My 5 Dirty Little Sao Paulo Secrets

1. I get my massages at the Carrefour.

Yes, while other Sao Paulo ladies are booking spa appointments, I’m bent over a massage chair at the front of a chain grocery store (as least it’s French.) But I’ve experienced some of the best spas in the biggest cities and none holds a candle to the talents of the strapping young men at this particular pop-up parlour.  I mean, they are GOOOOOD! So ok, I think one of them tries to feel me up, but for 30 minutes at the equivalent of US$18 – who’s complaining?

2. I know more expats in Sao Paulo than Brazilians.

This is terribly embarrassing but not necessarily my fault. We attract each other like flies to s**t. We are one big support group under the guise of a couple “international” clubs. A few weeks ago, I was crossing the street in my neighborhood with my daughter. Across the road, I spotted someone who I thought might be an American woman and her daughter. As we crossed, we exchanged glances, but nothing more. Last week, my Brazilian sister-in-law called me from our children’s swimming school. She had met an American woman. She put her on the phone. Without seeing each other, we immediately identified each other from that day we crossed paths, even though we had never spoke. Yes way. That’s how obvious we are.

3. I still don’t think having a full-time nanny raising your kid is a good idea.

I was dead set against a full-time nanny in Manhattan. I’d witnessed a number of disturbing things and even called the police once on a nanny. When I worked, my daughter went to a school in my office building where the policy was that there would be no fewer than two adults in the room at all times. My Brazilian relatives told me the nannies here would be different. And they are, but not to the extent that I need them to be. I’ve still witnessed some neglect, nothing criminal thank goodness. Of course, I know a couple of nannies that I would trust and hire immediately (if they weren’t of course already working for my friends), but two out of the twenty or so that I’ve met aren’t good odds. The other day, during yet another viewing of Finding Nemo, my little daughter requested that we look up on the internet each and every sea creature that crossed the screen to see what they actually look like and learn about what they eat. You’d be hard pressed to find a nanny to take on that task, or to enjoy it as much as I did.

4. I don’t know (or care) much about local politics.

Politics seems to be the preferred topic in social situations for both Brazilians and expats. Although I feign knowledge and interest, I care very little interest about these discussions. Politicians are so corrupt here that that it is assumed and accepted. One particular local politician was quoted as saying something to the effect of, “sure I’ve been stealing, but at least I’m getting things done.” I equate this to watching a poker game of which you know everyone is cheating. What’s the point in discussing?

5. I like Sao Paulo Pizza better than I like NYC Pizza.

Do not tell my New Yorker friends. I don’t know exactly what it is about Sao Paulo pizza.  Maybe all the crazy topping options like cod and catupiry or perhaps something in the sauce.  But it beats out New York pizza in my book. However, best in class will always be drippy, gooey, crust-loaded-with-lard, one million calorie, deep-dish Chicago style pizza. But Sao Paulo comes in a close second.
Image: Suat Eman /

Gallery | This entry was posted in Culture Conflicts, Expatriate Info & Advice, Living in Sao Paulo and tagged , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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