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Off topic: Moving to a small town
Thread poster: Paul Dixon

Paul Dixon  Identity Verified
Local time: 12:09
Portuguese to English
+ ...
Jul 30, 2009

I am thinking of moving out of São Paulo due to the problems that the city (population 15 million) has been having with violence, pollution and the appalling traffic. I am weighing the pros and cons of this move, and would like to hear, first and foremost, from translators who have had the experience of moving from a large metropolis to a small town or village. What advantages and disadvantages were there in the move? Have you ever regretted it? How has the move affected your business?

There are two towns I am considering.

Town A has a population of about 90 thousand people. It stands in an area with a significant client base, although not in the town itself. It is a very quiet town, and has several types of leisure activities (mountains and beaches) within easy reach.

Town B has a population of 1.5 million and a strong immigrant population. It has significant industrial activity but also lots of translators already in the area. The weather can get quite cold at times. The city has lots of cultural activities, and beaches not too far away.

If you had to choose, which town would you go for - or would you stay in São Paulo despite the problems?


conejo  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 09:09
Member (2003)
Japanese to English
+ ...
It completely depends on your preference Jul 30, 2009

This is not about whether anybody else thinks it's a good idea for you to move to Town A or Town B or stay in Sao Paulo. The most important thing to think about here is: what kind of place do you personally like to live in? What kind of place do you feel the most comfortable and the happiest living in? Large city? Suburbs? Rural farming town? Small town?

In my case, my personal preference is to live in a relatively large city. I had lived in cities of 700,000-4 million people for 8 years before the beginning of 2008, when I decided, for personal reasons, to move to a much smaller town.

The town basically consisted of 2 cities, each one having about 70,000 people, so it was a combined 140,000, but really, it was just like having 2 towns of 70,000 mashed together... it did not have the sophistication and advantages of a 140K town.

Anyway, despite having a large social network there, after about 6 months there, I found myself extremely bored and looking around the town going, "why am I here??" There was nothing to do in the place and except for visiting people I knew, I ended up staying at home all the time for lack of things to do. So, after my lease was up I moved back to the city, and it was definitely the right decision for me.

You have to consider what the best type of place for you is. Do you just love living in the countryside? Do you feel the most energized in a large city? Think about not only the work situation, but the way it will affect your personal life. Do these potential places have the types of recreational activities that you like to pursue? Will it be interesting for you on your times off? What is the "vibe" of the place, and how does it make you feel?

Moving is an expensive prospect, especially because we are freelancers... we have to pay for all of it by ourselves. So make sure you are going somewhere you will like to stay for a while.

My advice would be to carefully consider the type of place you want to live in, from all aspects: work, personal, etc. And go visit each of your prospect locations for a day or 2, and absorb the energy of the place. Figure out which one 'feels right' to you.

And about the business aspect of things: I don't know the details of your current business structure, but as freelancers, we have the opportunity to make physical locations matter less. Physical location has zero bearing on my current job, so for me work vs. physical location really was not an issue. So consider ways of business that will allow you to think about physical location in your work less.

Another important consideration is culture... meaning, political and religious culture, and general mentality of the people in the locations. If you move somewhere that is vastly different from what you yourself believe in, this can cause problems too. Trust me, I have lived in places that were totally opposite from my personal attitudes on things, which creates a sense of dissonance, and will ultimately cause you to want to move away. It doesn't have to be the same as you, but go for 'at least compatible'.

At any rate, the goal is to pick a place where you can feel at home from as many aspects as possible.

[Edited at 2009-07-30 18:00 GMT]


Henry Hinds  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 08:09
English to Spanish
+ ...
Moving Jul 30, 2009

A few years ago I did have the experience of moving to another location far from my normal base for about 3 years and then moving back. This move was for reasons unrelated to translation work or any dislike for my base. The fact is, however, that unlike most people here, my market is a local one with a vast majority of my work coming from my normal base or derived from it.

It turned out that I was able to keep things going despite the distance, even with paper documents being shipped back and forth. Perhaps business did suffer a bit, but not substantially, and upon return I have continued doing better.

The question you pose here can only be answered by you. Do you see any significant disadvantage in being away from São Paulo? Is your client base there? Is personal contact with clients in São Paulo an important factor in your success? It all depends on your own circumstances that only you can analyze. The same is true for analyzing the pros and cons of towns you might wish to move to.


Paul Dixon  Identity Verified
Local time: 12:09
Portuguese to English
+ ...
Thanks Jul 30, 2009

I would like to thank Conejo for the answer given.

Of course the final decision will be up to me, but this answer has already shed light on some issues which I had not considered, like the cultural issue. In this respect, Town B is of a European-type culture and Town A is a typical Brazilian country town with very little immigration from outside the area.

