undskyld mig, men denne kaffe er gået ud


How have  I learnt to express myself, and what have I realized about myself after leaving in Denmark for 7 months.

So there was I after an awesome afternoon at Århus University, where I had the chance to talk for 20 minutes with the acclaimed,Brazilian best seller and TED talker, internet and social media savvy, Martha Gabriel, for 20 minutes. Right after our short, but fantastic meeting I went to Århus Station to catch my train back towards Odense. That was near 18 o’ clock. When I got there the train was about to departure.

Before cathing the train I ordered a Kaffe as I usually do. Soon after I started drinking my kaffe I quickly realized that the coffee was passed out,so I told the attendand, “undskyld mig, men denne kaffe er gået ud”. The girl was very polite, and  promptly prepared another one. As my train was going to leave soon she offered me an American coffee. Two shots of expresso and loads of hot water.As there was no other alternative, I accepeted.

But this history isn’t exactly about how I had my coffee…

If on the one hand I was slightly disappointed for not getting exactly what I wanted, on the other hand I was very happy for myself for one thing. I was able to say what bothered me. Yes, as strange as it may sound, I was happy because this small fact represented a huge personal victory.

For many years up untill recently I didn’t have the habit of complaining about things. I don’t mean to complain as a whiner, but more in the sense of fighting for my own rights.

The reason why I’m dedicating a post just to talk about “my coffee” is because I believe this is a massive insight I had yesterday. Moreover, I trutly believe that this insight I had can be a a crucial factor for companies willing to or already doing business in Brazil.

Brazilians in general won’t say the word “No” to you. In fact they will avoid using negative words and will, most likely find a way to be revolving around the subject they don’t like, but still avoiding the use of the word “no”. Straightforwardness in Brazil still is for few, and those who are really straightforward are often understood as pessimistic or angry people.

Ok…I’ll try to be more didatic about this. Imagine this situation…

You are the managing director of a company in Brazil and you are in charge of several Brazilian employees.Imagine now, that something affects the productivity of employees at the office you are working in. You would probably notice something is wrong, and would expect people to complain, or discuss about it.

Again, I cannot afirm that this is a “rule of thumb” but, in general, I would say that your employees in Brazil wouldn’t complain to you. They would be talking to each other, but never to the “boss”. So it that case it would be your task to find out who is the leader within the goup of employees your are working with  to find out what is affecting the productivity at the office.

Having worked for the Danish Consulate and now living in Denmark I understand that the Danish culture can be way more pro-active than the Brazilian culture. Conflicts,for instance, are something understand as a positive thing which will enables mutual growth. In Brazil, this picture can be quite different, in all levels of the organization.

Another interesting difference about the Danish culture. A “boss” in Denmark will pass on the assignments, and will expect the task to be accomplished. This is already ingrained in the Danish culture for ages.

In Brazil,on the other hand, a boss will give the task to his subordinate, but will have to coordinate closely the task way more than in Denmark. This doesn’t happen because his Brazilian subordinate is lazy,but mainly because in Brazil, it is expected to be told how to do things.Given the fear that employees might have from their bosses, they prefer to know how should they execute a task rather than assuming the responsability. If something goes wrong, there is always someone “above” to blame

The freedom with responsability is a concept that is deeply rooted within the Danish culture. Take a look at the universities in Denmark. They do no oblidge students to be phisically present at the classroom. A teacher gives what is going to be studied and discussed, and he/she expects that the student will be aware that he is responsible for himself. The student has to accomplish the task at the due date. Conversely, in Brazil universities( even privates??!!!)  still use the presential list to control whether students are watching the class or not.

Something personal….

Recently, we had a celebration at home, and my parents in law have gotten from some relatives some kind of sparkly wine. We all thought that the quality and taste was really bad, but the persons who gifted them are one of the dearest persons of the family.

Curious with that situation I asked them. “Ok guys, this wine is,indeed, terrible. What are you going to say to Mr and Ms Ice.T?” They were really straightforward and said said. ” Puha, it is really bad”.

It gets more and more interesting to see how the Danish and Brazilian cultures are different. It is only by respecting those differences that one will thrive in such a complex environment

Hope you have enjoyed this article. Feel free to bring your contribution.

Mange tak.




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