Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Zona Sul vs Barra

Barra vs Zona Sul is an argument right up there with Flamengo against any other Rio de Janeiro team. What We Did in Rio reminded me of this debate. Let me rephrase that to be less politically correct, this non-debate.

I am full on pro Zona Sul. Sure I've teased myself with apartment and house ads from over there in the boonies. I've even been to some AMAZING homes of friends that are surprisingly affordable in comparison to my zone. The problem? They are in Barra! 

For those of you who don't know, Barra is not in Rio de Janeiro. Not for me anyway. There was a time when the city of Rio de Janeiro actually wanted to make Barra it's own city like Niteroi. Of course Barra didn't want that. For me it might as well be another country.

Actually, let's just call Barra Little USA for the sake of argument. For starters people don't walk anywhere. Seriously, I walked on the wild side once and insisted on walking in Barra. I was alone in that decision. Secondly, they have a statue of liberty and a Hard Rock Cafe. Thirdly... I don't want to live there? 

To be fair, it is just a different kind of lifestyle, one that foreigners may feel more comfortable in. It's like being a  coffee or tea person. Both are types of breakfast beverages but show a very different taste in morning. 

Personally, I like my morning strong and in my face. You can't miss the smell, attitude, nor wake up call from my coffee. Barra-ists prefer the more watered-down, slow wake up lifestyle of a good tea. They prefer their morning to slowly seep into existence. There is no attitude, it all looks the same, and it takes FOREVER to get there... the tea... I mean... Screw it, Barra is far people. 

While I enjoy that occasionally, I figure if I am going to live in Rio de Janeiro I might as well actually live in the heart of it.

Let the debate begin! Why do you live in Zona Sul, Barra, or Other?

*Thanks again to What we did in Rio for inspiring my post! You should go check them out!*


  1. I don't have a car and we live in Barra...Jardim Oceanico is the exception to the rule...and I'm surprised to say, I love it here!!! Everything in walking distance, calm, close to the beach and the Avenida, yet without the excessive rent of the Z. Sul. And did I mention patios? Space? A kitchen that takes up TWO FULL ROOMS?
    Be jealous. It's okay!

  2. A kitchen that takes up two FULL rooms?! Ok, I didn't see that ad! Whatever though, space is a state of mind ;)

  3. It is sort of like Manhattan lifestyle versus New Jersey suburbs lifestyle. Barra actually reminds me a lot of Fort Lauderdale.
    It is a completely different life, even when the subway get's to Barra, it won't be the same.
    You are in the city, in the middle of it all. Sorry, I would take Zona Sul all the way, no doubt in my mind.


  4. We looked at both. For the safety factor, we hands down chose Barra. Yes, the statue is tacky, and...FYI...the hard rock is no longer open, but to walk with my louis purse on my side and not worry about it being taken from me is worth living out in the "suburbs". We just come to zona sul when we like to be a true Carioca!

  5. Well I spent 3 weeks in Barra and I didn't even know they had places like that in Brazil before or that this kind of American lifestyle exists there ...taking the car everywhere and going to the Shopping..not only for shopping but to eat out at this Outback or whatever franchise and then movies or even the doctors are there..everything! Not my cup of tea definitely!

  6. I dont know about Zona Sul x Barra but for me the best place to live in SP is Alphaville....its soooo far out and u need a car to go everywhere but its safe , lots of space , big houses , good schools.

  7. I have to say that safety is an issue. I don't feel any safer in Barra but I know that condo and house living is safer. In that I mean that I don't feel safer walking around although the classes are more separated.

    At the same time, I prefer my kids being raised where they see the difference. The fact that my almost 5 yr old understands that there are people without food and homes... well, it's harsh but a reality you just can't teach via books.

    They are Brazilian, this is their country too. They need to be a part of what is really happening. At the same time, I live in Zona Sul. Regardless of the neighborhood, it is safer. Momma Lion has come out many times with street kids when I have been alone with my boys...

  8. Hard Rock closed in Barra and is reopening in Zona Sul (basically on that street in front of Arpoador.)

    I think I would pick Ipanema or Leblon or Lagoa way before Barra.

