A couple of months ago I wrote an article for the foreigner website mydestination, on clubbing in Sao Paulo. Mydestination is a great site for tips and advice, on where to go and what to do in the city.
Check it out here….mydestination.com/saopaulo
Nestled away in Latin America’s largest concrete jungle are some amazing night clubs. The city has so much to offer in the way of clubbing that you’re definitely spoilt for choice when it comes to choosing a place to party over here. But as I found out not long after arriving in this city, you’re likely to find that the experience of clubbing will be slightly different to the one you may be used to back home. So if you’re new to the city (or indeed to Brazil itself) and you’re here to experience some of Sao Paulo’s finest night clubs, here are five things you might want to know before heading out:
#1: You’re Likely To Get ID-ed
It was my first night out in the city, and I couldn’t help but look blankly at the beef cake guarding the entrance to the club doors after he spoke to me. I really wanted to understand what he had just asked, however having been in Brazil for just a few weeks, it was glaringly obvious to me that my vocabulary bank of about ten words was of little use. As my face screwed up into an expression of panic, my Portuguese speaking friend was luckily nearby to offer a translation.
“He wants to see your ID”.
‘My ID!’ I thought to myself, ‘he wants to see my ID!?! Really….this is AMAZING!’ I’d been advised to bring my ID out, just in case; but this was the first time in over ten years that I’d been asked to show it on my way in to a night club. In the clubs in the UK, you only really get asked to show identification if you look under 21, so naturally I felt quite flattered! I assumed that despite approaching 30 with an ever receding hair line, I was being asked to prove my age because in Brazil, for whatever reason, I looked youthful.
“That’s right Andrew, you’ve STILL got it!” I told myself as I flashed him my passport “ You’ve STILL got it!”
Yet it was only after I’d been waved into the club that I turned around, and saw that my friend was being asked to show his passport too. The woman stood in line behind him was also pulling out her ID, ready for inspection.
So it turns out that everyone can expect to be ID-ed when entering the big clubs over here, not just those who are as young looking as myself! There are some clubs where you can get away without having it, especially if you’re partying Sunday through to Thursday. BUT if I’m dragging my showered ass over to a night club, I’m going to be taking ID out with me no matter what day of the week it is…to make sure I’m going to be getting in. A photocopy of your ID will be sufficient in some places, but again, this is not always the case…so if you don’t feel comfortable taking your documents out, I’d suggest calling the club ahead to check. And if you do need to take your passport out, make sure you’re able to put it somewhere safe after it’s been inspected.
#2: You’ll Want To Know What Consumação Means
Once inside the club, you’re likely to find yourself waiting in another line to speak to someone behind a desk. Here you’ll probably be asked the following question:“Consumação ou Entrada?” What the member of staff is asking you here, is if you want to pay a cover charge or take the more expensive consumação option (a literal translation of this word is ‘consumption’).
|D Edge, Sao Paulo
Let me give you an example of how this works. Let’s imagine that the nightclub you’ve just entered charges a R$20 cover to get in, but it’s R$40 if you go for the consumption option. If you pay “entrada,” you’ll need to pay R$20 PLUS whatever you consume in drinks. But if you opt for consumption you can use the R$40 to drink, and if you consume this amount or more, then you don’t need to pay a cover charge. If you purchase less than R$40 worth of drinks though, you will still pay R$40. So thinking about it, it’s actually worthwhile to take the consumaçãooption if you plan on doing a lot of drinking!
I gave you a cheap example here, but some places in Sao Paulo are a lot more expensive. Well, when I say ‘some places’ what I actually mean is ‘a hell of a lot of places!’ If you’re not a drinker, or you’re driving that evening, then it’s probably wise to just go for the cover charge and drink from your friends’ consumption cards to save money.
So in exchange for your ID number and your answer to the “consumação ou entrada?” question, unless you’re at an ‘open bar’ party (which means all you can drink) you’re going to be given a card on which you can get your drinks at the bar. This card effectively works as a way to record your bar tab, and is either going to come in a paper or plastic form. Personally I prefer the paper cards, because after ordering your drink at the bar the bartender will physically score off how much you’ve spent on the card with a pen; and this means you can check how much your tab will come to at any point during your evening. However the plastic cards don’t give you that luxury, so after scanning/ swiping your card through their computer system, unless you are able to ask the bartender how much you’ve spent, you will need to keep a mental note of how much your bill is going to amount to.
Let’s be honest, after a few hours of dancing and drinking, remembering how much of a tab you’ve run up is easier said than done!
So what happens then if you find you’ve lost your card or don’t have enough money to settle your bill? Well, this is a good question, and one I’m fortunately not in a position to be able to answer. Having heard a few horror stories though, what I will say is this…be careful, and guard that card WITH YOUR LIFE!
On the plus side, with this card system you’re going to find yourself being served quicker than you would back home, because the bartender isn’t also dealing with change…so this card system is actually not a bad idea, because really, the last thing you want to be doing after standing in a long queue to get into a club, is to stand in another long queue to wait for your drinks.
