Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Rio de Janeiro vs São Paulo

Veja Rio is saying that 47% of Cariocas feel some affinity towards São Paulo, and an additional 10% actually admit to really liking it.

Before you go and let your head spin, there's also my favorite stat in the article: 71% of Cariocas would not live there.  Now there is the Rio de Janeiro I know and love!

There is a lot of truth behind that last statistic, although I think they should have also asked the 29% who would move there what their reasoning is. If I had to stake a wager I would say that they are willing to move there for work and because of a chance at a higher salary/position.

That there is one of the core differences. You go to São Paulo to work. It is the base of business here in Brazil, although Rio is trying to squeeze it's large tanned ass in there too these days. But when it comes to work, the go-getting Cariocas usually ends up spending at least a couple of years living in the land of grey buildings and cold winters.

In São Paulo's defense, I do hear that they have great restaurants. I have many Carioca friends who enjoy spending a weekend there going out, eating, and shopping. Since it is more international than Rio de Janeiro, there are things that you find there that you just can't find here.

Personally though, I would hate to move to São Paulo. I am really making a snap judgement as I have only been there twice but that was enough for me. It was cold, grey, and dirty. I also missed Rio! There were no half-naked people, everyone speaks a clear and easily understandable Portuguese, and there was no view to speak of (I do not count buildings as a view)!

In the article Cariocas listed Traffic (30%), Crime (18%), and Flood (13%) as São Paulo's top 3 cons. Anyone else find it ironic that Cariocas are complaining about crime in São Paulo?

On the flip side, the top 3 pros for São Paulo are Job opportunities (30%), didn't respond (19%), and Diversified commerce (10%). Got to love that the second most common pro is no response. Way to stick it to them Rio de Janeiro!

What do you think? Rio de Janeiro, São Paulo, or both? 


  1. SP has better restaurants , better shopping , better jobs/ salary
    the traffic is horrendous however!!

  2. Rio, no question.
    I feel slightly claustrophobic everytime I'm in São Paulo. I look around and don't see much of the sky, only tall, skinny buildings cluttering the horizon. Not to mention it's a very expensive city; I am not saying Rio is cheap, but SP tops it. There are some very nice neighbourhoods, crime rate is lower and I think paulistanos are lovely people (I have many friends there), but I'd still prefer to live in Rio. I like out selection of restaurants and the fact that I can eat watching or hearing the sea. And the topography is simply too beautiful. :)

  3. Dont know which one...

    Rio is probably handsdown more beautiful but I'm going to go out on a limb and say São Paulo is probably more suited for this city kid from the new York/ Philadelphia megalopolis!

    I'll just buy apartments in both! Problem solved.

  4. I could never live in either, because I am not a big city girl -- at ALL! Born and raised in a small-ish beach town made me that way I guess. However, I would visit Rio over Sao Paulo anyday. I greatly dislike Sao Paulo, and am glad that whenever I land it is a quick stop en route to someplace else. Rio, though, I love to visit Rio. But at the end of the weekend I am happy to be out of the city again!

  5. ah, the Rio/SP rivalry! When I was learning Portuguese in college my carioca TA taught us the following "Rio de Janeiro é uma cidade linda...São Paulo é uma cidade feia". I totally bought into the rivalry (on the carioca side, of course). But, I will buck the trend and say I am quite happy to be out of the RJ/SP axis here in BH.

  6. I think that once you live in Rio, you're spoiled forever and no other Brasilian city can measure up. We've lived in Fortaleza and almost moved to both Sao Paulo (Moema) and Campinas several times (looked at apartments/schools), but those moves fell through thank god. Don't want to move away from Rio , unless it's back to CA.

  7. I would move to SP in a heartbeat, but unfortunately my husband's family and my work keep me in Rio. :(

    I always tell everyone that Sao Paulo is for Paulista's and Rio is for turistas, and I truly believe that 110%.

    SP has way more cultural things to do on a shoe string and if you go to a museum or restaurant there, you have a 90% chance of being surround by Brazilians. In Rio, it is the opposite.

