Wednesday, 29 June 2011

Cute Words in Brazilian Portuguese Part 2

Here are three of my new favourite words each which caught me unaware when I first heard them, I'm sure fellow expats in Brazil will connect with these:

The Number 6
Six is pretty cool because it has 2 names: "seis" which is similar to Spanish and "meia" which means "half" or "sock". At first it can get pretty confusing when you're not used to it. If you want to say, you want six coffees you would order "seis cafés" which is fine but if you have a six in your phone number (e.g. 65726321 you would effectively say: sock five seven two sock three two one or half five seven two half three two one!

Then again if you wanted to meet at 06:30 you would say "seis e meia" but then "meia" would be half not sock or six which is "seis" Get it?

Maybe it's just me but if you have a visual mind you will love this one too. SMS just like six has multiple names too. And one of the most common is "torpedo" which is a general term for either SMS or MMS. I just love the idea of sending someone a torpedo although the first time my operator told me they were about to send me a torpedo I did find it mildly troubling :)

If you want to try you can fire away for free here:

The Last Drink
Anytime I am with a Brazilian and he/she is about to go home they always convince themselves to have on more drink which inevitably turns out not to be the last drink at all because they get stuck in a loop and again convince themselve to have a last drink. I guess this must be quite common because the last drink even has a name of it´s own which is "saideira".

See also: Cute Words in Brazilian Portuguese Part 1

Sunday, 26 June 2011

Roses are red, Violets are blue, but Oranges are, umm, green

Believe it or not the exotic green fruit in the above picture is the Laranja (aka the common Orange).

According to Wikipedia “Brazil is the largest orange-producing nation in the world, and production is located primarily in the state of São Paulo, which accounts for approximately 80% of Brazil's production and 53% of total global FCOJ (frozen concentrated orange juice) production (in the region of Campinas, São Carlos, São José do Rio Preto and Barretos, and the western part of the state of Minas Gerais)”

So if São Paulo is orange central are oranges actually supposed to be green? And if so why don’t we call them “greens” instead of “oranges”?

My theory, which is of course completely unsubstantiated, is that they export all the orange oranges and leave us city folk back home with all the green duds which they couldn’t sell. If anyone’s got a better theory let me know. In nay case they taste quite alright, so I’m not complaining…

Friday, 24 June 2011

Blind-friendly bank notes

Last time I was first in Brazil, there were two versions of the R$10 bank note in circulation, one was plastic and one paper. I was a big fan of the plastic one as it was handy to take to the beach (actually it was washing machine proof as well) so I was disappointed to see it has disappeared. Here´s a picture for old times sake:

Plastic 10R$ special edition note commemorating Brazil’s 500th anniversary
However, 8 years on in 2011, I occasionally get my hands on one of the “new” notes which were introduced earlier this year and although still hard to find they will slowly replace the old currency. As you might expect they have a host of new security features and built-in forgery prevention methods but what surprised me something else.

Comparatively speaking Brazil seems to make a huge effort in providing dedicated services to disabled people whether it be dedicated ramps at fast food outlets, express queues at the bank or reserved seats on the metro. And the new banknotes are no exception, each has embossed lettering to allow blind people to read them and the size has been redesigned so that it is corresponds to the amount of money in question again making them easier to identify for the visually impaired.

So even though aesthetically they’re quite boring and the imagery is by in large the same as he old ones, I still like to receive them, it's just a shame I can't put them in the washing machine anymore..

New vs old: front
New vs old: back

Monday, 20 June 2011

Street Art in São Paulo Part 3

Here are some snaps taken in and around Vila Madalena, a neighbourhood known amongst other things for its street art scene:

Friday, 17 June 2011

Smog City

It’s not fair to say São Paulo has not done anything to improve its air quality.

Back in 1986 the Proconve scheme was introduced which limits drivers use of their vehicles one day a week based on the license plate number of the car in question. This alone is supposed to have led to a reduction of gaseous pollutants by 94 percent, according to the CETESB (Companhia de Tecnologia de Saneamento Ambiental). During the 90s Brazil also eliminated the lead content in gasoline and in 2003 Promoto was introduced which regulates emissions from motorcycles (motorbikes were heavy pollutants because catalytic converters and other pollution control technology were only legal obligations for larger vehicles).

Today there is discussion on how far sulfur content in petrol can be reduced over the next few years but despite all of this the air quality is poor and when the weather is hot (which is most of the time) smog is especially common.

Sometimes pictures speak louder than words so here are some shots of the city I took last month, you can clearly see three horizontal demarcations which are, from the bottom up: city, smog & sky.

