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Business etiquette in Brazil

Portuguese isn’t all you need to learn for a successful job in Brazil, as our article explores.

While there may be some variations depending on the conservative nature of the people you are dealing with, dressing for business is consistently formal. Suits and shirts are essential regardless of the season. Taking pride in your appearance is not seen as vain. Being well dressed will demonstrate confidence and help to earn respect.

When greeting someone formally, men should be referred to as Senhor and women as Senhora, or Senhorita for younger women. Business cards should be handed out during introductions at the start of a meeting. If possible, your card should have Portuguese on one side and English or your native language on the other. The Portuguese side should be face-up when you exchange cards.

Business meetings are often arranged two weeks in advance and you should make contact to confirm the time nearer the date. While being slightly late is not offensive to many across the country , if you have a business meeting in São Paulo it is more important to arrive on time.

Meetings always prioritise personal relationships. This can mean a lot of casual conversation about sport, family and food before starting on the business agenda. Trying to move the focus on to business instead of small talk can be seen as rude, so try to be relaxed and patient. Expect the atmosphere to be loud and animated. Presentations are likely to be interrupted, which is seen as being engaged rather than rude. Avoid topics around politics and religion, or personal questions.

Do not expect decisions to be made in an initial meeting. Brazilian culture is hierarchical, so it is unlikely the people you first meet are going to be those making the final decisions.

The idea of family is integral to Brazilian culture and many companies, especially smaller companies often operate as family businesses. If you are invited for a meal at someone’s house, it is customary to bring flowers or a small gift to the meal and send another the following day to show your appreciation.

Worker’s rights

There is a maximum working day of eight hours, and a maximum working week of 44 hours, depending on whether the employee works five or six days a week. Typical business hours are between 8am and 6pm. Sundays are a day off and are considered a family day.

After a year of full-time work with the same company, employees are entitled to up to 30 days of holiday.There are 11 national holidays in Brazil, and in some parts of the country you may find that other days are added such as State Rebellion Day, held on 9 July in São Paulo. The 11 national holidays are:

  • 1 January – New Year’s Day
  • Carnival – 40 days before Easter
  • Good Friday – March or April (dependent on lunar cycle)
  • 21 April – Tiradentes Day
  • 1 May – Labour Day
  • Corpus Christi – end of May or early June
  • 7 September – Independence Day
  • 12 October – Our Lady of Aparecida
  • 2 November – All Souls’ Day
  • 15 November – Republic Day
  • 25 December - Christmas Day

Brazil has many labour unions, such as the Brazilian Trade Union Federation (Central Unica dos Trabalhadores,) who are responsible for protecting the interests of employees in full-time work.

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