Sunday, April 17, 2011

Gil's personal take on Sao Paulo

Sao Paulo's Ibirapuera Park, one of the city's lungs.

São Paulo is a very peculiar city in many ways. Probably it's the only major "tropical" city in the world that doesn't feel all that tropical at all.
Let's start by saying that despite of its mild weather year round, it's NOT an outdoor city with a striking visual character such as Rio de janeiro or Salvador for example. When you think São Paulo, you think indoors - malls, restaurants, cinemas, museums, cafes, giant bookstores, art galleries, theaters, clubs, nightlife, you get the picture.
In Rio you have the view, the colors, the smells, the sensuality all around you, the laid-back nature of its people, their optimistic mood, etc... São Paulo is business-money driven. Paulistas are more on the individualistic side, more "serious" than Cariocas and have this reputation of being very demanding on the quality of services which, sometimes, is misinterpreted as arrogance by other Brazilians.
In GENERAL Brazilians are pretty much gregarious people, but social circles in São Paulo tend to be tighter than those in Rio and probably the rest of the country too, which means, Paulistas are very selective with the people that will make up their group of friends, which give us the reputation of being "cold". The typical Paulista have fewer but very good true friends.
Rio opens its arms to you like the Christ the Redeemer inviting you to explore and enjoy it while São Paulo, at first, intimidates you, challenges you with its enormity and the harshness of its concrete jungle. Rio shows itself to you like a beautiful, tanned and semi-nude "Girl from Ipanema" seducing you, while São Paulo has to be conquered before the city reveals itself - you have to explore it, you have to be curious enough, adventurous enough and if you are, you just may fall in love.
Most likely you will dislike the city at a first glance - as it seems to be the usual reaction of people who see it for the first time. But if you give a chance to yourself and to the city, you will start to notice the subtle enchantments of the this giant - you will for sure be hooked!
So, when you visit Sao Paulo, don't let the first impressions dominate your perception, just relax and OBSERVE, feel it, let it soak in, it will definitely grow on you!
Oddly enough, São Paulo have this on going reputation among foreigners of being the most likely place they will end up after exploring all the rest of Brazil.
Keep in mind that is always advisable to have a local show you around São Paulo if you want to have the experience in "Sampa".
I know I am biased and that is easily explained by my true love for this great city ; )



Jana @ Paper plains said...

You know its funny, I've met several Brazilians here in SP that say almost ashamed, "so sorry Sao Paulo is just so ugly, you just have to leave every weekend," people that are from here, have grown up here. I am actually thinking no, no I dont think this city is actually ugly at all. I stroll through the park, though VNC, Itaim, Jardims, my neighborhood, Vila Madalena (the best neighborhood) and think, these places are far better than a lot of cities in the US. We've sort of fallen in love with this place, far more than we ever thought. There is so much culture, so much passion, its truly alive this city. Ok so there isnt a signature building or a skyline to boot but life here is on the ground, not in the sky!

Gil and Ray said...

Dear Jana,

You are my new Paulista HERO! ;)
I will have to twist Gil's arm and make him come read your comment now!
He was all tense because you made the first comment on his first solo post, he wrote this one by himself. :)
He always tells me Sao Paulo is ugly. I don't agree with him.
I totally agree with you!!
I don't think Sao Paulo is ugly at all, ok, ok, we don't have Rio's natural beauty, but the city is freaking awesome if you ask me.
You could live in Sao Paulo your whole life and always have new things to discover!
I will have to say, I am not very familiar with your area ( Vila Madalena ) because Vila Madalena is a "new" trendy neighborhood.
When we left Brazil, Vila Madalena was starting to get lot's of new little stores and restaurants but most people still weren't used to going into the area to explore.
My first time there was eating at Santa Pizza, have you been there?
It's an ecletic Pizza place, not your Portuguesa or Escarola Pizza type of place but they have the weird "squash" and ostrich meat pizzas... :(
Well, you most certainly know Vila Madalena much better then we do.
We always hear great things about this awesome neigborhood you guys choose to live.
Agree, agree, agree, Sao Paulo is to be explored on the groud! :)


Zoe said...

Excellent post, Gil! I like your style.

