Gringoes is a website which provides a space for foreigners to comment on life in Brazil. Whilst many go there with honest intentions – certainly more so on the Facebook page - I think it’s fair to say that the site has developed somewhat of a reputation for providing foreigners with a forum in which to projectile-vomit expat bile.
Hyperbole perhaps? Maybe, although I suggest you view a forum posting from February in which someone catalogued 66 reasons why they hate living in Brazil. Fair enough, it was posted in the section called ‘Vent your frustrations’. However, its ferocity (and banality) prompted many impassioned responses (both for and against) and the thread currently stands at a length of 44 pages.
Mark Hillary, a British writer and blogger based in Brazil, responded by writing an article for the Huffington Post (and a few months later self-published a book with the same theme), in which he provided a more-balanced account of what it’s like to be a foreigner in Brazil. In it he also pondered why expats, particularly those who espouse a ‘hatred bordering on obsession’, continue to put themselves through the apparent misery of living abroad.
During my formative years I remember one of my friends remarking that it’s impossible to ever be lost in London because most of the time you never know where you are in the first-place.
Back then I was inclined to agree because despite living just ten miles from Central London I only sporadically ventured there, and when I did I often found myself feeling slightly disorientated by its relentless bustle and vast mazy topography.
Later though, as I worked in and around London, and travelled more outside of the UK, I came to appreciate London’s randomness as being part of its endearing charm; the ability to amble aimlessly around its meandering streets far preferable to the irksome intermittences walkers suffer on the streets of obsessively gridded cities like Buenos Aires. Continue Reading
During a recent trip to visit friends in Serra Negra, a town in the countryside of São Paulo, we managed to shake off our Saturday morning hangovers just in time to make a lunchtime pit stop at Cervejaria Dortmund, the town’s local microbrewery.
Marcel Longo, the microbrewery director, kindly showed us around the site and also provided some generous tasters from a variety of the beers Dortmund produces. He also kindly offered to answer some questions by way of an interview, which you can find in English below and Portuguese at the bottom of this page. Continue Reading
The Minhocão (known officially as Via Elevado Presidente Costa e Silva), is a 2.2 mile (3.5km) long elevated highway that perhaps exemplifies best how São Paulo came to privilege driving over walking and using public transportation.
Built in 1971, during a period in which the car industry was highly influential* and the city experienced rapid and unplanned growth**, the Minhocão was seen as being the solution to the problem of urban mobility – although today it instead symbolises all the worst aspects of São Paulo’s outdated infrastructure.
The highway earnt its nickname (Minhocão means “big worm”***) from the way in which it snakes through the city, from Barra Funda in the west to República in the centre. However, it might just as well be called ”the thrombotic vein”, seeing as it is forever clogged with cars**** being pumped towards the beating heart of the city centre.
My first experience of the Minhocão came one rush hour morning as I caught a lift into town with my father-in-law, and I couldn’t help but be struck by how both sides of it are hugged by office and residential high-rises, although moving at speed made it difficult to fully appreciate this peculiarly intimate relationship.
Shortly after moving to São Paulo I started Portuguese lessons at FAAP, a university opposite the Pacaembu football stadium that is about 6km (3.5 miles) from where I live in the north of the city.
Estádio do Pacaembu
As a non-driver – as in, I’ve never learnt to drive – my options for travelling around São Paulo, and to and from FAAP, were much the same as those available to me back in London: taxi, public transport or on foot.
Essentially unemployed, hailing a taxi three times a week hardly seemed like the most cost-effective way to manage my meagre savings, and whilst walking would have been my preferred option – I easily walked well-over around 6km a day whilst working in London – I was still a little bit overwhelmed by my new surroundings. This left public transport.