Photo: Gustavo Frazao/Shutterstock

How To Pretend You're From São Paulo in 10 Steps

by Gaía Passarelli Nov 21, 2015

1. Develop low resistance to cold.

You’re wearing heavy coats on the bus. Your friend shows up with a wool cap and gloves. The morning newspaper screams “cold wave in São Paulo”. Temperature is around 15 C, but we will treat it as a new ice age. In a few days we’ll be drinking hot cocoa, the restaurants will be serving fondue, and girls will be rocking their best “legging + knee boots” look. True story.

2. Have a prato feito for each day of the week.

Monday is Virado a Paulista. Tuesdays is Bife a Rolê. Wednesdays/Saturdays are Feijoada. Thursdays are pasta. Friday is fish, like pescado with shrimp sauce. Sundays are for churrasco with the family.

3. Instagram… A LOT!

São Paulo is one the most Instagramed cities in the world. In 2013 we even appeared ahead of Rio! Considering we’re not the hottest travel destination on Earth, the only explanation is that we are really into selfies, street art, gym fashion, coffee and everything else Instagramable.

4. Ride the current food craze.

When we go for a food hype, it’s all the way. Starts with a creative chef or restaurant with a new ingredient/approach. We enjoy it and share the news. A weekly magazine/newspaper segment talks about it. A feeling of “must have it” arises. Other chefs/restaurants start serving the thing too, experiment with it — Temaki with goiabada, tapioca with pesto and sun-dried tomatoes, passionfruit petit gâteau! Specialized food trucks emerge. Big brands recognize the subject and prepare it for wider audiences. Crappy, industrialized finally kill the vibe for good. The paleta place close to my home, for instance, is trying to sell frozen Mexican meals now. I bet they’ll be closed by the time you read this.

5. Get in line!

The only thing we enjoy more than appropriating exotic food is getting in line. We put the Brits to shame. Last year, an exhibition by a Japanese artist had lines going around the block. Were all those people deep into Yayoi Kusama’s work? No way. What we want is to Instagram the damn thing and have a conversation starter next Monday at the office. There’s even a Tumblr dedicated to the subject.

6. Have friends with different heritage.

Like New York or London, São Paulo is a city of immigrants. You won’t belong in this city if your group of friends are only from German (or Italian or Lebanese) heritage. Mix it up!

7. Admit you love Rio, but…

“Sure, Rio is great. But only for visiting. I could never deal with the heat/violence/body culture”, says every single Paulistano out there. The truth is, Rio and São Paulo are big, energetic cities with a lot of similarities, including heat/violence/body culture. São Paulo tends to be Milan when Rio is Rome, or NY when Rio is Miami. One thing is sure: scenery-wise, we in São Paulo always loose.

8. Enjoy Minhocão!

São Paulo is enjoying a “reclaim the streets” movement, and the best place to see it in action is this monument to urban insanity, installed in the city in 1970. The Elevado Presidente Costa e Silva, aka Minhocão, may take the blame for destroying the city center and is often cited as a major example of bad planning, bad taste, and bad choices. But on weekends it mutates into a quirky urban park, where couples walk around holding hands, families organize barbecue, and freaks party take place. Recently, people started to sell anything from used clothes to space cakes, transforming the gritty, gray, hard city into a place for everyone.

9. Go on a manifestation on Avenida Paulista.

Pro-Dilma or against Dilma. Pro-abortion or against abortion. Teachers. Potheads. Women. Workers. Cyclists. Gays. Religious people. Paulista is Sao Paulo’s heart and soul, and it’s the first choice for any manifestation, be it political or not. Even when there’s no manifestation scheduled, we tend to fill the large, flat Avenue with anything from hippies selling dream-catchers to Elvis lookalikes.

10. Ride a bicycle.

To ride a bike in São Paulo is to join a transformation process. There are around 270 kilometres of ciclovias already in use, and the number should increase to 400 by the end of 2015. The consequence is that more people understand our roles in the life of a city who has the world’s worst traffic jams: be part of the solution, not part of the problem. 

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