8 Things About São Paulo That Need Explaining
1. The traffic
The explanation is quite simple: There are way too many cars around. Although public transport is not as bad as it used to be, people still see cars as an urgent need, a status symbol and a modern comfort. Except, it isn’t. It’s a problem. I recently sold my car and started using bus/subway, sometimes cabs, and life only got better.
2. The feira
It’s quite simple: Open air street markets happen each week (sometimes twice) in most neighborhoods. It’s where locals go to buy fresh products as well as various other items. It also works as an excuse to drink garapa and eat pastel.
3. The boteco
Botecos are everywhere. Tiled walls and floors, doors open to the street, a counter stocked with fried stuff, and sometimes peanuts. You can make a quick stop for a coxinha and a soda, or sit down for a prato feito with a bottle of cold beer. Most botecos are very simple, but there are all sorts, even fake boteco-like bars that are a little too classy.
4. The cost of living
Sometimes we feel São Paulo is the most expensive city in the world. It’s not even in the current top 20 (ainda bem!) but visitors and locals will spend a lot, especially on communications, transport, and food, according to Expatistan.
5. The “bolacha”
You know biscoito? That’s Portuguese for biscuit (cookie). But not in São Paulo. In São Paulo it is bolacha. Even if the world disagrees.
6. The pixo
Like other South American metropolises, São Paulo has some seriously great street art. But then, there is pixo. Graffiti-like scribblings, almost impossible to decipher, all over walls and buildings, sometimes as high as the 35th floor. Pixo is an underground culture, as visible as it is hermetic. Interested? Here’s a fine documentary about it.
7 . The blocos
When the word Carnival meets the word Brazil, what do you think? Rio! Well, think again: São Paulo’s Carnival can be great. Not the parade type, but the street, fun, anarchic, crazy kind. Blocos (or bloquinhos) are block parties on the move. A band plays, people go along. Bloco craziness usually starts in early January and go until a week after Carnival. The tradition is quite old, and more traditional blocos will play traditional marchas, but nowadays there are blocos playing anything, including Carnival versions of Beatles songs (Really!).
8. The “great views” myth
A friend invites you to a rooftop party and mentions, “You won’t believe the view, it’s amazing!”. And there you are, facing a seamless never-ending, grey sea of buildings. It may be impressive, yes. Even beautiful, in a peculiar way.