Regarding business, I am a freelancer but also have a company (this is a requirement of Brazilian Law, it is almost impossible to work with companies if you can not give a receipt). From this standpoint, Town A is simpler as it is in the same state. Town B is in a different state, which would mean more bureaucracy.

Regarding Town A, I was there with my wife two weeks ago and enjoyed it, although leisure in the town is limited (no cinema, for example). I lived in Town B for six months, but this was 20 years ago. We went there for our honeymoon and my wife liked it too.

Thank you also for your comments on your personal experience.

Contributions from other answerers welcome!


Local time: 11:09
English to Portuguese
+ ...
My 5 cents Jul 30, 2009

Paul, I have lived n Sao Paulo for many years and I am fully acquainted with the pros and the cons. Actually I live overseas and I really do not feel like moving back to Brazil and I am not a small town person either but you should consider what is better for you. Take a look around, consider infrastructure. I lived for 1 year in Balneario Camboriu and was very frustrated, just imagine there wasn't a single ADSL connection, among other relevancies. I ended up moving to Florianopolis.
I obviously do wish you luck, but'in my case, it would work for some months and after I would be very bored. Let us know how it worked out! Have a nice dayicon_smile.gif


Paul Dixon  Identity Verified
Local time: 12:09
Portuguese to English
+ ...
Thanks to all answerers Jul 31, 2009

Thanks to all who have answered.

Regarding Henry Hinds' posting, my client base is here in São Paulo but all my work is done through e-mail. Personal contact is not important for this reason.

Regarding Sidra's posting, Town A could suffer from infrastructure problems (for example, NET broadband has not yet arrived there). Town B has more infrastructure.


Lesley Clarke  Identity Verified
Local time: 09:09
Spanish to English
Off topic Jul 31, 2009

But small towns?

I live in Mexico City and yet I would call a town with 90,000 people and as for a city with one and a half million?

I must admit when I think of moving out of the city, I think a university town would probably be best as there is always more going on in a place with a university.

And if you can avoid it, do not burn your bridges in Sao Paulo. Most people who move out of Mexico City are really happy and very few of them want to move back, so it will probably be the same in your case, but it is always handy to have some way back.


Paul Dixon  Identity Verified
Local time: 12:09
Portuguese to English
+ ...
University Towns Jul 31, 2009

Lesley has made an interesting point about the importance of Universities. Strangely enough, the town of 90 thousand people has three Universities, yet as mentioned before, infrastructure is lacking (not even a McDonald's!)

Regarding Lesley's comparison with Mexico City, I can't say much as I have never been to Mexico, but from what I have heard the problems are the same. For those who have never been to São Paulo, it is an urban sprawl and the outer suburbs can be up to 2 hours by bus from the centre. Hence my decision to consider moving out.

I really appreciate the contributions of all who have answered so far - you have shed light on many aspects that had never even crossed my mind.


Nigel Greenwood  Identity Verified
Local time: 16:09
Member (2008)
Spanish to English
+ ...
How about the suburbs Jul 31, 2009

I live in Spain, and I used to live in Valencia, (a small town in comparison with the figures being talked about here), but even that was too hectic for me. So I moved to the suburbs, a small residential estate about 15 kms from Valencia centre. My work has doubled or even tripled. These days with digital communication distance doesn't matter anymore. But the peace, quiteness, and being able to park always in the same place, (not my garage) is something that money cannot pay for.

We don't have a cinema nearby, the only thing we do have is the social club-sports centre, which includes a bar.

But, I really enjoy the quite surroundings.



Niraja Nanjundan (X)  Identity Verified
Local time: 19:39
German to English
Interesting Jul 31, 2009

Paul Dixon wrote:
Infrastructure is lacking (not even a McDonald's!)

It's interesting that you think of McDonald's as part of the infrastructure of a town or city. I consider any multinational fast food outlet a pain in the neck that is ruining the health of young people in my countryicon_smile.gif

I live in Delhi, a huge city where traffic congestion is just unbearable. I'd love to move to a smaller, quieter place, but at the moment I can't, mainly for personal reasons.

[Edited at 2009-07-31 08:22 GMT]


Deborah do Carmo  Identity Verified
Local time: 15:09
Dutch to English
+ ...
My experience Jul 31, 2009

I live in a town in Algarve, Portugal with a population of around 12,000, away from the tourists, but close enough to the provincial capital (Faro -- 25 km away) that I can easily jump on a plane and go to London or catch a train up to Lisbon when I want some city life.

Just make sure you have easy access to transport links, so you can visit 'civilisation' again when you're in the mood.

Good luck with the move, if it goes ahead. Having lived close to Johannesburg (SA) for most of my adult life, I know how crime and violence can affect a person.

