- Purchase the complete Expat Arrivals Sao Paulo Guide (PDF)
There are pros and cons to living in São Paulo. Brazil's economic and financial heart, São Paulo is a heaving and bustling megacity – the fourth largest in the world, in fact. Many huge multinational corporations have set up branches here in a variety of industries, and the city's countless skyscrapers are a testament to this fact.
Life here can be pretty crazy, with the city's legendary traffic jams and the sheer volume of people sometimes intimidating newcomers. While lacking the festival atmosphere of Rio de Janeiro, São Paulo remains an attractive prospect because of lucrative job offers, especially in the fields of technology, services and international finance. Of course, it does have its downsides too.
Check out our list of pros and cons of moving to São Paulo below.
Lifestyle in São Paulo
+ PRO: Amazing nightlife
The lifestyle in São Paulo is among the best in the world as the city boasts lots of party districts with exciting bars, restaurants and nightclubs. Options are varied, from traditional samba to megaclubs with more modern playlists. That said, Paulistas aren't ones to start the party in a hurry, with most revellers only venturing out late at night. Some venues might have dress codes, so remember to look sharp.
+ PRO: Parque Ibirapuera
An icon of the city, this massive urban park is comparable to New York's famous Central Park. It's a great place to spend some downtime, offering everything from jogging tracks, basketball courts and lakeside picnic spaces to museums and skateparks.
+ PRO: Great museums
With a rich and interesting history, São Paulo has plenty of attractions in the form of museums and art galleries for new arrivals to enjoy. The Pinacoteca and Modern Art Museum are fantastic first stops, while the São Paulo Art Museum is a must, showing pieces by Renoir, Gauguin and Gainsborough. Ibirapuera Park is home to the Museum of Modern Art and the University of São Paulo's Museum of Contemporary Art.
- CON: Not quite a Rio paradise
Expats shouldn't expect the shimmering beaches and carnival atmosphere of Rio in São Paulo, even though the coast is just a couple of hours away. The city does retain the rich, lively and diverse Brazilian culture and lifestyle, but the idea of a tropical paradise is replaced by a busy hub of industry and corporate economy.
Working in São Paulo
+ PRO: Brazil's business hub
São Paulo, the country's leading business hub, has the largest GDP in the Southern Hemisphere. It's also where large multinational companies tend to set up their Brazilian headquarters, with giants across numerous industries such as Shell, Google, HSBC, Nokia and Unilever all present. This also means ample job opportunities, and expats often get transferred to São Paulo through these companies.
+ PRO: Variety of career opportunities
There's a broad array of industries for expats to explore, ranging from engineering, telecommunications and finance to pharmaceuticals, IT and the service industry. There's even a chance for younger travellers to get work as an English teacher – although the pay might not be as competitive, it's certainly an exciting adventure.
- CON: Knowledge of the language is vital
The language barrier is a constant in working life, with at least a basic grasp of Portuguese considered essential. While large corporations may have significant English contingents, learning basic Portuguese will likely become necessary.
- CON: Tough job market
The job market is highly competitive. There aren't many employment options for foreign workers going in blind, especially those who aren't arriving in the highly skilled labour bracket. Most expats working in São Paulo have been transferred there through their respective companies.
Accommodation in São Paulo
+ PRO: The housing market is ideal for expats
The city's real estate agents and property developers have decided to cash in on the growing accommodation needs of the international community, with more modern buildings in São Paulo that usually come fully furnished with high standards of maintenance – perfect for expats.
+ PRO: City centre options
Unlike many big cities, São Paulo boasts realistic housing options in the city centre. Apartment blocks called prédios are becoming a big hit, with fantastic facilities and security.
+ PRO: Family options
Condominiums might be most suitable if moving to São Paulo with the kids and a spouse. Found chiefly in the middle- and upper-class neighbourhoods, these usually boast gyms, pools and outdoor areas that are ideal for growing families. Houses and bigger spaces are predictably found further out in wealthier suburbs.
Cost of living in São Paulo
- CON: High prices for utilities
The cost of living in São Paulo can be fairly high. While groceries are decently priced, utilities such as electricity, water, gas and rent can be pricey. That said, expats earning in a foreign currency can enjoy a comfortable life in São Paulo and may even be able to put some money away for a rainy day.
Weather in São Paulo
- CON: The heat
Owing to its location on the southern coast, temperatures are more moderate than in the rest of the country. But summers can be uncomfortable, with the mercury continually hovering between 77°F (25°C) and 85°F (30°C). Rain is also common, so expats shouldn't forget to pack their raincoats and umbrellas.
Getting around in São Paulo
- CON: Constant traffic jams
Traffic in the megacity of São Paulo can feel like it never ends. Aside from all-too-frequent congestion, fellow drivers can be aggressive and impatient. Some expats hire drivers to avoid the pain of these jams. But taxis are plentiful and are at least safe.
+ PRO: Decent public transport
While infamous for traffic jams, São Paulo's subway is known as both an efficient and generally safe way to get around town. The overland rails are primarily used for long-distance trips rather than getting around the city. There is also an extensive bus network that services the city.
+ PRO: Cycling is an option
Two-wheeled transport is becoming an increasingly convenient mode of traversing São Paulo by bike or motorcycle. Bicycle paths wind their way through the city, with the much-loved Cicloia Rio Pinheiros skirting the river's edge. Bike rental stations charge hourly fees, with companies such as Bike Itaú boasting some 200 stations in strategic spots.
►For an overview of life in the country check out Moving to Brazil
"São Paulo is definitely a complicated city. After my first four months here, I said I would never ever live here longer than needed. However, life happened and I have come to change my mind. Although huge, noisy and very busy, São Paulo has its charm. I enjoy the endless options of pastimes, culture and restaurants. I have built my life here around my neighbourhood and that is definitely the way to maintain a good quality of life." Read our interview with Estonian expat Dona to learn more about moving to São Paulo.
Are you an expat living in Sao Paulo?
Expat Arrivals is looking for locals to contribute to this guide, and answer forum questions from others planning their move to Sao Paulo. Please contact us if you'd like to contribute.
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