  9. Maybe Barra and Zona Sul are like Crimson and Clover.


    I think this only came to me because The Hard Rock Cafe was mentioned, plus Alex (above) looks like the guitarist.
    On a sidenote: wasn´t Joan Jett quite beautiful?


  11. Alphaville has their own police so its safer to walk / drive in that area. I felt totally safe.
    But Barra doesn't have that so I guess I would say Zona Sul

  12. Hey! - Thanks for the mention - this subject really brings out the defensive in so many people! - and I can honestly see it from both sides of the tunnel. Personally, if I had to live in Barra I´d seriously consider going back to the UK.

    A bit extreme? Dunno... mebbie, but I just love being able to steb outside my front door and walk to any number of high end/low end/middling boozers and inflict my shocking portuguese on Copacabana! - I´m sure there are possibilities in Barra, but I just don´t feel it, and believe me I´ve tried. - The cold, wet stuff just does not taste the same in a shopping mall.

    xx Andy

  13. If the sun whould shine in Europe as often as in Rio, I would live there again in a heartbeat. but it doesn't :)

    Zona sul (especially Leblon & Ipanema) offers a way better quality of life. It offers at least some soul, and offers the beter bars, resto's, shops Rio has to offer,...

    Barra has 1 nice place: it's beach, when there's not to much wind that is. Further than that, it's far away from everything, full of ugly buildings (at least Miami offers some nice quality of living) and again a whole soulless area.

    If there is really no other option than living in Barra (work): Jardim Oceanico in indeed the only place which could get categorized as 'ok': buildings not to high (and ugly), smaller & calmer streets and shops/bars/resto's near and in a walkable distance. Its still a very small area though...

    I do enjoy Ipanema & Leblon. They offer a good quality of life, nice streets with tropical plantation and "cozy" bars/resto's everywhere, including some nice shops (Barra shopping centers cater to the tasteless). And this all in a walkable distance. Owh... and a nice beach of course.

    I lived in Recreio before and tried Barra for 2 weeks. It's like living in another planet. It's not Rio. If people say different, you can almost bet for sure "jealousy" is the right word to describe their feelings. Zona Sul wins for sure.

  14. I dont think Barra is full of ugly buildings!! They look pretty nice to me :)

  15. @ Alex,

    I meant the guitarist looks like the picture you selected for your profile. Don't bame me, that pose isn't my fault :-)

  16. I think the whole Barra vs. Zona Sul debate misses the point. The Z. Norte is much more falvorful.

    Much of Leopoldina (V. da Penha, Penha Circular, Bras de Pina) is like a small town within the city. Portuguese immigrants bought large conjoined tracks of land generations ago and as the families grew the houses and number of houses on the property did as well. Stil, everyone has known everyone and all of their business FOREVER. Kids ride bikes and fly kites on side streets while their parents and grandparents supervise sitting on the curb in lawn chairs.

    I live in a house, with a decent kitchen and bathroom with a bathtub, a garden with plants and herbs of all varieties, a varanda and big patio area with a grill, brick pizza oven and plenty of space to hold parties. We have 14foot ceilings, large windows with windowsills deep enough to sit in when reading a book and ceiling fans to help beat the heat without running up the electric bill with an AC.

    We share a gigantic backyard with the house's of other relatives that has a fishpond, tile kiddie pool, play set and plenty of space for our nephew to dig in the backyard and ride his bike around to his hearts content, cocoa tree, carambola tree and an old chicken coop now serves more as a storage shed for a great uncle's junk collection.

    We have are 20min from downtown, close to the airport, well served by subway, busses and trains. Everything is cheaper and more laid back.

    People frown on area like V. da Penha, claiming its unsafe, but I have never once been robbed in the Z. Norte (knock on wood) but I have been robbed both in Barra (at gunpoint) and Ipanema. The truth is that the gossip tree adds a level of protection to your house, car and person. And living in an area that isn't as racially divided (lots of lower/lower middle class superwhite blonds in areas like Penha) also adds a bit of extra security.

