My Top 5 Latin American Cities / by Tony T'Kach

4. Sao Paulo.

Reverse Culture Shock is a term to describe the experience of re-entry to your home country after a substantial amount of time traveling or working.  Most travelers experience more reverse culture shock than actual culture shock. I had read about reverse culture shock before my trip and in minor ways, I experienced it in Sao Paulo, the most populous city in the Southern Hemisphere.

Before arriving in Sao Paulo, I had spent about 3 weeks in Bolivia which is the poorest country in South America and one of the poorest countries in all the Americas. Most of the time I spent in Bolivia was at an elevation of about 10,000 feet

  • Lake Titicaca - 12,500 ft

  • La Paz - 12,000 ft

  • Potosi - 13,300 ft

  • Uyuni - 12,000 ft

  • Sucre - 9,000 ft

With the exception of La Paz and Santa Cruz, most of the places I visited in Bolivia had a relatively small population. Sometimes dirt roads (Uyuni) or crumbling sidewalks (La Paz). Cheap public transportation and meals. And cold. A few nights in Bolivia the temperature was below freezing at night!! The thought of freezing my ass off in South America is not something that really came to mind.

So when I arrived to Sao Paulo, it was completely different than any of the places I had been in Bolivia and even a majority of my trip at that point.

Everything seemed so modern! Riding in a taxi to my hostel which cost me about $80 (highway robbery) I noticed the streets and highways were exactly like home. Strip malls. Nice sidewalks. Turn lanes. Tons of trees! Where was I? This might sound pretty insignificant, but coming from Bolivia andparts of Peru, it felt like being back home.

I stayed a week in the Vila Madalena neighborhood which is an upper-middle class area with a lot of nightlife and bohemian culture. Walking around this area felt like walking around a large city in the US. Even some Americans I met had posted pictures on Facebook of the area and their friends back home asked when they had returned back to the States.

 A typical street in Vila Madalena and about a 5 minute walk from my hostel.

A typical street in Vila Madalena and about a 5 minute walk from my hostel.

A very nice metro system was easily accessible from where I stayed and I could venture into Sao Paulo with ease. Taking the metro is my personal favorite method of getting around a large city (once I can figure out where to go). Taxis are expensive and buses are more difficult as you need to know the city quite a bit more to know when to hop off a crowded bus.

Sao Paulo really surprised me. Like Bogota, others didn't repeatedly tell me how great it was prior to arriving as many had done regarding Buenos Aires. I realize that I was only there a week, but could have stayed a few more I'm sure. It was such a change of pace from where I had been earlier. Busy. Intense. Diverse. Warm. Energetic.

I felt comfortable in Sao Paulo. It didn't scare me that there was 20 million people in the concrete jungle. It didn't disappoint me that there wasn't a beach nearby. It drew me in as it had to many foreigners before me. I think I could live in Sao Paulo as crazy as that sounds.

My Highlights:

  • Beco do Batman Street Art
  • Sao Paulo Museum of Art (MASP)
  • Mercado Municipal
  • Futbol Museum
  • Paulista Ave
 Beco do Batman

Beco do Batman

 MASP

MASP

 Mercado Municipal

Mercado Municipal

 Football Museum.

Football Museum.