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Rich, But Not Pretty – A Short Story

For readers and followers, download free, today through Wednesday, the short story Rich, But Not Pretty.

Don’t forget to leave a review!


Posted in Expatriate Info & Advice | 2 Comments

Corruption, Criticism and Cupcakes, Today’s Paulista Protests


Today in São Paulo, as in many cities across Brazil, people took to the streets to protest and complain about pretty much everything they could think of – but mostly how government corruption and mismanagement is eroding Brazil’s economy. The demonstrations scheduled to start at 14:00 on Avenida Paulista drew, based on the most recent reports, a million to the street, many dressed in the colors that represent the country – yellow, green and blue.

On Friday, there was also a demonstration in favor of the current party. However, the crowds came in a very different manner than today. The unions, supportive of the current government that allows these organizations many benefits, bused in (alleged) members from all over and even gave some a stipend of R$30 to cover any “expenses” they might incur on the trip. Today, while there was representation from all points in the city, many wandered over from the near neighborhoods of Jardins and Higienopolis, representing the upper and upper-middle classes, who were willing to come out on a Sunday and support change. (Let’s face it, they have the most to lose in terms of real monetary value, right? I mean, when your dollar isn’t good at Disney anymore… it’s time to hit the streets.)

In addition to putting out the Workers Party (PT) as well as Dilma herself, there was even a showing of support for military intervention.


Now, I’m not much interested in living through a military coup, so I’m hoping there are better strategies on the table. But a frightening thought.

What made this demonstration much less frightening to me, as I tend to veer toward worst case scenario when it comes to unhappy crowds, is somebody was offering up cupcakes.


I don’t care what anyone says, if cupcakes are present, it’s a party, not a protest. Ok, a party against a party.

Only in Brazil.

Posted in Brazilliant, Crazy Adventures, Expatriate Info & Advice, Living in Sao Paulo, What the h*ll is that? | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

The Magic of Missing Mailboxes

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My brother, who lives in Los Angeles, recently went on a rant about the excessiveness of direct mail. I’m not sure what timeline the above photo he posted represents, but even if it’s a week’s worth, it is annoyingly much. … Continue reading

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Orlando in January – Little Brazil

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We recently spent a week in Orlando. We went during that time period where the US kids are in school and the Brazil kids are still on holiday. The result being – 80% of the tourist population in Orlando was … Continue reading

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The Surgery

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First, I would like to acknowledge that it has been an absurdly long time since I have posted. Call it blogger’s block, or just a complete disorientation and disillusionment regarding what is happening these days in Brazil (more to come on … Continue reading

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The Creepy Side of Campos do Jordão

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  So, I’m not sure what the big whoop is about Campos do Jordão. We went this past weekend and it seemed to me that it was just like any of the other over commercialized small mountain towns, only even … Continue reading

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Me Hace Bien

My new favorite song and video! Not Brazilian… but still Latin.

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Yesterday, we watched the game with friends and celebrated when Brazil won the opening. My six-year-old daughter, with her playmates, also watched the game and happily cheered the Brazil team on within the safe and comfortable confines of our sports … Continue reading

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Journalists bring Brazilian football to a worldwide audience in new eBook

Now is the time to study up on soccer/futebol/football history to make interesting conversation during all those World Cup game parties!

A Brazilian Operating in This Area

Just in time for the 2014 World Cup, journalists Mauricio Savarese and Euan Marshall have released A to Zico: An alphabet of Brazilian football, an independent eBook on the history and culture of football in Brazil. For now it is available only on Kindle.

Using an A to Z format, the authors selected 26 topics that provide an introduction to Brazil in a football context. There are chapters on important players and coaches, as well as the game’s struggles with racism and violence and the unique relationship between football and music in Brazil. A to Zico… combines the perspectives of a Brazilian journalist who grew up surrounded by the culture and a Scottish journalist who has immersed himself in it later in life. The book also includes hand-drawn illustrations from talented artist Harry Marshall.

In M… is for Maracanazo, the book details the 1950 World Cup final, which Brazil…

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Five More Great Gifts to Bring from Brazil (Sao Paulo Specifically)

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For more lists and insights into Sao Paulo, see American Exbrat in São Paulo. You’re coming all this way to experience the Brazilian culture and São Paulo scene, naturally you’ll want to return with something special in your suitcase. There are … Continue reading

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Six Assumptions You Shouldn’t Make About Sao Paulo

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Ensuring good experiences is all about managing expectations. If you are soon on your way to São Paulo for World Cup activities, or for any other events, it is important that you don’t make assumptions about what might be here … Continue reading

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Why Figurinhas are Awesome for Little Kids

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Hey world! Are the rest of the kids out there as crazy about collecting and trading World Cup figurinhas as the kids in Brazil are?? (And, ahem, their parents are??) If you are not yet aware of this craze, this … Continue reading

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Who’s to Blame for the World Cup Chaos

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Don’t blame the players, past or present, who spent their lives dedicated to their dream, at the expense of everything, including education, for the chance to support their country and prove themselves on the field. Don’t blame the people of … Continue reading

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Vigilante Killings & Sub-par Education Vs. School Shootings

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There has been a disturbing trend on the rise in Brazil as of late. Vigilante vengeance. I understand why this might be happening. The police are unproductive, underpaid and often unqualified for their jobs. So people start to get that the … Continue reading

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How to Stay Safe and Sound During the World Cup

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As promised, today I am posting on how to stay safe if you are coming to Brazil, and Sao Paulo in particular, for the World Cup. My partner in “crime,” Brazil in My Eyes, posted last week on the topic. If … Continue reading

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Traveling to Brazil for the World Cup?

