Welcome to the second part of our feature on Brazilian culture. Brush up on your knowledge of some of these customs and you could find you have a head start on a few of your competitors when it comes to impressing investors in Brazil.

Here’s Brazilian Portuguese translator Paula to explain a few more of her home country’s traditions.

Work life

  • Group mentality here is key. While sarcasm is appreciated, patronising or degrading someone in public will make you look worse than them. Think beehive mentality: if you mess with one person, you’ll get stung by many. The same applies to business meetings.
  • Brazilians are more likely to pay more (within reason) to work with someone they know than pay less but work with someone they have never met. Brazilians are notoriously bad at answering emails if they have never met you, so calling the office is a better course of action. Trust and communication are imperative. If you are willing to travel to meet your client or supplier, you will probably get a better deal out of them, along with securing an advantage over your competition.

Office humour

  • In England, the reverse “V” hand sign – the V for victory shown with the back of your hand towards the viewer – is offensive. In Brazil it is not. So if someone asks you for two plates by using that gesture, don’t worry about it. Now… the American hand sign for ‘Okay’ – index and thumb making a circle with all the other fingers extended – actually means “up your derrière” in Brazil. So, using the gesture to tell your host the food is delicious would not be A-OK.

Office etiquette

  • In the UK, it’s impossible to go a year without suffering a runny nose. Hay fever, constant changes in temperature and cold winters all contribute to a little bit of a Rudolf the Red Nose Reindeer-look. However, as Brazil enjoys a moderate to hot climate, having a cold can be quite a rare thing. So it’s not surprising that blowing your nose in public, and especially at the dinner table, is considered rude. Ideally, you should go to the toilet to do it, but if one is not available, turn your back to the people you are talking to while you do it. Putting a dirty tissue back in your pocket would be considered a lack of hygiene, so disposable tissues are a must.


  • Brazilians party as hard as they work and they are particularly fond of public holidays. Apart from Easter, Mother’s Day (second Sunday in May), Father’s Day (second Sunday in August) and Mardi Gras Carnival, Brazil’s public holidays are not usually on set days of the week like in England, where the spring bank holiday is always the first Monday in May, for example. Brazilians have set dates like September 7th for Independence Day and November 15th for Proclamation of the Republic Day. And what happens a lot in Brazil is that if the public holiday falls on a Tuesday or a Thursday, the Monday or Friday is also swallowed by the festivities, so you have a nice long weekend.
  • There are national holidays, like Carnival or Independence Day, for example, and regional holidays, such as a city’s anniversary. To avoid confusion, it’s worth checking the local calendar when you arrive as you will not be able to do any business during these holidays. Brazilians will simply ignore your calls and emails. Relaxing time is holy over there.
  • If travelling for business, January, February, early March and July may not be the best months to visit. The first three have a very limited time window in between New Year and Carnival. Easter is also a big holiday season and July is the school summer holiday, so if your business contact has children it’s more than likely you will not be able to meet with them on these days.
  • Interesting holidays to make a note of include March 8th, which is International Women’s Day – in other words, Mother’s Day for women with no children. If your business contact is female, they’ll appreciate a chocolate or flowers if you are visiting on this day, or an email if you are not. October 12th is Children’s Day and a good time to win the hearts of your contact’s children. If you make their children happy, you’ll become an adopted family member! You can’t celebrate Children’s Day with your children if you have to work, so this is also a public holiday. November 2nd is Dia dos Finados, known to English speakers as the Day of the Dead. While Brazil doesn’t celebrate it like the Mexicans, it’s an important day to pay your respects to your lost loved ones. This is also a national holiday.

So there you have it – the dos and don’ts when visiting Brazil to do business. For me, writing this article was an interesting experience, as all of these customs are familiar. However, when looking at them through the eyes of a foreigner I can see why the idea of doing business in Brazil may seem daunting. The main thing to remember is this: Brazilians are good natured and, in most cases, they will not take offence– that is, if you don’t upset a woman or a child. So, if you have any problems, just say: “Me desculpa, eu sou gringo.” They’ll burst out laughing and all will be forgotten. Just in case you are wondering … the above means “I’m sorry, I am a foreigner”, and the word gringo is the affectionate slang term nationals use for non-nationals. It’s only offensive if someone shouts it at you in an argument, but the fact you know it will make Brazilians laugh. You’ll be off to a good start straightaway.

If you missed part one of Paula’s tips on Brazilian customs and how they can help you secure a business deal,click here.