*By Afonso Infante.
Brazil is the 7th largest world economy. More people live in Brazil than the entire populations of the other South American nations combined. So what could go wrong when you’re doing business with Brazil?
If the language barrier wasn’t enough, differences in culture augment the challenges of doing business with many other countries even more.
It is important to recognize that people from different cultures are different in a variety of ways, including ways of dealing with hierarchy/authority, different notions of what is “respectful” and “disrespectful”, and even different ways of looking at things, different ways of dressing, and different ways of expressing personality.
Doing business with Brazil
Brazilians have a very strong sense of national identity and are very proud of their nation and their culture. The first tip is to never criticize Brazil in front of other Brazilians — even if they’re praising other countries, it’d be considered rude to add on the list of Brazil’s possible improvements.
We also gathered other information that can be helpful, especially if you’re an executive doing business with Brazil.
Personal and business can mix
Brazilians value personal relationships and prefer to establish them before business negotiations take place. Make sure you create a personal connection before jumping straight into the business negotiations. One great way is to learn about the traditional food of the specific region where your business partner is from, and bond over a nice meal before the negotiations are to take place. Expect this meal to be spectacular and take a long time – so it’s a win-win.
Small talk is big!
In the same spirit, when calling somebody and talking over the phone, remember to engage in some small talk first and only talk business afterwards. That shows that you care about them as a person, rather than a means to an end.
Get used to drinking espresso. Lots and lots of espresso. Not sodas, not tea – dark, strong espresso. 🙂
Close, but not too close
In Brazil people usually use first names, and very rarely last names. The difference is that the first name is preceded by the formal title. For example: Dr. João or Seu João for a man, and Dra. Glória or Dona Glória for a woman. And here’s a curiosity: the title “Dr.” is used regardless of PhD titles. In Brazil Dr. is used to indicate respect due to social or professional hierarchy. It will likely be first name, but with indication of respect preceding it. This is where learning Portuguese can be very helpful — the language offers that naturally, with formal pronouns “o senhor” for men and “a senhora” for women.
Brazilians have a somewhat fluid notion of time. Punctuality varies, and expect the pace to be slow leading up to negotiations.
When in doubt, overdress
Go with formal business attire. Brazilians will never judge you negatively for overdressing, but if your attire is too casual that can be perceived as disrespectful. It means you should take your jeans from your bag only for the weekends… And sneakers are accepted in the gym, but not in the office.
Stop staring at your inbox
Picking up the phone and calling as many times as it takes to talk to the person can often be the most effective strategy compared to email or leaving messages and waiting to be called back.
There’s no holding back
Emotions, such as satisfaction and disappointment are readily expressed. Embrace that.
Brazilians rarely say no
You’ll hardly listen “não” from a Brazilian person. They’re diplomatic and non-confrontational. A no usually comes in the form of a “maybe” (“talvez”), or “potentially” (“potencialmente”) which all really mean “no”.
Summarizing: Brazilians are warm, friendly and diplomatic people. They are also smart, clever and tactful deal makers. They thoroughly enjoy the negotiation process. Study the people, know their History, and understand their culture before entering into negotiations.
That’s why Street Smart Brazil’s Portuguese lessons always include cultural tips to help business people achieve not only linguistic, but also cultural proficiency. Visit our online store to learn portuguese!
*Afonso Infante has been a professional writer for 22 years, certified by Pragmatic Marketing Foundations. He was born in Lisbon (Portugal), raised in Rio de Janeiro (Brazil), and has lived in the US for the past 12 years.