Pierre: Discovering São Paulo
Please tell us a little bit about yourself. Who you are, where you come from, when you moved to San Paolo, etc.
I was born and brought up in England, in a small town called Tavistock. In between I lived in France as a child, in Spain as a student and then again later in life, and now Brazil. I arrived in São Paulo just over a year ago in April 2011 and plan on staying a few years. After that, who knows.
When and why did you decide to start blogging about your experiences?
It was actually back in Madrid. I left quite suddenly after 5 years living in Spain so two of my friends made me promise to write a blog. It was supposed to be more permanent than Facebook and more visual than email and I would later be grateful to have it as a virtual keepsake. I was firmly against the idea and ran through a number of excuses before finally acquiescing.
Do you have any favorite blog entries of yours?
I was joking about this with a friend the other day! I was telling her that the entries that I like are almost never the popular ones! I like looking at statistics on the city, it’s often a more impartial and representative way of interpreting what’s happening around you. My personal favorite is this entry on the Human Development Index mapped onto São Paulo neighborhoods
Tell us about the ways your new life in San Paolo differs from that back home. Did you have trouble getting used to the new circumstances? Did you experience culture shock?
In retrospect Spain probably served as a good “stepping stone” between the UK and Latin America as in many ways it is a sort of cultural midpoint although geographically it’s obviously much closer to the UK! Having said that, and despite having visited on 3 previous occasions, nothing quite prepares you for São Paulo. It’s a true megalopolis (an American once told me SP is what would happen if NY spewed all over LA) and I often wonder whether the adaptation you need is to Brazil or to São Paulo, one englobes the other but they are quite different concepts.
Do you think you were fully prepared for what awaited you in San Paolo? If you could, would you change some decisions/preparations you made?
I don’t think anyone is ever prepared to live in São Paulo. Some things are just not preparable, you just have to jump straight in! And there’s much to be said for doing that. I often feel visitors overprepare and it ends up being detrimental to their experience. For example, many people arrive with extreme paranoia over crime, security, danger etc. It’s not really like that.
Every expat knows that expat life comes with some hilarious anecdotes and funny experiences. Care to share one with us?
Yes but if this is going to get published on the internet I’m going to have to censor myself here! One of the funny things that often happens to me is that I often get mistaken for a local by other expats or tourists as presumably I look more Brazilian than English. This means I often get complimented for my high level of English! I usually just smile and tell them I went to a very expensive language school…
Which three tips would you like to give future expats before they embark on their new life in San Paolo?
- Don’t be afraid of São Paulo, it’s a beast of a city but its bark is worse than its bite
- Buy any electronics before you fly, you’ll save yourself a fortune
- Come with an open mind
How is the expat community in San Paolo? Did you have a hard time finding like-minded people or fellow expats?
Like-minded people are not always similar to you so I always think it’s worth talking to anyone. Most of my friends are Brazilian now but I also know a lot of foreigners, there’s such a mix of people in São Paulo, you meet new people every day!
How would you summarize your expat life in San Paolo in a single, catchy sentence?
How about a single, catchy word? Intense.