Monday, 28 January 2013

Our prayers and thoughts are with Santa Maria

My clubbing years are far behind me. Having to wake up with 2 small children every morning put a very abrupt end to that but my inner (younger) self is allowed to come out once a year. Last Friday was one of those occasions and ended up in one of the worst clubs I've been to in a while (the band was playing Elvis ... I'm an Elvis lover, but I was expecting something else at 2am). Anyhow, this blog is not about good or bad clubs in Sao Paulo because, honestly, I have too little experience but I remember thinking, why can't the doors open from the inside?? The bouncer on the inside had to knock on the door to get the bouncer on the other side to open the door... my normal self was taking note of the inefficiency of this system. I grew up in Hong Kong - inefficiency is not in my blood. 

So in light of the horrific tragedy in Santa Maria this weekend, I'm going to be that over-bearing, anally retentive motherly type that is going to be taking photos and mental notes of every unsigned Emergency Exit or Exit when I'm in a club, bar, restaurant, school, whatever in this country. Or maybe the next time I'll just stay at home. 

Thursday, 24 January 2013

Carnaval in Sao Paulo!

Who said Sao Paulo is dead in January? Just weeks away to Carnaval means that the blocos and samba school rehearsals are already in full swing and there is a host of networking events already booked in the diary.

Sao Paulo's Birthday tomorrow - check out ways to celebrate on Time Out Sao Paulo, Chefs da Rua is our choice!
Every Tuesday, Thursday and Sundays are Samba School practices leading up to Carnaval. Vai Vai in Bela Vista, Perola Negra in Vila Madalena and the infamous Rosas de Ouro out on the Marginal do Tiête
Wednesday 30th January - Canadian International Society Pre-Carnaval drinks at Menys, Pinheiros (you don't have to be Canadian!), all proceeds go to a great cause
Thursday 31st January - Internations
Wednesday 6th February - SP Night Social, networking event in Vila Madalena

A group of friends are going to desfile at the SamBAdromo (heavy accent on that "BA") next Friday night with Escola Vai Vai and this is the costume, hysterical! We did it two years ago with Escola Tom Maior and it was a great experience but once is enough.... To participate with Vai Vai in this costume costs R550 (it's not much cheaper to just go and watch).

If you are looking for the "blocos"= street parties, check this link here, kindly posted on the INC Facebook page.

Sunday, 20 January 2013

Anthony Bourdain - Layover Sao Paulo

We like to meet randoms and we pick them up everywhere. Husband was on his way back from a week work trip to New York last Saturday morning.  Text conversation goes something like this:

Husband: Just at immigration, bringing home a random
Me: A random what? Person?
Husband: yes, person
Me: OK
Husband: His friend didn't pick him up
Me: OK..
Husband: He's a chef from Brooklyn
Me: Awesome, is he cooking me breakfast!!

Of course I'm excited to have another foodie in the house but he hadn't read up on any of the food or restaurants here! He hadn't been planning on spending many days in Sao Paulo but I slowly changed his mind that he would need at least a week to eat his way through this city.

So not everyone is going to have a personal guided tour around the market by Alex Atala of D.O.M, or sit down for lunch with Rodrigo Oliveira from Mocotó or get to stay at Hotel Unique but it's a worthwhile watch by Bourdain, even if you're not a fan and especially if you have friends or family (or yourself even) who have no interest in actually visiting / living in this city. Here are some of my add-on's and there will always be more to add to this list:

- Embu das Artes, a little cobblestoned town about 45 minutes drive from the city with a weekend market and furniture
- Palmito pastels (forget the salted cod!)
- Brunch at the Sao Bento Monastery if you can time it as it's only once a month and you need to book in advance
- Samba club rehearsal weeks leading up to carnaval, most clubs run on a Thursday and Sunday evening
- Agree with lunch or dinner at Mocoto, you're more likely not to die of starvation waiting if you go on a weeknight
- A beer with Cesinha in Vila Madalena of course!

The show gives you a great ticklist of things to do with visitors, though maybe have a quiet night in instead of taking your parents to a Love Motel...

