Life in São Paulo

1960 photo by René Burri

Dalrymple does not know whether São Paulo is the largest city,

though I certainly hope so. Its skyscrapers seem to extend over the whole earth as a rash spreads in an infectious disease.

He notes that its public transport system

is undeveloped, to say the least, so the rich use helicopters, the middle-class are stuck in traffic jams for a considerable proportion of their waking lives, and the poor are squashed like sardines. There are people in São Paulo who spend three hours each day getting to work and three hours going home. The car, which was once a symbol of personal freedom, is there a symbol of enslavement. Even the thought of the traffic in the city exhausts me and drains me of the will to leave my study.

Yet the Paulistanos do not seem to Dalrymple ill-tempered, rather the reverse.

That anyone can maintain his good humour after 15 minutes in a traffic jam, let alone after the times endured in São Paulo even to go short distances, is proof of human resilience. When I am served by an obliging waiter in a restaurant in São Paulo (which, incidentally, is one of the best cities in which to eat), I cannot help wondering how long it took him to get to work for wages that cannot be princely.

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