Business in Brazil? Know the Customs and Culture.

Globalization means doing business in other countries is getting easier and more frequent. You’re wise to know and observe the proper business etiquette and customs of the local population because they vary greatly. iTi checked in with Executive Planet and Cyborlink, websites considered reliable information sources for international business etiquette, manners, and cross cultural communication, to create this list of insights. We also found etiquette tips from the Business Insider helpful. Here are a few tips if you’re conducting business in Brazil. Of course, not all guidelines work in all situations but the following are generally applicable.

Your Appearance

  • Three-piece suits carry an executive connotation. Two-piece suits are associated with office workers. Conservative attire for women in business is very important. Also make sure your nails are manicured.
  • Avoid wearing any attire that combines the colors of the Brazilian flag (yellow and green).
  • Banking and law are business fields where people dress more formally.
  • Brazilians dress fashionably. Both women and men take pride in their appearance. For example, shoes are stylish, polished, and in good condition.
  • Don’t be surprised if you’re touched. In Brazil touching arms and elbows and backs is common.
  • The hand signal used in the U.S. to indicate “okay” is a rude gesture in Brazil.
  • To express appreciation, a Brazilian may appear to pinch his earlobe between thumb and forefinger.
  • Flicking your fingertips underneath the chin indicates that you don’t know the answer to a question.

Business Behavior

  • The official language is Portuguese. In business, English is widely used and understood, especially in the main business centers—the southwest and southern regions. Brazilians do not perceive themselves as Hispanics, since they were colonized by Portugal, and also don’t like to be called Latinos.
  • Being spontaneous is valued when you’re making personal contacts.
  • While Brazilians are receptive and can become close very quickly, you should avoid topics like salaries, matrimonial status, and age.
  • Generally, in a formal introduction, Brazilians shake hands and say their first name. In informal situations women are greeted with a kiss near (not on) the face. Visual contact is important.
  • Don’t try to make impromptu calls at business or government offices. Make appointments at least two weeks in advance.
  • Some regions have a casualness about both time and work but not big cities like San Paulo and Rio. In Rio, casual refers to the personal and social events, not to business. In these cities business meetings tend to start on time.
  • Never start business discussions before your host does. Business meetings normally begin with casual chatting.
  • In business negotiations there’s usually an initial mistrust. Because of that, frequent meetings, business lunches, and dinners are important to establish a trustworthy relationship. Strong relationships are key to success in Brazil. Be prepared to spend time building professional relationships.
  • Once the mistrust is overcome, the Brazilian inclination is towards group work. Full loyalty is expected from the team. Pointing the finger at any team member amounts to betrayal.
  • Midday is the time for the main meal. A light meal is common at night, unless you’re entertaining formally.
  • Do not eat with your hands even if you’re having a sandwich or pizza. Use a napkin or utensil.
  • American coffee is a mere shadow of Brazilian coffee. Expect to be served small cups of very strong coffee.
  • Sneezing or cleaning your nose at the lunch or dinner table is not acceptable.
  • If you’re entertained at someone’s home it’s polite to send flowers with a thank you note to the hostess the next day.
  • Giving a gift isn’t required at a first business meeting; instead consider buying lunch or dinner.
  • Be cautious about giving someone purple flowers. In Brazil purple flowers are often used at funerals. It’s fine to give violets.
  • Most toasts are given with the word saude (“Sah-OO-Day”) or viva (“VEE-va”).
  • Tipping is generally 10% in Brazil.


As international, multinational, transnational, multi-domestic, and global business continues to expand and bring people closer, the most important element of successful business outcomes may be the appreciation and respect for regional, country, and cultural differences. Follow local customs and you and your business can win acceptance and gain success more readily.

For more, see our blog posts Terpii Travels: Brazil and  Is There A Global Business Culture?



Executive Planet


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