Live from the World Cup: 23/June/2014

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This text about the “15 signs you were born and raised in São Paulo” is all around the Internet. From someone who was born and raised here, it is pretty accurate. I am sorry I can’t quote it properly, I’ve seen the post in several languages and do not know the author (if you do, let me know so that I can add the credits).

1. You embrace traffic as a fact of life.

Traffic troubles, whether currently happening or a spectacular event from last week, are ever a topic of conversation. In a city of 11 million with insufficient public transportation, people stress about getting from A to B all the time. Everyone has a story about it and an alternative route to share. Waze is very popular, but there’s also a radio station dedicated to traffic news, 24 hours a day, every day. Even the absence of traffic is a subject for conversation: “Hey, guess what, I arrived 15 minutes early because there was no traffic on Bandeirantes today!”

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2. You love pizza.

I know it’s a global favorite, but we mastered it. Our pizza can be artistically thin or generously thick, veggie or meaty, a traditional marguerita or an unconventional affair topped with cheese, sliced tomato, and fresh arugula. This is a city where citizens consume more than a million pizzas every day (according to the Association of United Pizzerias. Pizza in São Paulo = excellent.

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3. You know the difference between Paulistanos, Paulistas, and São-Paulinos.

It’s easy: Those born in São Paulo city are Paulistanos, and those born in São Paulo state are Paulistas. As for São-Paulinos, they’re São Paulo soccer club supporters. But just to avoid any confusion, the most popular team in São Paulo (city and state) is Corinthians.

4. You’re a Corinthiano.

No? Well, I bet your dentist, bus driver, boss, teacher, cook, and coworker cheer for Corinthians. Also, this guy is a celebre Corinthiano.

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5. Your first meal of the day consists of pão francês.

That’s white bread with a crispy crust, along with butter, a cup of milk, and coffee. Okay, maybe a glass of fresh orange juice and a thin piece of white cheese. But that’s it. We all know those super-complete, continental-style breakfasts everyone sees in novelas are fictional.

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6. You love Ibirapuera Park.

Ignore the weekend crowds and foul-smelling lake. The Ibirapuera is green, fresh, beautiful, and easy to get to. It holds museums, a cool skating area, a Japanese garden, several hidden picnic spots, and metal sculptures kids love to climb. It’s São Paulo’s Central Park, mêo! Ibirapuera Park has just been elected the best park in Latin America and the 8th in the world by users of Trip Advisor 2014.

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7. You always know the right answer when a cab driver asks which way to go.

And it never, ever involves Rebouças Avenue.

8. You leave in the morning ready to endure a full range of weather.

São Paulo can be cold in the morning, super hot at lunch time, stormy in the evening, and freezing by night. That’s why we’re always carrying an extra layer of clothing and a foldable umbrella.

9. You don’t go outside during heavy rain.

As a Paulistano, you’re aware of how dangerous the city can be during a thunderstorm. It normally happens between December and February in the late evenings and, given the damage this Brazilian answer to monsoons can cause, people tend to stay where they are until it stops. Why? Well, it’s a lot of water, of course. But there’s garbage. São Paulo may be not as dirty as Delhi, but it’s no Kopenhagen. People throw soda cans and water bottles from car/bus windows and leave trash bags (and tires, and sofas, and who knows what else) on the streets. When it rains, all the trash blocks the drainage.

10. You’re familiar with the “motoboy” concept.

If you work from home or at an office, chances are at some point you used the services of these two-wheeled professionals. They’re the wild dogs that cut through traffic every day, hated by car/bus drivers but crucial to the city’s daily life. It’s one of the hardest jobs in town.

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11. You go to the shopping mall for everything.

Because wandering around shops and avoiding direct sunlight is a beloved sport of our residents, São Paulo has 51 shopping malls distributed throughout the five zones (East, West, Central, North, and South), from popular Aricanduva to ultra-fancy Cidade Jardim.

12. Your acquaintances comprise many different ethnicities.

Japanese, Chinese, or Korean descendants, someone with freckles and curly hair, árabes (in Brasil this can mean Turkish, Armenian, or Syrian), families with Italian and Spanish surnames, Afro-descendants, and people from North, Northwest, South, and Central Brazil. There are also Espíritas, Protestants, and Catholics as well as Buddhists, Jews, and Umbanda/Candomblé practitioners.

If not, sorry to say it, but you’re doing something wrong. Brazil is a mixed country, and São Paulo is a tremendous blender. Embrace it.

13. You know a nostalgic old-timer who remembers when it was not only possible but normal to swim in Rio Tietê.

Maybe your grandparents, if they were born here. You listen with skepticism until someone shows a picture. It was pristine. People look happy. So much can change in less than a century, right? Sad, but true.

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14. You love your city, but you’re willing to stay inside a car/bus for ten hours trying to get away from it.

The “saída de feriado” is a registered phenomenon that happens when everyone tries to leave the city at the same time before holidays. The longer the holiday, the worse the traffic jams. Depending on timing, weather, and traffic, it can take half a day to endure a trip that’s usually made in two and a half hours.

You ask me, these people are insane, but I’m always glad to see them go. It’s the best time to experience all the cultural options São Paulo has to offer without long lines or traffic jams.

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15. You’re worried about World Cup…kind of.

Let me go ahead and say it: FIFA won, as we always knew it would. People are buying TVs, storing canned beer, collecting the World Cup stickers album, and discussing the choices Felipe Scolari made for Seleção. World Cup is upon us, and it’s time to ride along with the craziness and pray no one gets hurt.

Also, there’s nothing like the stillness of the metropolis when Seleção is playing. Except, of course, the party at Avenida Paulista after a victorious match.

 

Ok, so São Paulo is not the safest city in the world, but then again, all major cities have problems. So, I’d add a number 16:

16. YOU KEEP UP WITH THE LATEST SCAMS AND NOTIFY FRIENDS.

Whether a fake phone call to say someone from your family has been kidnapped and you must pay for their ramson or an “instant kidnapping” where they take you around the city for a couple of hours withdrawing money from or debt or credit card, scams are part of our daily routine. There are so many that we share them in social media to alert others. However, it seems that crooks are always ahead of us in terms of scam creativity. This video is in Portuguese, but don’t mind it, it’s short and if you watch to the end, you’ll see the latest scam:

 

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