#3: Men dance in clubs
It’s quite common in the UK to see men standing around the club dance floor early on in the night, watching the women dance. The women usually descend onto the floor in packs not long after arriving to dance around their handbags, and to lurch from side to side in time to the music, in their huge high heeled shoes. The men will usually join them when either a) they feel a socially acceptable amount of time has passed for it to be OK to do so, or b) when they’ve drank enough alcohol to not give a damn! And yes, whilst this might be an over simplified and wildly exaggerated account of what tends to go on in the clubs in the UK, there is an element of truth to it. This is because generally speaking, men don’t really want to be the first up on to the dance floor, because dancing is seen as being a bit, well….feminine.
|“They are ALL dancing, I just can’t take it any more!”
So I found it quite refreshing then, when I started clubbing in Sao Paulo and saw both men and women dancing from the word ‘go’. The men weren’t just dancing either; the majority were dancing pretty well. As someone whose dancing style doesn’t stretch much further than pointing my fingers up in the air when I’m appreciating a good chorus, I can’t help but be impressed with some of the moves I see the guys busting out in the clubs in Sao Paulo! Brazilian men seem to be much more at ease when dancing than their British counterparts do. But don’t get me wrong, some Brazilian men are just awful at it. Having said this, even those with two left feet seem to be comfortable with joining the masses on the floor anyway.
So guys, with the rules of the dance floors being a little different over here, you might find yourself channeling your inner Michael Jackson earlier in the night than you had expected, even before you’ve had chance to drink much. This brings me nicely onto point number 4…
#4: Spirit Measures in Brazil can be HUUUUGGGGEEEE!
In the UK a standard measure of liquor is 35ml but over here (and I could be wrong), from my experience there doesn’t really seem to be a liquor measure. For things like shots, a measure seems to be however big the shot glass is. I’ve noticed that these glasses often vary in size, and because some are quite big, the alcohol itself can be a bit of a challenge to swallow in one. On more than one occasion I’ve actually needed two mouthfuls to get my shot down, which surprised me as much as I’m guessing it’s surprising my friends reading this right now too, because I have quite a big mouth!
Once I drank a shot of cheap pinga on my friend’s birthday and it was served, not in a shot glass, but in a tumbler. It was in a place that described itself as a club, yet was more like a dive bar charging an entry fee…one in which the toilets looked like they’d been modeled on those used in the film Trainspotting. My friend provided the count down from 3, and moments later I was attempting to drink the shot. Only I soon realized I wasn’t going to manage it, and as half of that shot slid down into my stomach, my body began convulsing (who, me…dramatic!?!). I was actually gutted when I realised that far from this drink being over, there was still a whole lot more shot sitting at the bottom of my glass.
But if shots aren’t your thing and instead you’re asking for a spirit with a mixer, then your bar tender will usually make use of one of those metal measuring things (which Wikipedia has reliably informed me is named a jigger) to measure out your alcohol. They will then usually add a splash more in your glass. Some will add a little more than a splash, and then there are those who will add a whole lot more than that. Some won’t even bother with the jigger, and just go on their own (often generous) instincts. This means your drink might end up being a whole lot stronger than you’d anticipated. I’ll leave it to you to decide if having a strong drink is a good thing or a bad thing, but what I will say is this; when it comes to drinking shots/ spirits in Sao Paulo….well, you have been warned my friends!
#5: Expect to queue up again on your way out
So you’ve danced until your feet hurt, you’ve drank a little bit too much than you should have, and a sudden urge to sleep, eat or both has just hit you…so what’s next? Well now it’s time to pay up the balance on your card and get yourself out of there. Unfortunately, when you want to leave the club the chances are, so too do a whole load of other people. This is the part of the evening then where you need to patiently stand in a line and wait. Sometimes the line might be no more than a few minutes long…other times, well, let’s not even go there!
Brazilians generally seem to have a much higher tolerance for standing in long queues than the British do. This surprised me because I really thought I was good at queuing before moving out here. I’m British after all, so as well as drinking tea, being reserved and playing cricket, queuing up is also something that we’re supposed to be good at. Well, Brazil takes this queuing to another level, and over here these lines drive me crazy…particularly this line to settle your drinks!
“Andrew, why are you annoyed about waiting in this line. This is a really good opportunity” my Brazilian friend once said as we stood in the never ending line that was meandering very slowly towards the exit. “Good opportunity?” I asked, “A good opportunity to do what?”
|The Conga? No, this is the line to pay!
“Absolutely the line is a good time to flirt” You just need to be careful when you stand in the line, if you stand near a person very ugly, then I imagine you REALLY no have a good time!” And whilst I have yet to meet my soul mate stood in a line at 5am, to this day I still remember my friends optimism when I’m in that line, and it still makes me smile!
When your bill is cleared you’re likely to receive a stamp on your card OR given a second card to give the bouncers, and these are effectively your tickets out of there; so whatever you do, don’t lose those bad boys! After handing these over you to the men in black, if you’ve remembered these 4 pieces of advice then you will have (hopefully!) just survived your first clubbing experience in Sao Paulo with very few problems!
So that’s one of Sao Paulo’s clubs down…and a couple more hundred still to experience!