    I personally prefer going to a museum on the day its free in SP and watching all the kids' reactions to everything, it is often better than the museum itself. In Rio, museums are always filled with older people speaking german, english or another non-port language.

    People claim that Rio has the "free" beach and forest (which most acess inlcuding jardim botanico are expensive for many people). But the beach is far away from many people, especially those who work.

    I also think that the "SP has traffic" thing can only be said by people who live in the Z. Sul. Those of us in the Z. Norte and Z.Oeste have to deal with ungodly commutes and a public transportation system that is much more expensive, much more sparce and much more disorganized in SP. In SP you might be on the bus or train longer, but at least you have a bus or train and a decent transfer system.

    Not to mention the whole mentality towards work, merit, functionality, politics and ethnic/cultural pride and traditions is much more comfortable for any type A expat than Rio's laid back feudal egg.

  8. If you have a good job that gives you plenty of free time, live in the Z. Sul, have or have marreid into a even somewhat successful family with decent contacts inside the Z.Sul "egg" and travel by taxi or car, then Rio wins.

    If you have a typical Brazilian job, working 50+hours per week (44 + your overtime), have a strong week ethic but only moderate level of "quem indica," live in the burbs and rely on public transport, then SP wins.

  9. Rachel,

    You are such a Carioca, off course you would hate to move to Sao Paulo, I can't picture you anywhere outside of Rio. :)
    I am a Paulistano, born and raised. I love Sao Paulo mainly because I am a big city guy, for the same reasons I love New York city, plus I have family and many friends there.
    I heard from a great friend of mine, an expat from New York who lived in Sao Paulo that Sao Paulo sometimes felt like Beverly Hills and sometimes felt like Manhattan, off course he always enjoyed the best the city had to offer. He says Sao Paulo is a truly plural city.
    Rio is absolutely amazing, Cariocas are great, the views are breath taking. I have family both in Sao Paulo and Rio and would enjoy living in either cities.
    You did hit the nail in the head regarding Sao Paulo's accent being a bit more clear for foreigners to understand. I have always heard that from expats too.
    Carioca's accents vary, being stronger in folks from the suburbs and less accentuated accent for those that live in the more central/traditional parts of the city. Sao Paulo also has some suburban areas with very heavy Paulista accent. Mooca for example has a ridiculous "Italianized" accent, sort of like the "Guido's" from Brooklyn or parts of New Jersey, think Soprano's.
    You are right about commerce, there is a saying in Brazil that affirms that if you can't find something you need to buy in Sao Paulo it's because it doesn't exist. But I have to say Rio must come in a very close second.
    Restaurants, off course, we have nothing else to do in Sao Paulo but go to the movies or theater and EAT, EAT, EAT, not to mention our Italian heritage makes sure we all think about food ALL.THE.TIME. :)
    You guys in Rio are always in shape and eating healthy and exercising. We are always covered in clothing so what the hell, we pig out all the time.
    I will say, if one could choose, it would be nice to live in Sao Paulo during the week, take advantage of your work opportunities, then take the "Ponte Aerea" to Rio on Friday afternoons and spend your weekends in Rio, the BEST OF BOTH WORLDS. :)


  10. I think this could help those torn between settling in one or the other.


    Over the two I prefer São Paulo yet would not like to live in neither. I think it would be better to live in a small to medium size town near Rio or Sp and since the São Paulo country side is far more developed than Rio's then it seems like the better choice. Perhaps small to medium cities near Rio are better these days, anyone out there with input concerning this? I am considering options in making a living while being somewhat near one of the cities when saying that São Paulo's surroundings seem better suited. Yet it would probably be really nice to live in a place like Buzios and Cabo Frio if you say work from home and visit Rio only on important occasions like a concert or an exposition you would like to attend, or Rantfest if Rachel decides to organize one (in this case Carnival would become Rio's second most important festivity).