And just for laughs, 'An Idiot's Guide Abroad" Brazil version always gives me the giggles. Here's a short version:

Saturday, 19 January 2013

Alex Atala = tonight

I have two little monsters and no babysitter tonight so am gutted I can't make this tonight but if you are looking for something to do tonight in rainy Sao Paulo it would my first choice!

My friend writes a foodie blog here in Brazil and she is also the Food and Drink editor at Time Out São Paulo so gets all the special notices and invites we don't usually get to hear about until after the act.

Tuesday, 15 January 2013

Health Insurance in Brazil

I have been very privileged to have had access to both good public and private medical care through my entire life and then I moved to Brazil...

A quick summary, if you haven't followed this blog from the start: We chose to move here after my husbands move to Brazil was cancelled in the 2008 crisis. We decided to move here on our own, after our first daughter was born in the UK (National Health Service, fabulous, thank you). We travelled for 4 months before arriving in Sao Paulo, and when we arrived we processed our visa ourselves (my husband joined a Brazilian company as a co-founder so our visa was not a normal sponsored expat one, with included health care. As we were travelling for months before, and we arrived in Sao Paulo on tourist visas, we made sure we were covered on travel insurance.

The problem was when our visa (finally) was approved in September 2010 we weren't covered by travel insurance in Brazil anymore, since we were now residents. We didn't work this out until February 2011 when I had a slight panic as I realised we hadn't been covered for months at this stage. This is a country where a doctor's appointment cost R300-400, and then there's medication on top of that (go "generico" rather than branded).  Some drugstores have loyalty cards and for some medication you can get discounts (you will need a CPF number to register for a loyalty card).

We used a great health insurance broker called Pacific Prime who I highly recommend, and we selected the best options for our family being based in Brazil. This was essential for us as I fell pregnant that same year and gave birth to our second daughter at Hospital Sao Luiz in November that year. In 2012 my husband was able to move company to another local company* and with this contract we gained local health care insurance with a company called OMINT.

When you choose your doctor, dentist, clinic, hospital it would be really helpful if they accept your local health insurance directly otherwise you will have to pay yourself first, and claim it back from your health insurance. I thought Fleury Clinic took my insurance but they don't, and I paid for my tests upfront (more than R$3000 worth of tests!). Also, always check with your doctor whether anything they prescribe you is really, really necessary. If you are paying for your own medical costs they can advise re: cheaper clinics, only doing necessary tests and if you have the "jeito" you can buy your medicine overseas.

I am of the belief that you do not need to go to the doctor for every scratch, sniff and cough. Drives my Brazilian friends crazy but even with health insurance covering our doctor visits, I don't believe in unnecessary and expensive... it should be for the necessary and free.

*He was able to move company as we started our application for permanent residency, based on our second daughter being born in Brazil. You do not have to wait for your PR to be approved to move company. We are 1 year into our application and we have our RNE Protocolo (piece of paper with our photo on + details + an official stamp) as we wait for our actual plastic cards to be processed and ready for pick up.

Wednesday, 9 January 2013

Dating in Brazil

Feliz Ano Novo!! A slow start to 2013 blogging.. as much as I think I'll have time while I'm travelling I'm not so compelled to sit at my computer when I have friends + family to catch up with and of course I'm busy killing saudades for Asian food. But at the same time it was SO nice to come back. I love holidays but living out of a suitcase (especially with 2 kids) is tiresome, and jetlag from travelling half way around the world makes it almost not worth it. This is home for us, for now.

If you have been following the JAM blog, my business partner Maria has been blogging up a storm about her first few months here in Brazil. The most popular one is the dating one she just posted which I'm re-posting here so you can live vicariously through her too!

