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10 tips on how to make a good impression when working with Brazilians

Published on January 6th, 2021

Almost everybody knows that first impressions are one of the most important things you need to look out for when doing business. Research in psychology suggests that you have between 0.7 and 27 seconds to make a positive first impression. And to make matters worse, The Assoc. for Psychological Science suggests that many of the factors that make up that first impression are outside of your control.  

All of this can look a little troublesome. The Covid-19 pandemic in the last two years made people turn to online and remote working. And we know that making a good first impression over your laptop camera is difficult. So, you can be surprised when you struggle when you want to develop your business in a country where a lot of deals and partnerships are made based on personal relationships, such as Brazil. Despite the country having more than 210 million inhabitants, its business community is relatively small, and word gets around quickly. If you want to succeed in Brazil, make sure you are prepared as best as you can. 

Here are 10 tips that will help you make great first, impressions when working with Brazilians: 

1. Meet in person

If at all possible go in person: Brazilians like to meet and get to know the person, not the company, they are doing business with. We suggest you make the first contact in person, not via e-mail. If by any chance you have a hard time navigating through the bureaucratic maze, and finding the person you need, then you should hire a “despachante” (middle-man) who can help you with that for a fixed fee. When the middle man or other mutual acquaintance introduces you, you greatly improve the impression you make, as you inherit some of their credibility and reputation. 

2. Keep in touch 

Lobby a lot. In Brazil good friends and acquaintances are more important in business than in task oriented cultures. If you want your negotiations to be productive, you must invest yourself. For any business relationship in Brazil to last, stay in touch with your associates regularly. Follow up on every decision you and your partner made. 

3. Learn the language  

Even though many Brazilians, especially those that work in international settings with managerial positions, speak good English, you should consider learning at least a few words and greetings in Portuguese. Small gestures, such as including a Portuguese translation of your business card, learning common expressions (for example “como vai” or “tudo bem”) will be appreciated and will let them know you are making an effort to know them.  If you decide to take lessons, make sure you have a Brazilian teacher, as there are small differences between Brazilian and European Portuguese. 

4. Small talk is very important 

Brazilians in general are generally very informal. Business discussions nearly always start with some topic that doesn’t relate to the formal agenda. While having lunch, talk about soccer, family, music, ask general questions. It is best to steer clear of subjects that are sensitive, like politics and religion. 

5. It’s OK to interrupt 

Interruption is very common and acceptable in Brazil, so you shouldn’t be offended. They won’t be if you interrupt them gently. However, be aware of status differences. You should avoid interrupting people more senior to you. 

6. Body language 

Body language plays a big role in communication in Brazil. Maintaining eye contact is expected. During conversations with Brazilians, there will be a lot of touching the arms and back. Brazilians are generally very physical and demonstrative. For example, back-slapping is very common amongst men in Brazil.  

7. Dress to impress 

Even though we said several times that Brazilians are informal, they are quite fashion-conscious and take great pride in dressing well. If you want to leave a good impression on them, dress as they expect in a business setting, formally.  

8. Gifts 

If by any chance the meeting is being held at someone’s house, you should bring a small gift, such as flowers. But stay away from purple, which is associated with funerals in Brazil.  

On the other hand, take care. You should only bring small gifts, and don’t do it publicly. Foreign businessmen are closely watched there and your gift might be considered a bribe. 

9. Time management 

Brazilians are flexible in their time management as well. Don’t expect them to arrive on time, as they are always 15-30 minutes late. But, you should be punctual. Book appointments and meetings weeks in advance if possible. Don’t set a fixed end time for meetings, because they will probably last longer than planned.  

Brazilians take time with everything, and expect to spend lots of it talking, both about casual topics and reviewing details of the business contract.  

10. Business presentations 

In Brazil, presentations of any kind should be expressive. Your performance is as important as the content of it. They should be lively, visually attractive, and short (no longer than half an hour). 


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