Brazilians are friendly and free-spirited, with an incredible
zest for life. They are very risk-oriented and very creative.
Predominantly Roman Catholic (73%), families are large and often
include extended family members. Family, educational and
socioeconomic backgrounds are important to Brazilians.
Meeting and Greeting
- Take time to greet and say good-bye to each person present.
- Women kiss twice -- once on each cheek -- if they are married.
Single women add a third kiss.
- Physical contact is part of simple communication. Touching
arms, elbows and backs is very common and acceptable. Brazilians
also stand extremely close to one another. Do not back away.
- The "O.K." sign is considered very rude and vulgar; the
"thumbs up" gesture is used for approval.
- Wiping your hands together means "it doesnít matter."
- Clicking the tongue and shaking the head indicates
disagreement or disapproval.
- Your personality and ability to establish strong personal and
business relationships is important to the success of your
- Brazilians will do anything for friends, hence the expression:
"For friends, everything. For enemies, the law." Relationships are
more important than a legal document in business.
- Meetings are conducted at a casual, unhurried pace. Donít get
right down to business. Engage in conversation first.
- Doing business with Brazilians requires face to face
communication. You will be able to do only limited business by
phone, fax or e-mail.
- Some facts may not be completely accurate during the early
stages of business negotiations. Brazilians expect some initial
hype and will passionately argue their points, slowly and
grudgingly making concessions. Try to maintain consistency in your
- Always get a written agreement with starting date, time of
delivery, payment details, etc. Bill in advance.
- Presentations should be expressive and have some flair.
- Stay at a first-class hotel. Appearances count.
- Hire a Brazilian contact (a despachante) from your industry to
introduce you to the right people. He or she will be invaluable to
- Hire a local accountant and a lawyer to help you with contract
issues. Brazilians may resent an outside legal representative.
- Make appointments two weeks in advance. Donít "drop in" on
business or government offices without an appointment.
- Do not plan to make a business visit or schedule any
appointments during holidays or festivals.
Dining and Entertainment
- Always entertain in a prestigious restaurant.
- Be prepared for lengthy 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 S„o Paulo
- Brazilians always wash their hands before eating and rarely
touch food with their hands. Use a knife and fork for everything,
even fruit. Always use a napkin while eating or drinking.
- Using toothpicks in public is not acceptable unless you cover
your mouth with your other hand.
- When inviting Brazilians to dinner or a party, do not suggest
that your guests bring food or drink. Do not expect them to arrive
on time, and never indicate a time that the party will "end."
- To beckon a waiter, hold up the index finger of your right
hand and quietly say "GarÁon." To request the check, say "A conta,
por favor." Waiters generally donít bring checks until they are
- Appearance counts. Your clothing will reflect upon you and
- Brazilian women dress "sexy" in all situations, whether
business, formal or casual. Foreign women who want to blend in
should avoid wearing overly formal, conservative attire.
- Shoes should be stylish, polished and well-kept. Nails should
- In business situations, men should wear conservative dark
suits, shirts and ties. Three piece suits indicate executives; two
piece suits indicate office workers. Women should wear feminine
dresses, suits and pantsuits and avoid "dressing like a man."
- Gifts are not important in establishing a business
relationship, and people wonít expect gifts in the first few
contacts. A very expensive gift may be viewed as a bribe.
- Present a gift at a social meeting, not during a formal
- Give good quality whiskey, wine, coffee table books and name
brand pens. Gifts for your counterpartís children will be
- Send flowers before or after visiting someoneís home for
- Donít assume that the "self-made" businessperson is admired in
Brazil. Inherited wealth and a good family background are much
- Brazilians are extremely casual about time. Being ten to
fifteen minutes late in business is normal, and twenty to thirty
minutes late is not unusual. Be on time for a formal meeting, but
prepare to wait for your Brazilian colleagues.
- Soccer (football), family, Brazilís beautiful beaches and the
countryís rapid growth are all appropriate conversation topics.
Politics, poverty, religion, Argentina (considered a rival) and
the deforestation of Brazil are not. Personal topics such as age,
salary and marital or job status are also unacceptable.
- Brazilians are expressive and passionate conversationalists.
Be prepared to be interrupted.
- Donít smoke in public. Federal law bans smoking in public
- Donít refer to Brazilians as Latins.
Especially for Women
As women increasingly join the workforce, machismo has become
less common. Younger, better-educated women have values that
correspond closely to those of North American women. Women are
well-accepted and are prominent in education, medicine and
journalism and as small business owners.
- Brazilian women are very aggressive, in both their business
and personal lives.
- Foreign women will usually have no problem doing business in
Brazil. However, some people are still conservative in this
- Be very careful not to ruin a business deal by being cool and
- It is traditional to invite someone for a drink after work.
This is not a come-on.
Especially for Men
Brazilian women can be very aggressive romantically and forward
to the point of harassment. Donít be surprised if you are in a
restaurant or nightclub and a woman sends you a note asking for your
phone number ó even if you are with your wife or girlfriend. Foreign
men traveling to Brazil should be very cautious when dealing with
Brazilian women. If you donít want the attention, be cordial but
keep your distance. Donít be overly friendly.