One of the preconceptions I had of Brazilians before I arrived in the country was of laid back, happy go lucky, samba dancing, beach going, fun loving folk who don’t worry much about time but prefer to enjoy their quality of life rather than worry about things like work.
I’m sure that there are many Brazilians which fit this description but my experience in São Paulo has also showed me that the ‘Paulista’ works hard, loves money, gets very stressed and can be incredibly, incredibly selfish.
For a good example of this it is perhaps best to first remind you of the good old British obsession with personal space. This essentially means that no-one should come closer to oneself than an arms length unless they intend on engaging in sexual intercourse or are participating in a contact sport such as rugby or Greco-Roman wrestling.
A subliminal side effect of this obsession is that when walking down the street we put not inconsiderable effort into avoiding other people. This often means making sure that passers by have sufficient space when, say, waiting at bus stops to avoid the hideous possibility of anyone brushing against us.
This is not an issue in São Paulo. Paulistas, and I think it’s safe to make a sweeping generalisation here, take into consideration no-one but themselves when walking down the street, waiting at bus stops or even standing on the bus itself.
A Paulista may, for example, be walking along the street and then suddenly stop without any consideration for those walking behind them. Once stopped, they will make absolutely no effort to allow a passage for those pedestrians who do not wish to wait for a bus to continue their perambulation along the pavement unhindered by gormless morons. You may have noticed I am personally irked by this particular aspect of Paulista behaviour.
Once on the bus the Paulista makes no effort to move out of the way to allow other passengers to get past. Preferring instead to stand in the middle of the gangway forcing other passengers to push past them or climb round them in a most inconvenient manner.
Paulista’s have a preference for congregating around the exit of a bus no matter how far away from their own point of alighting they may be. This practice makes it exceedingly difficult for other passengers to alight at their desired stop, having to push their way past the entire bus population through impossibly tight spaces in order to pop themselves out of the bus at the desired moment like a cork from a champagne bottle.
It is little wonder then that a Paulista with resources chooses to drive. However, the average road user in Sao Paulo gives as much consideration to those around them as the pedestrians. Red lights and indicators are viewed as entirely optional and a Paulista will consider it the responsibility of others to get out of their way when changing lanes. Speed limits are considered minimums rather than maximums.
Ok, that’s it. Grumble over. For the next post I promise you something about all the things I like in Sao Paulo