Business Etiquette in Brazil
In Brazil, business etiquette is very important. This is especially noticeable in business relationships. Brazilians believe it to be a priority to know anyone they are doing business before being able to work successfully. They would much rather have face-to-face meetings as opposed to written communication. This allows them to know their business associates in a more personal fashion. They also believe that the individual they deal with is more important than the company as a whole.
Due to Brazil having a very group-oriented culture, it is important that one does not do anything that would humiliate a Brazilian. In a business, publically blaming someone causes that person to lose face with the others present. The criticizer also hurts their reputation since they have gone against this understood code.
Communication in Brazil is typically very relaxed and does not involve strict etiquette rules. If someone feels like they have something worth adding, they will frequently state their opinion. Unlike the United States, it is considered tolerable to interrupt someone when they are talking. Although face-to-face communication is favored more than written communication, Brazilians are firm about having detailed legal contracts when it comes to business agreements.
Spanish is not the mother language in Brazil, as many Americans believe. Brazil official language is the Brazilian Portuguese and the country is considerably monolingual. Brazilian Portuguese differs from Portuguese from Portugal not much unlike American English differs from the English from UK.
Brazilian Portuguese is not the same as Spanish, although a considerable percentage of words match between both languages (20 to 30% or more). Brazilians usually make effort to try to understand Spanish-speakers. If you speak in Spanish with Brazilians abroad and in Brazil, they can get very offended because they may think you do not differentiate between Brazilians and Hispanic people.
Following a tendency, an infinity of English words are adopted especially in technical fields. Nonetheless, most Brazilians – as it is truth for most Americans in the United States – does not speak other languages. Foreign visitors, thus, should not expect Brazilians to speak English or even Spanish, although they may be surprised with how much Brazilians like to use their time to socialize, in despite of language difficulties.
Call by the first name or by the title?
- People in Brazil usually adopt first names right from the beginning. Addressing Brazilians by their first name is not a sign of familiarity. In fact, family names are simply not used as much as in other countries.
- Professional titles such as “Doctor” and “Professor” are used to address business acquaintances.
- For those with no professional titles, the term “Senhor” [“Mister”] or “Senhora” [“Mrs.”] is used to precede the surname. Informally, these two terms are replaced by “Seu” [Mister] or “Dona” [Mrs.]. Curiously, women from the middle and more educated classes may get offended when called by “Dona”.
- Titles such as “Senhor” and “Doctor” can be used before first names, and you will probably find that Brazilian counterparts prefers to be addressed by their first name on all occasions. For instance, an attorney whose name is Juca Minhoneiro may be “Dr. Juca” to his juniors and “Juca” to his equals.
- People in Brazil usually have several surnames. Nonetheless, It is appropriate to address people using the last surname.
Conversation in Portuguese
- Always maintain eye contact; it is impolite to stop eye contact while speaking to a Brazilian.
- People stand closely of each other, when talking. Brazilians are gregarious people and like proximity, although they are able to recognize the customs of others.
- Brazilians tend to be fast talkers; A conversation should be fast-paced. It just likes faster; it is the same if you are talking to a foreigner.
- A conversation may be highly animated, including many interruptions, exclamations of ‘no!’, and a lot of physical contact. This is really true, as they do listen and not just pretend to listen.
- Don’t be alarmed if an interjection sounds confrontational; this is just a good-intentioned way of showing interest in the discussion.
- Do not attempt to direct or monopolize a conversation, since this is considered rude.
- The language of Brazil is Portuguese. Try to learn different words and expressions – don’t worry about mistakes. Brazilians will recognize your efforts even if your vocabulary is simple.
- Brazilians are usually reticent about their own personal lives, nonetheless they may ask intrusive questions about your income, religion, and marital status. If you don’t want to answer this information, try to give a vague, indirect, answer since saying you “don’t like to answer” may sound rude
- Brazilians live in the American continent, and for this reason they are also Americans. Consequently, don’t use the phrase ‘in America’ when referring to the United States. It is arrogant and culturally insensible.
- Luciana Storto
- Louana Oliveira
Making Appointments in Brazil
- Brazilians conduct business only through personal connections. There must also be an implicit understanding that the business relationship will be long-term.
