I remember the first time I attended an auction.
The auctioneer was speaking so fast, rattling off what sounded to me like a foreign language. As he presented items in rapid succession, the audience used a variety of gestures to signal their bids.
Before I could figure out what was happening the auctioneer shouted “Sold!” as he waved on the next item. I was frozen stiff. Afraid if I moved I’d get stuck purchasing an expensive lamp or oil painting that I didn’t want.
Expanding business into global markets can feel like attending an auction for the first time.
Language, cultures, economies and business etiquette’s are quite different from country to country. To have the best experience, and not unknowingly offend or make promises you can’t keep, it’s important to learn some basic business etiquette’s before you go.
In future blog posts, we will share the customs and cultural business etiquette of various countries.
Today, I begin with my native country Brazil.
10 Tips for Proper Business Etiquette in Brazil
1. Making a good first impression.
If your considering doing business in Brazil, it’s essential to know the native language of the Brazilian people is Portuguese, not Spanish. Although Brazil is the largest country in Latin America, Brazilians do not consider themselves Hispanic. Before you invest in learning a few phrases, be sure you’re learning the correct language.
2. Relationship – Relationship – Relationship.
Building relationship is paramount to successful business etiquette in Brazil. Brazilians are very social and therefore business meetings usually begin and end with a fair bit of small talk, even unrelated to the business at hand. This informal conversation is essential to building relationships and rapport, and should not be rushed. At times, this can be at odds with American business sensibilities that like to ‘get down to business.’ The more you can relax and enjoy the process the better you’ll connect with your Brazilian counterparts.
3. Brazilians tend to work in close proximity.
It’s not uncommon in business for Brazilians to touch your arm or back. They also have excellent eye contact and can hold a steady gaze. Some people may find this body contact uncomfortable or intimidating. To conduct business in Brazil, it’s important you adapt as quickly as possible, a reserved demeanor could be misinterpreted as unfriendliness.
4. Great weight is placed on verbal communication.
Brazilians prefer face-to-face conversations to written correspondence. And Brazilians will hold you accountable to your verbal remarks regardless of what your written materials claim. So be careful what you say. Brazilian communication is often informal, and interruptions – which are common – indicate interest and enthusiasm. This is part of Brazilian business etiquette and should not be considered offensive, as it may be in other cultures such as China.
5. Business negotiations.
When it comes to business agreements, Brazilians take their time negotiating. Expect them to review all details thoroughly and do not rush them or appear impatient. When ready, they will insist on drawing up detailed legal contracts.
6. Stick with a solid business team.
Changing your negotiation team is a major breach of Brazilian business protocol, one that could break rapport and jeopardize contract negotiations. To build trust, don’t move forward until you have a solid team committed to seeing things through.
7. Dress for success.
Brazilians dress with flair and consider appearance very important. In Brazil, it can be difficult to know who is in charge, as decision makers are often surrounded by an intricate web of political alliances. Be sure your business attire accurately reflects your profession, position and leadership within your company. Always dress elegantly and err on the side of over-dressing rather than under-dressing as casual dress is considered more formal in Brazil than in many other countries.
8. Meetings often start and end late.
Flexible punctuality is characteristic of business etiquette in Brazil, making it difficult to schedule more than one or two meetings in a day. It is also customary to schedule business appointments two to three weeks in advance. However, Brazilians are known to make changes, even cancel on short notice. Traveling from one place to another can also be challenging and time-consuming.
9. Receiving gifts.
Different than other countries, if you receive a gift in Brazil it is customary to open it right away in front of the person that gave it to you.
10. Coffee – Coffee – Coffee!
Brazil is the world’s largest coffee producing country. So Brazilians drink a lot of coffee.
It’s a big part of their culture, and one they are very proud of. They export their high-quality coffee all around the world, and they will want to share it with you!
So when in Brazil, you should expect to drink lots of coffee! During meetings and visits, you will be offered coffee, and unless you have a very good reason to decline, they will keep offering. If you’re not currently a coffee drinker, you will become one once you begin doing business in Brazil. And then expect to be hooked. Because Brazilian coffee is so rich and delicious – you’ll never want anything else.
Ana Fontes is a multilingual native of Brazil and an American citizen. She has been working in cross-cultural market for 27-years providing marketing and consulting services to many international and US-based companies. To learn how Ana can help you grow your business in Brazil or across other global markets, contact us today, we’d love to hear from you.