I found a soul in Sao Paulo

Sao Paulo Travel Blog

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Richard at Avenida Paulista, the main street in bustling Sao Paulo.

It is always interesting to note the subtle and not-so-obvious but strong peculiarities of any given culture / country.  By the time I arrived in Sao Paulo, I was already close to completing my 2nd week in Brazil and I had time to reflect on the cultural nuancies of Sao Paulo and Brazil as a whole.  However in bustling Sao Paulo, I found more than just that....

From the time I arrived in Sao Paulo till the time I reached my mate Richard's house, it was close to 2 hours.  Sao Paulo is after all not just the largest city in Brazil but also the largest in the southern hemisphere.  It also hosts the world's 7th largest population within an urban area.

Some of the buses here have 3 compartments!
 The metropolis has significant cultural, economic and political influence both nationally and internationally.  The city, which is also colloquially known as "Sampa" or "Cidade da Garoa" (city of drizzle), is also known for its unreliable weather, the size of its helicopter fleet, its architecture, gastronomy, severe traffic congestion and a multitude of skyscrapers.  

The busy city that it is, one of the first things I noticed is the way how people commute.  Yes i have seen harried people utilising the public transport networks in huge cities like Bombay, London and Sydney but those were not quite like this.  The moment you navigate the 12 line complex metro system, people are literally running from one train to another.

The revolving gate barrier in public transport buses in Brazil.
 They get out of a train and start running to take the elevator, be the firsts on the escalators before queues form and so on.  I quickly was told and discovered for myself that Paulistas (people of Sao Paulo) are far more rushed than Cariocas (people of Rio de Janeiro) who have a bit more of a laid back attitude due to the more accessible beaches.  Another interesting thing i noticed all over Brazil was that all public transport buses have a 'revolving gate' barrier just where you enter and pay for your ticket.  Once you pay for your ticket, you go through the revolving gate barrier and enter the main area of the bus.    

Despite the rush hour madness the sexy people of this country never fail to find the time to kiss in the buses, in the trains of the metro system, on the street, in parks you name it.

I kayaked and played Lawn tennis with my host Richard.
 My Sampa mate Augusto who kindly got me to ride his push bike while he walked long distances in the suburb of Santana, advised me people can kiss in public all the want but sex in public is impossible unlike what some people out there ignorantly believe.  I was lucky that in his company I witnessed street dancing.  For me this was a first and it was essentially the same as what you see in some American movies.  Blokes bring along these old fashioned music systems that still use cassettes.  A crowd on the street surrounds the dancer in the middle.  There is one dancer at a time doing his dance thing for about half a minute before another bloke would cut in and do his dance thing while the previous guy rejoins the crowd around.  During the few odd seconds that each dancer performs, they do some pretty acrobatic steps and try to outdo each other.
Richard and his mum (who kindly cooked delicious meals for me) hosted me.
  The performance is usually on a small city street and when cars need to pass, the crowds move aside with many energetic moves, let the car pass and then form a crowd again and the dancing continues with another solo dancer taking to the middle of the crowd.

I quickly learnt the interesting antics of hand gestures here.  In Australia, New Zealand and India when you make the 'fantastic' gesture by getting your thumb and index finger to touch at the tip with the remaining 3 fingers pointed straight out; here in Brazil, it means you want to have sex for your a creating a 'hole' with your index finger and your thumb!!  So one should use the thumbs up gesture to convey 'fantastic'.  My mates also taught me that slapping the back of your 4 fingers of your right hand against the palm of your left hand means 'f@@king'.

Augusto got my riding his push bike while he walked.
 Gradually I got used to what was 'right' and 'wrong' here as I am so habituated to using the former gesture to indicate 'fantastic'.  Thank God Brazilians are such a forgiving, lively, musical and dance oriented happy bunch of people.    

Sao Paulo, despite being so busy and of course the rest of Brazil is still one of the most relaxed easy going cultures i have ever encountered.  If I knew Portuguese, I would seriously consider moving here.  Here people truly know how to be easy going and laid back unlike some developed cultures who think they are but by far, they are not.  In Brazil, you can buy a beer and varieties of alcohol from a street / beach vendor, a corner store, a grocery shopping centre such as the equivalent of Woolworths (Australia / New Zealand) and so on.

