Brazil is the 5th largest country in the world and the 5th most populated.  It has two of the largest cities in the world.  Learn more about the culture and business practices in this increasingly visible and influential country.

Brazilian Worldview

Group Orientation
Identity defined by group, family.

Relationship Focused
Personal interaction highly valued; friendship is powerful bond.  Business relationships require a particular kind of social interaction and business activities are dealt with in a polychronic manner.

Respect for hierarchy, status, age, experience and etiquette is a must.

Space-Private and Public
Little privacy exists between family members and close friends (amigos).  People speak freely and openly about family, health, children, relationships, salary, money and titles.

Gender Roles
Gender roles are traditional and well-defined (although this pattern is changing in metro areas). Class or status and race also plays a role in the interaction between men and women.

Cultural Notes

  • Brazil is the fifth largest country in the world and the fifth most populated.
  • The population is made up of a mixture of races and ethnicities. Slavery was abolished in 1888, creating a blurring of racial lines.
  • Nearly 100% of the population speaks Portuguese, which differs only slightly from that spoken in Portugal.

Cultural Assumptions

  • Family and friends are the primary social unit and consideration.
  • Final result is more important than promptness
  • Appearance is very important
  • Taking responsibility does not come naturally
  • Prefer to avoid risks
  • Reluctant to make decisions
  • Praise is highly valued and may be given in front of others.

Guidelines for Communicating with Brazilians

  • Friendly communication is critical to establishing social and business relationships.
  • Direct communication may be seen as cold and unfeeling; face is very important.
  • Criticism must be intermingled with praise to soften the blow.
  • Always take time to greet amigos and colegas. People come before appointments or other commitments.
  • Shaking hands is expected each time you meet, not just the first time.
  • The better you know someone, the more elaborately you greet them.
  • Dress communicates the way you feel about yourself and your respect for others. “Elegant” dress communicates as much as words. Shine your shoes and press your clothes!
  • Quiet, reserved manner may be perceived as unfriendly or lacking commitment to a relationship or project.
  • Look for gestures that may contradict the verbal message.
  • Make building relationships a priority.

Regional Differences Among Brazilians

Brazil is a country with many different cultures, so one of the biggest challenges when doing business there is to understand the specific characteristics of each region and how they impact business functions.  The Industrial Marketing Institute of Brazil researched these differences and the results were summarized in the Brazilian newspaper “Folha de São Paulo.” Negotiation was one of the topics studied.

Region Negotiations
BAHIA The “bahiano” negotiator puts primacy on harmony, tradition and the products related to the idea of liberty.  In order to flow smoothly, negotiations must take place in pleasant and relaxed places, which favor the development of confidence between both parties.
RIO DE JANEIRO The “carioca” is always anxious about short-term results, which must always be included in the approach.  “Cariocas” care a lot about their image, and don’t enjoy having their beliefs questioned.  Comparisons of companies do not fit here.
SÃO PAULO Here, it is beneficial to avoid surprises in negotiations.  Objectiveness and technical competence are very important to “paulistas.”


Non-Verbal Dynamics

Gesturing forms a large part of Brazilian communication. Raising an outstretched hand and making a scooping motion with palm faced down is a way of asking someone to meet for a chat. Arms crossed at the wrist is an emphatic “no!” Rubbing the temple with a finger can mean “that’s crazy.” And pulling down the lower lid with the index finger signifies disbelief or caution.

Touching is welcomed between close friends and family and at work. A firm prolonged handshake is often seen in  business. Embracing and “air kissing”  is also common. Woman, children and teens walk arm in arm and frequently touch while talking.  Men slap each other on the back and may place one hand over the shaking hands to show warmth and friendship.  Touching is the norm rather than the exception.

Brazilians are comfortable being close to one another and accept that they may be very close in tight public places. This does not cause great discomfort, and they don’t generally feel the need to apologize or excuse themselves for gently bumping someone or taking part of another’s space. There is very little private space between family members. People who need space or to be alone may be seen as sad or odd.

Business Practices

PROBLEM SOLVING Problems are revealed with reluctance and saving face is paramount in dealing with them. “Jeitinho,” the way around, is the solution.
MOTIVATING PEOPLE Public praise and positive feedback, building strong, personal relationships and creating a pleasant work environment are key.
APPRAISING PERFORMANCE Informal, one-on-one, gentle and face-saving. Minimize criticism and lavish praise. The criticism will still be heard.
PERFORMANCE EXPECTATIONS Subordinates are expected to show respect and supervisors are expected to take care of and guide their employees. Personal initiative is not expected, as that is the supervisor’s job.
NEGOTIATING/PERSUADING Prolonged negotiations with a great deal of haggling and exaggeration, but with concern for the affect it will have on the parties involved. Little direct disagreement. Intense eye contact.
DECISION MAKING Decisions are made at the top. The process is highly authoritarian. Mid-level managers do not easily make decisions.
PARTICIPATION IN MEETINGS May start late. Dress is formal but atmosphere is informal. Initial chitchat, frequent interruptions are expected. Agenda is flexible and participation is generally spontaneous.
Paternalistic and authoritarian. Employees expect to be taken care of; managers expect to be respected.
HIRING / DISMISSAL Hiring is often nepotistic. Personal relationship and the way the individual fits into the group, or that person’s group connections are often primary criteria.
CUSTOMER RELATIONS Customers are treated as friends or part of an extended family. Time and money spent on keeping the relationship strong.