Have a nice weekend

[Edited at 2009-07-31 08:16 GMT]


Jocelyne S  Identity Verified
Local time: 16:09
French to English
+ ...
Small town life Jul 31, 2009

Here in France there are a good number of freelancers living in small towns and villages (myself included) throughout the country.

I've lived in cities such as Paris, Marseille, London, Montreal, and Ottawa, but I've now retreated to village life and have no regrets whatsoever.

Like Nigel, I love the peace and quiet. Like Debs, I'm not far from a big city time-wise: I'm a half hour from a fast-train station and from there can be in the centre of Paris in about two hours, Marseille or Lyon in an hour or less.

The cost of living is much lower outside of major cities and, in my opinion, the quality of life is much better.

It does of course depend what you're looking for... A few of the things I enjoy about small town or village life: knowing my neighbours, fresh air, having a garden, being able to buy food from local farmers; I could go on...

Here at least, there is no lack of cultural events, but that is obviously not the case everywhere. I am part of an association whose objective is to bring professional, quality theatre, dance, and music to our rural area. As such, about once a month, we enjoy some incredible performances from artists from Paris, Lyon, or nearby Grenoble. I also go to Paris about once a month, which allows for more than enough "city life" for me.

I would suggest that the most important thing to consider is whether you can count on a dependable, high-speed internet connection. For my business at least, internet access is by far the most crucial thing and I would not consider moving somewhere that did not have fast, reliable access.

I'm with Niraja on the McDonald's front!



Samuel Murray  Identity Verified
Local time: 16:09
Member (2006)
English to Afrikaans
+ ...
Smaller town = less choice Jul 31, 2009

Paul Dixon wrote:
Town A has a population of about 90 thousand people. It stands in an area with a significant client base, although not in the town itself. It is a very quiet town, and has several types of leisure activities (mountains and beaches) within easy reach.

I would go for the small town (although 90 000 people isn't what I would consider "small"). The only problem with a small town is that your choices are more limited. If there is only one or two shops of a certain type, you are forced to buy things that are not really what you were looking for.

I myself recently considered moving to a town of about 5 000 people [1], but lack of employment opportunities for my wife put a damper on that, and the internet connection would also have been slower.

[1] 33°40'57.66"S 26°40'1.99"E


Marie-Hélène Hayles  Identity Verified
Local time: 16:09
Italian to English
+ ...
Choices, choices Jul 31, 2009

As others have so rightly pointed out, where you'd feel happiest depends entirely on what your priorities are. I divide my time between Rome (5 million people, incredible history and tourist attractions, broadband internet and all the culture you'd expect of an important capital city - as well as all the traffic, pollution and other problems that come as part of the package) and a small village on a lake in the Lazio countryside (300 people, spectacular scenery, fresh air, but no culture whatsoever and a 25 minute drive for anything but the most basic of provisions, and only a G2 mobile internet connection).

Personally, I'd be happy living in the country and spending one or two weekends a month in the city, whereas my husband would be very unhappy indeed like that - he's a committed city dweller. Fortunately for him, his job means that we do in fact live in the city and come to the lake only for weekends and holidays - and I escape here to the lake whenever he's away on business.

I'd say my main problem with living at the lake full time (assuming it were feasible, which it's not) would be the internet connection. I'd have to get a satellite connection if I lived here: the G2 (equivalent to 56k dial-up connection) is OK for a short period but does affect my internet use quite strongly. I cut back heavily on my use of Proz and other online forums as well as news sites while I'm here, due to the sheer time it takes to load up every page. Work is actually less of a problem - sure, it takes a lot more time to send and receive e-mails and files, but the connection is very reliable and I've never had any real problems in this respect.


Katia Perry  Identity Verified
Local time: 12:09
Member (2007)
English to Portuguese
+ ...
Agreeing with the others, but... Jul 31, 2009

Hi Paul,
I surely agree with all the comments, especially with Conejo´s and Sidra's, since I am quite an urban person indeed, but obviously you have to think about your preferences.

I only would like to call your attention to one point: it´s Brazilicon_wink.gif. In a general way it´s not so easy to travel around every time you want it (except for the offers, air tickets are quite expensive, as are hotels' rates!) and cultural life is not the rule in small towns, even for university towns in here.
I can tell you, for example, about Viçosa (MG) which has one of Brazilian´s most important universities and that I know well. There you don´t have broad band internet except at the university; no good restaurants, nor a theatre, etc. Viçosa has a cinema with only one session a day... If you have children, you have good schools, but few pedagogical choices; even fewer when you look for schools of idioms...

After all, as Lesley said, keep the doors open in case you decide to come back.
I wish you luck!
Have a nice weekend.

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