If you want to be successful in Brazil please keep in mind that Brazilians don’t do business with someone they don’t know. Personal relationships are very important and play a large role in business life. So please invest time and effort to establish a relationship of mutual trust with your Brazilian partner.
First impressions count and you should aim for a respectable and well-groomed appearance. For men, the appropriate outfit for a first business meeting in Brazil is definitely a suit. Whether worn with or without a tie depends on the branch you are in. In the finance or management sector, ties are required. Engineers and other business sectors are less rigorous. However, you should wear a long-sleeved shirt. Even though it can be very hot, short-sleeved shirts are not worn in Brazil.
Women should choose a feminine and classic outfit that should not be too revealing. A trouser suit and stylish sandals, for example, are a good choice. Brazilians value stylish clothing, however, make-up and jewellery should be kept subtle.
Business meetings that are conducted in English are getting more and more common in Brazil. However, as a measure of precaution, you should inquire beforehand whether an interpreter is needed.
When meeting for the first time it is customary to greet each other with a handshake. If you already know each other it is common to hug and/or exchange kisses on the left and right cheek. Men also like to pat each other’s shoulders.
It is not common to immediately hand over your business card. First chat a little, then pull out your business card and rather casually place it on the table.
Your business cards can be in English, yet it is well received if your contact details are also listed in Portuguese.
Form of address
Surnames are rarely used in Brazil. Generally, you address each other by the first name. When meeting for the first time Brazilians may place a Mr. or Mrs. before your name – for example, Senhor José and Senhora Marta.
The company boss is often addressed with Doutor – whether he actually holds a Ph.D. or not is in this context not important. And don’t be surprised: the same will probably happen to you at gas stations: In Brazil, the service-attendant who is refuelling your car will probably address you with Doutor.
Until today hierarchies play a great role in Brazil. Therefore, pay special attention to the higher-ranking employees of a Brazilian company. Make sure, that you are talking to the person who can actually decide. And keep in mind that a meeting may not start without the presence of the company’s boss or the project manager. Even the seating order reflects the prevailing hierarchy: The best seat is always reserved for the boss.
Brazilians are very relationship-oriented and it is therefore not surprising that the preliminary small talk at the beginning of a meeting may take quite a while. By chatting and talking to each other the conversational partners are creating a pleasant atmosphere which is an important precondition for the meeting. Good topics for small talk are the weather, trips and of course soccer. It is also a good idea to praise the beauty of the Brazilian beaches – actually, it is generally of advantage when you talk about Brazil and its people in a positive way! You should not make jokes about Brazil or Brazilians.
And don’t forget: “chatting” doesn’t mean that your business partners ask you questions that you answer! It is rather a game of give and take, so do show interest in your hosts and ask them questions as well.
Style of conversation
When visiting Brazil you will probably notice that Brazilians are a candid and warm-hearted people. In addition to that, you will notice that they show great interest in you as a business partner. This however does not mean that Brazilians are impressed easily. Therefore make sure to always come across as a respectful and polite person.
You will also notice that your Brazilian business partners are very fair and flexible. Brazilians are not afraid of change, they will tackle anything and are ready to face new challenges.
If you want to get along well with your Brazilian business partners try going into your business meetings in a good mood. Brazilians don’t like ill-tempered people. So smile when you walk into a room! Be positive and praise a lot.
Brazilians also laugh a lot, especially about themselves. It is always well received if you don’t take yourself too seriously. Keep in mind though that irony is not always understood in Brazil and that it is best to avoid ironic or sarcastic remarks.
Your Brazilian business partners will be delighted about a small present from your home country. It doesn’t have to be expensive, a USB flash drive for example with your company logo and a short video about your company is always convenient.
Easy Does It!
Please keep in mind that doing business in Brazil requires a certain amount of patience. A meeting for example is in most cases already prolonged by that fact that it will most likely not start on time. In addition to that schedules and agendas are not very important for Brazilians – they are rather spontaneous and tend to speak about several things simultaneously or leap from one point to another.
Don’t be surprised when your business partners answer their phone even though they might be in the middle of a conversation with you. Since Brazilians are used to handling several things at the same time this is in no case a signal that they are not appreciating your presence. After the call is finished the attention of your conversational partner will be all yours again.
Once you have established a good business relationship try to avoid a change of contact partners. Remember that with a new person the whole “warming up” and “getting to know each other” will start all over again. It is therefore wise to invest time and effort in the relationships that you have already built up. Keep in mind that this investment is definitely worth it since continuity, reliability and friendship are the most important features in business relations with Brazilians. In case your company undergoes changes and you are forced to bring in a new colleague make sure to accompany the respective person to their first meeting with your Brazilian business partners. You then should introduce them personally. Remember: by doing so you will definitely make the new start far easier.