Brazilians conduct business mainly through personal connections. There must also be an 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. You can find such a person (known in Portuguese as a “despachante”) through the U.S. Department of Commerce, the American Chamber of Commerce in Brazil, or an international organization to which you may already belong.
Flexible punctuality is characteristic of Brazilian business culture. You will have to accept that waiting for your Brazilian counterparts will be part of doing business here.
Portuguese is the dominant language in Brazil. Be aware that Brazilians do not perceive themselves as Hispanics, and will only take offense if addressed in Spanish.
Brazilians usually greet each other with long handshakes and noticeable eye contact; close friends will often embrace. They tend to stand close together when talking.
Women will often greet each other by touching cheek to cheek and kissing the air.
Brazilians use many gestures, however The “O.K.” sign (using your first finger and thumb to form a circle) is considered vulgar so avoid using it.
As in many Latin and South American countries, Brazilians also consider themselves ‘Americans’. Consequently, don’t use the phrase “in America” or “American” when referring to the United States.
Brazilians tend to be very fast talkers; expect any conversation to be fast-paced and often animated and demonstrative.
Changing your business negotiation team can jeopardize the entire contract and is a major breach of Brazilian business protocol. Moreover, you will have to emphasize that you value people and relationships over business.
Use your whole hand when you feel the need to point at something, since using the forefinger may be considered rude.
Maintain steady eye contact at all times; it is considered rude to break eye contact in conversation
Welcome Topics of Conversation
- The part of Brazil you are currently visiting, as well as your travels in other parts of Brazil. Brazil is a very large, diverse country with lots to see.
- Brazil is famous for its special cuts of grilled meats. It also has some wonderful wines. Discussing food is a topic all will enjoy!
- The innovative and productive aspects of Brazilian industry and business.
- Brazilians are enthusiastic “futebol” (soccer) fans and this subject usually stimulates a lively conversation. Other popular sports include basketball, fishing, horse racing, tennis and volleyball.
- Brazilians love to dance! Dance and other aspects of the country’s arts and culture are always good topics to discuss.
Conversation to Avoid
- Ethnic and class differences or any jokes about them. Class (in economic terms) and status are a major influence in this society and often determine the type of job a person will have. The assumption that the powerful are entitled to special privileges, however, is starting to be questioned.
- Brazils’ economic challenges, whether past or present.
- Argentina, Brazil’s largest business rival.
- Criticism of any aspect of Brazil will find disfavor.
- Too many personal questions, particularly those regarding family, income and status in the workplace. Brazilians tend to be very reticent about discussing their private lives.
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Contact Gayle to help your business become more successful in today’s Global Business Marketplace. Gayle provides her services globally from locations in the US and Europe.
Knowing the communication styles, business strategies and approaches to multi-cultural etiquette can be the difference between success and failure when working or negotiating internationally. Learn to manage ‘culture shock’ and improve your Multi-Cultural Communication. Gayle can assist with all aspects of international sales and negotiations or business management abroad.
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