Cultural Tips on Doing Business in Brazil

Have you got an eye on the business potential of Brazil?

When you think of Brazil you will probably be thinking yellow tops and rather successful teams lifting World Cups. There’ll be images of seemingly never-ending beaches and more dances than even Sir Bruce Forsyth can manage.

But there’s a lot more to Brazil than that, especially when it comes to the world of business. It’s important to research their culture because it’s so easy to make mistakes that can damage your business relationship.
Having a local contact is going to be very important as you make your first steps into the Brazilian market. Known as a ‘despachante’ this will help you be introduced to the right people, set up meetings and deal with paperwork.

Preparations complete, what do you need to know before that all-important meeting?
Brazilians prefer to know who it is they are doing business with before working with them in any manner. Therefore they like to hold face-to-face meetings rather than having to read email after email or talking on Skype. It’s important to make an appointment for your meeting and if possible do so two to three weeks in advance. You need to confirm the appointment in writing but don’t worry if you arrive slightly late for your appointment if in Sao Paulo or Brasilia as that’s considered perfectly acceptable. If you are kept waiting for your appointment don’t show signs of being impatient. Brazil has a fluid time culture and regard time as something that is outside their control.

Men shake hands with each other and maintain steady eye contact. Women kiss each other starting with the left cheek and if they want to shake a man’s hand then they should extend their hand first. If the meeting is being held at a house rather than an office you need to bring the hostess flowers or a small gift, orchids are acceptable but not purple ones as they are associated with funerals. For the same reason leave handkerchiefs off the gift list. Any presents given are opened when received.

Don’t get right down to business because that’s not the style in Brazil. Chat about something else before talking about the real matter in hand.  The family means a great deal to Brazilians so initially turning the conversation in that direction is a good idea. Football naturally is a back-up topic for any conversation.

Brazilians pride themselves on dressing well so it’s best for men to wear suits (if you’re an executive choose a three-piece suit) while women can also wear suits or elegant dresses. However, the dress code will heavily depend on which city/region you are working in.

If you have business cards then the etiquette is to exchange these while you are being introduced to people and if possible include some (Brazilian) Portuguese translation on your card.  If this has been done then make sure you present your card with the translated material facing the recipient. On the matter of language translation, if your Portuguese isn’t strong make sure you have an interpreter with you for meetings and generally getting around.

It’s important to make a good impression with your Brazilian counterpart as the individual they deal with is more important than the company.  Do not criticise people as this causes them to lose face with the others attending the meeting and it won’t make you look good either. Also try your very best not to interrupt anyone while they are speaking. However meetings are generally rather informal so don’t be surprised if your meeting is interrupted and you are consistently spoken over.

Be prepared to be asked plenty of questions about your company, again it’s a case of Brazilians wanting to know as much about who they are doing business with as possible. Don’t rush Brazilians in their negotiations or appear impatient; do expect a lot of reviewing of details.  If you use lawyers then use local people as Brazilians resent outside legal presence.  Also try and keep the same negotiating team because if you don’t the whole introduction policy starts all over again.

Most important of all, when going to Brazil, enjoy it!

Countries: Brazil
Topics: Business Development and Market Research
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