Brazilian Business Etiquette

Bem vindo ao Brasil! (‘‘Welcome to Brazil!” in Portuguese)

Brazil is a vast country, home to tropical rainforest, a diverse ecosystem, and a rich history of both indigenous peoples and Portuguese colonization. Around the world, Brazil is known for its beautiful scenery (see the Christ the Redeemer statue),Carnival celebrations in Rio de Janeiro, and the population’s devotion to soccer.

Before you decide to mosey on down to Brazil, let’s first learn about the dos and don’ts of Brazilian business etiquette.

The Lowdown

  • The capital of Brazil is Brasília, but the largest city in the county is São Paulo.
  • The official language of Brazil is Portuguese. Brazil is the largest Portuguese-speaking nation in the world.
  • Brazil is the fifth-largest country in the world, as measured by both land area and population.
  • The organization of the government is federal presidential constitutional republic.
  • There are several ethnic groups in Brazil, including: Whites, Blacks, Asians, and Pardo Brazilians. Roman Catholicism is the predominant religion.

Dressing Sharp

  • Men should wear a dark, conservative two-piece suit if they are an office worker.
  • Men should wear a dark, conservative three-piece suit if they are an executive.
  • Women should wear dark, conservative clothing (suit or dress) and make sure their nails are neat and clean.
  • Avoid wearing green and yellow at the same time, as these are the colors of the Brazilian flag.

Make or Break Meetings

  • Brazilians appreciate scheduling meetings well in advance – do not spring a meeting on your Brazilian party. They like time to prepare.
  • Be punctual – some parts of Brazil are more lax on punctuality than others, but better safe than sorry!
  • Greet the Brazilian party with good eye contact and a handshake.
  • Business cards are exchanged at the first meeting. It is a good idea to have one side of the card printed in English and the other side printed in Portuguese, out of respect for the Brazilian party.
  • Do not make the “O.K.” symbol with your hand – this is considered very rude in Brazil.
  • If you know the official title of the Brazilian (eg, “Dr.” or “Prof.”), use this when addressing them.
  • Brazilians prefer face-to-face meetings over phone/email as they like to get to know their potential business connections.
  • Meetings are generally informal – but do not interrupt anyone while they are speaking.

Dining Decorum

  • The “large meal” of the day is eaten midday rather than at night, as in many other countries.
  • Brazilians will more often choose to eat a business dinner in a restaurant than at home.
  • Arrive about 30 minutes late to a dinner engagement.
  • Dress to impress when going to a dinner!
  • The typical tip on a meal is 10%.

Giving and Getting Gifts

  • Purple is considered a color of mourning – so avoid giving purple gifts.
  • If invited to a Brazilian’s home for a meal, it is acceptable to bring flowers.
  • Small items are acceptable gifts.
  • Gifts are opened upon receipt.

Down to Business

  • Allow your Brazilian host to initiate business negotiations.
  • Much time and effort is put into negotiations with Brazilian companies – so be patient, and do not push to finish the deal.
  • Brazilian companies want to make sure they really “know” the company before they will commit to making a deal.
  • It is advisable to hire Portuguese translators and lawyers to facilitate serious negotiations.
  • Brazilian business is hierarchical – so decisions will be made by the “head honcho” and filtered down to lower levels of employees.

Now that you’re well prepared for your next jet-setting business trip to Brazil, don’t forget to stay tuned for our next Business Etiquette blurb! 

Adeus! (“Goodbye!” in Portuguese)