Here is some great information for those traveling to Brazil for the World Cup by Total Futeblog: 50 Days to Go: Brazil 2014 Travel Tips   Coming soon… how to stay safe (i.e. not get yourself in trouble (i.e. robbed … Continue reading

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hello Kaleidoscope Delivers the Story Inside

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When it comes to music, many of us like to stay within our comfort zones. We each can be defined, and define ourselves, by our lyrical indulgences. Our tastes in tunes reflect the spectrum of our personalities and emotions, an operation that … Continue reading

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What’s A Confederate to Do?

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Last week, we attended the Confederate Festival in Santa Barbara Oeste. I mean, really, how could we not? While I don’t claim any Confederate loyalty, nor do I believe my ancestors were among those that hung around the South, a … Continue reading

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So, they found a sack of body parts in my hood

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One of the things I took comfort in about living in Brazil is that the country didn’t seem to have the kind of twisted, sick criminals that randomly appear in nice, quite neighborhoods in the US. At least none that … Continue reading

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They were shooting at my home…it was time to leave!

An insider expat who has been sharing her experience in Venezuela and finally had to get out.

Vivo en un Mundo Loco

I am back in Norway trying hard to understand how things could go so terrible wrong. Since my last post the situation in Venezuela kept getting worse every day. It was after the National Guard had been shooting and throwing gas bombs at my residence I made the decision to leave the country.

As I try to write about what happened (and is still happening) I cannot keep the tears away, I am heartbroken. I have learned to love Venezuela, even with its obvious flaws. I have met people who have touched my heart in ways i cannot describe. I have left a country and it’s people who are desperately fighting for their freedom, democracy and a better future, but at what cost?

Innocent people are being killed, hurt and taken to prison where they are treated with violence and torture. Why? Because they using their right to demonstrate against…

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What Can Carnaval Tell Us About Brazilian Business Skills?

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In Brazil, each Escola de Samba, or Samba school, works all year long to develop their portion of the Carnaval parade. The people who put together these elaborate affairs are not the wealthy of Brazil. In fact, some of the … Continue reading

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What’s Holding Brazil Back?

It seems like an ideal equation. An abundance of natural resources, multiple emerging middle classes, democracy in one of its purest forms (on paper), people who can dance… So what is the problem? Why can’t Brazil forge ahead?

Here is my opinion, to which I welcome your insights and arguments. In advance, I ask your forgiveness for any generalizations.

1. No respect for the working class 

A couple weeks ago, I was standing in line at the snack bar at our club waiting to order. Next to the line was a young woman barking orders at the people behind the counter. The man taking orders called out a general request for everyone to please get into the line – aimed at her. She ignored him and shifted her demands to another employee. I called her out. She responded with a whiney stream of excuses. I told her to talk to the hand.

This is not an uncommon scene. The middle to upper classes in Brazil engage with the working class (defined for the purposes of this post as those generally in the services industry, including those people who work at the Pão de Açucar) in two ways. Either they treat them like dirt, or they offer up some condescending friendliness, later congratulating themselves on the contribution they’ve made to society. As an outcome, when someone of the working class is actually treated with respect, it is often regarded with suspicion. Combine this with the government’s attempts to give people more power and rights, and things begin to get dangerous. An expat friend of mine described the consequence of this shifting of attitudes, the coupling of being empowered with still being looked-down upon, to a tee. It results in… rage. (Yes, go ahead and picture that one chilling scene with the monkeys from the film 28 Days Later – I did.)

Why is this an obstacle? Powerful countries are built on the masses working to achieve their dreams. If people aren’t encouraged to work hard for something, a country stays stagnant.

2. Little respect for teachers 

While in most developed countries, teachers are revered as heroes (at least in the movies), my expat friends who have found themselves in teaching position have been shocked to be considered one step up from a babá (nanny). This is especially prevalent at the schools where the average wealth tends to be higher (except for the British run schools) – and where the kids will eventually have more impact on the way the country goes. But even in the Brazilian schools, it takes a lot to collect respect from students. So let me ask you this – if kids don’t respect what the teacher says, how the hell are they going to learn anything?

