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About Brazil

by: Almiro dos Reis Neto, Associate partner of Hofstede Insights

 

Currency:  Brazilian Real (R$)                                     
Capital: Brasília                                               
Language: Portuguese (Brazilian Portuguese)                                           
Time Zone: Brazil Time Zone UTC-3h (in 21 out of 26 states; includes the main cities)
 

 

Some cornerstones of Brazilian culture

 

  • Brazilian culture has mainly inherited Portuguese, Indigenous and African habits, besides other immigrants culture who came later, such as the Italian and German in the southeast and south. More recently, in the 20th century, there was a new flow of immigration including Spanish, Japanese, Lebanese, Jewish, Korean and others;
  • Brazilian culture is relational and pragmatic. People usually show their affections through cordiality, smiles and touches (hugs and kisses);
  • Brazilians value meetings along with meals, many times with the presence of their family. Talking and asking about family is a very usual behavior and recommended to start conversations;
  • Conversations should also start with “small talks” concerning topics such as football, weather or family. 
  • Contacts tend to be informal, since people refer to each other using the first name. Exceptions are made to elder people called by “senhor” / “senhora” (Mr. / Mrs.) or some professional such as lawyers and physician, who are both called for “Doutor” before their name;
  • The main holidays in Brazil are the Carnival and some religious or national ones, such as Christmas and Easter. It is worth observing their dates, since they are numerous and many people usually travel on these occasions;
  • Bureaucracy is present in local life, and Brazilians tend to deal with it using the “jeitinho brasileiro”, which is a way to bypasses rules and laws, sometimes paying for it, sometimes asking a friend to solve it. 

 

When in Brazil

 

  • There is no need to behave very formally;
  • Invite or be prepared to be invited for meals;
  • When invited to someone’s house it is polite to bring a gift, such as wine, chocolate, flowers or something typical from your own country;
  • Always start a meeting with small talk;
  • Always smile;
  • Body language in Brazil is very important: be careful with negative and disagreement expressions;
  • Be careful with the chaotic traffic, especially in major cities;

 

Greeting

 

  • Use titles such as «Mr.» (“Senhor”) or «Mrs.» (“Senhora”) only to elder people;
  • Use the title of «Doctor» (“Doutor”) to Lawyers and Physicians;
  • Greetings usually require body touch: even handshakes come along with a touch in the arm or a short hug. Hugs are welcome as well as kisses to opposite genders, only.
  • Give and accept business cards. Due to security matter, many companies and executives have abolished the use of business titles in the business card.

 

Good to know

 

- Request appointments previously, and confirm it as it come close to the event day;
- Brazilians are not punctual – when you are invited to a home dinner, for example, never arrive on time (arrive 15 – 30 min. later). For businesses lunches, be on time, but do not expect the same behavior;
- Aim for those in the highest position of authority when establishing business contact;
- Status is determined by profession, power and symbols of wealth;
- Interpersonal skills such as the ability to form friendships are also considered very important;
- It is especially good when you are introduced for a third person, in order to help on building relationship;
- Conversations are non-linear: people are not task-oriented.
- Position in the World Bank Ease of Doing Business Rank (2017): 123 (out of 190 countries)

 

 
Dress code

 

  • Due to the warm weather, many companies are extinguishing suit and ties; please check the dress code of your local partners; 
  • Wear suit and tie for formal meetings, or when visiting banks or lawyers. On other occasions, at least wear jacket;
  • Women should not expose much of their legs. Pants are acceptable. 
  • Women should not wear strong make-ups;

 

Key words to describe Brazilian culture:

 

Hierarchy / Group / Relationships / Informality / Jokes (Good mood) / Optimism
 

 

Successful business

 

Doing business in Brazil can be challenging, because of:
  • Legal system complexity;
  • Corruption among public institutions;
  • Need of building trust for doing business;
  • Long process for building relationship and doing business;
  • Communication is not straight-forward;
  • Relaxed approach towards punctuality;
  • Poor transport infrastructure;
  • Lack of affordable qualified workforce;
  • English is not widely spoken;

 

The expert recommends

 

