Our stop today is São Paulo: the most populous city in Brazil as well as in the Southern Hemisphere. Filled with tall skyscrapers, with a diverse population coming from different parts of Brazil (and the rest of the world!), the “concrete jungle“, as it’s called, is full of surprises in every corner.
Our local friend there who will tell us more about this fascinating city is Kika, a ‘gringa’ herself who fell in love with São Paulo and set foot there. A local friend since 2014, she is an Interculturalist with China-Brazil focus, language professional and writer, and has a published work with a Brazilian flavour: “Sete Dias em Busca da Brasilidade” (2016). You can also check out more of her amazing work in her Understanding Brazil channel, with a deep dive into Brazilian culture; and with her YouTube playlist, where she teaches Portuguese idioms.
Here she tells us a little bit more about her new found home:
1. What makes your city unique?
São Paulo is the biggest city in South America, a world city with its very distinct look. Due to a strong Asian and European immigration in the 20th century and due to inner country migrations between the 1950ies and our current days, you can find so different types of Brazilians living here and leaving their local cultural impact on daily life. Start breakfast at a Portuguese Bakery and have lunch at a typical Italian family place (don’t expect them to speak Italian). Why not having a Temaki (a giant Brazilian Sushi version) in the afternoon? In the evening I recommend some lighter Syrian food. And the best: you will always fit in, no matter the color of your hair, eyes or skin. For example, if you look Asian in Sao Paulo, nobody would usually consider you being part of a minority here.
2. Tell us about why you became a local friend.
I became a Local Friend two years ago after another Local Friend told me, what fun it was to have received people from all over the world who had come to Sao Paulo for the World Cup. I decided to create my profile and just give it a try, since I already had some previous experience in guiding foreigners in São Paulo due to being an accompanying translator. Of course, being a foreigner here, allows visitors spending time with me to see Brazil from another type of insider perspective, something like: “I am local and I totally get you.”
3. What was your most memorable experience as a local friend?
The best part is surely, that a personalized tour might change people’s minds when thinking of Brazil. For example, many foreigners are afraid when they come over due to news and chit-chat about criminality and some others believe that Brazil’s development stopped somewhen decades ago. Guiding foreigners especially here in São Paulo gives me a chance to show them true local culture, safety in an unsafe world and Brazil’s own share in international developments, too.
4. If you could highlight 3 awesome sights in your city, what would they be?
The top must-see highlights, such as the Paulista avenue, the Ibirapuera Park, the Niemeyer buildings, are all worth a visit. But if your time is short and you are more interested in relaxing, then I suggest the following:
First: The neighborhood of Vila Madalena itself is a wonderful touristic sight with simple attractions such as local street art, its over 30 art galleries and its charming cafés and restaurants. It is a great place for shopping female clothing and handmade souvenirs, too. You can easily spend a whole day in the neighborhood, without being a bit bored.
Second: I wouldn’t miss the chance to visit a Brazilian farmer’s market. The one on Rua Mourato Coelho on Saturdays shows a huge variety of local fruits and vegetables. Vendors usually offer you a free tasting of fruit. There are also some cultural markets, such as the antique market one at the Benedito Calixto Square, where you can listen to a band playing Brazilian Chorinho while having some North-Eastern snacks. This market also takes place on Saturdays.
Third: Walking in the neighborhood of Liberdade, originally a Japanese neighborhood but now full of Chinese stores. There are plenty of original Asian restaurants and since it is very close to the old center, you can see a different part of the city’s reality.
5. Have you traveled much yourself? What have been your favorite travel experiences?
One can’t travel enough in this incredible world with its incredible people. My husband and me travel pretty much inside Brazil, which gives me the opportunity to understand the regional cultural differences better. I also like to travel in my home country, Croatia, when I visit my mother once a year. It is just amazing – travelling from the mountains to the sea, discovering cities, villages and islands. My personal interests lie in Asia, especially Greater China and Japan. As a former student of Chinese culture and East Asian Art History, I just love to deepen my knowledge, whenever I get the opportunity to do so.
6. If you could describe your city in one word, what would it be?
Do not miss the chance to have Kika as your amazing local friend in São Paulo: you can book her here >>