3. S-Mothering

I had to have a tough conversation with a professional, 30-something client of mine about what he was going to have to do to achieve his stated objectives. The next day I received an email from… you guessed it… his mother. The mother, in a typical passive aggressive way, made a series of excuses for her son and tried to turn the tables on why he couldn’t get his shit together, including a couple digs about my American tactics. This is the stuff that sitcoms are made of, yet I wasn’t totally shocked that a Brazilian man’s mother might infringe on his professional life. Brazilian mothers have a tendency to distance themselves from their kids during those troubling years – like when they are infants – leaving those kinds of upbringing nuisances to uneducated people who come from the countryside and are treated like slaves (see 1. No respect for the working class). Then, once their kids are teenagers, they forcefully inject themselves, attempting to control every aspect of their offsprings’ lives. This lasts generally until their own expiration. What kind of message does this send? I have no idea, only that it results in a serious handicapping of adults. Adults who may find themselves in charge of something important purely by nepotism. Adults who will be forwarding all their uncomfortable emails to their mothers.

4. No regard for rules

In 2013, the people of Brazil took to the streets in outrage of what the government had been doing with all the money it had collected from its citizens. Corruption, mismanagement of funds, and the breaking of rules were all on the list of complaints. Yet, as pointed out by reader Andrew Francis, this is all a little hypocritical. An average Brazilian breaks more rules than I can imagine on the typical day. Disregarding traffic laws, insurance fraud, passing points for driving infringements onto others… most never bat an eye when trying to get around or out of something they don’t want to do. The classic name for this behavior is jeitinho, and considered a cultural cuteness, but when compiled, its impact is detrimental to society. How do you control chaos when no one bothers with the rules?

5. Misplaced priorities

Did you happen to watch the Rio de Janeiro carnaval parade on TV? Maybe you sat in the Sambadrome in Sao Paulo and witnessed the thousands of people that danced along the route, dressed in costumes that would have put Marie Antoinette to shame. How nice that all those favela dwellers spend their year putting together this kind of show, gathering funds to create a world-renowned event. Did you know that one of the costumes marching behind the float in the parade, I’m not even talking the ones on top of the floats or the headliners in front, can cost more than a month’s salary of the average laborer? And its not like they are going to use it again next year – oh no! (Totally taboo.) I like a good carnaval as much as the next person, but in a country where so many sub-societies are in distress, is this the best place to be putting resources? How many public hospitals and schools could one carnaval support? Just asking.

Yes, political problems are at the top of the list as to why Brazil has been held back. But I believe that cultural issues should be seriously considered as well. Which is more easily shifted? I think it is a tie.

Posted in Culture Conflicts, Expatriate Info & Advice, Foreigner Insights | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 45 Comments

Perua Escolar Perigo


In Brazil, there are these mini buses that take kids to school and back home. (Update: as reader João Deiró pointed out in the comments, these buses are actually run by private companies. But is it too much to ask that the school, who hands out a list of these companies when you register your child, might take a little bit of responsibility in ensure the drivers are safe? Or at least tell the parents when someone reports the driving to be dangerous?) Since living in  my neighborhood, we local foreign mothers have witnessed:

  • bus windows made of plastic and duct tape.
  • nearly being hit while crossing the street as one blows through a red light (on multiple occasions)
  • children inside doing a variety of dangerous things, from hanging out the window to handstands

A mother of my child’s classmate wanted my daughter to go to her house after school and play with her daughter. I agreed, until she told me that her daughter rides home within the confines of a perua escolar. I told her I didn’t want my daughter riding in one of those, and she rebutted with the fact that the driver was a nice guy. I explained that, just the day before, one had grazed my skin as it flew past me, having ignored the street signal. I got a look that indicated she understood I was one of those uppity American moms. Needless to say, I took both my daughter and hers to their home in a cab.

Why is this a socially acceptable danger? I constantly see signs on the street instructing people to wear seat belts, which are even required for dogs traveling in cars. Why is the safety of students being compromised?

Finally, today, I got tired of it. I was walking to school to pick up my daughter and one was stopped in traffic. Inside, children were standing and jumping up and down. I stopped to stare and the driver noticed me watching. I raise my hand in a motion to mean, “What the f**k?” He quickly called to the children to tell them to sit down. I noted his license plate.

At school, I hunted down his death mobile and found it parked on the street in front of school, but empty. I asked one of the other perua escolar drivers about his whereabouts and was informed he was inside picking up more victims.

I marched into the school to report him.

I didn’t get very far. I went into the main office and the woman who received me sent me to the director, who was at lunch. She then brought me to another person, who was unfortunately having some kind of spell but refused to sit down…

I left my name, number and the driver’s license number of the perua. We will see if anything comes of it.

