Danger Doing Business in Brazil? Pfft!


Embarrassingly, I’d never heard of São Paulo before carsales started to talk to Santander about its Webmotors business just a few years back.

Not many people in Australia know anything about São Paulo as I think when most people in Australia think of Brazil they think of Carnival in Rio, the Amazon jungle and lots of danger.

The danger part is what I get asked about the most each time I visit our Webmotors business.
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This is especially so when articles like naming world’s most dangerous cities in a news.com.au article on 28 January 2016 in which Brazil had 21 of the top 50 named and Latin America 41 of the 50 (http://www.news.com.au/world/the-worlds-most-dangerous-cities-have-been-named/news-story/094d3710262f823329bbea27f9eb3744).

São Paulo wasn’t on the list but when you have a city like São Paulo with 23m people (in the greater area) of which a great percentage are poor, there is going to be a lot of crime and this makes it dangerous; everyone I deal with in the city tell me this. It is not uncommon for people to be robbed at gun point or kidnapped.
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I will say straight up that in over fifteen business visits there over the past three plus years, I am yet to feel threatened (touch wood). In saying this, I make a point of not putting myself in possible positions with the bulk of my time split between the hotel, office and with local work colleagues.

From a business visitor aspect, here’s two examples of differences between São Paulo and Australia’s largest cities:

1 Road Rage
Whilst the most common after market accessory for cars is bullet proof glass and any medium to high end car is fully bullet proof, combined with horrendous and chaotic traffic with weaving drivers (especially motorbikes), in all my visits to São Paulo road rage just isn’t part of the scene. Merging is just part of what they have to do to get around. Try merging into Punt Rd on any given weekday and you’ll probably see some road rage and almost without exception, just plain ignorance and arrogance that can certainly turn dangerous!
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2 Celebration Time
I often visit the bar and restaurant neighborhood of Vila Madelena in São Paulo with the Webmotors team which can see thousands of people in the dozens of establishments drinking in the streets from early afternoon through to late at night and I am yet to witness one bit of aggression despite drinking allowed in public, bottled beverages are common on the street and the usual bumping into randoms in large crowds that you see everywhere. Imagine in Australia if alcohol could be purchased from street vendors in bottles and you couldn’t help but run into crowds? There’s a reason alcohol is barred in public and bottles are barred in most bars here – we are a nation of cashed up bogans (generalisation I know but a somewhat harsh reality).
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The poor usually have nothing to lose so for this reason the danger is somewhat harsher than drunk, cashed up bogans king hitting someone during a big night out or getting upset because you had the nerve to merge into “their” lane.

We Australians could certainly learn a thing or two on these things from São Paulo and Brazil in general.


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