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Learning the Social and Business Customs of Brazil

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Brazil is a large, diverse country that is unified in speaking Portuguese. The white population, black population and native population have been mixing for years, so there is not as much distinction of native population as in most of Latin America.

Social Customs:

In Brazil, the family is the center of the social structure, and families are often personal and extended. Individuals often network and look for connections through their families, as well as assistance when needed. People are often hired for jobs based on family or family connections.

When meeting, it is custom for men to shake hands and make eye contact. It is custom for women to kiss each other, first on the left and then the right cheek. Between Brazilians, friends often hug or slap one another on the back.

If you are invited into a Brazilian home, bring the hostess either flowers or a small present. Purple and black are associated with mourning, so avoid gifts in those colors. If you are invited to dinner at someone’s house, it is custom to arrive at least 30 minutes late. For a party, arrive at least an hour late. Brazilians take fashion seriously, so it is better to overdress instead of appear casual.

Business Customs:

Brazilian business is personal and meetings are often informal. They must know who they are doing business with, and largely prefer face to face meetings instead of electric correspondence. Often, the meetings with the individuals are deemed more significant than those with the greater company. Never do anything to embarrass a Brazilian in meetings. Try not to criticize others during a meeting, as that person will lose face in front of coworkers, and you will also lose face. However, it is not a big deal to interrupt the person talking.

When speaking with a Brazilian, wait for them to start talking about business. They spend a while making the meeting personal, and will try to get to know you, so you do not want to halt this process. Negotiatons are often slow paced, relaxed and detailed, so try not to lose your patience. If you are not fluent in Portuguese, it is advised you hire a translator. In Sao Paulo and Brasilia, it is custom to arrive on time for the meetings. In Rio de Janiero, you can arrive a few minutes late. Business cards will be exchanged at the beginning of the meeting. It is a good idea to have one side of your card translated into Portuguese.

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