Brazilian people traits and other inheritances

Brazilian girls at the beach in Copacabana

In this post I will explain to you:

Some curiosities and funny facts regarding the inheritances from our Portuguese colonizers

The following is a list I compiled with just a few colonial inheritances which are still alive in Brazilian culture and how this reverberates in the Business culture and environment:

  • Portuguese is our national language (Portuguese connects more than 236 million people worldwide)
  • A mixed culture not only varying in the color of people, but also the mindset which can generally be very different throughout various Brazilian regions.
  • Lengthy business meetings
  • The famous cordiality and hospitality of the Brazilian people was also inherited from the colonial times.
  • The “ empty invitation”
  • The conflict avoidance trait
  • The “Brazilian way”

The above list is generally considered positive traits of the Brazilian culture and can be seen clearly both in the home and in business. Bellow, I try to explain each of these concepts in more detail.

The Portuguese language is the Brazilian national language and also Portuguese connects more than 236 million people worldwide. Aside from Portugal and Brazil, there are 6 other Portuguese speaking countries around the world.  5 of these are in Africa: Angola, Mozambique, Cape Verde, Guiné-Bissau, and São Tomé e Príncipe and the 6th is in Asia, Timor.

Due to our background, Brazilians expect a certain amount of friendliness even in business. First impressions are important, at their soul Brazilians are warm hearted people, thus eye contact, smiles, a handshake, a pat on the back, are all acceptable and impressionable first greetings (but feel the situation out, when in doubt stick to the good old formalities that you’re comfortable with). This warm heartedness comes from our mixed culture and it is ingrained in our mindset regardless of what region you are going to.

It is common in business meetings for informal things to be brought up first such as the result of soccer games before discussing official business.  This serves both as a warm up that breaks the ice and sets the stage for the serious business that is expected to follow. Additionally, it should be known that Brazilians appreciate culinary delicacies and eating out (especially with the new economy), in business it is expected that the host or whoever has the bigger interest will take the other party out to lunch.  Though regionally the people may vary in color, these cultural tendencies are similar throughout business anywhere in Brazil.The meetings tend to be lengthy.

Brazilians are cordial and they love to provide a cozy and friendly environment for their guests.People in general enjoy hosting whether it is in their home or just simply at a restaurant. As a whole, Brazilians like having a good time and regardless of their English skills I believe that you will find them to be friendly and eager to engage in a conversation.

One strange trait that is common among Brazilians is the empty invitation. For example in casual situations like when meeting mates at a bar, don´t be surprised if someone invites you to their home or party but fails to provide you with an address or telephone number for getting there. Foreigners get really puzzled and somewhat disappointed with this situation, however, please do not take it personally because we do it to each other too. Yet, this is something that one should be aware of, so that it does not catch you by surprise.

In our last post we mentioned the Brazilian way or “jeito brasileiro” basically exists because Brazilians don´t want to be put in situations where a conflict is needed, instead they will end up finding a pragmatic solution to solve a problem. On one side the Brazilian Way doesn´t create any problems or harm and it´s is actually a great way to find solutions for challenging issues or conflicts.  However on the other hand, the “Brazilian way sometimes opens the door for corruption and to a huge array of unethical practices.

The Downsides of Brazil

Some of the colonial inheritances from the colonial period are:

  • A Short term view mindset
  • Complicated tax schemes + complicated political scheme= bureaucracy
  • Violence

The short term view mindset is claimed to be a behavior acquired from the “Bandeirantes” (explorers). The Bandeirantes were the first and second generation Brazilians  who were the sons of Portuguese and Indian women. They were people who explored unknown areas by clearing the forests and took care of any Indian problems opening the path to the exploitation of precious metals which provided huge profits in a short period of time. This behavior besides generating diverse traits like individualism, selfishness, etc. also contributed to the environmental degradation of Brazil. Translating this inheritance to nowadays, it is very common to see a new rising upper middle class. This new middle/upper class made their fortunes in a small period of time.  Sharing the attitude of the Bandeirantes, they don’t have much concern for the environment or the community they are living in. Therefore, they are only concerned with their new found fortunes and new oddities that they can now afford.

Corruption still largely affects Brazil. However, our new president Dilma Roussef, has shown great personality during her two first years of presidency wiping clean many of the “rotten eggs” from much of the senate and many other important public positions. Thankfully, the newer generation of Brazilians is more political savvy and aware of what is going on in their country. With the wide use of the internet and especially the social medias, it has become a lot more common to mobilize causes. Brazilians have shown great examples of social mobilization through websites such as Não foi Por Acidente or where individuals can empower other individuals to fight for a specific cause.

Law Scheme + Tax Scheme + Political Scheme = Bureaucracy

These schemes are definitely complicated and we will be explaining them more in detail in future posts. In general, these challenges could be summarized as the Brazilian Bureaucracy.

Violence still affects Brazil, both in the big cities and in the small cities. However, the media makes it look a lot bigger than it actually is. If you come to São Paulo, yeah you can be robbed, just as well as someone can pickpocket you in Rome, or Madrid. Big cities as a whole have security challenges to be overcome. The main origin for violence in large Brazilian cities (which might be a bit different then in European cities) is the inequality of our social system which fails to provide quality education to the future generations. This can definitely create an impact upon our society.

I hope you have enjoyed this post and that you’re a bit more Brazilian savvy.

If you have comments or would like to have a cup of Brazilian coffee be my guest.



Carlos Monteiro is a Brazilian citizen, graduated in Business Administration by the Catholic University of São Paulo. He lives in Odense, Denmark with his Danish Wife, Cathrine, and their half Danish /Brazilian daughter Ines Marie. You are very welcome to be in contact him at any time.

Leave a Reply