    I think the Z.Sul vs. Barra is a bit absurd. If I was in Brazil for the cosmopolitan experience, I don't think it would be enough to keep me here. The familial experience and flavour of other areas along with the bang you can get for your buck makes me laugh a bit everytime I here this back and forth.

    R$40 a month for a club with unlimited tennis, swimming, basketball, etc.? All you can eat pizza, pasta and apetizers for R$12? Big bottles of beer for R$3?

    I've lived in other parts of Rio including the Z. Sul and Recreio, but dont get the big deal with either Z.Sul or Barra.

  17. Interesting take on it. I could never get my Zona Sul born Brazilian into Zona Norte but he also has no desire to live in Ipanema/Leblon. Of course it'd be great to be right next to the beach but that's it. I don't have the space but I love the family and Brazilian aspect to living in Laranjeiras.


    If I lived in Rio it would most certainly be in Zona Sul. Barra looks "nice" but totally fake! I've lived in the suburbs my whole life and want some CITY living.

    That being said I could see myself fitting in perfectly in Complexo do Alemao or maybe even Manguinhos. Sorry for the distasteful joke!

  19. Alex 99% of the people living in the favelas are good hard working people.
    It is estimated that 0.5% of the people living in a favela are drug dealers , thieves , etc

  20. There's a great documentary about just that, based on the real people who live in Rocinha. I can't for the life of me remember the name of it...

  21. Is this it Rachel?

    Rocinha, daylight of a favela.


  22. Gritty, you are officially a rock star! The first film I ever watched in Portuguese (without subtitles) :D

  23. "Gritty, you are officially a rock star!"

    And a better looking rock star than Alex at that. Lol.

    I am the astronaut below who gets the girl.


  24. I can see how Barra suits some people's needs - my sister-in-law just moved to Barra as she is expecting a second child and can get a waaay bigger place in Barra.

    But I can't stand it. Any place designed for cars more than people just makes me depressed. I was offered a pretty decent job in Barra, but the commute would have killed me.

    Speaking of films about favelas, did anyone see "Dançando com o Diabo"? http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8KoLwUOpAWk
    I thought it was pretty good.


    OK all better.

  26. Boys, play nice or both of you are going to sit in time out!

    Tom, I agree completely! And I'm going to check out that film :)

  27. Please tell me I did not just read that HardRot is opening in Arpoador?

    I moved from Ipanema (7 years there) to somewhere outside Niteroi. I couldn't describe the location if I were on the phone with the fire department. This side of the world has advantages (huge house for half the price of small Zona Sul apartment, Comboinhas and clean uncrowded ocean beaches, everything costs less, I get rum for the same price I paid 8 years ago in Rio) and disadvantages (barking dogs, chickens, people burning things 24/7, need for a car, bus-ferry-bus to get to Rio)and after six months.....it will be back to Zona Sul. That is if we can find a LL willing to take a deposit, which is a whole nother subject.

    Barra? No offense, but why move all the way to Brasil from Seattle only to live in Bellevue. Recreio, maybe.

    PS: just discovered your blog and have had a great time reading it.

  28. I think you are kidding yourself if you think Zona Sul is anything near to being the 'real Brazil'. Get over yourselves people - you are living in some of the most expensive real estate in the world, which automatically excludes anyone who isn't being paid huge amounts (or those whose companies are willing to fork out for exorbitant rents - please don't kid yourselves either that you would pay those rents if they weren't being paid for you). I don't like Barra much either, but I don't kid myself that living in Zona Sul is any more 'real'. You are rubbing shoulders with billionaires and film stars. You want to keep it real? Rent something in Rocinha and see how the 'real' people live.

  29. No no no, you get over yourself! I'm not living in a penthouse in Leblon and I never claimed to be less than middle class. My husband is a working Brazilian making Reias. We live on the other side of Zona Sul. While still quite nice it is not full of billionaires nor are the rents any more exorbitant than a big city.

    And there are many levels of 'real' people in Rio. With your argument maybe we should all go live in the suburbs of the city of RIo. That where the real real people live. Dude, soap box = no thank you