Sampa Siz­zles

Ex­otic and stylish São Paulo is a city of con­trasts

Business Traveler (USA) - - FRONT PAGE - By Adri­ana Naili

São Paulo is mam­moth. At 3,000 square miles, and 20 mil­lion people, the metro area casts a gi­ant shadow across Brazil and in­deed all of South Amer­ica. But even with the crowd­ing, the traf­fic and the gap­ing di­vide be­tween rich and poor, most ar­dent paulis­tanos – res­i­dents of São Paulo city – wouldn’t even think about liv­ing any­where but here. That’s be­cause no other city in the South Amer­i­can coun­try has such a per­fect com­bi­na­tion of in­ter­na­tion­ally ac­claimed style and so­phis­ti­ca­tion, with a hint of Brazil­ian spice – to shake things up.

But size alone is not the defin­ing fea­ture of this me­trop­o­lis. The rich pas­tiche that is Sampa – as the city is known col­lo­qui­ally – is a cul­tural melt­ing pot of lit­er­ally hun­dreds of dis­tinct eth­nic groups. De­scen­dants of im­mi­grants from all over the world in­clude the largest pop­u­la­tion of Ja­panese de­scent out­side Ja­pan, the largest of group of Ital­ian de­scen­dants out­side Italy, a mil­lion people of Ger­man her­itage and large com­mu­ni­ties of Le­banese, Syr­i­ans, Chi­nese, Ar­me­ni­ans, Lithua­ni­ans, Greeks, Kore­ans and Hun­gar­i­ans.

The ex­tra glam­orous and the ex­tremely poor are like dif­fer­ent notes that to­gether com­pose the melody of São Paulo city. But with its vast lower class comes highly ded­i­cated staff through­out the city, which makes the lives of trav­el­ers like you and me a good bit eas­ier. To have a bet­ter idea of what a proper São Paulo ex­pe­ri­ence would be like, try to imag­ine NewYork City with wait­ers who smile and won’t dis­par­age you for the size of the tip. Imag­ine a city where you’d be able to sa­vor your fa­vorite

dish, from any in­ter­na­tional or re­gional cui­sine, at any time of the day or night. So if you hap­pen to fin­ish a meet­ing at 11 PM, don’t panic; you’ll still be able to pick your restau­rant op­tions at that time. Imag­ine rent­ing a car and be­ing able to drive around the city and not hav­ing to worry about park­ing (most restaurants and bars have their own valet park­ing ser­vice).

Like few other ma­jor cities in the world, São Paulo has the ben­e­fits of be­ing a global city in a still-de­vel­op­ing coun­try.

High En­ergy Econ­omy

As a true city that never sleeps, São Paulo car­ries both good and bad rep­u­ta­tion and, of course, be­ing the pow­er­house of the Brazil­ian econ­omy is no easy task. In a coun­try that rec­og­nized the world over for its samba and soc­cer, it’s no won­der that its hard-work­ing and in­dus­tri­ous res­i­dents can be seen as“no fun,”snob­bish or even grumpy. It is still not un­com­mon to hear the old adage that“paulis­tanos work, while the rest of Brazil re­laxes.”

It goes with­out say­ing that this sen­ti­ment of­ten ruf­fles feath­ers, es­pe­cially among cit­i­zens of other states who swear they do work. Which is true, of course, al­though the pace and ef­fi­ciency of the work done any­where else in Brazil cer­tainly pales in com­par­i­son to the high-en­ergy out­put of this cos­mopoli­tan cen­ter.

The un­de­ni­able fact is that São Paulo city is the big­gest econ­omy in Brazil by far. It alone con­trib­utes 15 per­cent of the coun­try’s GNP, and 45 per­cent if the en­tire São Paulo state is taken into ac­count.

Its main eco­nomic ac­tiv­i­ties have grad­u­ally changed from man­u­fac­tur­ing to the ser­vice in­dus­try over the lat­ter part of the 20th century. To­day the city is home to a large num­ber of lo­cal and in­ter­na­tional banks, law firms, multi­na­tional com­pa­nies and con­sumer ser­vices.

What makes São Paulo unique though is not its size, money or power but its wel­com­ing na­ture. Like a gen­er­ous mother, the city has em­braced many dif­fer­ent cul­tures through­out the years from both in­side and out­side of Brazil ac­cept­ing them as part of its own. In the 19th century, the city ex­pe­ri­enced eco­nomic pros­per­ity through its cof­fee ex­ports. Af­ter 1881, the waves of im­mi­grants moved to São Paulo state due to the cof­fee pro­duc­tion boom and the in­cen­tives given by the

govern­ment to na­tion­als of coun­tries such as Italy, Ger­many, Lithua­nia, Ukraine, Poland, Por­tu­gal and Spain to im­mi­grate.

