How to Do Business in Brazil
By McElroy Translation,
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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
- 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 business endeavor.
- 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. Don’t 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 negotiating team.
- 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
- Hire a Brazilian contact (a despachante)
from your industry to introduce you to the right people.
He or she will be invaluable to your success.
- 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.
Don’t "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 SУo Paulo or Rio.
- 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 "GarЧon."
To request the check, say "A conta, por favor."
Waiters generally don’t bring checks until they are requested.
- Appearance counts. Your clothing will
reflect upon you and your company.
- 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 be manicured.
- 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 won’t 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 business meeting.
- Give good quality whiskey, wine, coffee
table books and name brand pens. Gifts for your counterpart’s
children will be appreciated.
- Send flowers before or after visiting
someone’s home for dinner.
- Don’t assume that the "self-made"
businessperson is admired in Brazil. Inherited wealth
and a good family background are much more desirable.
- 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, Brazil’s
beautiful beaches and the country’s 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.
- Don’t smoke in public. Federal law bans
smoking in public places.
- Don’t 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
- 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 regard.
- Be very careful not to ruin a business
deal by being cool and too professional.
- 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. Don’t be surprised
if you are in a restaurant or nightclub and a woman sends
you a note asking for your phone number - 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 don’t want the attention, be cordial but keep your
distance. Don’t be overly friendly.
-- Excerpted from the "Put Your
Best Foot Forward" series by Mary Murray Bosrock. These
publications are available for the U.S., Asia, Mexico/Canada,
Russia, Europe and South America.
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