed rules. Brazilians are open people. But, as always, you can't go wrong by simply exercising basic courtesy.
How might the local weather affect my daily life?
Brazil's climate is most influenced by its proximity to the equator. Throughout the country, temperatures seldom rise above 35ºC due to the moderating effect of high levels of atmospheric humidity. The summer months, November through March, tend to be hot and humid with abundant rainfall. Summer temperatures range from 19ºC to 27ºC. During the winter, the temperature varies between 10ºC and 20ºC. During this season, the city is sometimes influenced by cold low-pressure systems from the Atlantic, which, from time to time, can cause the temperature to drop.
Is there anything else I should know about the overall character of your city or its people?
As a rule, drinking tap water should be avoided, even in big cities. Bottled water should be drunk at all times. Living in Brazil will undoubtedly be a challenging and rewarding experience. Learn as much as you can and make the most of it!