Wednesday, 15 June 2011

Country Scenes in the City: Avocado Picking

São Paulo state is one of the main abacate (Portuguese for avocado) producing state in Brasil and has extensive plantations of abacateiros (abacate producing trees) in the countryside. What about the city though?

Last weekend I stumbled across 2 cheerful avocado pickers in central São Paulo. They quickly identified a large abacateiro growing in the corner of the Cemitério São Paulo (São Paulo cemetery) and whose branches extends out over the busy Rua Cardeal Arcoverde. And armed with a long pole and a cardboard box they began harvesting. Here’s the video:

It seems that even in the largest of metropolises, country habits die hard. 

Monday, 13 June 2011

12th June, Valentines Day & the mother of all marketing coups

Today is the 13th June which is Santo António's day. He was associated with marriage and that's why yesterday was Valentine's day or dia dos namorados here in Brazil.

Previous to 1949 there was no such day in Brasil but the marketeer and shopkeeper João Dória decided that creating a Valentines Day similar to that which is celebrated in the Northern hemisphere would be a good way of generating business in an otherwise dull month of June (Brazilian winter). Santo António was the perfect excuse so he decided the day before would be dia dos namorados.

Th eoriginal message Dória put on his shop window was. “Não é só de beijos que se prova o amor” (You don't show your love only through kisses) i.e. Buy, buy, buy which is exactly what happens nowadays and the 12th June is now the 3rd best day for Brazilian commerce only behind Christmas and Mother's Day

So when people complain that dia dos namorados is all too commercial these days, that's not completely true. It was never anything else but a clever marketing ploy to boost winter sales in June.. and it works, this year sales were up 8,6% against the same day last year and 6% in São Paulo!

Saturday, 11 June 2011

Socks and sandals, a uniquely British faux pas?

If I ask you who São Paulo Alpargatas are, you´ll probably come back to me with a blank. If I tell you it’s a company that makes footwear, you´ll probably come back to me with a blank again. But if I tell you that their main product is “Havaianas” I’m sure you´ll know what I’m talking about. The brand has boomed over the last decade or so and whilst in Brazil they can proudly claim that 2 out of every 3 Brazilians will repurchase a set of Havaianas at some point during any 12 month period, their success has also spread overseas rapidly and it’s quite common to see the trademark Brazilian flag popping up on flip flops the world over. Amazingly all of them are produced from one factory in Campina Grande which churns them out at a rate of 5 per second!

Not far from my flat there is one of the many official Havaianas outlets although in São Paulo Havaianas are easily found elsewhere in shopping malls and even supermarkets. What surprised me in the official shop though was the selling of new winter accessories. Up until this moment I had always thought wearing socks with sandals was a Northern European holidaying phenomena and was to be frowned upon by anyone with a remote sense of fashion or style. But look at this:

And before you say, yes but nobody will actually wear them, look at this:

Socks and sandals is bad but surely socks and flip flops is even worse! It must be the cold winter weather

Wednesday, 8 June 2011

Farewell Ronaldo Fenômeno

All good things come to an end. And so it was yesterday. A wet and windy thunderstorm in São Paulo preceded the official farewell of Ronaldo at the legendary Pacaembu stadium where he used to play with Corinthians. The guy was clearly overweight, out of shape and out of his depth and whilst I was amazed the medics let him on the pitch at all nobody else cared; the city had stopped to say “obrigado” to  “o Fenômeno” and nothing else mattered.

Official Goodbye to Ronaldo
And Fenômeno he is. Possibly the greatest number 9 we’ve seen in the modern game he was head and shoulders above his team mates at pretty much every club he went to as well as breaking all imaginable records at the highest level for the seleção. But amid the fanfare and the tears and the memories the burning question was; who on earth is going to replace him? And that is what many of the secondary headlines in today’s newspapers have picked up on. You would have thought the football factory that is Brazil would be able to produce another number 9 but the expectations are unreasonably high. The current coach has already tried André, Diego Tardelli, Hulk, Nilmar, Fred, Alexandre Pato, Jonas as well as Leandro Damião, none of which cut the mustard when you compare with the Fenômeno. Adriano and Luis Fabiano are a little better but only a little and both are ageing and injured.

So who will be the next Fenômeno? Ironically Ronaldo himself may have the answer. In fact he has already told the press who his best replacement is and it is none other than the very player he is now an agent for. It sounds a bit biased but then again we are talking about Neymar, the wonder kid from Santos (Santos is a city in São Paulo state where a certain Pelé began his career) . And when Ronaldo entered the pitch last night, it was Neymar who immediately created a chance for him, not just because he’s his boss but because the player has the unusual ability to create something out of nothing, the creativity, the wow factor. And although he’s only 19, he’s already a huge media icon in Brazil with rumours afoot that the big European clubs will come in for him soon but for now he’s just another wonder kid and to surpass Ronaldo is a big big ask…

So for today at least, let’s just pay homage and say Adeus to the one and only Fenômeno!