- Before putting the resources into a trip, hire a Brazilian contact in your industry that can help you make the right connections. For that you should look for the chamber of commerce or consultants that specialize in this type of business. Trade shows are very good ‘feel’ for the country’s business environment.
- Make appointments of any kind at least one week in advance. Showing up at an office without an appointment is unacceptable in Brazilian business culture. This is especially true if the person you are there to see is a director of higher position.
- Generally, the best times to schedule appointments are between 10:00 a.m. and noon, and 3:00 p.m. and 5:00 p.m.
- Give yourself two to three hours between each meeting, rather than scheduling your appointments ‘back to back.’ One exception is if you are in a central location and people will be coming to see you.
- Avoid scheduling any appointments around ‘Carnaval’, which precedes Ash Wednesday, the beginning of Lent.
- ‘Official’ business hours are 09:00 a.m.- 6:00 p.m. Higher- ranking individuals, particularly those with decision-making capacities, usually begin work later in the morning and stay later in the evening.
- Poor punctuality is characteristic of Brazilian business culture. You will have to accept that waiting around for your Brazilian counterparts will be part of doing business here. Also, traffic in the main cities is chaotic and most of the time is responsible for the delays.
- Business travelers should still make the effort to be punctual. You may want to bring some work or another diversion to fill the time while you wait.
- Always arrive on time for a business meal or meeting at a restaurant. Usually, Brazilian business protocol demands punctuality on these occasions.
Showing up to a business without appointment is thought to be rude in Brazil. It is recommended that critical meetings should be scheduled at least two weeks in advance. It is also thought to be a courtesy act if one confirms their appointment two days before. Meetings should usually be schedule sometime between 10 a.m. and noon and between 3 and 5 p.m. This is the case because Brazilians tend to have longer lunches in order to have time for less-formal discussions of business.
Promptness is typically not a high priority in Brazil. It is common for one to wait a while for their associate’s arrival. Despite this, it is seen as polite for the guest to show up on time for a meeting. In Sao Paulo and Brasilia, the meetings tend to start on time. In Rio de Janeiro and other cities, it is okay to arrive slightly late. Important decisions are usually always said in person opposed to by email or over the phone. This occurs because eye contact is crucial in Brazil. If there is an interpreter in a meeting, answers should be given to the person who asked the question instead of the interpreter.
Business Dress Code
- To feel comfortable in Brazil’s tropical climate, wear clothing made of light materials that will help keep you cool. Light cottons and similar natural fibers are usually good choices.
- Not all taxi cabs have air conditioner, unless you request a “special taxi cab”. Make sure you ask the driver about air conditioner before getting on board.
- Seasons in Brazil are opposite to those in North America; June, July and August is winter and December, January, and February is summer.
- Men should wear dark suits in black, charcoal gray, or navy blue. Depending on the industry, light colors in the summer months are acceptable. Dark is better if you are traveling because it hides any dirt better.
- Select ties that are well-made and conservative. Fancy and cartoon ties will reinforce an image of “gringo”
- Ensure that your shoes are polished and kept in good condition.
- Wardrobe options for women include conservative dresses, suits, pantsuits, skirts, and blouses. While you should dress conservatively, strive for an elegant, rather than ‘frumpish’, appearance.
- On few occasions for formal business entertaining, dark suits for men are the appropriate formal wear. Sport social will be the choice for most of the other cases.
- On occasions for business entertaining, elegant dresses or skirts and blouses are appropriate formal wear for women. That famous ‘little black dress’ is perfect on all occasions.
- The colors of the Brazilian flag are green and yellow. Wearing this color combination will only make you an object of ridicule.
- Even if you’re just taking a walk through the streets or shopping, be sure to dress well. There is a cultural requirement that people of higher classes dress better than the others. Khakis or other pants and an attractive long-sleeved shirt are acceptable for men; women should wear a nice pair of pants or a skirt.
Brazilians pride themselves on dressing well and looking polished. Men are supposed to dress conservatively in dark suits. For women, elegant suits or dresses are almost always expected. It is also important to wear quality accessories in a meeting to be a sign of status and power. Any clothing that consists of the combination of Green and Yellow should not be worn since they represent the colors of Brazil’s flag.