Six Assumptions You Shouldn’t Make About Sao Paulo

AAP Image/Damian Shaw

AAP Image/Damian Shaw

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 when you arrive. Yes, São Paulo is South America’s largest city. But don’t let that fool you. There are things you could be taking for granted in your head that may not play out when you arrive.

Please do not assume that…

1. …your cell phone service will work all the time.

I have Claro and use an iPhone. I have a 50/50 chance of a call going through.

2. …you can rely on the internet – everywhere and anywhere.

While internet service seems to be more reliable than cell service, it has been failing more of late. Also, not every public restaurant or bar has wifi, so plan for a back-up, like an actual paper map, if it fails to get you where you need to go.

3. …the city is on the beach. 

Look at a map.

4. … you will be able to use the subway system to get around.

The metro workers are scheduled to go on strike tomorrow. The gap between what they want and what was offered is pretty big. While I’m quite certain the powers that be will do everything they can to avoid game-day metro shut-downs, you just never know…

5. … Brazil has tropical weather everywhere, all year round. 

Check the weather forecast. Right now, it is cold here and winter has just begun. Pack a sweater or two.

6. …locals will be warm, welcoming and grateful that you are spending money in their country.

Allegations of corruption over the Cup have led to a series of protests in this country. As we speak, Brazilian are protesting their own players. It is assumed by many that your foreign dollars will be going to further line the pockets of the politicians. Not that everyone might be aggressive to tourists. You could find yourself in many very friendly environments. But just be prepared and don’t be surprised if no one rolls out a red carpet.

Now that you know what you are up against, remove some of your more nationalistic outfits and your bathing suit from your suitcase, print out some maps, and get ready to have a great time!


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21 Responses to Six Assumptions You Shouldn’t Make About Sao Paulo

  1. harmamae says:

    Definitely agree with #5! On my first trip to Brazil I brought one sweater and one pair of jeans, and I was surprised at how often I wore them. And I was farther north than Sao Paulo, but it was technically ‘winter.’

    • right now I’m wearing jeans, a long shirt, and a full length sweater coat. I’m still cold.

      • Amanda says:

        I have you beat. I am in pants, sweatshirt, blanket over my legs, and when typing at the computer, I have to wear gloves or my fingers get frost bite. I mean, I have dealt with Illinois winters, the thing is here, the buildings are cement with no central heating…do the math 😛

  2. “Look at a map” Hahaha! Love that.

    All great advice, I think a lot of people will have no idea about any of it.

  3. wjshelton says:

    I’m still laughing… and I live in Juiz de Fora.

  4. Maureen says:

    Totally! And don’t expect cars to stop for you when you enter the crosswalk (I learned that one the hard way)! 😉

  5. Dani says:

    I don’t agree with most of this. You are forgetting that most tourists won’t go all the way to Brazil for just one game. You are also forgetting that they will be staying in hotels in SP and at the Beach if they go there. I am Brazilian but live Argentina, I went to Brazil about a month ago and 3G service was better, faster and more reliable than here. More and more people are able to speak English in SP and are very willing to help anybody. I did not notice any negativity towards the World Cup whilst there, the media seems to be making it out to be worse than it is. There are lots of people who are not happy about it because of all the corruption behind the event, but on the other hand you have to also understand that there will be lots of other honest hard working people profiting from it too. There are always many sides to The World Cup and it will always be this way, but please make sure that the information you are putting out there is at least useful… Not misleading. I wouldn’t dream of damning Chicago with such faint praise!

    • Hi Dani. Thanks for your comments. My message is to expect anything. And the media is not making it worse than it is… I’m sitting in the middle of it with military police on every corner. One out of every two phone calls refuse to go through. I’m not exaggerating – that is life here for everyone I know. My tips are in no way misleading – this is how it is. Maybe the sentiment wasn’t as bad a month ago, but there are “Não ter copa! signs all over the place now. I’m not trying to scare people away, but I want them to manage their own expectations so they can enjoy the city (or cities as you’ve pointed out) while they are here.

