Customs & Etiquette
In general Brazil is pictured as an open minded place, but don’t be fooled because appearances can be deceiving. Underneath the pseudo carefree status, sensual atmosphere, you’ll be surprised in finding conservative behavior. It’s true that we’re friendly,creative, and like to party. Predominantly Roman Catholic (68,43%), families are large and often include extended family members. However, majority of the population are declared as catholic (in 2009 ,68,43%) and nearly half are as we say in Brazil católico não praticante, which literally means non practicing catholic. Family,educational and socioeconomic backgrounds are important to us.
We are extremely warm and friendly as many people from other Latin countries. Women and men kiss each other on the cheeks or hand shake. Men only shake hands with other men. If they are very close friends they may sometimes give a hug or tap on the back, or they can just greet with a gentle nodding of the head.
- We communicate with physical contact. We also stand extremely close to one another when talking to each other, when talking.
- The “O.K.” sign is considered very rude ( well some people may find it rude, but for me it never was); the “thumbs up” gesture is used for approval.
- Thumbs up indicates approval, and thumbs down represents disapproval.
- Be communicative, we love a good conversation or something very well explained and that’s the key to develop strong personal and business relationships for your business.
- Friends matter.We have our friends as our extended family.
- Relationships are more important than a legal document in business.
- Meetings are conducted at a casual pace. Engage in conversation first and then talk about business.
- Doing business requires face to face communication. You will be able to do only limited business by phone, fax, video conference or e-mail.
- Always get a written agreement with starting date, time of delivery, payment details, etc. Bill in advance.
- Stay at a first-class hotel. Appearances count a lot in Brazil.
- Search for local legal advice through law firms or lawyers . They will be invaluable to your success and will know how to deal with the famous Brazilian bureaucracy, specially regarding contract issues. You can find a list here.
- Make appointments in advance. Don’t show up on business or government offices without an appointment.
- Do not plan to make a business visit or schedule any appointments during holidays or festivals, specially during Carnival time.
Dining and Entertainment
- We always wash our hands before eating and rarely touch food with our hands, unless it’s tira-gosto (finger-food), but even for this we use napkins or toothpick. We also eat pizza with knife and fork.
- Choice a restaurant with good reviews.
- Be prepared for long meals (two hours or more for lunch). Do not discuss business during meals unless your host brings it up. Business may occasionally be discussed at dinner in São Paulo or Rio de Janeiro.
- Using toothpicks in public to clean your teeth is not acceptable unless you cover your mouth with your other hand.
- When it comes to dinner parties or parties at your place, we generally will arrive late. Today is acceptable among young people to ask people to bring something , usually a bottle of wine or beer.
- The legal drinking is 18 years old.
- Appearance counts. Dress well,look good. Brazil Business has an excellent article about dress code for executives.
- Generally, we dress just like other people do , we like fast fashion and expensive brands, we have our fashionistas and hipsters as well.
- Brazilian bikinis are generally smaller than the European and American standard.
- Brazilian fashion industry is diverse and the main fashion shows are concentrated in Rio de Janeiro and São Paulo.
- Everybody loves it, although you should keep in mind that giving a very expensive gift at a business meeting is not recommended , leave it to a casual meeting, away from the office environment if you have a chance. Good gifts examples: luxury coffee table edition or something typical from where you are from, even a t-shirt counts, also certain type of alcoholic beverages like whiskey is usually expensive in Brazil, giving it as a gift , as well as electronic devices are good ideas.
- We talk with our hands, just like Italians do, and we love to interrupt conversations, I honestly try to control that , but that’s a hard task.
- Comparing to Europe, we smoke less, actually I don’t smoke and nobody in family does, neither my friends.
- We are casual about time. We’ll be on time for a business meeting , but not for a casual one.
- Football, family, Brazil’s flora and flora, and the country’s rapid growth are all appropriate conversation topics. Politics, poverty, religion, native indigenous people condition and environmental concerns in Brazil are not.
- Brazilians are expressive and passionate with conservative thoughts, specially evangelical Brazilians.
If you are a foreigner, being in possession as a small quantity of drugs is likely to lead to deportation or time in prison.
Jeitinho Brasileiro (The Brazilian Way)
Brazilians are proud of dar um jeito or dar jeitinho expression, because it inherently matches some positive qualities such as: cleverness, intelligence, flexibility, etc. When you cannot solve something you can “dar um jeitinho”, using your network of friends. Dar um jeito / Dar um jeitinho , has a neutral significance and does not have anything to do with irregular, abnormal or lawless practice or act.
The idiom actually means to act in a special way to get something done.
racism is a serious offense in Brazil. According to the Brazilian constitution of 1988, racism is a crime for which bail is not available, and must be met with 6 months to 8 years imprisonment. It’s a myth to say that Brazil is tolerant regarding race, because it’s not. We segregate the minorities that are majorities, actually you can easily tell that by looking at the people living in a favela (slums).
Comparing Portuguese to Spanish
Remember that Portuguese is not Spanish and Brazilians don’t speak Spanish. Both languages can be mutually intelligible to a certain extent ( around 80% of the vocabulary is the same), however they differ considerably in phonetics and grammar.
Talking about Football
It is also widespread that Brazilians are fanatics for football and so there are (some times violent) disputes between teams from different cities, and walking with the shirt of a team in certain areas may be seen as controversial or even dangerous.
Tolerance with LGBT
The GLBT Pride Parade in São Paulo held annually in early June is the world’s largest gay event. The 2009 parade gathered 3 to 3.5 million people. Rio has been chosen as the sexiest gay destination in 2010 by TripOut Gay Travel Awards. In 2009 it was elected as the best lesbigay global destination.
However, be aware that homophobia is widespread in Brazilian society, and Brazil is somewhat conservative about LGBT rights. Several neighborhoods of many of the major cities are very welcoming of the LGBT population, and LGBT-oriented bars and clubs are common. Assaults on homosexuals may happen.