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Business culture

In business, the person doing the business is more important than the company. Your personality makes more of an impression on Brazilians than the prestige of your company. In order to do business in Brazil, you need to dedicate a long time to set up personal and business relationships. Relationships are more important than legal documents, when doing business. Meetings are normally casual and slow-paced. You should never get right down to business, and instead engage in conversation first. Having name cards printed in Portuguese is a good idea, however, English-only name cards are acceptable. Doing business requires face-to-face communication. You must be very patient in negotiations, as it may take various meetings to close a contract. Do try to stick to the same negotiating team. Brazilians are great for bargaining, and they make concessions slowly.

Some inside tips:

  • Local business-people tend to be fairly laid-back. There are few unexpected taboos that you should fear transgressing.
  • One exception though: avoid putting your briefcase or handbag on the ground (local superstition holds that your money may run away). Restaurants sometimes provide hooks or clips to help.
  • It is always best to arrive at a business meeting in a suit, but sometimes even investment bankers wear “smart casuals” in the office.
  • In most larger cities, don’t be surprised if meetings are scheduled after 6pm. Brazilians talk about “pontualidade britânica” (British punctuality), which means turning up on the dot. But you should neither give nor take great offence if you or others arrive a little late. Bad traffic is usually the excuse.
  • Business contacts tend to speak English, often fluently. But locals will appreciate even clumsy attempts to chat in Portuguese. (Remember “Bom dia”, “Boa tarde” and “Boa noite” for “Good morning”, “Good afternoon” and “Good evening”.) Do not assume that people will speak Spanish.
  • Brazilians are better motivated with praise for the positive, then by the negative criticism.
  • Conversely, a seemingly positive response to your suggestions does not mean that your order is already in the pocket!
  • Brazilians love to play the “underdog” and are quick to criticize their own country. As a foreigner don’t play along with this.
  • Focus on “Cooperation” instead of a cooler supplier-customer relationships