A Cul­tural Ta­pes­try

The re­sult of that is a col­or­ful melt­ing pot of cul­tures, tones and styles that gives life to the streets of this ur­bane me­trop­o­lis. But even as a cul­tur­ally di­verse city, São Paulo is unique when com­pared to cities such as Lon­don, Hong Kong or NewYork. The rea­son is that all these dif­fer­ent cul­tures were ab­sorbed into one, cre­at­ing Brazil’s own spe­cial cul­tural breed.

The sec­ond and third gen­er­a­tions of Ja­panese from São Paulo, for ex­am­ple, carry a spe­cial com­bi­na­tion of ori­en­tal charm and Latin spice. That is also true for all the other mi­grants who have cho­sen to live in São Paulo. Their cul­ture wasn’t erased; It mor­phed into some­thing com­pletely new--not fully Ja­panese, or Ital­ian, or Syr­ian, but fully Brazil­ian – with a twist.

That de­light­ful amal­gam of­ten shows up in São Paulo’s ec­u­meni­cal as­sort­ment of de­li­cious cui­sine. With its large, vi­brant Ja­panese com­mu­nity, even if it seems coun­ter­in­tu­itive, when in São Paulo, think sushi.You can’t go too wrong.

The Ital­ian in­flu­ence is also very strong and paulis­tanos will ar­gue that the best pizza in the world is ac­tu­ally made here and not in Italy.You be the judge. São Paulo’s pizza has be­come a com­mod­ity and vis­it­ing the city for the first time and not hav­ing pizza could be com­pared to go­ing to Paris and not hav­ing crois­sant. But be care­ful – pizza in São Paulo has to be taken se­ri­ously. There is al­most a rit­ual to it which starts with queu­ing up for your pizza on a Sun­day night.

Sights and High­lights

São Paulo, to­gether with Rio de Janeiro, is the spot where most over­seas vis­i­tors – whether for busi­ness or leisure – land in Brazil. While a com­plete ex­pe­ri­ence of the city would take a few weeks, it’s pos­si­ble to visit all ma­jor sites within three days.

Fol­low­ing São Paulo’s ex­tra­or­di­nary growth dur­ing the 20th century, most of the old city build­ings have given way to con­tem­po­rary ar­chi­tec­ture. This means that most tourist sights are con­cen­trated around the his­tor­i­cal cen­ter, where 17th­cen­tury churches stand in the shad­ows of sky­scrapers. The tra­di­tional eth­nic neigh­bor­hoods are also fairly close to the cen­ter. Shop­ping and din­ing, though, are spread through­out the city.

São Paulo can be di­vided into seven main re­gions but for most things, you only re­ally need to know two.

Cen­tro His­torico – The his­tor­i­cal cen­ter is worth vis­it­ing dur­ing the day as most old build­ings of the city will be found around the area. While here, stop by Mer­cado Mu­nic­i­pal, a huge mar­ket that sells fresh fruits, veg­eta­bles, cured meats,

cheeses, spices and condi­ments. Plus it’s home to se­cret snack bars and restaurants that – sshh – not many for­eign­ers know about. There you’ll be able to ex­pe­ri­ence ex­quis­ite Por­tuguese cui­sine, in par­tic­u­lar the cod­fish balls, and the mor­tadela (a type of Ital­ian cured meat, a rel­a­tive of bologna) sand­wiches to die for.

Ex­panded Cen­ter – A re­gion that in­cludes Avenida Paulista, the equiv­a­lent to Wall Street in NewYork, and three of the most so­phis­ti­cated neigh­bor­hoods in São Paulo, Jardins, Itaim Bibi and Vila Olimpia. The area is full of vi­brant restaurants and bars. It is also known for hav­ing the best shops in town. If you’d like to pay a visit to some of São Paulo’s finest fash­ion houses, don’t miss Clube Choco­late and Daslu. For the ones who would choose trendy and arty over so­phis­ti­ca­tion, the ar­eas to go would be Vila Madalena, Pin­heiros, Pa­caembu, Higie­n­op­o­lia, Lapa or Pom­péia. These are all full of charm and wit but with a down to earth feel to them, es­pe­cially when com­pared to Jardins.

If you are not stay­ing long in São Paulo, chances are you won’t have time to try it all. But don’t worry. There will al­ways be a next time. Mean­while, try Vila Madalena for din­ner or maybe just a ca­sual beer af­ter your ap­point­ments. BT

Op­po­site page: São Paulo Above from left: Copan res­i­den­tial build­ing; Se Cathe­dral; Es­ta­cao da Luz train sta­tion; res­i­den­tial gar­den in the city

Op­po­site page: Liber­dade the Ja­panese district; Bovespa Stock Ex­change; 25 March area; Commercial build­ings on Avenida Paulista; down­town ar­chi­tec­ture This page: fruit mar­ket and restau­rant in Mer­cado Mu­nic­i­pal

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