Excerpted from the Brazil Career Guide
Brazil is a highly urbanized country, with some 81 percent of its population living in urban areas. As Brazil is a large country, and companies will most likely be present in several states or even in several locations within a state, some internal business travel is to be expected — especially for those working in consultancy, regional management or sales.
Brazilian cuisine is quite varied, shaped by indigenous, African and Portuguese traditions, and influenced by immigrant Italian, German, Arab and Japanese cuisines. Furthermore, cuisines vary from region to region.
Without a doubt, futebol (soccer) is the most popular sport in Brazil. Brazil has won the World Cup five times, most recently in 2002, and has produced football legends such as Pelé and Ronaldo.
Punctuality is not a characteristic of Brazilian business culture, but you should always arrive on time for a business meal or meeting at a restaurant, as Brazilian business protocol demands punctuality for these types of events. It is strongly recommended that you arrive at least ten minutes early to a job interview.
Physical contact is an important element of communication in Brazil, and visitors should not be alarmed or intimidated by this. As in most Latin cultures, a firm and enthusiastic handshake is customary among men, often followed by an open smile.
The language of Brazil is Brazilian Portuguese; there also are 180 indigenous languages. Brazilian Portuguese has a different accent and intonation from European Portuguese, and has borrowed about 20,000 words from a version of Tupi Guarani, an indigenous language that was common until the mid-18th century.
If You Want to Act Like a Local...
If invited to a home, one should plan to arrive about 30 minutes late; parties in Brazil never start on time.
It is considered an elegant gesture to remember a birthday.
Never forget to say good morning to colleagues; Brazilians are very sensitive to this gesture.
A common toast is saúde, 'to your health.'
Creating personal relationships is crucial for doing business in Brazil. Small talk is essential, as it plays an important role in establishing trust. A general chattiness is common in the workplace, regardless of level of seniority. Managers and their subordinates frequently lunch together, have coffee together and talk about everything from soccer to the latest TV shows and news. While Brazilians will, of course, make allowances for less directness in foreigners, it is generally a good idea to try to reciprocate when someone begins a conversation.
There are different types of management styles in Brazil; the style usually reflects the company culture as well as the manager’s personality and background. In some cases, decisions are very centralized, and are made without discussion with team members. In other cases, teams are allowed to have input and to participate in frank discussions before a decision is made on a project. Managers have several things to keep in mind when involving a team in the decision-making process, however; Hay Group Consultant Flávia Leão advises leaders to consider difficulties related to the complexity of the project, the team’s maturity level and the urgency of the situation.
Negotiations generally can take quite a while to complete in Brazil, and probably will take several trips and meetings to conclude. Because the Brazilian business culture generally values people and relationships over business, it is imperative for the negotiating team to remain constant through the entire negotiation.
This is just a short sample of what you’ll find in over 100 pages of information in the Brazil Guide.