I recently returned to the U.S. for a few weeks. This isn’t my first time back since I moved to Brazil, but nonetheless I still experience a culture shock coming back. You learn so much about your own country after you leave it. None of the following makes São Paulo necessarily better or worse, but they are simply the differences that stand out to me the most when I come home.
1. The streets are so empty! Granted, nearly anywhere is less congested than São Paulo, but it still manages to shock me. Also, everyone on the road stays in their lanes, which are so wide. And did I mention it’s so quiet? Every morning in São Paulo, I am guaranteed to hear the truck selling gas, someone announcing the price of oranges and pineapples from a microphone, and of course, plenty of car horns. There are also always people out on the sidewalk, walking to places, or standing outside of businesses chatting. It’s a novelty to see deserted sidewalks.
2. I’ve found that the consumerist in me gets ramped up in the U.S. in part because there seems to be so many more deals and bargains to be found. While in Brazil I tend to be mindful of each purchase I make, I find myself in the U.S. absentmindedly picking up a second item because it’s Buy One Get One Half Off.
3. While São Paulo (and Brazil in general) is definitely not a homogenous place physically or ethnically, there seems to be a shared Brazilian identity. Unless proven otherwise, it’s assumed that everyone speaks Portuguese and eats rice and beans. In my native San Francisco Bay Area, English is only of the many languages spoken, and it’s just as common to meet someone born in Mexico, India, Afghanistan or the Philippines as it is to meet someone born in the U.S. It may sound funny, but I feel at home when everyone looks different.