I love Sao Paulo. I always find myself saying that Sao Paulo is a tough nut to crack, but once you do there's a lot of good stuff inside. I also usually say that if I had come to Sao Paulo for a week of vacation, I probably would have hated it, but living there (and with a man who was born and raised there) I totally fell in love. It's all about the routine and discovering little gems, hidden away under the surface.

"My" Sao Paulo includes most of the places Jana mentions (we were neighbors!): Vila Madalena, Jardins, Pinheiros, occasionally Itaim. I also have a soft spot for Perdizes (on the Pompeia side), which people are calling the "next Vila Madalena" (R&G you may have missed the boat on Vila Madalena, but there's still time to catch the next up and coming 'hood :). Lots of Vila Madalena-style bars with outdoor seating (and cheaper prices) are popping up and hip new shops and boutiques. Apartments are cheaper there, so there are a lot of young, creative people moving in.

Gil and Ray said...
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Gil and Ray said...

Oh, Jana... what can I say? I love you! It's great to know that you think this way about my hometown. But let's not forget that you stroll through the best sections of the city, which means more green areas and lots of things to do. By the way, about two decades back, today's hip Vila Madalena was just one more example of a pretty boring place in the city. And, yes, your're right, Paulistas have this inferiority complex when it comes to comparing their city with other major world cities known for their beauty, like Paris, Rio de Janeiro, Sidney and San Francisco, for example. On the other hand Paulistas are very proud of their city for being the economic, intellectual, medical, scientific and fashion center of Brazil. Beauty and culture are primarily Carioca domains, but as a Paulista myself, I don't my a bit about it. My goal here was simply to shed some light on this first impression issue traditionally attached to Sao Paulo. Thank you for your constructive insight on this.


Gil and Ray said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Gil and Ray said...

Hello, Zoe. Thank you for your kind words about my post.
You totally get it, Zoe! Your words tell a lot about yourself - a sensitive, intelligent and generous woman with an open mind and heart.
You, Zoe, are a rarity in the so called "blogsphere" when it comes to talk about things of Brazil, because you readily showed us a positive side of my (supposedly) negative statement on São Paulo. More commonplace would be having people around kicking a dead horse.
I will never understand why some people take so much pleasure on pointing mostly bad things out about any given country that is not their own - specially when they are living in a developing country. In this case, oh... God have mercy! Everything is about "third world"this, third world that, every ordinary hassle, anything bad that happens is the country's fault. We never, ever did it to the U.S. An "espírito-de-porco", as we say in Brazil, that happens to be reading my statement here would say: "sure, you are living in the U.S., after all"! Sure we have had our share of ordeals while living in this beloved country of ours (being held up at gun point is just one example to mention, which never happened to me in Brazil by the way), but it's not part of our agenda to bring upon us all this bad vibe and inelegance trashing our own home.
We understand that a blog is the new therapist couch for some or a simple way to vent out daily frustrations in the new country for others, but I must say that sometimes it does not sound just like venting or complaining but it looks much more like pure pleasure of offending others - and the most revolting part is when its done in a subtle way, probably to avoid scratches on their "niceness".
I am a Brazilian, I know my country's problems, but I don't appreciate reading all these b.s., bizarreness, untruths, exaggerations, guesses and a lot of misinformation that (some) expats and immigrants alike throw out there for the whole unsuspecting world to see.
A blog writer should consider carefully the fact that, one way or another He/She is an opinion maker, specially when it comes to "informing" others. So it would be a great way to dignify themselves and their beloved frustration outlet with a dash of humanity, fairness, accuracy and elegance. Is it to much to ask?
And you said: "my São Paulo". Again, you get it! "My Brazil", "my São Paulo", the circle where I grew up, is not the same Brazil or SP that some describe. I was never predisposed to seeing the ugly and the nasty anywhere I lived in before ( UK, Portugal and Canada) and I always had this same positive attitude of yours towards the DIFFERENT. I can see we have something in common, Zoe, a "FIRST WORLD MENTALITY". So, THANK YOU VERY MUCH FOR YOUR REPLY TO ME ON SÃO PAULO.

I wish you all the best, always.

Abraço caloroso.