Working in Brazil
Brazil’s business environment is diverse and welcomes foreign investment. But there are many bureaucratic hurdles for expats to overcome.
As one of the world’s EAGLEs (Emerging and Growth Leading Economies), the country is a popular destination for companies looking to send their employees abroad.
There are significant regional differences in Brazilian business culture. The work environment in São Paulo is generally more formal, and objectivity, honesty and technical skills are valuable attributes. In Rio de Janeiro, businesspeople tend to be more relaxed but image conscious. These differences are less obvious in multinational companies where the environment has a European feel.
Business structures are hierarchical and age and experience are highly respected, so you should avoid openly criticising senior figures.
Non-verbal communication is important in Brazil. Interactions are often full of gestures and can be very physical, with long handshakes, air kissing and backslapping. You’ll be considered aloof if you’re too reserved.
While it’s unacceptable to arrive late to meetings, you should never expect them to finish on time. Brazilians like to build relationships and spend a lot of time greeting colleagues and engaging in small talk before getting down to business.
Personal connections are very important in Brazil, so it’s worth making the effort to get to know colleagues and business partners. Nepotism in the workplace is common and you’ll often find a number of family members working for the same company.
Portuguese is the official language. English is occasionally spoken in business circles, but you may need to hire an interpreter for meetings.
Usually from 8.30am to 5.30pm, Monday to Friday.
Appearance is important in Brazil and both men and women dress formally and elegantly.
Greet people with a firm handshake and maintain eye contact. Men should wait for a woman to offer her hand.
Gifts aren’t usually exchanged in Brazilian business circles, but it’s polite to take something small if you’re invited to a colleague’s home. Avoid anything purple or black because these colours represent mourning.
Women are under-represented in senior positions and have to work very hard to earn the respect of their male counterparts.
While salaries have risen considerably over the past few years in Brazil, they still tend to be lower than in more developed countries. However, most expats live comfortably and are given good benefits packages that include cross-cultural training, airfare allowances for trips home and repatriation support.
Decide for a place close to the office to live. Quality of life is part of the benefit.
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Always remember to ensure you are aware of and comply with any laws in your host country or country of origin that apply to gift giving and bribery.
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