Essential Business Etiquette for Doing Business in Brazil

by Diane Marcus, Essential Business Etiquette

The world is now focused on Brazil who will host the World Cup in 2014 and the summer Olympics in 2016. Brazil is the fifth largest country in the world with over 193 million people. In addition to a large immigrant population from Portugal, there are large numbers of people from Germany, Italy and Japan. All these groups have kept their culture. There is a very high literacy rate in Brazil and the middle class is growing.

Geography
The mighty Amazon runs through the country into the Atlantic Ocean and the rainforest is full of products still waiting to be discovered. Brazil teems with natural resources. It is south of the equator therefore it has opposite seasons from the northern hemisphere. The climate is mild with an average of seventy-seven degrees.

Industry
If you want to travel to Brazil, here are a few facts you should know. Tourism employs about 1.87 million people. The main industries are shipping, agriculture, forestry, fishing, automobiles and steel. It is a huge oil producer on land and off-shore. Although it is a vast country, it boasts of over 2,500 airports.

Customs
Brazilians are warm and friendly people and like to have close proximity when having a conversation. They are very expressive and use their hands when they speak. The official language is Portuguese.

Entertaining
Brazilians love to be entertained and are quite social. As in Europe, they will take their time getting to know you. Be prepared for very long lunches and dinners. They act like they have all the time in the world. Do not be in a hurry to discuss business. Wait until they bring it up. Brazilians really want to know you before they do any business with you. Building relationships is very important to them.

They will expect you to take them to the finest restaurants. Coffee and cake is frequently served at about four in the afternoon and dinner is served anywhere from seven to ten at night and go past midnight.

Always arrive on time for appointments but be prepared to wait for them. Bring a small book with you and do not complain if they have kept you waiting. If you are invited to their home, always arrive about 30 to sixty minutes late.

Health
You will want to check with The Center for Disease Control before traveling there and get the needed shots. Especially get a shot that will protect you from mosquito bites.

Holidays
Brazil celebrates most Christian holidays. Eighty percent of the population is Catholic. No business can be done at Carnival time, the period before lent begins.

Women in Business
Women should dress conservatively and wear a hemline that is at the knee. They should have a very fine suit or dress. You may find women dress to impress in their country, but foreigners should not attract attention. This will show men that you mean business. Of course you should wear appropriate jewelry.

Women will shake hands with a man, but wait until they offer their hand first. Women may kiss or touch checks when saying hello and goodbye. Dress is more formal than in the United States, so even in a casual situation, be sure to dress more on the formal side.

Men in Business
Men should wear a very fine suit and fine leather shoes. Brazilians pay a lot of attention to style and your clothes will make a good first impression on them. Men will shake hands and will make eye contact with you.

Safety
Although there is a rising class, there is also extreme poverty. This is a huge problem according to Mark Johnson, president of MJ Associates in the Washington DC area, who has spent considerable time in Brazil. Americans should thoroughly research the business practices in Brazil before traveling there. Brazil is not Europe and foreigners are not so free to walk around alone. Consider hiring a security team to travel with you at all times. Robbery is common so you must carefully guard your money and passport at all times. Only stay in major hotels in the center of town.

Mr. Johnson also states that foreigners will have trouble opening a business account. It is difficult for small businesses to come and conduct business in Brazil. Large companies will have the advantage.

As the time gets closer to the World Cup and then the Olympics, business practices may change, but right now, business laws favor Brazilians. This is one country you will simply have to do some research on. Contact the US Consulate in Brasilia, the capital, and work with a cross cultural company such as Cross Cultural Solutions or Circles of Excellence before you travel there.

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