Doing Business in Brazil

Doing Business in Brazil | BCBusiness
Taking a business trip to Brazil? Brush up on your etiquette before embarking for Latin America.

B.C.’s resource companies are increasingly looking to Brazil for business opportunities thanks to its robust energy sector. Opportunity avails if you don’t mind a tardy CEO or picking up the cheque

The Greeting

Eye to Eye: Standard salutations often start with a long handshake and steady eye contact for men, or a kiss on each cheek for women.

Self-Sabotage: Saying, “I’m sorry, I don’t speak Spanish,” when greeting your host won’t get you far: Brazilians speak Portuguese.

The Basics: Learn Portuguese pleasantries such as “good morning” (bom dia), “good afternoon” (boa tarde) and “how are you” (como está).

The Meeting

Face Time: While North American business often takes place by phone and email, in-person meetings are mandatory in Brazil. Getting to know and trust a potential business partner is imperative.

Coffee Talks: Learn to love coffee. A business meeting always includes cafezinho. Brazilians drink this intense brew sweetened—do the same to avoid a raised eyebrow.

It’s Only Time: CEOs may be up to 30 minutes late for a meeting. Don’t be offended—the locals see time as something outside their control. Be patient and relaxed about scheduling.

Go Local: When negotiating, use local lawyers, accountants and a translator. Brazilians don’t rush through negotiations; they want to slowly build trust with people, not with companies.

Schedule Smart: Don’t plan business trips to Brazil during Carnivale week (44 days before Easter).

Stay in Touch: Brazilians may be agreeable in a meeting, but that doesn’t mean the deal is sealed. Follow up after the trip and if they respond well, you just might be in business.

The Meal

Business Lunch: Doing business over lunch is common. Order churrascaria, morsels of skewered, barbecued meat. Consider picking up the cheque—it will boost your reputation.

Dinnertime: A business dinner typically starts at 9 p.m. Impress your host by ordering the caipirinha, a cocktail made with cachaça (fermented sugarcane juice), sugar, lime and ice. If invited to your host’s residence for dinner, arrive 30 minutes late.

High Style: Brazilians dress sharply for business. Make it your mission to look as good as they do. For women, manicures are expected.

Get Personal: Because Brazilians are extremely animated, conversation is often informal. Share personal details and don’t worry about interrupting someone—it’s not only acceptable; it signifies enthusiasm.

Not OK: Beware, the “OK” gesture is considered inappropriate in Brazil.

Download the BCBusiness iPad app to access our Doing Business in Brazil video featuring etiquette instructor Andre Nudelman!


Etiquette Profs: Ray Castelli, CEO of Weatherhaven Resources Ltd. and member of the Canada-Brazil CEO Forum; Andre Nudelman, Brazilian businessman and chair for the Canadian Council for the Americas; and Sabino Ramos, regional director of Latin America at ACL Services Ltd.