Posted in Culture Conflicts, Daily Escapades, Foreigner Insights, Living in Sao Paulo, What the h*ll is that? | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | 14 Comments

What You Can Buy on the Beach in Rio

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Did I mention that I drove all the way from Sao Paulo to Rio de Janeiro? I’ll admit, after avoiding this type of task for so long, I’m feeling very empowered. We’ve spend the week back and forth between my … Continue reading

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So, I drive now…

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Yes, it is true. Some of you may recall that I have spent the past three-and-a-half years avoiding driving in Brazil at all costs. I even let my New York driver’s license expire, rendering it impossible for me to legally … Continue reading

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Rachel’s Giveaway: American Exbrat in Sao Paulo

And the winner is…. Natasha! Natasha has been selected as the winner of the Rachel’s Rantings in Rio contest. Natasha added “gente” the American Exbrat’s Terms To Know. She will receive a copy of American Exbrat in São Paulo: Advice, Stories, Tips and Tricks for Surviving South America’s Largest City. For your own copy, go to:

born again brazilian

Hello all! Heads up – Rachel’s Rantings in Rio is holding a contest and the prize is… a copy of American Exbrat in São Paulo! Get a glimpse inside with “Ten Terms You Should Know,” and see if you can add any to the list.

Go to – Giveaway: American Exbrat in Sao Paulo at Rachel’s Rantings!


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Why are the Protesters so Pissed??!!

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Sometimes it is difficult to understand what might motivate millions of people, Brazilians no less, who are thought to be a rather peaceful lot, to get angry enough to take to the streets. It’s easier to get caught up in … Continue reading

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Rachel’s Giveaway: American Exbrat in Sao Paulo

Hello all! Heads up – Rachel’s Rantings in Rio is holding a contest and the prize is… a copy of American Exbrat in São Paulo! Get a glimpse inside with “Ten Terms You Should Know,” and see if you can add any to the list.

Go to – Giveaway: American Exbrat in Sao Paulo at Rachel’s Rantings!




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10 Things I Still Can’t Come to Terms With

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For more lists of 10 and insights into Sao Paulo, see American Exbrat in São Paulo. My daughter and I spent a rather long time in the States for the holidays, about six weeks. It’s funny how as the time goes … Continue reading

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So You Want to Throw A Brazilian Birthday Party?

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One of my distractions during my unplanned blogging sabbatical was yet another event that has proven me a hypocrite. Yes, it was that time of year. Brazilian birthday party time. Shortly after moving to Brazil, I was all but forced into … Continue reading

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An American Consumer is Born

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We are now on week four of our U.S. stay. The other night, my six-year-old daughter told me that she discovered the “solution to all our problems.” It was a bag that looked small, but actually you could put almost … Continue reading

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Holiday Giving Misfire

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For the first time in three years, we spent Christmas in the United States. More specifically, with my family in Chicagoland. Because I am a hypocrite (i.e. I mock aspects of the culture and then fully indulge myself in  it … Continue reading

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The Dog Ate My Blog and Other Inexcusable Excuses this Christmas

the dog


Oh how life can entangle you! Yes, I know it has been ridiculously long since my last post. I’ve neglected not just the blog, but commenters as well. I have a entire list of excuses that I could ramble on about. But instead, I like to see the glass half full – think of all the things we have to catch up on!

From the Brazilian birthday party year #4 and a hospital stay to more working with Brazilians and a trip to the states with a suitcase full of Panettone, I’m up and running again. I look forward to pick up on sharing my crazy adventures and hearing your thoughts.

Happy holidays everyone! I hope all that makes you happy happens for you this year.





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The Avocado: Dip or Dessert

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A few months after moving to São Paulo, we had lunch at a friend’s house. When dessert time came around and my daughter received a bowl of green goop, I believe this was the moment she initially decided Brazil wasn’t … Continue reading

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Beware What You Like & Contest

Originally posted on born again brazilian:
Photo courtesy of In the security info that Brazil in My Eyes and I share, there is a portion dedicated to protecting your online presence. It’s a good idea to Google yourself and…

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Beware What You Like & Contest

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The first one to guess which Brazil blogger posted the funny, yet offensive photo I liked wins a copy of my book, American Exbrat in Sáo Paulo (if you already have a copy, I’ll gift it to the person of your choice). FYI – there is a clue in the tags of this post… Continue reading

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Bizarre Banking Business

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Is Citibank the only one that doesn’t have its act together in Brazil? I thought the most annoying obstacle is when I go to withdraw money at the teller and they cannot tell me my balance, or anything else interesting … Continue reading

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Safe in São Paulo – Live!


For those who enjoyed our series on staying safe in São Paulo, and reside in the city, Brazil in My Eyes and I will be taking our show on the road!

This Thursday evening, we will deliver dicas on crime-avoidance, as well as instructions how to react if you get in trouble, live (as we like to keep it) and on stage! You will also have the opportunity to share your stories and participate in a Q&A with local security experts. The event is free for International Newcomers Club members and R$10 for non-members. (FYI – the fee is not something that Brazil in My Eyes and I will be collecting on… only to ward off those who might want to take a “free shot” at us. HA.) A coffee service is included and for those who might be hungry, you can order food and drink before the event.

For more information and to reserve your spot, contact

Posted in Expatriate Info & Advice, Foreigner Insights, Living in Sao Paulo, Safe in Sao Paulo, Tourist Info, Travel | Tagged , | 1 Comment

Safe in São Paulo: Stats & Tatts

For more insights into Sao Paulo, see American Exbrat in São Paulo.

