The Cost of Paradise

What you get for the money.

(for more Born Again Brazilian, go to

I’ve been asked if living in Sao Paulo is cheaper than the US.  This is a difficult question because some things are cheaper, but many are more expensive. I really only have New York City as a recent reference, having lived there the past six years. But based on what we are expected to spend money on, unfortunately, our balance sheet is not going to change. However, in most cases, you get a lot more for your money.

For example, for what we were spending on our most recent NYC apartment, with no doorman, we are going to get 2 to 3 times the space. (I haven’t gotten around to doing the square-feet-to-square-meters conversion yet.) Here, the apartment buildings are surrounded by  fortresses, and there is a 24-hour guard at the gate. Not only is no one “unexpected” going to get inside, but this also means that, if needed, I could yell out my ninth floor window “Help me! Help me!” and someone would come. (OK, they wouldn’t come if I yelled “Help me!” They might come if I yelled “ayudame” or “ajuda” something to that effect. Note to self.)

For just a bit more than what it cost to have a housekeeper in New York come a few hours a week, you can have someone work all day, five days a week, to clean, do laundry AND cook.

In New York City, the school that I would have sent Sophia to was basically a two-room facility. I explained to the school director that my Sophia was, of course, incredibly advanced. I didn’t want her to be bored (i.e. interacting with all of those average children). I asked about the academic program and the director explained that “playing” was the focus of their program. They would spend their 3-hour school day playing with toys and each other, having a book read to them, having a snack, singing a song, and then playing in a semi-public playground. Now… Mommy jumped into the NYC private pre-school scene late in the game, so Sophia wasn’t going to be attending the “premier” pre-school. But it was still going to cost us the price of a decent automobile for our 2-year-old’s education. For that, I could have hired someone to come to my home every day and teach Sophia algebra. Oh yes, and I would need to deliver Sophia completely potty-trained (something my “advanced” child refuses to even entertain. Every time I’ve mentioned the idea, Sophia tells me she’s a “baby” and curls up into the fetal position.)

Here in Sao Paulo, it is unfortunately going to cost the same. However, the school is equivalent to a small palace and surrounded by a guarded wall. They have a private a library, a playground, a garden and a trampoline. They have a private swimming pool for lessons. When the children are finished swimming, someone dries them off, gives them a shower, dries them off again, gets them dressed, blow dries their hair, and hands them back to you…

Regarding the academic program, the conversation with the director of the Sao Paulo school went something like this:

Me: “My Sophia is very intelligent. I don’t want her to be bored.”

Director: “Has she had social studies?”

Me: “Um, no.”

Director: “Has she studied mathematics?”

Me: “…no…”

Director: “Has she been trained in the art of Judo?”

Me: “No.”

Director: “Well, I do not think your Sophia will be bored here.”

They also POTTY TRAIN THEM AT THE SCHOOL. This, as any parents knows, is virtually priceless.

There is nothing that compares to New York City restaurants, and the cost in Sao Paulo is equivalent, so I will be cooking more (see and eating out less.

Brand names we take for granted in the U.S., such as Olay or Crayola, cost 5 to 6 times more. But, I can get a manicure/pedicure for even less than I could in New York (the one thing that is inexpensive in Manhattan.)

Overall, maximizing the finances will be all about adjusting priorities. Oh yeah, and loading up my suitcase with lotions and crayons on the final trip over…

For more Born Again Brazilian, go to

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4 Responses to The Cost of Paradise

  1. Reblogged this on born again brazilian and commented:

    In honor of my second Braziliversary, going to repost some of my original perspectives on living in Brazil. Part 2.

  2. Andre says:

    “There is nothing that compares to New York City restaurants”
    honestly, as someone that has lived in both NYC and SP, this is not true at all. although you do get more price variety (and variety, period) in manhattan.

  3. Marina says:

    Haha I love your comments on potty training (and yes, this is my third comment in a row…I’m obsessed with your blog!) When I told my mother about the American concept of “potty training”, she thought it was ridiculous – in our minds when a child is big enough to sit on a toilet by herself, she is also expected to be learning to wipe herself and not wear diapers. Of course, this requires a chunk of time on the parent’s, baba’s, and teacher’s time – cleaning up when kids may have an accident or two, especially during the night, and making sure to stay in the bathroom and teach them how to wipe themselves properly. We have no word for it because it’s simply a cultural expectation that the child will be constantly observed until he or she has no more accidents. Plus once you take the diaper away, a child has no option but to simply learn not to wet him/herself unless they want to be quite uncomfortable…with plenty of hovering chaperones around, of course. While Brazilian children may be quite spoiled between our constantly hovering mothers and thorough babas, it’s seen as a mode of teaching them to be just thorough when they are taking care of themselves and their children in the future. It takes a village, as they say. Another “funny” American parenting technique my mother was appalled by was keeping children in strollers until they were quite grown and possibly 6, 7 years old…you should’ve heard the comments she made about mothers too lazy to hold their kids hands and make sure they don’t run away! I don’t think I ever saw a strolled once I reached the latter end of the age of two.

    I wish I had time to create a blog like yours from the Brazilian-living-in-America perspective to get comments on these quirky American cultural traits I have yet to understand, but would love to…

    • I’m glad you are enjoying the blog!! That’s so funny that your mother complained about the strollers, because that’s what I see here now! At least in Jardins, the kids seemed too old to be in the strollers, while my daughter complaints still that I make her walk to school. I love the cultural parenting differences. You should definitely write about it from a Brazilian in America – I would love to read it!!

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