  11. I don't believe crime rate is lower in Sao Paulo. At all. I've seen a private security guy being killed in Alameda Lorena (true story), not to mention the crime wave happening in Morumbi, one of the top neighborhoods in the last few weeks. Besides, kidnapping is more common over there (I'm not saying its common but it does happen more often than in Rio, where is truly rare) and I know way too many Paulistas who fear walking by foot. In fact, people use their car to go to places 3 blocs away. Not even kidding!

    That said, I love Sao Paulo. The nightlife is better, there are amazing restaurants (well, Rio have those also) and more options for shopping, etc.

    "Carioca's accents vary, being stronger in folks from the suburbs and less accentuated accent for those that live in the more central/traditional parts of the city."
    Ray, I would disagree. People from the suburbs have a slightly different accent which may be harder to understand (Baixada even has its own accent! If you listen closely its easily noticable) which may be more difficult to understand (being from Rio, I'm not too sure about that) but there's no place where the traditional Carioca accent is more present than Zona Sul (the strong xxxx instead of the S).

  12. Gritty,

    Great link! Thanks for sharing!


  13. But yes, with 40 minutes by plane and planes taking off hourly, 24/7, many people (those who have money, obviously) can get the best of both worlds. Both cities have lots to offer. Although its funny how, even though they're extremely close, they seem worlds apart sometimes. I wasn't one to buy the "Carioca are malandros" stereotype but after living in SP for awhile, I realized how much more NAIVE paulistas seem to be (like, WAY above what I was used to in Rio). They're more friendly too. But yes, I still prefer Cidade Maravilhosa.

  14. Anon,

    This is what many Cariocas have always told me, if someone has very "strong" accent, they are usually from a distant, poor neighborhood, the strongest the accent, the more humble the origin of the person and more distant from the traditional areas of the city.
    That makes a lot of sense because in Sao Paulo is the same way, people who speak with a very strong accent like the folks from Mooca, are from humble/"blue collar" origins and suburban/industrial areas of the city. It is actually the same thing in Boston and New York city by the way.
    Both Cariocas and Paulistas from more afluent areas tend to have a much softer accent.
    It's funny you mention Zona Sul because it is indeed one of the most afluent areas of the city and where the Carioca accent is supposed to have a much softer tone when pronouncing the "XXX" instead of S like Russians or the Portuguese and the "Rs" like the French, instead of the clean cut Rs like Italian influenced Paulistas.


    Could you please verify this for us with Mr. Rant and your family in Rio?
    I am pretty sure when it comes to Sao Paulo accents, but I am not an expert about Rio. ;)

    Thank you


  15. Paulistas are more friendly than Cariocas?

  16. Rachel, you RSS feed appears to have changed - now all I get is you titles in my feed. Just to let you know.

  17. Hey Ben, I switched to the blogger RSS. Does it at least send you a link?

  18. Both are great for me in several ways. I love the beach, but hate sunshine. I what my imports but love my brazilian products. I"m quite convinced each are expensive and have expensive yet great places to eat. I love cool fresh weather, so sadly Rio would be difficult for me. I would melt from the weather like a popsicle.

  19. I've always heard Cariocas say proudly: "You go to SP to work; you come to Rio to play."

    I like to play.

  20. Alex,

    I think there are friendly people and not so friendly people in both places equaly, no different.
    People have said New Yorkers are rude, I never had that impression. I always meet the most helpful, friendly people in New York.
    These are just silly urban myths if you ask me.


  21. Like many here confirmed: I would not change Rio for SP, although I tried to. Did miss the beach and the amazing nature everywhere. However, I head to SP at least 1 time a month as it's the only city in Brazil which offers a good selection of good food, classy shops and good clubs. Paulistas in general are also way more educated than their Carioca 'brothers'. But... still no beach & nature like Rio offers...

  22. Riooooooo !
    Im a carioca girl...born and raised over there, so I just love Rio, but now as you know, I live in Ireland where I can compare to Sao Paulo! hahaha