As a grand finale to our Safe in São Paulo series, Brazil in My Eyes and I are bringing you some of the statistics of crime in São Paulo, as well as Brazil overall, and giving you some tools to find out about crime in your own neighborhood. And just for fun, we’ll show you some of the tattoos that may help identify someone with a criminal background.

But first, let’s take a look at some data on the 190 emergency number. Dialing 190 on your phone in the event of an emergency or a crime will get you directly to the police. If your Portuguese is not equipped with the vocabulary you need to describe something serious, let them know and they will direct you to an English or Spanish-speaking agent. Also, you can dial the emergency code from your home country (e.g., 911 in the US) and it should automatically connect you to the 190 office.

About 190:

  • 43.2 mil emergency calls per year
  • 150,000 calls per day
  • 15,000 dispatches of PMs every day
  • 42,000 interventions
  • 310,000 rescues
  • 120,000 sent to prison
  • 12,300 guns apprehended every year
  • 45 Tons of drugs apprehended every year (this number is double last year’s)

Crime statistics nationwide

In 2010, there were 26 homicides per 100,000 residents in Brazil. This is up from 11 per 100K in 1980. Depending on where you live, the numbers are worse, such as the Northeast of Brazil.


In some regions of Alagoas, the homicide rate reached 1000 per 100K in the 15-24 age group. It is, as a police captain said, a “massacre.”  The young folks there are being cut down by a rampant war for drug territory. Just as a comparison, Pakistan has a population similar to Brazil (185 million) and its homicide rate is around 7.5 per 100K. The main driver of homicides in the Northeast region is drug wars – gangs trying to mark territories. Traveling from São Paulo to Porto Seguro, Bahia, your chance of death by homicide go up 8 times.

Other interesting yet sobering statistics include:

  • Age groups: ages 15-24 150% higher chance to die
  • Race: 139% more blacks die violently than whites
  • Gender: 91.4% male homicide victims

For more crime statistics, you can go to the Centro Brasileiro de Estudos Latino-Americanos’ site Mapa da Violencia.

Crime statistics for São Paulo

But there is good news. São Paulo state is now the third safest state in the nation. The homicide rate here is around 13.9 per 100K. The news is even better for São Paulo capital where we are the second least violent state capital in Brazil. How was this accomplished? There was an initiative to focus on security over the last decade and a half.

  • Security budget were increased from $2B to $11.5B
  • 395K illegal guns were taken off the street
  • An emphasis on prevention rather than reaction
  • New police cars and equipment (tablets in each car for real-time help)
  • Use of crime concentrations – identifying regions/addresses with the most crime and concentrating police forces there
  • Registering of bad guys – the Policia Civil has a database of 500,000 criminals and 1.4 million photos of these criminals (including tattoos and other identifying characteristics)

Outside of homicide, there are the usual thefts and robberies to worry about. You can find updated statistics on a trimestral basis at the Governo do Estado de São Paulo’s Secretaria da Segurança Pública site.

Here is a summary of crimes that occurred during the first trimester in São Paulo capital:

  • Boletins de ocorrencia: 196,601
  • Folks sent to jail: 7,500
  • Robbery (cars): 11,700
  • Robbery(Bank): 23
  • Robbery (other): 29,000
  • Theft: 49,000
  • Theft of vehicles: 11,543

Crime by Neighborhood

We cannot emphasize enough that part of staying safe in São Paulo is to know your neighbor. If you are really interested in making sure your neighborhood is as safe as possible, go to your area’s CONSEG meetings and meet your local police force (the head of Policia Militar, Policia Civil and Guarda Municipal as well as the submayor must attend these meetings).  Join Facebook groups that are active in your neighborhood – you can search for them by Sociedade de Amigos (+ neighborhood).  Two of the most active communities are in Pinheiros and Morumbi where residents quickly relate any crime activity in the area.

You can also take a look at your neighborhood’s crime statistics at Onde Fui Roubado. Take your concerns to your CONSEG meeting or your local police station.


Did you know that certain tattoos are made to identify the crimes of the bearer? Criminals often get these types of tattoos in prison and the art is not necessarily professional (needle into paint, needle into arm, repeat).  Note: not everyone with a tattoo is a bad guy.

Here are some examples of crime related tattoos:

Hands: Tattoos on the inside of the index finger/thumb (the meaty part).


Shoulder/bicep: A clown is a PCC symbol (the largest criminal gang in SP).


Back: A huge tattoo of Nossa Senhora Aparecida (the patron saint of Brazil) means murder.

PCC symbols: The bearer of the number 1533 means that person is a member of the PCC. P is the 15th letter in the alphabet, C is the third.

Not only is this information important in identifying someone who has robbed you (never look them in the face – you don’t want the criminal to think you are trying to remember their features), but also important if you are hiring someone. Perhaps ask them to show up for the interview in a tank top! There is an enormous document available online for download called Tatuagem Desvendando Segredos that shows the details for each tattoo in Brazil if you do need to refer to one or if you are just interested.

