2014 World Cup Brazil: Business Meeting Etiquette in the Land of the Samba

Matthew MacLachlan

18 Jun 2014

As one of the BRIC countries, Brazil has become an attractive recipient of inward investment from international businesses. With the World Cup now in full swing, the world’s eyes have turned to Brazil, offering a unique opportunity for the country to promote itself to international tourists and businesses.

Naturally, the majority of businesspeople who land in Brazil are there to attend meetings: they meet their colleagues, their potential clients, new partners and suppliers.  For these meetings to be successful they need to understand the unwritten code and to follow the rules of Brazilian etiquette.  Just like learning a new dance, there are certain rituals and gestures that need to be observed in order to have a successful outcome to your meeting in Brazil.  Here are some key aspects of meeting etiquette in Brazil:

1. Dress to Impress

Dress to impress:  appearance is important when doing business in Brazil and it’s not only what you say but also what you wear that will leave a lasting impression on your colleagues and contacts.

2. Be Punctual

Make sure you arrive on time for your meetings in Brazil but don’t show your impatience if you are kept waiting before the meeting starts.

3. First Impressions Count

Meeting and greeting rituals are important and first impressions count: men will usually give an extended, firm handshake while women will typically kiss on both cheeks.  Good eye contact is also important.  These rituals are repeated at the end of the meeting.

4. Small Talk

Take the time to make small talk at the start and end of your meeting. With the World Cup fast approaching football is definitely a good topic of conversation and any sport, family, music and cultural events are also safe bets.

5. Get Close

Get close and personal:  Brazilians typically keep quite a small space between each other when communicating and don’t be surprised if your colleagues touch your elbow or back when speaking to you during meetings.

 6. Engage

Make sure you communicate in an engaging and lively manner:  Brazilians tend to have an animated communication style and conversations can be quite flowery and musical.  If you are very direct or monotone in the way you speak, your Brazilian colleagues may fail to connect with you on a personal or professional level.

7. Be Prepared to Be Interrupted!

Don’t be offended if you are interrupted; this is part of the lively Brazilian conversational style and an interruption can often indicate enthusiasm and interest rather than criticism or boredom.

 8. Watch Out for Body Language!

Be aware of your body language and the gestures you use:  Brazilians are often very expansive communicators and use a lot of non-verbal communication.  However, make sure you get it right – certain gestures such as crossing your arms may cause offence.

9. Carnival!

Don’t expect to schedule any meetings during February as this is carnival time and definitely is a time for samba and not for business!

When travelling overseas on business a meeting can often be your one opportunity to make an impression.  Your content or proposition are undoubtedly essential to the success of your meeting but if you fail to dance the dance and adapt to the different rules of meeting etiquette you may find you do not get the outcomes you expected from your meeting.

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