This post is by South American expat entrepreneur and Nomad Capitalist contributor Skinner Layne.
WYSIATI is one of the central themes I discuss at workshops I lead, traveling around Latin America and Europe. The acronym stands for What You See Is All There Is.
It is one of the cognitive biases that most dramatically impacts our day to day decisions, behavior, and expectations about the world. It shapes our beliefs about what is actual as well as about what is possible.
We are rarely aware of what is happening on the next street over from our well-worn daily paths, much less in obscure cities in countries we have never visited — even when those cities boast populations in the millions.
This results in a limiting, “small world” mentality.
It’s a big, wide world
The world may be connected like never before, but it’s wide and full of possibilities — and the unknown — perhaps even more than in the past. But you will not learn much about it only by reading; you must go and touch, taste, smell, and see for yourself.
In December, leading workshops on a four-city tour in Brazil, I was reminded that even though I have been living abroad for seven years now, my own perceptions of the world are still very limited.
Before you start thinking, “yeah Brazil is big, but it’s just one country,” consider that Brazil is 8,515,767 square kilometers, nearly double the European Union’s 4,381,376 km2. The entire United States is 9,857,306 km2.
3 Brazilian cities to watch now
Let’s look at three Brazilian cities you might have never heard of, but definitely should.
Each is connected to São Paulo, the business capital of Brazil, by a flight of an hour or less, making them all closer to São Paulo’s Guarulhos International Airport (IATA: GRU) than any place inside São Paulo.
If you have never been to Brazil’s largest city, you haven’t had the pleasure of the 2-hour drive from the airport to anywhere in the city and its interminable traffic.
By my estimates, flying from any of the cities below to GRU rather than driving from somewhere inside São Paulo will save you almost an hour of time and incalculable stress.
From GRU, you are connected to more cities than from any other airport in Latin America, making Brazil’s second tier cities fantastic places to set up a base of operations.
The cost of living in each of the cities featured below is 33 percent cheaper than São Paulo and about 77 percent cheaper than New York or San Francisco.
From the cost of living to the high quality of life, Brazil’s lesser known cities are havens from big city smog and high prices while featuring tremendous potential for any international entrepreneur.
It’s also worth mentioning that the food in Brazil is incredible, and you can’t beat all you can eat meat, or the buffet-by-the-kilo pricing model, both of which are common at restaurants throughout the country.
Now, without further ado, my three picks for cities to visit and watch for international entrepreneurs.
Floripa, as its known in Brazil, is an island city with a metro population of just over a million people in the state of Santa Catarina in the South. It boasts the highest level of development in the country, and is home to 42 beautiful beaches.
We stayed at an AirBNB townhouse for only $40 per person per night in one of the city’s nicest neighborhoods. When you enter the Jurere sector of Florianopolis, you feel like you aren’t in Latin America anymore. There are no fences or gates around the houses, and the construction looks like it was transplanted from Beverly Hills or South Beach.
During the low tourism season, your dollars go a long way, especially since the Real has been weakening in recent months.
The downside of Jurere is that it is a bit far from the city center and nicer beaches, but you will not find a feeling of safety like Jurere anywhere else in the country–or probably anywhere else in Latin America save a few neighborhoods in Chile.
My workshop was held at the SEBRAE center in downtown Floripa, and from there we saw the workings of a modern, European-style city set on the sea.
The city is home to a budding information technology industry, though it is a long way away from being “Silicon Valley, with beaches,” the stated goal of municipal officials.
Our conversations with Florianapolitanos, as they are known, indicated a sincere interest in working with foreigners and attracting new enterprises to the city.
The tourism sector accounts for a significant percentage of the economy, but still seemed underdeveloped. New accommodations, entertainment venues, and other services for tourists would be lucrative investments.
The locals also noted that salaries in Floripa are much lower compared to São Paulo, even adjusted for the cost of living, meaning that at least for now, this paradise city could be an opportunity for labor arbitrage for an enterprising nomad.
Curitiba is the European Capital of Brazil, and is in close competition with Buenos Aires for being the most European city in Latin America.
The beautiful parks and gardens, efficient (and extremely safe) public transportation system, an incredibly clean environment led to Curitiba being named the most innovative city in Brazil and a global model for urban planning. Even with 3.2 million people in the metropolitan area, you never feel like you are in a big city.
We conducted our workshop at the NEX Coworking space, which renovated an old historic building and transformed it into what is literally the nicest coworking space I’ve ever seen.
With Curitiba as the capital of the Sharing and Digital Economy in Brazil, it is no wonder that NEX is already bursting at the seams and planning to expand into new spaces.
Like Florianopolis, Curitiba also felt exceedingly safe, and was the most subdued of the cities we visited. If you are looking for a European standard of living at Latin American prices, but without the stereotypical craziness of Brazil found in places like Rio, Curitiba should be at the top of your list.
The only downside to this little gem is that the weather changes minute-by-minute and you can’t afford to leave your house without an umbrella. If it’s sunny at 9 am, it could be raining at [9:30] with no warning. Nevertheless, it’s a manageable downside balanced out by numerous advantages.
You may never have heard of Belo Horizonte, but with 5.1 million people it is the 42nd largest metropolitan area in the world, and the nineteenth most populous in all of the Americas. As the capital of the State of Minas Gerais, it’s an important commercial hub with a rich history and Bohemian feel.
The food was the best (and cheapest) of any place we visited, and the city is incredibly green and full of tall trees — fed by the frequent downpours (rain is a constant theme in Brazil; if you’re coming from Arizona, be prepared).
Get ready to fill up on Pao de Queijo and see a city with limitless opportunity.
The city has a booming IT sector, and is home to an increasing number of tech multinationals, such as Google. The high population of programmers and low cost of living makes it a great option for software entrepreneurs looking to build an energetic and talented team without the expense of being in Silicon Valley.
The people of Belo Horizonte are energetic and fun to be around, and I can’t wait for my next trip back.
Remember, the world you see is much smaller than the world that is out there. St. Augustine once said, “the world is a book, and the man who never leaves his front doorstep reads but a page.”