We hope that our series on safety was helpful. Remember, the best strategy is crime avoidance, but if you do find yourself in a bad situation – nothing – not your iPhone, car or purse – is worth your life.

Posted in Foreigner Insights, Living in Sao Paulo, Safe in Sao Paulo, Tourist Info, Travel, What the h*ll is that? | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | 8 Comments

Mark Hillary delivers reality check to gringos who moan about Brazil, in self-published book (1/2)

Another book about São Paulo hits the virtual stands!

The Displaced Nation

Mark_HillaryA little while ago I interviewed Megan Farrell, a fellow gringo in São Paulo, about the book she had written about “exbrat” life in the city. As far as I’m aware, Megan’s was the first book to be written about life in SP by a foreigner, although she seems to have started a new trend because within the last fortnight another has emerged: Reality Check: Life in BRAZIL through the eyes of a foreigner.

Reality Check is by Mark Hillary, a fellow Brit in São Paulo (he recently moved outside the city), who is an author, blogger, and advisor on technology and globalization. He has already published a number of books and is a contributor to Huffington Post, Reuters, The Guardian, and Computer Weekly.

Mark is also a friend of mine. We connected through Twitter just over a year ago. We eventually met at…

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Safe in São Paulo: Home Security

For more insights into Sao Paulo, see American Exbrat in São Paulo.

Brazil in My Eyes and Born Again Brazilian will be co-hosting a seminar about safety in São Paulo on Thursday, September 26th that will include a Q&A with local security experts. For more information, contact the International Newcomers Club at This week’s installment on crime-avoidance in São Paulo focuses on staying safe in and outside your home.

photo courtesy of

photo courtesy of

Safety in your home is something that most of us know something about. Some of us grew up in small towns where we rarely locked the front door and often left the keys in the car parked in front of the house. Some of us grew up in bigger towns and cities that require more safeguards. Most of the below advice is similar to precautions who might have taken in previous cities. However, São Paulo does have nuances you’ll want to know about when securing your home.

House vs. Apartment

Probably the most common question we get about living in Brazil it safer to live in an apartment or in a house. Unfortunately, there is no straight answer. It depends on many factors: the neighborhood security in general, your safety precautions, and the precautions of your neighbors.

An apartment building provides 24-hour security. Generally you have a guard or two at the gate and a security holding cage for both residents/guests and cars. You also have a sense that as one of only one apartment of many, the odds are in your favor.  Some buildings are stricter on security than others: making cars entering roll down tinted windows so they can make sure it is you in the car, having garage remotes that are harder to clone, checking IDs of all who enter and leave. When finding a place to live, make sure you ask about security procedures.

A house does not have 24–hour third party security unless you hire it yourself, although some neighborhoods have guards on street corners to monitor the area. On the other hand, you do not have to worry about who your neighbor has just buzzed into the building, or who they’ve rented their apartment to, or if they’ve handed over their garage remote to a friend. You are in control of security. There are many options for protecting your home: electric fences, barbed wire rolls, video cameras, etc. Do what you feel is appropriate in your neighborhood—you don’t want to stand out as Fort Knox so the bad guys wonder what kind of treasure you are protecting, nor do you want to be the easiest place on the block to break into.

A good security practice for both a house and apartment is to know your neighbor. It is not very common in Brazil to have an organized “Neighborhood Watch” type association as in the US, although neighborhoods often chip in on condo fees to add extra guards on the streets or for a“ronda” service, which allows you to call a number when you are approaching your home to have an unarmed security person follow you. But take the time to know who has the apartment next to you or the house across the street. They may end up being your savior one day if they notice someone different coming out of your house or apartment carrying a stack of laptops, an iPad or two and/or a large TV. So it may be in your best interest to introduce yourself to your neighbors.

In a house, your biggest vulnerability is at the points of entry and exit. When your front door or garage door is open, you are at your most vulnerable point. So keep careful watch, and as recommended in previous post, try and vary your routine so that no one can anticipate opportunities. If you are in a house, try to park your cars so you do not have to back out. If you leave facing out to the street, you have a better visibility for what is going on outside. Also, if you are near a construction site (someone building a new house), be aware that the contractors may not paid for good security. Someone may be able to get into the site for easy access to your property. In this case, be sure to secure your perimeter.

Security Procedures at Home

Be sure to train your household staff on your security procedures, especially if you live in a house. Review at least once a year or more.  Don’t forget to instruct them that if someone calls asking for you, do not answer “she is not home” but rather “she cannot take the call at this time.”  Work out passwords that will alert you or them when someone is facing (literally) trouble.

All workers in your house should provide their document (RG) and you should make a copy of it. You should also know where your staff lives. All empregadas and babás (long-term employees) should have their antecedencias checked–basically their criminal records. It is also important to report crime committed by your help so it does not happen to someone else.

