Moving to Sao Paulo

Sao Paulo is a sprawling, crowded and extremely cosmopolitan city. Sampa, as it’s known locally, is the largest city in Brazil, with a population of around 12 million people, and about 20 million in the greater metropolitan area. 

As the commercial and industrial centre of Brazil, Sao Paulo is home to almost every major industry in Brazil and has attracted immigrants from all over the globe to become one of the most ethnically diverse cities in the world.

Expats moving to Sao Paulo may initially find that settling in can be challenging. At first, the sheer enormity and seeming chaos of the city can be overwhelming. Sao Paulo also suffers from many social ills that can take time to adjust to, including a lack of adequate public services, pollution, crime and traffic congestion. Added to this, poverty and social inequality are rife.

However, the city’s diversity of ethnicities and cultures is one factor that can help ease the transition. The city is home to significant numbers of minority groups, including Japanese, Arab, European and American expats, who have all added their unique flavours to this melting pot.

Local authorities have worked hard in recent years to improve safety and security in Sao Paulo, and relative to other Brazilian cities, such as Rio de Janeiro, crime rates are lower. Nevertheless, security is still a significant issue and safety remains a primary concern for those moving to Sao Paulo. Violent crime rates are high and opportunistic street crimes are especially common, including pickpocketing and bag snatching. Expats should always be vigilant and try to avoid the higher-risk areas of Sao Paulo, such as the city’s slum areas (favelas).

The cost of living in Sao Paulo is high, so expats relocating to Sao Paulo need to ensure that their salary is sufficient to offset this. Accommodation, in particular, will be the biggest expense and finding a home in a good neighbourhood can be a challenge.

Although foreign children are allowed to attend local schools in Sao Paulo, which are free to all children, the majority of expats send their kids to international schools, of which there are quite a few to choose from. Although there is a lack of adequate government healthcare, those with private health insurance can enjoy excellent private medical care. Sao Paulo has even earned a reputation as a medical tourism destination in recent years, with many flocking to the city to undergo medical procedures, particularly in the dental and cosmetic fields.

Expats in Sao Paulo can enjoy a vibrant lifestyle, with plenty of recreational and social activities. The city has a great nightlife, with restaurants, clubs and bars dotting its streets. Many cultural festivals bring colour and fun to the city, not least of which is the annual Carnival. Outside the city lie mountains and rainforests that offer many opportunities for hiking and weekend getaways. The Paulista Coast is also only an hour’s drive away, where there are magnificent beaches and seaside towns to be explored.