One of the downsides of living in Brazil, especially Sao Paulo, is the shopping. Better put, the EXPENSIVE shopping. It is virtually impossible to buy clothes or electronics that don’t cost obscene amounts of money. Sometimes I go to Shopping Morumbi or Jardim Sul, which are the malls closest to my apartment, to walk around and browse, but normally leave empty-handed, and a bit disheartened that my teacher´s salary does not allow me to buy a low quality, cotton T- shirt for R$100. It is a shocking situation. For example, a Ralph Lauren Polo that is worth $50 in the USA can cost up to R$400 in this South American financial capital. (Hint, 1 US dollar is equal to approximately 1.8 Brazilian reais. I usually just round up and say the dollar is twice as strong.)
Not only the clothes and electronics are outrageously priced. Other very popular, and quite expensive items here are Victoria´s Secret products such as perfume, shower gels, and lotion. FYI, Brazilian women LOVE Victoria’s Secret. When a few of my Brazilian friends came to visit in the USA prior to my move here, I was astonished, and a bit concerned that they would buy bags and bags of Victoria’s Secret fragrances to bring back to Brazil. After moving here, I realized that no, they did not have some crazy VS fetish, rather they were being clever entrepreneurs. Those “buy 5 for $25” deals in the USA are huge bargains compared to the R$50 or R$75 price on one bottle of Victoria’s Secret shower gel, and prove to be quite lucrative when returning here. No, I am not promoting the smuggling of Victoria’s Secret, or any American goods to Brazil, but I am pointing out the colossal prices that exist here on what we Americans would consider normal, everyday products.
This makes my shopping habits differ drastically from last year in Madrid. Those tranquil, madrileño days consisted of Saturdays strolling along Calle Arenal, Gran Vía, or Calle Hortaleza in Chueca, meeting up with friends, and shopping for reasonably priced clothes. My Sundays were always great shopping days too, since I lived on Calle Ribera de Curtidores, the street of the famous Madrid rastro, the huge outdoor market where bargaining for clothes, paintings, pashminas, or basically any item you could ever want, happens every Sunday morning.
So, after being faced with the ridiculous price situation here, I had basically given up hope on reliving my Spanish shopping days in Brazil–until this past weekend when I went to Rua José Paulino (Rua means street in Portuguese) in the downtown neighborhood, Bom Retiro. Bom Retiro is a district with a history of immigrants, from Italians, to Jews, to the Lebanese, and now it is known as being a predominantly Korean neighborhood. The Koreans have opened up many shops in the area, particularly on Rua José Paulino. These shops are mostly wholesale retailers, meaning that they sell clothing in bulk to other stores for commercial purposes. During the weekdays, normal customers without stores are not allowed to purchase clothing there, but on Saturday mornings until 2:00 pm they are open to the general public!
The street is at least a kilometer long, and is lined with stores. At first it was a bit overwhelming, especially for me. I panic even when walking into H&Ms, or any store with crowds of people and an abundance of clothing. Usually I end up leaving empty-handed as a result of being so inundated with the amount of merchandise that I am unable to make a well educated, consumer decision. Well, this shopping experience was no different–the street was jam packed, and the stores were even more crowded. I thought about fleeing the scene, but knowing that it was either this crazy, Brazilian shopping district, or waiting until my summer in the States to buy clothes helped me focus. Valió la pena. It was worth it. I kept my cool, and ended up buying four outfits for only 70R$! Not a bad deal compared to the normal Sao Paulo prices!
The only downside? There are no fitting rooms in most of the stores. Luckily, my outfit was tight enough that I could try the new clothes on over them. If you are ever shopping on José Paulino, make sure you dress appropriately so that you don’t waste your money buying something that doesn’t fit.
Well, that’s one Brazilian puzzle solved, let’s see what else Sao Paulo has to surprise me! Até mais!