There is no getting away from it. Brazil is fanatical about football and between now and next year that fanaticism will be transmitted around the world giving the unfair impression that there is nothing else that occupies the Brazilian psyche. The truth is that Brazil is diverse, stylish, artistic, gastronomically delightful, fashion conscious and socially vibrant.
The impression we all get from the pictures on the TV is that it is sunshine and a beach – Copacabana Beach actually, if we are honest. We see pictures of young guys playing football on the beach or the statue of Jesus towering above Rio. The other pictures we see are of Western Europeans navigating the Amazon in search of lost tribes. None of this even hints at the true extent of culture and social fabric in this vast country.
What surprised me on my arrival for the first time in Brazil was how I had to search for a game of football. I was working in Sao Paulo and it took me a few days to acclimatise to the fact that I was in a sophisticated city. The electricity worked, water ran out of the taps when you wanted it, and there was so much choice in the retail sector. Just ambling along Rua Osca Freire, the main shopping street, gave an immediate impression of things to come. It was the first time that I had been to a Shopping Mall where there was an entire floor dedicated to World food – and by that I mean that you could get a meal from almost any world destination you could think of.
But the main surprise was how stylish everything was. Walking down the streets was more like Milan or Paris – not a Poncho in sight. And this was not just the clothes. The jewellery being worn was elegant and a synthesis of local art and European form. Nothing was ostentatious. It was quietly stated and elegant.
All of that said Sao Paulo is not an easy city to go shopping in. Yes, there are lots of Malls but the real delights are hidden and not easily disclosed. My advice is to use a site like TripAdvisor to do your research. You can also type “Sao Paulo shopping” into Google and be surprised by the variety of entries to be found.
I have only given Sao Paulo as an example, but Brazil can excite and delight whichever city you visit. Don’t limit yourself to Salvador, Rio, Brasilia, or Fortaleza. The options are limitless, but be prepared to be surprised wherever you go.