What an experience ? I still pinch myself when I remember my time in Sao Paulo. The opportunity to visit Brazil and spend time in this city has been one of the most significant life experiences of my thirties. Unfortunately, I don’t have a guide for you because I spent most of my time in the city working or commuting to and from work and/or nourishments. However, through interactions in those settings, I discovered away of being and life in Sao Paulo that I think I (we) could all do more with in our day to day.
KINDNESS OF STRANGERS. I cannot even tell you how many times strangers stopped to help me without prompting or asking. They saw the perplexed look on my face and always stopped to help. There were at least two occasions where I handed my phone to strangers to give the Uber driver directions on how to find me. The Sunday afternoon I arrived, I decided to make the most of the free afternoon to explore the city. I ended up at a cafe trying to figure out the paper map because my phone was acting up. A lady at the restaurant spent ten minutes helping me sort out how to get where I wanted to go. That willingness to lend a hand was really touching and made me love the people more. How could I forget mentioning after a meeting how several friends in the states had asked me to bring back Brazilian coffee but we were working too late for me to get to the supermarket before they closed. A member of the team made plans for someone to pick up coffee packs for me and my colleagues delivered to the office. If we all made a daily effort to give/show kindness - imagine how much better our communities will be.
LEARNING TO SLOW DOWN THE PACE OF LIFE. The pace of life in Brazil is slower than the western world and initially I found that irritating because I have spent all of my adult life living and working in the United States and United Kingdom which is crazily fast paced but is that really the only way ? Most of my days are spent glued to my Computer and phone and since moving to the UK, I feel the work never stops - those hand held things that keep us connected have also become the source of more stress than I am willing to get into in this post. It took me almost a year of working in the UK to stop having panic attack of thinking I needed to be available 24/7. Don’t get me wrong, they work really hard in Brazil, there were days when we worked several hours past closing time; but It is not handled as THE most important thing and it as do or die as (I think) we approach it in the West. There is not a mad sense of urgency and they don’t let work consume them. They genuinely seem less stressed and happier than we are in the West so maybe there is something to this approach. I wonder how much more normalized my blood pressure will be if I put work in its place - meaning work hard; but also step away from it and experience life.
IMPORTANCE OF COMMUNITY. They seem very community orientation (at least with those I interacted with); everyone looked out for each other. I am sure there is a Brazilian version of Corporate competition; but there was a sense of people and relationship first and everyone seemed supportive of each other. I observed this in the work setting; dining out and in the hotel we stayed in during our visit. There is something about that sort of connection that I think is a great value add for my life here and for all of our groups and communities.
VALUE OF CULTURE. Brazilians truly love their culture and they are happy to share it with others and help you experience it. They are patience to share their traditions and discuss why it is important; they take time at lunch/dinner to explain the cuisine and the ingredients. They remind me of my people (Nigerians) that way. Even more important than loving and sharing that culture is the willingness to embrace and inquire about others and strive to get to know about others. There are times when people ask a question about where I am from and as soon as the words leave their lips, they are tune off. That was not the case in Sao Paulo. They are happy to share about their traditions and willing to listen and learn about mine as well. We could all do better listening (truly listen).
WILLINGNESS TO REACH ACROSS. This goes hand in hand with my last point; their willingness to reach across and make other comfortable. I was the one visiting their Country and the only Portuguese words in my vocabulary were “Olá” ; “Obrigado” and “Por favor”. Everyone I interacted with made a great effort to communicate with me in English; even when they only knew a few english words; they strung those together to make me feel comfortable and welcome. I felt very ashamed - given I was the one visiting their Country; I should have been the one going above and beyond to communicate with them and not the other way around.
My interactions with locals left a positive impact that makes me want to return to Brazil in future. I hope to properly explore Sao Paulo and Rio de Janeiro. I want to visit the Christ the redeemer statue; get to beautiful beaches (maybe ring in the new year on Copa Cabaña) and spend time interacting with locals.