Category: Blog, News

Reducing Communication Noise


  • Shake hands upon meeting. When leaving a small group, shake hands with all who are present.
  • When greeting, good friends often embrace. Women often kiss each other on alternating cheeks.
  • Brazilians tend to use first names, but do not do so until you are asked. Brazil differs from Spanish-speaking Latin America in the use of formal names. You can usually address people by a title and last name instead of middle name (e.g., Paulo Pedro Alveres is Senhor Alvares). Often you can address people by a title and their first name (e.g., Dona Maria).
  • A common greeting is Como vai? (How are you?)
  • Bring plenty of business cards.


  • Brazilians enjoy talking about their country’s rapid development, its industry, and the natural resources of the country, including the beautiful beaches.
  • Soccer is the national sport. Brazil has won several World Cups. Pele, the legendary soccer player, is from Brazil. Basketball is also popular, and volleyball is widely played on the beaches.
  • Be expressive in your speech. Brazilians enjoy conversation and are likely to be very expressive and passionate in their viewpoints. Brazilians are comfortable with showing emotion and enjoy good jokes and love to laugh. Though Brazilians tend to be warm, friendly, and outgoing, don’t ask personal questions (such as age or salary). Don’t be surprised, however, if you are asked personal questions.
  • Learning a few Portuguese phrases can earn you points.
  • Try to get comfortable with the closer physical distance in Brazil than in the United States. Your counterpart may be only about one foot from you if you are talking while standing up.


  • Avoid talking about politics or religion.
  • Avoid voicing your opinions on the deforestation of Brazilian forests.
  • Avoid speaking in Spanish to Brazilians; this may be offensive even though they understand the language.
  • Avoid using the American ‘‘okay’’ sign, with the thumb and index finger forming a circle. This is an obscene gesture in Brazil.

Key Negotiating Pointers

  • Brazilians like to bargain. Like U.S. negotiators, they tend to make concessions slowly and grudgingly.
  • Be punctual for your negotiating session, though your counterpart will probably arrive a few minutes after the appointed time. An exception is in São Paulo, where punctuality is practiced.
  • Negotiators are likely to move at a faster pace in São Paulo than in other parts of Brazil.
  • Engage in general conversation before you get down to business.
  • Develop a solid relationship with your Brazilian counterpart.
  • Put some flair into your presentations. Try to be expressive.
  • Avoid public statements that could possibly embarrass your counterpart.
  • Be aware that some use of phony facts may occur at the early stages of the negotiation.
  • Brazilians expect deception among negotiators who do not know one other.
  • Don’t mistake for anger the passion with which Brazilians may argue their points.
  • Get a written agreement. Be clear about delivery times and payment details.
  • Speak English or use an interpreter unless you speak Portuguese.
  • A knowledgeable local is essential to help you maneuver through the government bureaucracies.

 Day-to-Day Pointers

Business Entertainment Guidelines

  • Meals are considered to be a social event. Business is occasionally discussed during meals in São Paulo or Rio.
  •  If you are invited to a private home for dinner, bring a small gift such as candy, wine, or a small figurine.
  • In restaurants, the check is requested with the phrase A conta, por favor. Tips are usually included in the bill. If not, 10 to 15 percent is appropriate.

Table Manners and Food

  • Avoid touching food with your fingers while eating. Wipe your mouth before taking a drink.
  • Conversation after a meal often takes place over a cup of strong black coffee (cafezinho).
  • Feijoada is the Brazilian national dish.
  • A favorite national drink is caipirnha, a tasty drink made with pinga (sugar cane liquor), sugar, and lemon.

Also Remember This . . .

  • Brazil is a good long-term market with almost 208 million people. It has the largest economy in Latin America, and has the eighth largest economy in the world.
  • The Brazilian economy has been helped by substantial foreign investment in the past few years.
How to Negotiate Anything with Anyone Anywhere Around the World – Frank L. Acuff (3rd Edition, 2008)

WRITTEN BY: Carolina Albernaz


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