Be careful in handing out keys to staff. If it is possible to buzz them in and out on arrival instead of passing out keys, that may be the best. You are not suggesting that these individuals could be criminals, but instead acknowledging the possibility that your keys could be stolen from them. My maid was held up at a bus stop two years ago with our keys in her purse. We changed all locks by the end of the day as a “just in case.”

What to Know When You are Hiring

The very best way to get household help in Brazil is to get a referral from someone who has hired that individual in the past. While some friend-of-friend referrals (like your empregada says that her friend’s sister is available) may work out, it is not ideal. Even if a staff member claims to know their referral well, he or she may not be aware of specifics like their mental history (we’ve had friends who took on the cousin-of-a-friend-of-an-aunt situations, only to discover some disturbing details while employed).

These basic measure are ones that you’ll want to consider no matter where in the world you live.  Next week we’ll share some of the statistics we have about safety in São Paulo, how the emergency number 190 works, and even tell you about how a tattoo can tell you a lot about a person.

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Safe in São Paulo: School Security

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The next installment of the Safe in São Paulo collaboration between Born Again Brazilian and Brazil in My Eyes focuses on school safety. Continue reading

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Family Day and the Nine Wives

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At my daughter’s school, they hold an annual event called Dia da Familia, or Family Day. It is held on a Saturday and includes performances by all the kids. It’s really cute and the kids get really excited about it … Continue reading

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Safe in São Paulo: Taxis and Public Transportation

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Last week we discussed avoid crime while driving, parking or using a car. But what if you decide not to drive (because we scared you so much…)? Like any city, you have options for getting across town other than hoofing it. Continue reading

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Safe in São Paulo: Car Smarts

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This next installment of the Born Again Brazilian / Brazil In My Eyes series on crime-avoidance in São Paulo focuses on car safety – not driving safely, that’s a whole other series. But how to avoid being involved in a crime while in your car and what to do if you find yourself in trouble. Continue reading

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Safe in São Paulo: Street Smarts

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The following is the next installment of our collaboration (Born Again Brazilian and Brazil in My Eyes) on staying safe in São Paulo. São Paulo is an exciting place to be, but with such a vast and diverse population, you are bound to have a higher percentage of bad guys than other places. Continue reading

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Guest Post: Staying Safe in São Paulo

For more insights into Sao Paulo, see American Exbrat in São Paulo.

There are a lot of great things that are coming up in Brazil in the upcoming years. World Cup. Olympics. There are also still a great many untapped business opportunities, especially considering the change that will inevitably happen here thanks to social unrest. That means that many of you are considering a trip or a move to Brazil, maybe even São Paulo. 

However, keep in mind, every city has its dangers. 

I’ve lived in a lot of different cities. Each came with its own set of land mines. But for the most part, if you knew how to stay safe in one, you could keep out of trouble in another. It took awhile and a couple scary incidents to realize that Brazil has a different set of rules. 

Today, my guest poster is security expert, as well as fellow blogger, Kristin of Brazil in My Eyes. We have decided to collaborate, both in business and in blogging, on establishing a foreigner’s guide to safety in Brazil, with specific for São Paulo.

This post will be the first in a series of guides to staying safe as a business traveler, a tourist or a resident in São Paulo and Brazil.




São Paulo is not for the faint of heart in terms of security issues. If visiting a safe big city is on your list, you might want to skip over to some of the European or American metro areas. On a recent visit, Anthony Bourdain, acid-tongued celebrity chef, said “Try to have a friend in Sao Paulo before you come here. I don’t know how you’re going to do that…You want someone looking after you here. If you’re at the mercy of a concierge, you’re in a bad place.”

Since most of us visitors and residents do not have the luxury of a concierge (although we would really seriously like one now), we can provide much advice about protecting yourself, your family and your stuff. This is not tourism advice—please see Insider Guide: Best of São Paulo for some of the best places to see around town.

Over the past year we have attended a number of security presentations, and befriended a military police captain and attended neighborhood security committee meetings. We have had visitors robbed on buses and experienced the frustration of trying to report the crime at the local police. This information is based on these learnings, and is not comprehensive nor is it going to keep you out of all possible criminal situations. The idea is to make you, the visitor or resident of São Paulo or other locations in Brazil, safer and less likely to have a bad experience.

The fact is that there are people for whom robbing and stealing are the only choices they believe they have to survive in Brazil. We don’t have enough time or space to go through the hopelessness and poverty of some of these people’s lives. Lack of access to education and libraries and public health are all factors.

For these criminals, theft is their job. Full-time, every day. As expert as you get in avoiding crime, you have to remember that these folks spend every waking moment figuring out how to get money. They live it. But here’s the good news: the vast majority of the bad guys want your money or your stuff (as a way to get money) for drugs. They do not want YOU as a person. They do not want your kids. They don’t want to hurt you. They want money. Most of the crimes against individuals are crimes of the moment—they haven’t targeted you because you are blonde, or speaking English or carrying Hilfiger, or your husband works for a major European company. They are targeting you because you are distracted looking on your ipad, chatting on your cell phone, driving with your purse on the front seat, or leaving a bank, where there is some kind of probability that you are withdrawing large sums of money.

