What Danes should know about the Business Culture in Brazil


When you step out of the airplane in Brazil you will soon notice a huge variety of ethnicities living in the same country. As in Brazil there is a system of classes -despite the mixed ethnicities- it is very easy to perceive that people of darker skin, in general, are at a social disadvantage.

Following this system of classes the aspirations and the lifestyle people have varies a lot. It is important to remember that English is still a barrier in Brazil and although there is a huge effort from the federal government to encourage more people to learn and speak english.

Some foreigners have difficulty in understanding what is being said at the airport. If that is your case, my advice is that you go to the touristic information spot. They will help you out, or if you want to dare asking a random person, could also be an alternative. Loads of Braziians still do not speak english, but they generally are warm harted and will most likely be willing to help you.

Some practical knowledge about business culture in Brazil

When I was working for the Danish General Consulate in Brazil I recall of an interesting cultural clash I’ve been through.

I was doing market research and trying to schedule meetings for a Danish company in Brazil at that time. That was a great opportunity to learn about some of the cultural differences Brazilians and Danes have when doing business in Brazil.

It was the end of February of 2010. All business deals are “on fire” in Europe, consequently it would be pretty reasonable to assume that the same rule would be applied to Brazil right? Wrong.

Why is that so?

Europeans generally don´t understand why is it so complicated to get talk to Brazilians companies by the end of February. There surely is an explanation for it and it is called Carnival.

Carnival is one of the “main holidays/events” in the Brazilian calendar that stops most activities at the Brazilian offices. At the that time I had to explain to our Danish client why it was very challenging to reach someone at the offices in February.

He was not very happy about it, and I do understand why he was upset. However, it is important to that you understand when is the best timing to get a Brazilian to talk.

What should Danes consider when doing business in Brazil then?

Differently from Denmark -where the culture is known for being flat- Brazil is a country where the hierarchy prevails.

Having an open discussion with all employees is unlikely. The decisions are generally made by the very top, withou much discussion with the employees that are lower in the hirerarchy and criticism isn´t generally well accepted.

Before considering Brazil or or trying to arrange meetings in Brazil, Danish decision makers, should first try to have an understanding of the Brazilian business culture and how this business culture functions

Below you will find a small list of business cultural facts in Brazil that ( in my opinon) are extremely relevant for any Danish decision maker willing to go to Brazil.

The Brazilian Calendar year and holidays

As I said previously, understanding when is the best is timing to do business in Brazil is a key factor for arranging meetings and most likely having success. Knowing upfront, that Brazilians won’t be at the office during Carnival (which is a national holiday and very much appreciated by Brazilians) can help you to focus on other tasks. You can arrange your meetings, for march or april for instance.

The greeting etiquette expected by Brazilians

Relationships, as in any other given country, are key in Brazil. If you have to do business in Brazil, people will generally prefer to talk about the football match that happened one day before or during the weekend, or even the current soap opera ( believe me, soap operas are a relavant topic in Brazil), than going straight to the business subject. Talking about children or amenities in general is always a good start. This happens because Brazilians, feel they need to create a cozy environment in order to go to straight to the point.

Additionally if you are invited to a meeting or if you scheduled a meeting you must be punctual, but you shall not expect the same from Brazilians. They might be a few minutes late or many minutes late.

This is more likely to happen out of the big financial hubs like São Paulo, or Rio de Janeiro where most of the multinational companies are concentrated, making Brazilians more sharp, or sticking more regularly to their agenda.

Entertainment and business meals in Brazil

Differently from Denmark where business meals do exist, but many of the business agreements are done at the office, formal lunches and dinners have always been part of the Brazilian business culture. Not because Brazilians are lazy, or they don´t want to work, or even that they don´t want to be efficient but it is by having the business lunches or dinners that they see an opportunity in socializing and at the same time talking about business opportunities. You should also expect lengthy meetings, this is why I would´t recommend more than 3 meetings in one day.

There is anything else you would like to know or that i might have forgotten, please let me know.

Put it on the discussion thread and I’ll reply to you as soon as I can.

Many thanks

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.
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