Benjamin Potet has been living in Sao Paolo, Brazil since December 2011. Ten months ago, he decided to leave everything behind in France and live the adventurous life of an expat. At 28 years of age, he earns around 3,500 reals (around 1,400 euros) by working in communications and giving language courses. He says he steers clear of the consumerist culture that is highly-regarded in Sao Paolo.
After living for a while in Spain and Chile, Benjamin Potet found himself reluctantly spending his days at a communications agency in Paris. At 28, he decided to leave and move overseas for good. He first spent six months in Lisbon learning Portuguese before going 6,000 kilometres away, to Sao Paulo, Brazil. Being multilingual, he began by giving French and Spanish classes, then found a job at a recruitment agency where he became a communications manager.
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“In Sao Paulo, people work a lot and spend a lot”

I live very comfortably with my 3,500 reals (around 1,400 euros) a month [editor’s note: R$1,500 (around 600 euros) from his main job + R$ 2,000 (800 euros) from giving language classes]. I share a 250m2 apartment in the centre of Sao Paulo with two other people, for which I pay R$650 (260 euros). At the beginning, I used to go and listen to samba at clubs, but now I prefer going to street parties on the weekends. I don’t put aside more than around a hundred reals (around 35 euros) for eating and drinking out. I play football every Thursday night with friends: a must in Brazil. Hiring the pitch costs us R$40 (16 euros) per person. Apart from this, I also try to go to the stadium to watch football matches every two months or so. My own leisure expenses therefore come to a total of R$500 (200 euros) per month. Then, with Internet, telephone and other things, my expenses add up to around R$1,500 (570 euros) a month. I only take public transport or walk. Having a car here is silly; it is worse than the centre of Paris.
“Even in the third largest city in the world, it is possible to avoid supermarkets”
In Sao Paolo, people work a lot. It’s all buildings, suits and the subway rather than the beach, bikinis and samba most people think of when they imagine Brazil. In this frantic atmosphere, people seem to feel obliged to spend more than they earn; it’s a sort of ostentatious consumerism. I decided to live differently. I may well live in the third largest city in the world, but I never go to supermarkets for economic and political reasons. Therefore, I go to the street market every Sunday morning and to a farm every month to buy produce directly from the farmer. In all, I spend around R$15 (6 euros) a week on fresh fruits and vegetables; the same amount on meat and fish, and around R$50 (20 euros) per month on pasta, beans, rice and other basic groceries.
The hyper-consumerist behaviour of Sao Paulo residents is also evident in the way they use energy and water. Most of the time, my flatmates spend close to 30 minutes in the shower, or leave the lamps on. For them, this is normal. They don’t think about the risk of a shortage of resources nor the impact their consumption has on the environment. I pass off as a filthy Frenchman because I only spend 10 minutes in the shower.
“The major draw of this ‘concrete jungle’ that constitutes Sao Paulo is, without doubt, its cultural offerings”
My main objective is to learn about Brazilian society and to meet people from different backgrounds. Thanks to my language classes, for which I charge a lot less than average, I teach students, hairdressers, doctors, small business owners, the unemployed, architects, etc…people who don’t just want to learn French in order to distinguish themselves socially. I mainly work independently, outside of the language schools, which I blame for taking advantage of numerous foreigners who live in Brazil illegally by charging them too much.
The major draw of this ‘concrete jungle’ that constitutes Sao Paulo is, without doubt, its cultural offerings. I take several courses in documentary production and photography. This costs between four and 40 euros a month. I expect to enroll in university next semester for courses in screenwriting and documentary scriptwriting (the cost will be R$800, or 320 euros, per year), in order to have it on my CV.
At the end of the month, I save on average between R$1,000 and R$1,500 (400 – 570 euros). I use it to finance my own documentary production projects. I really have the feeling that I have found balance by living here, and that I am learning a little bit more every day.
Post written with FRANCE 24 journalist Alexandre Capron.