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Business in Brazil: What to Know About the Culture

Sue Durio, Worldwide ERC® - Nov 16 2018
Published in: Ask the Experts

Brazil is rapidly gaining a reputation as a global business center. With a population exceeding 211 million, it now boasts the sixth largest economy in the world.  

But don’t assume sending mobile assignees to Brazil is the same as in other Latin American locales. Understanding the nuances of the Brazilian business culture is critical to successfully establishing business roots here. As global business consultant Keith Warburton notes, “If you speak to business people who have worked in Brazil they will all tell you the same thing – that the key doing successful business in Brazil is to develop a deep understanding of Brazilian commercial culture.”

If you are sending assignees to Brazil, here are a few cultural nuances to help speed their transition.


Brazilians generally are considered an informal, fun-loving people who value their relationships. While an initial business meeting may be somewhat formal, you can expect subsequent meetings to be less so as colleagues become better acquainted.

Mobility professionals or assignees should take time to enjoy small talk before getting down to business, and don’t appear frustrated or inpatient by it, Warburton advises. Those personal relationships are key to getting business done. Stay around after your meeting adjourns to visit in relaxed conversation. And don’t expect a meeting to follow an agenda, assuming it even has one.

Related: What to Know About Placing Assignees in Brazil

Dress for Success

While business meetings may be relaxed and informal, dress as though they are not.

“What you wear to a business meeting in Brazil is almost as important as how you conduct yourself during the meeting,” says Hana LaRock with the Leaf Group. “That's because Brazilians pay attention to fashion and expect others to dress appropriately for the occasion as well.”

Even if you are meeting in a coffee shop, get the suit out of the closet and dress conservatively.

Time is (Not Always) of the Essence

As is true in some other Latin countries, in Brazil it’s not uncommon for locals to be late to meetings – sometimes up to 30 minutes. As Warburton says, “Punctuality is a variable commodity in Brazil.” But mobility assignees should not assume the same tardiness is appropriate for them.  

It’s important to be on time for a meeting in Brazil, but understand that your meetings may start and end later than expected.

Use the Language

Though many Brazilian business execs are fluent in English, don’t expect that all Brazilians speak English. That’s why making attempts to speak in Portuguese will be appreciated.

Incorporate small gestures such as including a Portuguese translation of your business card on its flipside. And when introduced for the first time, a polite response is "muito prazer" (or "my pleasure"). “Expressions such as "como vai" and "tudo bem" are common forms of saying "hello" once you know someone and can show you are making an effort to know them,” says translation consultant Today Translations.

Want to learn more about conducting business and placing assignees in Brazil? Take a look at our Mobility destination profile and consider attending our upcoming São Paulo Summit, where you’ll benefit from the information that HR, legal, tax and other mobility experts will share through an engaging mix of presentations and small-group discussions. Register today to join the conversation!