The unofficial capital of the Brazilian economy, Sao Paulo is a sprawling concrete metropolis that most Brazilians, particularly Carioca’s have been telling us not to bother with. Upon arrival I could see why it has a fairly bad rep; it’s no great beauty, simply a sea of 70s concrete high rises, crumbling sidewalks with a homeless person on most corners (particularly in the centre), traffic jams that don’t seem to move and smog that made me even as a smoker uncomfortable.
There is a huge amount of rivalry between the Cariocas and Paulistas ( people from Rio and Sao Paulo respectively) so I was prepared to give the city a shot to make up my own mind despite my first impressions. After spending a few days in SP and meeting a few of the really friendly Paulista’s I came to grow quite fond of the city, realising that the rivalry is as well as the obvious football team competition, mainly down to one inherent difference between the two; Cariocas tend to prefer to spend their time working out and chilling at the beach whereas the Paulista’s actually work!
They spend long hours at the office making them the driving force to this BRIC economy us foreigners are so keen to invest in; and god do they let you know it (probably one of the main things the Cariocas hate about them since deep down they must know it’s true!) Having worked in The City of London, this attitude of superiority wasn’t new to me and strangely made me feel quite at home ( clearly I haven’t quite shrugged off the ‘wanker banker’ attitude!)
The city has a vibrant night life with a cool underground scene that can easily rival that of London or Berlin. By far our favourite neighbourhood was Pinherios, which is where a lot of the people who make up this scene spend their time. The area is made up of endless streets of some of the best graffiti I have ever seen, bohemian cafe/restaurants and hundreds of quirky design stores as well as a good dose of retro 70s furniture stores that we both spent hours rummaging through preparing us for our flat renovation in Berlin next summer.
Puft also had a fantastic time since he was reunited with his long-lost father! Thankfully Papa Puft is as liberal and open-minded as other Paulista’s accepting his homosexuality with open arms.
A major difference to the scene and more generally SP that we noticed was the amount of people of Japanese origin. We were later told that SP has the largest Japanese population outside of Japan; this made a lot of sense to me since I kept getting deja vu from my time in Japan, especially in the neighbourhood we were staying in. This Japanese influence particularly with the youth gives it a much more cutting edge feel than that of other European sub cultures. It is however the cause of the most disturbing thing that has happened to me since being away which involves a man of Japanese origin!
I wont go into too much detail but lets just say that I was working hard on this blog at another cafe with an elderly man sitting to my right. After being next to each other for over an hour I noticed some strange cartoons on his screen…only to realise that they were gay manga style porn videos. As if this wasnt bad enough he then proceeded to pleasure himself under the table right next to me for a considerable amount of time…untill he was finshed so to speak! very very disturbing… but halirous all at the same time
Other highlights (PLEASE NOTE that this does not include the internet experience) were some great food markets where we tried our fist typical Sao Paulo mortadella sandwich
This is also the place where we finally saw the famous Brazilian fruit that we had every where called Caju, however only by taste; we never got to eat the real thing. Stupidly we weren’t smart enough to connect caju to cashew nuts, with having seen the fruit we realised it is from the same tree with the nut being the seed!
The city is also home to some of my new favourite architects work Oscar Niemyer
Finally I couldn’t possibly leave Brazil without a mention to what is most probably now their best export, Havaianas, which I have practically lived in since getting here…the flag ship store is in the uptown Jardins neighbourhood and have made some great cheap presents for myself an a few select few back home.