Ethnic groups: 48.43 percent white, 43.8 percent multiracial, 6.84 percent black, 0.58 percent Asian, 0.28 percent Amerindian
Capital: Brasília, largest city São Paulo
National holidays: New Year’s Day (Jan 1), Epiphany (Jan 6), Founding of Rio de Janeiro (Jan 20), Founding of São Paulo (Jan 25), Carnival (Mar 4), Tiradentes and Good Friday (dates change), Labor Day (May 1), Corpus Christi (Jun 23), Independence Day (Sep 7), Our Lady Aparecida, Patron Saint of Brazil (Oct 12), All Souls Day (Nov 2), Republic Day (Nov 15), Christmas Eve (Dec 24), Christmas Day (Dec 25), Boxing Day (Dec 31)
Business hours: Offices: Monday to Friday, 8.30am – 6pm, banks: Monday to Friday, 10am – 4pm; Government buildings: Monday to Friday, 9am – 5pm; Shops: Monday to Friday 9am – 6pm, Saturdays 9am – 1pm
While many middle and senior ranking executives speak excellent English, it is not universal and it will be useful to speak Brazilian Portuguese. Do not use Spanish – it is not the first language in Brazil and may offend locals. The spoken word is the most important form of communication in Brazil. Verbal communication in Brazil is often seen as being somewhat theatrical by other nations due to use of body language and hand gestures. The concept of ‘personal space’ differs in Brazil – strong eye contact is usually maintained, and people stand closer to each other when talking than in many other countries.
Brazilian companies tend to be very hierarchical, although chains of command may seem unusual. Any major decisions will be made at a senior level – however, power may lie in unexpected places as personal relationships play a huge role in business. Internal politics are common, and loyalty may be considered more important that job roles.
Managers are expected to give direct instructions, and subordinates will usually follow these to the letter as doing more or less may be viewed as disobedience. Because of this, any instructions should be as clear and explicit as possible.
While it is unusual to see Brazilian women in senior roles, foreign women can expect to be treated with respect. However, many Brazilian males in executive roles are slightly ‘old school’ – they may compliment female managers and staff or refuse to let them pay for business lunches, etc.
Initial meetings will be very formal – people are usually required to shake hands with everyone on arrival. Later meetings may become more informal. There will often be a lot of small talk before a meeting starts. This is important as it can help develop relationships with your counterparts, something which is incredibly important in Brazilian business.
Discussions will be non-confrontational, but individuals can become excitable or emotional – this is an expression of commitment or interest. Punctuality is not generally of great importance – meetings will often start late and finish later. People should always be relaxed, friendly and easy-going – these are important qualities in Brazil.
In Brazil, it is important that members of a team get to know each other prior to working on a project. Team members will expect to be told their exact role within a team, as well as others’ roles and responsibilities. A chain of command is expected within teams, with one manager to whom the team answers.
Appearance is very important to Brazilians. Men should wear very smart clothing, usually a dark suit. Usually, a two-piece suit is worn, except for at an executive level, where a three-piece suit is standard. Women are less conservative in dress sense than in the UK and should dress to impress.