Dating in Brazil (originally posted here)

It’s amazing how despite the increased cultural sensitivity one acquires from living abroad, extensive travel and the acquisition of international friends it’s an endless educational process.  When it comes to dating inBrazil, it’s no exception here are a few things I’ve learned: (Disclaimer:  the content below is based on observations and extensive interviews with Brazilian friends who have expressed their views.  It does not by any means reflect my private life or my personal experiences which I would prefer to keep private).
Paquerar = To Flirt.  This is the initial “mating’ subtleties two people engage in to initiate contact.  In Brazil it’s almost scripted.  Picture the scene at a “Balada” the Brazilian Portuguese word for “Night Club.”  Guy makes eye contact looks away; you make eye contact and look away. You watch him from across the room as he attempts to arouse your interest by flirting with someone else (you know it’s for your benefit only).  He walks by in the crowded “Balada” slow enough so that by chance you might catch the smell of his cologne or the touch of his skin (depending on how crowded it is).  This might go on for most of the night until he finally gets the courage (or has ruled out his other options…sad I know!) to walk up and talk to you.  He’ll usually ask you to dance and take this opportunity to hold you ever so close.  This is perfectly normal and means absolutely nothing.  If the dancing goes well and there is chemistry between you then the obvious next step is to get even closer as you dance (If you’re not glued to each other than you’re not close enough…reminder this is perfectly acceptable and means absolutely nothing other than for pure “in the moment” enjoyment.
If you’ve made it this far it will only be minutes before you’re snogging on the dance floor. Be warned this is not the casual innocent kiss.  We are talking about an escalation of some serious face sucking.  If you’re tongue is not down his throat on its way to his stomach then its only seconds before it will be.   If this process is still “gostoso” Brazilian Portuguese for “tasty” usually reserved to describe FOOD and WOMEN; somehow one in the same in this country.  A typical use of this word goes something like this “ Que Gostosa, eu vou a comer a voce” “you’re so tasty, I’m going to eat you”.  Then, the snogging is escalated to a side wall at the “Balada” for a little bit more privacy and besides the wall serves a purpose as you’re pressed up against the wall for some serious dry grinding and more snogging.   If things escalate further (and they will) then you can fill in the blanks from there.
 The key here is it means absolutely nothing other than carpe Diem.  Tomorrow is another day which may involve you but more than likely not.  The day after though might have your name on it though as Brazilians always come back for more unlike your typical one night stands and this is where it gets complicated because you move from “Paquerar” to “Ficar” which means ‘seeing each other’. The trouble is you have no idea how many people exactly he was “ficando” with when you met him or while you are “ficando”.  One thing is for sure, as long as he is seeing you from time to time, then you’re still in the game.  The fabulous news is that the rules apply to everybody so you can be “ficando’ with lots of other people too.  Basically this carries on until you start “seeing less and less of the others and more and more of each other.”  In which case you find yourself “namorando” or “Boyfriend/Girlfriend” which means you’re exclusive to each other however this means nothing because you can be “namorando” endlessly for years.  Bottom line unless he is introducing you to his friends (this is universal) then he is definitely not putting a ring on it.  Now, if you’re meeting the friends AND the family, then you are definitely on your way. 
I should also mention most guys in Brazil unless they are married will be living at home with their parents.  I know exactly what you are thinking, which brings me to the next phenomenon…Love motels.  There is NO shame or negative stigma in a love motel as ALL the social classes from A to Z participate as there is something for everyone’s taste and budget. 
Some finer details you should know, while in most places around the world if someone says “Talk to you later” the expression is open ended with no expectations of actually talking later.  The equivalent of this in Brazil is “Let me call you back.”  Which does NOT mean they will ACTUALLY call you back so don’t bother waiting for a phone call.  It’s a way to get you off the phone and nothing more.  Additionally, “I promise…” “See you..” “Yeah we’ll talk” all have Zero value, you might as well start believing in Santa Claus.   Oh I almost forgot, Brazilian men will lavish you with compliments from the second they meet you “you’re so beautiful”, “you’re so smart”, “Wow you smell so great”, “you have such beautiful eyes, legs, hair, lips, body etc etc.”  I know you ARE fabulous, but it’s NOT you its protocol so take compliments with a VERY small grain of salt.  Last, expat single men living in Brazil pick up the Brazilian protocol very quickly so beware!  On the bright side rest assured though when Brazilian men do fall in love they will be eating out of the palm of your hand.
Expand your local lingo with dirty.jam.brazilian_portuguese