  6. Swanny says:

    #6 It’s not about protest or not, it’s about how we treat each other generally. There will be good experiences, but equally there will be people in shop, services who panic, even with basic Portuguese they panic if you are foreign. I think if you are in a supermarket for example behind an estrangeiro just help and tell the cashier, “no he does need nota fiscal!” As for the street, one rule – THERE ARE NO RULES! No one is ever wrong, and expect the unexpected. That said I think generally the fans will be OK, it will be different but fun. It’s when you live here permanently that bit wears off!

  7. Anticipation and uncertainty conjure up the vibe leading into this world cup. İ don’t think such strong pre-tournament jitters have been observed since Argentina hosted the competition in 1978. Two tips I would include: read the posts regarding venues in São Paulo that are featured in this blog; for Rio see Oh, my Gritjokes which usually involved interchanging English-Portuguese word play is a tested formula for cross cultural harmony.

  8. Pierre says:

    Most of what you said can be said about other countries too… Brazilian problems are far more serious than what you wrote.

    Let’s see:

    Having returned from Nevada a couple months ago, I can tell you that the public wi-fi was worse or equal to what people have in Brazil. Not because it’s not available, but because it’s not free. Even in the airport one had to pay to surf the web for a couple minutes, American Airlines’ plane offered wi-fi on flight, and I happily connected my laptop to it just to be informed that I would have to insert my credit card number to “unlock it”. While waiting to do the check-in at my hotel, I tried to connect to the “pubic” hotel’s wi-fi. “Guests only, insert your room number”. Shopping Centers? Not free at all. The tourists only hope to find free wi-fi in the US is inside restaurants or starbucks. Apart from that, the impression I got was that there is simply no free wi-fi available in the US. Cell phone service was ok, no 4G available during most of the travel though. Subway? No, there’s no subway in Las Vegas. Just a very small Monorail system. Rent a car or use taxis to go anywhere. This is Las Vegas “subway”: As expected, Las Vegas Strip gets terribly jammed by rush hour every day Sao paulo style (I’m not exaggerating). And Brazilians just love foreigners, I don’t believe they will treat the tourists badly. People in Nevada was very warm, I can’t complain.

    • Wait, there is free wifi in Brazil??!! I know there was talk of it last year, but there’s been no talk of it that I’ve heard since. Wait, there’s a subway in Las Vegas??!! I’ve been there countless times and never knew. Yes, Brazil’s problems are far worse than what I wrote about, but hopefully not for the tourists who are coming for the Cup. Hopefully, this will be as bad as it gets.

      • Pierre says:

        There’s free wifi in Brazil inside shopping centers, restaurants, hotel lobbies… Not that different from the US actually, but in Brazil when they do exist they tend to be free. In the US, most of the times they wil ask for your credit card number. Well, I might be wrong, but that was my impression during my last trip to the US. And I used “quotes” when writting the word subway implying that it’s not a proper subway, but the closest thing from a subway that I saw there. To be honest, I believe that there is no public transport in Las Vegas. We had to use the sightseeing buses to move around town, but at some point we could’t take it anymore and end up renting a car. Public transport wise, I believe that the tourists in Brazil will be better served than I was in the US: taxis and car rentals.

        “Yes, Brazil’s problems are far worse than what I wrote about, but hopefully not for the tourists who are coming for the Cup. Hopefully, this will be as bad as it gets.”

        Ok, you have a point.

        • Oh yes, in restaurants, etc. But at one point there was talk of free-flying wifi for all who were coming to (and living in) Cup cities. I wonder what happened to that… Thanks for your comments!!

          • Jenner says:

            Pierre is right. I would add that Brazil has seen far more infrastructure improvements in the recent years than Europe and America. There are new airports, roads, power plants, water channels, subway lines, railways, refineries and housing projects all over Brazil.

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