Doing Business in BrazilBy Terri Morrison
© Copyright 2004, All Rights Reserved
Even the smallest of US businesses competes in a
shrinking global village, where understanding subtle cultural contexts can make
or break sales and marketing efforts. This excerpt from the book Kiss, Bow,
or Shake Hands: How to Do Business in Sixty Countries, offers insight into
doing business in Brazil.
- Portuguese is the official language. Brazilians do not consider themselves
Hispanic, and they resent being spoken to in Spanish.
- The lack of punctuality is a fact of life in Brazil. Become accustomed to
waiting for your Brazilian counterpart. Make appointments at least two weeks in
- Business hours are generally advertised as 8:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m., but
decision makers usually begin work later in the morning and stay later in the
- Be patient. During negotiations, be prepared to discuss all aspects of the
contract simultaneously rather than sequentially. Sometimes Brazilians find US
aggressive business attitudes offensive.
- If you change your negotiating team, you may undermine the entire contract.
Brazilians value the person they do business with more than the firm name. Make
sure you have a local accountant and notario (similar to a lawyer) or
lawyer for contract issues. Brazilians may resent an outside legal presence.
- Brazilians use periods to punctuate thousands, and use commas to delineate
- Be aware that Brazilians consider themselves Americans also. Do not use
"in America" when referring to the United States.
- Ask your prospect's secretary to recommend a prestigious restaurant. Do not
expect to discuss business during a meal. Wait until coffee is served to begin
- If you are invited to a party, it will probably be given at a private club
rather than at a home. Arrive at least fifteen minutes late. Brazilian dinners
take place any time from 7 to 10 p.m. Dinner parties can easily continue until
2 a.m., but it is not unheard of for dinner parties to break up as late as 7
the next morning!
- Greetings can be effusive, with extended handshakes common during the first
encounter, progressing to embraces once a friendship has been established.
Women often kiss each other on alternating cheeks: twice if they are married,
three times if single. The third kiss is supposed to indicate "good
luck" for finding a spouse.
- Brazilians communicate in extremely close proximity. Do not back away.
- The sign for "OK" in the United States (a circle of first finger
and thumb) is totally unacceptable in Brazil. It is considered vulgar.
- The colors of the Brazilian flag are green and yellow, so avoid wearing
- Conservative attire for women is very important in business. Only young
people wear jeans. Men should wear slacks and long-sleeved shirts for casual
- Avoid giving anything black or purple, since these are colors of mourning.
Avoid giving knives, which symbolize cutting off a relationship, or
handkerchiefs, which connote grief.