  • You should aim for dealing with the boss. He or she may transfer you to subordinates, but he or she is the one who has the power of the last word;
  • To be introduced from someone else it is highly recommended, even from an embassy representative, for example, since it represents legitimacy and enforces trust and power;
  • Brazilian talks are not straightforward, so do not be extremely direct, since it may seem rude and cause of suspicion;
  • Bring a small gift of chocolate/wine/flower/object form your country when invited to a home dinner.
  • Do obtain legal and tax advice before closing negotiations, since Brazilian legal system is extremely complex. 
  • Be careful to body language since negative gestures may provide bad impressions;
  • Avoid saying “no”. It is more acceptable to give a vague and noncommittal answer such as «I will try» or «We will see» rather than «No, I cannot».
  • Do not ask people’s salary (unless in a hiring situation) nor women’s age;
  • Avoid talking about politics, comparison between countries or polemic issues, unless your partner mentions the topic;
  • Be transparent by sending information such as your clients, historical, products, etc, but do not ask for financial data in a first moment, especially if you are dealing with family enterprises - these are very sensitive and confidential subjects in a family business;
  • You may draft a possible business plan, together with the local partner, only after building a good relationship with him or her. In the same way, discussing contract are a topic for an advanced stage only;
  • Brazilians avoid risk, so you may bring client lists rather than innovative products and risky investments; Brazilians do not like surprises;
  • It is worth mentioning whether you are dealing exclusively with the company or not;
  • Be punctual, but do not expect the same behavior;
  • Keep your schedule flexible enough for last minute changes. Confirm your meeting on the day before or even on the same day;
  • You should rather try to find a partner such as a representative or distributor in Brazil, rather than bringing your company, since you may face huge difficulties with law, taxes, employee rights and both political and economic instability.

 

Recommended links

 

  1. Deloitte’s report on financial, legal and other business issues in Brazil: https://www2.deloitte.com/br/en/pages/doing-business-brazil/topics/doing...
  2. Helpful webpage with several elements concerning Brazilian culture and business environment: http://thebrazilbusiness.com
  3. Video explanation on the Brazilian colonization by the Portuguese: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0-Q8IkKgTmA
  4. Brazil Travel Guide video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aBWA1udhv1E
  5. Brazilian economic journalist Ricardo Amorim on doing business in Brazil: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fyAP-RQcefc
  6. Transparency International Video on Brazilian Operation Car Wash (“Lava Jato”): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gHK9HhzaPog
     

 

Dimensions

 

Power Distance

 

Brazil scores high on this dimension, 69, indicating an appreciation for hierarchy and a top-down structure in society and organizations. Thus, subordinates guide their actions primary according to the his/her manager’s will. It is often seen paternalistic attitudes towards employees and it does not necessarily have a negative aspect – it is expected from subordinates. This high score on Power Distance also emphasizes the culture of privileges given to the most powerful and it is associated with wealth condition as well. Finally, it indicates the inequality acceptance portrait of Brazil – definitely a very expressive social feature.
Brazil occupies an intermediate position on the Transparency International rank for corruption: 79 out of 176 countries.
(https://www.transparency.org/news/feature/corruption_perceptions_index_2016)

 

Individualism

 

Brazil’s score of 38 highlights its mainly collectivistic trait. Brazilians value belonging to a group. Not only that, but they also care about the other’s opinion on their selves and their lives. Conflicts are commonly avoided to preserve group harmony. 
Masculinity
Brazil scores 49. Brazilian culture is not focused on performance. As said, relationships, status and power are more valued than the attendance of goals. On the other hand, throughout Brazilian country there are several stereotypes concerning this subject, so that some region are seen as more “workaholic” (such as São Paulo) and other as leisure oriented, as such as the Northeast region.   Nevertheless, it is worth mentioning that there is no real numerical evidence of such difference according to regional measures.  

 

 
Uncertainty Avoidance

 

Brazil presents a high score of 76 on this dimension. As a result, in Brazil, the uncertainty leads to a complex and broad legislation, but to a subjective and informal ways, for example, through the constant expression of emotions, superstitions and religiosity. 

 

Long Term Orientation

 

Brazil’s score on this dimension is high: 65. Although there is a complex legal structure, what is actually practiced is a culture of flexibility and norms are not strictly followed. There is a local expression to describe the Brazilian behavior of bending rules and use non-traditional methods to solve problems - “jeitinho brasileiro” (literally, the Brazilian little way). It is seen as a creative answer to obstacles but, on the other hand, as a questionable and risky path for taking advantages.

 

Indulgence

 

Brazil scores 59 on this dimension. This fact is usually perceived through the Brazilian habits of celebrating, partying and valuing leisure times. It also points out a tendency of Brazilian’s willingness of fulfilling their desires of consumption and affection. Finally, it depicts the Brazilian behavior of optimism and hope even during crisis times.