Starting this week, we (Born Again Brazil and Brazil in My Eyes) are starting a series of posts about personal security and what you can do to be safe here in Brazil. Some of the advice is even pertinent to traveling anywhere outside your home country.

We are going to split up the posts into the following major subject headings:

  1. Street smarts
  2. Car smarts
  3. School smarts
  4. Home smarts
  5. Security in specific places–foreigners
    1. Soccer games
    2. Shopping centers
    3. Feiras
    4. Rodoviaria/airport
    5. Parking
    6. Restaurants –arrastoes
  6. Cool and scary stuff (tattoos, stats)
  7. Kid smarts
  8. Internet smarts
  9. Elsewhere in Brazil, and other information

Ten years ago, São Paulo was the fourth most violent city in Brazil. As of April this year, it was the second LEAST violent city (source: Policia Militar). There are many cities of the northeast and coast that are more dangerous, and the reasons for this will come in our summary.

This is important information. If you are moving to, visiting or have family or friends visiting the country, please pass on these tips. We both are married to Brazilians and we want everyone to have a wonderful and safe sojourn in Brazil. Next post, we’ll take a look at street smarts.

Until then…. stay safe.





Posted in Culture Conflicts, Expatriate Info & Advice, Foreigner Insights, Living in Sao Paulo, Safe in Sao Paulo, Tourist Info | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 7 Comments

Podcast with Live in Brazil’s Kevin Porter

Check out my podcast with Kevin Porter from “Live in Brazil.” We discussed life in Brazil and what it means to be an “exbrat.”

Kevin has inspired me to possibly start podcasting. Thoughts?

Posted in Brazilliant, Expatriate Info & Advice, Foreigner Insights, Living in Sao Paulo, Tourist Info, Travel | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 9 Comments

How to Do a Burrito in São Paulo


When we were kids, my sister and I used our allowance to buy giant chocolate Easter bunnies… from a health food store in the mall. At least that’s what we thought we bought. They  looked like chocolate Easter bunnies. They smelled like chocolate Easter bunnies. But halfway through chowing down on these seemingly delicious creatures, we realized they didn’t taste like chocolate Easter bunnies… because they were made of carob, not chocolate.

That’s how I feel about the food at Mexican restaurants in São Paulo. It looks like Mexican food. It smells like Mexican food. But once you dig in… you quickly realize something is amiss.

So imagine my delight when friends introduced me to a place that actually sells Mexican food. At least, what is Mexican food to me. Burritos even.

I’ll absolutely admit that real Mexican food only really happens in Mexico. Even the best Mexican food in the U.S. has a hint of adaptation for its audience or is hindered by limited access to truly authentic ingredients. But I’m from Chicago, home of “Burritos as Big as Your Head,” where you can’t swing a Cubs fan without hitting a good Mexican place. So to thus far live with options that are only a distant cousin to the actual cuisine has been rather sad. But now that I’ve discovered Los Burritos, I have a place to go to get some Mexican comfort.

While I’ve never lived in Texas, the south-of-the-border food is very common in the U.S. I did live in California for a few years and most of the Mexican food there has a unique spin. As I savored my burrito this afternoon, memories of my CA days came flooding back. This makes sense as the owner, Bruno, lived in California. In fact, the name of the burrito I was eating is in fact the California Burrito.

Los Burritos isn’t a fancy place. In fact, it is more of a fast food joint, located in a galleria in Consolação. But Bruno serves real guacamole, actual corn chips and a burrito, while not the size of your head, big enough to fill you for a long afternoon. The menu also includes other Mexican classics like tacos, quesadillas, etc. But the California burrito was really what I had been dreaming about… He doesn’t deliver yet, but let’s keep hoping.

Los Burritos

Rua Maria Antonia, 140 loja 13, 01222-010 São Paulo, Brazil

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Why “exbrats” in São Paulo need their own book to appreciate life in Brazil’s largest city

My favorite expat blog interviewed me on my book American Exbrat! Check it out! Would love to hear your comments. (I can anticipate some… )

The Displaced Nation

MeganFarrell CollageThis week’s guest interviewee is Megan Farrell, who like myself is an estrangeiro (foreigner) in São Paulo and married to a Brazilianalthough unlike my good British self, Megan is American and also has a young daughter (sounds like far too much responsibility if you ask me!).

Megan and her family previously lived in New York, but she took a sabbatical from her job on Wall Street in 2009 to become a full-time mum. Then, when her husband was offered a job opportunity here in São Paulo in 2010, they decided it would be a perfect opportunity for Megan and their daughter to learn Portuguese, experience life in a different culture, and learn more about Dad’s home country.

I first came to know of Megan when I moved to São Paulo myself at the start of 2012 and found her blog Born Again Brazilian whilst doing some research…

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