Sandra planned Sao Paulo sightseeing for a whole day for me in company with her.
 One can drink while using public transport; walk around in your underwear / bathers in cities like Salvador and Rio de Janeiro especially during the carnival.  

Virtual strangers invited me to their house for drinks or / and food.  They were just happy to have someone new in their company.  Brazilians are one of the most hospitable people I have encountered.  However I noticed the hospitality of Brazilians differs from the renowned hospitality of Asia and the Middle East.  In Asia and the middle east, i feel hospitality revolves around the home whereby a host calls you over for meals with the family and to spend a few days in their house at absolutely no cost to the guest but in Brazil I noted, the hospitality revolves around taking people out and about although one should chip in a little money.

With a busker in Sao Paulo.
 

It is not uncommon to hear "Voce es Bonito / Bonita" (You are handsome / pretty) from strangers.  I read and saw for myself first hand the way how latin guys hit on women.  Seated at the restaurant with my couchsurfing host and his male and female friends, the boys sitting at the next table started hitting on the women at our table professing undying love and kissing their hands while they smiled sheepishly and politely replied back stating they did not believe them.  Vanessa later told me they were just average in their demeanour and that other guys are way more aggressive.  I read in online guides and saw first hand latin guys putting their arms around females they never met before as their first point of communication!!  Here I heard there are 7 females for 1 male and 9 females for 1 male if you take into considering the number of gay men around.

Eating traditional Brazilian food. This one is sort of a deep fried crust enveloping meat.
 Some of the guys will openly introduce you to their boyfriends and many of them have reportedly met each other at sex clubs.  

Sao Paulo houses several important monuments, parks and museums.  Myself, for the most part of it, being interested in neither of these, dedicated my week in Sampa to keeping it simple.  I just spent time with the locals be it chilling or kayaking, tennis playing or home dos and soaking up the culture.  This may be one of the busiest metropolises in the world but people always found the time to be hospitable.  Richard who had hosted me while he was a student in Egypt, hosted me again with his delightful mum, here in his home city Sao Paulo and invited me yet again to stay with him.  Augusto met me on 3 occasions all up; had me home for lunch and invited me to stay with him the next time I am in Sao Paulo.

Sandra's sister with her dog.
 Sandra whom I met in Rio De Janeiro planned for me and printed out a whole list of activities and sight-seeing of her home city Sampa for a day, in company with her concluding with a visit to her family.  

Just as Tony Bennett once sang, 'I left my heart in San Francisco', I now say Sao Paulo may be one of the busiest urban centres in the world but thanks to its people, I found a soul in Sao Paulo.... 

Sunflower300 says:
It's very interesting how different your opinion of Brazilians is to mine. The longer I am in Brazil the more my opinion changes as I get to know the 'real' Brazilians. At first I did think they wore their hearts on their sleeves, but now I feel very differently. I will have to find some time to really think about how I feel and write about it in my blog. I write small snippets within my blog, but I haven't gotten into the nitty gritty of it all.

Thanks so much for sharing your point of view.
Posted on: Mar 16, 2012
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Richard at Avenida Paulista, the m…
Richard at Avenida Paulista, the …
Some of the buses here have 3 comp…
Some of the buses here have 3 com…
The revolving gate barrier in publ…
The revolving gate barrier in pub…
I kayaked and played Lawn tennis w…
I kayaked and played Lawn tennis …
Richard and his mum (who kindly co…
Richard and his mum (who kindly c…
Augusto got my riding his push bik…
Augusto got my riding his push bi…
Sandra planned Sao Paulo sightseei…
Sandra planned Sao Paulo sightsee…
With a busker in Sao Paulo.
With a busker in Sao Paulo.
Eating traditional Brazilian food.…
Eating traditional Brazilian food…
Sandras sister with her dog.
Sandra's sister with her dog.
Sao Paulo
photo by: Eric