Monday, 6 June 2011

The Human Development Index applied to São Paulo's districts

Cost of a much loved imported Gin
Cost of local Cachaça in same store
One of the first surprises I got when I moved to São Paulo were the prices. I had read up extensively on the city, I already knew it was the most expensive in South America and my HR department had already reviewed my salary based on increased living expenses so I didn’t expect it to be cheap. Even so, like-for-like comparisons on basic services such as accommodation and public transport were surprisingly high versus other major cities.

As I have explored further I’ve also found that amongst the high prices there are some true bargains out there and what surprises me the most now, 2 months on, is the difference between the top and bottom price available for what is essentially the same product (eg. a meal, a night out or a piece of furniture). And I’m pretty sure that if and when I venture out of the centre this difference would explode as you start touching on both marginalized impoverished communities and fenced off luxury compounds.

For the unaccustomed it’s hard to get your head round the scale of the price disparity and the social inequalities behind them. Luckily we’re not the first to be interested in the subject; introducing the Human Development Index (HDI)*

Normally this is applied to whole countries with Norway leading and Zimbabwe last placed in the 2010 report:

See for more stats

But someone has gone to the trouble of analyzing all of São Paulo’s districts applying the Human Development Index (HDI)* to each one. Here is the result which is essentially the same map as above but applied at a city level:

Which means that São Paulo simultaneously has districts equivalent in HDI terms to Ireland (as is the case of Pinheiros where I happen to live) or Sweden (Jardim Paulista) as well as Azerbaijan (Lajeado) or Guyana (Jardím Ângela) which is pretty amazing.

Top 5 districts

    Moema (0.961) – (Equal to  Canada – 0.961)
    Pinheiros (0.960) – (Equal to  Ireland – 0.960)
    Jardim Paulista (0.957) – (Greater than  Sweden – 0.956)
    Itaim Bibi (0.953) – (Equal to  Japan,  Netherlands – 0.953)

Bottom 5 districts

    Marsilac (0.701) – (In line with  Mongolia – 0.700)
    Parelheiros (0.747) – (In line with  Azerbaijan – 0.746)
    Lajeado (0.748) – (In line with  Azerbaijan – 0.746)
    Jardim Ângela (0.750) – (In line with  Guyana – 0.750)
    Iguatemi (0.751) – (In line with  Guyana – 0.750)

I wonder how many cities worldwide would have such a wide range of different “human development” within its boundaries...

*For the geeks amongst you the HDI is the geometric mean of the three normalized indices below:





LE = Life expectancy at birth
MYS = Mean years of schooling (Years that a 25-year-old person or older has spent in schools)
EYS = Expected years of schooling (Years that a 5-year-old child will spend with his education in his whole life)
GNIpc = Gross national income at purchasing power parity per capita

Any doubts, just ask ;)

Saturday, 4 June 2011

International brand adaptations: Zara, Burger King and Brasilwagen

When you move to a new country it's always interesting to see how international brands adapt to the local market. I had lunch with a fellow marketeer this week and he told me that Zara (which you won't find on the high street, only in São Paulo's more upmarket and select shopping malls) had to raise prices for the Brazilian market in order to increase desirability amongst middle to high class shoppers and drive sales. It made me smile because it's the exact opposite positioning it has in its home country Spain where it is an affordable, accessible, mass market, high street retailer.

Below are some more obvious examples which I have stumbled across whilst trekking through the southern neighbourhoods Moema, Itaim and Vila Olimpia:

Burgers on the terrace: BK being meteorologically aware
Yes, I did a doubletake too.

Wednesday, 1 June 2011

Gentrifying the cafezinho

Commodity price of coffee past 12months

It’s Arabica harvest time in Brazil, the largest producer of arabica beans, the base ingredient of coffee.  And according to international forecasts demand is almost certain to outstrip supply again this for the fifth consecutive year meaning good business for Brazilian farmers, and there must be a lot of them; Brazil produces one third of the world’s coffee!

Ironically Brazil, the chief beneficiary, is itself partly responsible for price hikes. Along with China, India and Indonesia, Brazil has a growing middle class who is rapidly taking a liking to high-grade more expensive coffee meaning more need for Arabica beans. Next year Brazil will be the largest consumer of coffee as well as the largest producer. And São Paulo is a good place to witness the gentrification of the cafezinho. Here are my last 5 coffees:

As you can see they quite often come with a small glass of sparkling water which, in my humble opinion, is exactly how an espresso but other than São Paulo I have only seen this consistently done in Italy...
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