Brazil - Understanding cultural differences

Inspired by the Olympics to look for business gold in Brazil? Take time to understand the cultural differences first.

Sao Paolo Brazil Culture Advice
Companies motivated by the Olympics to do business in Brazil are being urged to understand cultural differences in the region before setting up meetings and conference calls.With Team GB back home and awaiting a victory parade it is not only sports fans who have been inspired by the action in Rio – there are huge opportunities too for business wanting to expand in South America.Alyssa Bantle, an expert in cross cultural training for Crown World Mobility, says taking time to understand how Brazilians work is the key to success.She said, “The number one mistake people make when doing business in Brazil is making an assumption that all South American cultures are the same."“Just because you have been successful in Colombia, Peru or Chile, doesn't mean you can use the same approach in Brazil. Not only does Brazil have a different language than the rest of Latin America, but also a very different history and therefore mindset."“My advice would be to approach Brazil as a separate entity and learn all you can about how Brazilians think and work.”

Here are 10 top tips to understand the business culture in Brazil and how to connect with people successfully.

1. Find examples of companies that have been successful in Brazil and others that have not and see what sets them apart.2. Don’t presume all Brazilians are the same. Due to a rich and varied culture, the attitude towards concepts like time and relationships can have a huge influence on how business is done. Generally, the further north you go the more relaxed you will find he attitude in doing business.3. Brazilians tend to negotiate with people rather than companies, so building a personal relationship is important.4. Talk to others, both Brazilian and non-Brazilian, who have first-hand experience working in the country before making contact5. Listen deeply – beyond the stereotypes, judgements or frustrations – and see what you can learn about what matters in doing business with Brazilians.6. Be aware that Brazilians tend to associate English speaking people with the US, and might be a little confused when faced with a slightly different accent and sense of humour than they are expecting from an American.7. Learn about Brazilians and their cultural preferences on such core concepts as communication style, relationships and trust in business.8. The Brazilian love for having fun is legendary but don’t expect meetings to be like a carnival. They also have the ability to be in "all business" mode and in control of all emotions when the situation demands.9. Brazilian business is often hierarchical with final decisions made by the highest-ranked manager; so getting an instant decision may not be possible10. Interrupting someone who is talking may be a no-no in the UK but in Brazil it is more acceptable. Don’t be surprised if Brazilians are more physical than the traditionally more reserved British business person.

For more about the crossover between business and culture see our  Culture and Language section.

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