Rio 2016 Olympics: 6 Brazilian Business Culture Tips

Matthew MacLachlan

2 Aug 2016

As the sporting world turns its attention to Brazil, the country’s social and business world is more and more in the spotlight. Countless reports in the media make predictions on which athlete will shine during the 2016 Rio Olympics or highlight human interest stories on day-to-day life in Brazil.

But what about Brazil’s business environment? Read on and discover 6 key Brazilian business culture tips to deploy when you are next in Brazil or working with Brazilian counterparts. Boa sorte! (Good luck!)

Brazilian Business Culture Tips on the Eve of 2016 Rio Olympics

No doubt many organisations will be considering whether to enter this dynamic and very lucrative market. For those who are, there are cultural implications of doing business in Brazil. Here are 6 Brazilian business culture tips for navigating this fascinating country.

1. Relationships are important

Try to build your business relationships in person where possible, especially with business partners and key customers

Don’t expect to do business in Brazil in the same way you might do business back home. In particular, you should recognise that it is important to establish and build a business relationship, which will be necessary before your Brazilian counterparts start seriously considering your products or services.

Try to build your business relationships in person where possible, especially with business partners and key customers. Foreign businesses must cultivate their own network of business relationships – otherwise, their chances of success are slim.

Do keep in mind that most Brazilians are very proud of their country and appreciate anyone who takes an interest in anything Brazilian; this is a good starting point even if you don’t know very much about Brazil.

Do keep in mind that most Brazilians are proud of their country and appreciate anyone who takes an interest in anything Brazilian

2. Planning expectations

Organisations who rely on running their business on comprehensive, rigid plans may find they need to adjust expectations when working in Brazil. Brazilians are often described as being ‘of the moment’.

Brazilians, including many Brazilian businesses, often consider what is good now, with less consideration of future consequences. As a result, this spontaneity can cause frustration within organisations who regard long term strategies as important for their business.

These challenges can range from forecasting to adhering to a detailed agenda or project plan.

Brazilians, including many Brazilian businesses, often consider what is good now, with less consideration about future consequences

3. The ‘Brazilian Way’

Perhaps because of the significant difficulties of getting things done in the past, Brazilians can be very motivated to find a way forward when faced with an obstruction, setback, or challenge.

Jeitinho, often translated to mean ‘the Brazilian way’, can be seen by outsiders as a creative solution to a challenge

Jeitinho, often translated to mean ‘the Brazilian way’, can be seen by outsiders as a creative solution to a challenge. Jeitinho is not always transparent, especially to outsiders. Organisations who value specific rules and procedures may feel uncomfortable when a situation arises that is resolved in this manner.

4. Respect

Foreign organisations should also be aware that Brazilian business structures value respect for hierarchy and authority much more than most Western organisations.

Employees are highly likely to do whatever their hierarchy (management) expects, even if they may privately disagree with the action or decision. When meeting with Brazilians, you should ensure that introductions are done more formally, using titles and surnames.

You should also ensure that your job title is clear as Brazilians will prefer to have employees meet with their equals. This is one Brazilian business culture tip you should bear in mind.

Employees are highly likely to do whatever their hierarchy (management) expects, even if they may privately disagree with the action

5. Style

Brazilian communication styles are often described as warm and friendly, with an emphasis on the human touch. Foreigners should try to reciprocate in kind, with a warm and friendly demeanour in return.

Very direct, confident communication styles can come across as cold, too impersonal and only caring about the business but not the people involved.

Brazilian communication styles are often described as warm and friendly, with an emphasis on the human touch

Brazilians are also very stylish, with a joie de vivre that is apparent from their well-groomed appearance to the importance of meals and socialising. Organisations should be prepared to join in with their Brazilian counterparts as a further way of building a solid business relationship.

6. Social pitfalls

Never make a Brazilian feel embarrassed, ashamed or feel awkward. This may mean avoiding certain topics of conversation and choosing your words very carefully when certain topics inevitably arise.

It’s also important to avoid the following mistakes:

  • Do not refer only to the USA as America; Brazilians are also located in the Americas
  • Do not refer to Brazilians as Spanish or Latins; they are proud of their Portuguese history and their rich multicultural heritage
  • Don’t assume it’s OK to speak to a Brazilian in Spanish; it will be a foreign language and the average Brazilian does not speak it

Do not refer only to the USA as America; Brazilians are also located in the Americas

Brazilian Business Culture Tips will remain helpful after Rio Olympics

Long after the Olympics are over, and the sporting community turns to the next venue, Brazilian business opportunities will remain lucrative.

Foreign organisations can share in the country’s promising growth if they demonstrate comfort and empathy with the Brazilian way of doing business.

Long after the Olympics are over, and the sporting community turns to the next venue, Brazilian business opportunities will remain lucrative



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