While Rio de Janeiro is primarily known for its laidback lifestyle, beaches, and celebrations, São Paulo’s reputation is that of a city of skyscrapers nestled in the company of workaholics and yuppies. São Paulo is also often referred to as the growth locomotive of Brazil, accounting for almost 34% of the country’s GDP alone. Its economic success is one of the main reasons why working in São Paulo is so attractive for expats.
Once a primarily industrial city, there has been an increasing shift towards the tertiary sector in recent years. Many of those working in São Paulo are now employed in the service and technology sectors. Currently, telecommunications, IT, commerce and finance, as well as the automotive, food-processing and pharmaceutical industries are the main employers in São Paulo.
The majority of multinational companies operating in Brazil – popular employers for expats working in São Paulo – have their headquarters there. German and Scandinavian businesses in particular have established a branch or a plant in São Paulo. Furthermore, the city has established itself as the center of trade fairs, hosting the majority of Brazil’s large trade fairs.
Many expats are likely to have their offices in Brooklin, the city’s major business and financial center in downtown São Paulo. At the heart of the district, you’ll find the famous Avenida Paulista, a 2.8 km thoroughfare lined with business headquarters, banks, and cultural institutions.
Other areas where expats might be employed include Pinheiros and Santo Amaro, the city’s wealthiest districts and home to a number of multinational companies. Those working in São Paulo’s automotive or manufacturing industries are usually based in San Bernando.
Although living and working in São Paulo is extremely popular among expats from around the globe, a number of them are disillusioned by the realities of the local job market and return home early. For foreigners, employment opportunities are not always easy to come by.
Teaching English is always an alternative, at least for native speakers who want to start working in São Paulo, but cannot find employment in their original occupation. However, expats may find it hard to keep up the living standards they are used to. Working as an English teacher, for example, is usually poorly paid.
Hard skills in much sought-after fields such as engineering, IT, and international finance will increase your chances of working in São Paulo. The number one requirement, however, remains a sound knowledge of Portuguese. Jobs which do not require you to speak at least some Portuguese are exceptionally rare. Improving your own language skills should be your top priority.
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