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Doing Business in Brazil

Brazilian social and business culture

A Brazilian culture overview

Fact file:

* Source: CIA World facts book 2007

Overview

Brazil is a country greatly shaped by its diverse culture and geography. The largest country in South America in both population and area, Brazil has long been the source of important natural resources such as timber, sugar and coffee.

The culture is a thriving fusion of Portuguese, African and indigenous Indian influences, all of which have left their mark on Brazilian society resulting in a rich, distinct culture. Brazilian culture is known for its hospitality, openness and colourful and rhythmic events such as Carnival.

As Catholicism is the predominant religion in Brazil, many of these events have a strong Catholic influence. The diversity of Brazilian society is further emphasised by the prevalent class differences which permeate almost every aspect of society. Understanding the diversity of Brazilian society and the unique values and attitudes of its citizens will help you develop better relationships and do business more successfully with your Brazilian colleagues.

Key concepts

Family:

Brazil is a collectivist society which places family at the centre of its social structure.
Families in Brazil tend to be large and close-knit, providing members security and connections.
The importance of family is also evident in Brazilian business culture where often family members will often be found working for the same company, either family owned or otherwise.

Relationships:

Similar to the importance placed on family, Brazilians depend heavily on relationships with others. It is essential therefore to spend the time getting to know your Brazilian counterparts, both personally and professionally. Knowing the right people will also help minimise any frustrations you might experience doing business in Brazil.

Time:

Time in Brazil is approached in a very relaxed and flexible manner. Punctuality and precise plans are not common. Brazilians tend to live life at a slower pace, and this carries over into business which can result in negotiations taking much longer than you are used to. Meetings are also often delayed or cancelled without any prior warning.

Doing business in Brazil

Brazil’s unique cultural heritage has been influenced by a variety of diverse populations and cultures. First inhabited by indigenous tribes over 8,000 years ago, Brazil became a Portuguese colony in the 16th century after it was discovered by Europeans. In 1822 Brazil gained its independence and has since seen an exponential increase in its population as people from around the world settled there. Traditionally a very agriculturally based economy, Brazil is known for its production of sugar, coffee, soy beans, orange juice and beef. Brazil also has very strong service and industry sectors which have fuelled its economy over the last century.

The last decade has seen Brazil open up its economy to foreign markets and investment making it the fifth largest economy in the world. Recognised as the largest economy in Latin America, Brazil also benefits from its position as the gateway to the lucrative Mercosur market. A strong diversified economy and unique culture make doing business in Brazil an exciting but often challenging endeavour. Understanding Brazilian business culture and etiquette is therefore essential for successfully doing business in Brazil.

Brazil business

Working practices in Brazil:
Structure and hierarchy in Brazilian companies:
Working relationships in Brazil:
Business practices in Brazil:
Brazilian business etiquette (Do’s and Don’ts):

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