Many of us foreigners in the city are making, or have already secured, plans to travel to our home countries for the Brazilian winter. But what fun items do we bring for friends and family that will represent the culture we’ve been immersing ourselves in? Here are my top ten items to pass out upon arrival.
For more lists of 10 and insights into Sao Paulo, see American Exbrat in São Paulo.
Sure, you can find some styles of Havaianas in the USA and Europe. But you are not going to get the chic and extensive options like you will at the flagship store on Oscar Freire. There you can even customize your own pair to make the souvenir extra special. I’ve brought little girls some signature shoes designed with a favorite cartoon character, but then added a little bling. Right now, the season in the States is perfect to start tromping around in these flip flops. But even if you are going to a colder climate, the brand now sells socks in a special shape to accommodate the shoes.
You’d be surprised how few brands of cachaça are actually available in the States. So it is quite a treat to receive one or two that vary in taste. Just warn your unsuspecting friend or relative that it can go down very easily when consumed in a caipirinha, yet can be surprisingly powerful. We made a pitcher or two at a barbecue on our last trip and the attendees learned this lesson the hard way. You can find a nice wide variety at the stalls of the Mercado Municipal.
3. Moqueca Pot
Yes, it is a bit large and heavy, though you can purchase ones much smaller than that pictured here. But you know you have empty room in your suitcase you plan to fill abroad. Give with a recipe for the fish stew and maybe someone will make you some. Even if they don’t, it looks cool in a kitchen. While we inherited the one we have, you can purchase at a restaurant supply store like Utilitá on Rua Martim Francisco.
4. Kinder Ovos
Kids love these chocolate treats with a surprise inside! However, if you are traveling to the USA, hide them well in your suitcase. This candy is illegal there, yet available almost everywhere you look here.
5. Brazilian Coffee
I’m not talking about a bag of Pilão from the Pão de Azuçãr. Pick up a delicious bag of beans from one of the popular cafés like Suplicy or Santo Grão. The recipient will not be disappointed. Especially when morning comes.
6. Pão de Mel
Ideally, you would bring the true traditional Brazilian treat to share – brigadeiros! But those can get melty and squishy during a trip (trust me, I’ve tried it out). The next best item is the pão de mel honey cakes. This dessert is also a bit fragile, but less so than the condensed milk candies.
While the canga is most know as beachwear or to sit on the sand in lieu of a beach towel, beneficiaries can also throw over a bedspread or chair to add some extra flair. I happen to own a stack of these, as it was a gift of choice given to me by my Brazilians when I was living in the States. In Rio there are vendors selling cangas on the beach nearly every day, but in São Paulo you can sometimes buy at the neighborhood feira or at a swimsuit store.
8. Puxa Saco
Simple, yet brilliant, this sack is sold at your local feira. Its purpose is to conveniently hold all the plastic sacks collected from the grocery store. I gave this as a gift to family members and now they don’t know how they lived without it for so long.
9. Soaps from Granado Pharmácias
Products from this historic Brazilian company come in pretty packages with lovely scents. They even have sparkly bars of soap that little girls love. The items are also surprisingly inexpensive.
10. Brazilian Hammock
If someone has been really good, and he or she has the space, you can give a traditional Brazilian hammock. More durable than your standard string type, this makes for a very useful and relaxing present. Just be sure that where you are attaching it is extremely secure. We’ve had some mishaps in the US with ours – one involving most of a wall coming down.