Etiquette in Brazil

Brazil has a population of about 146 million, with over 15 million living in São Paulo and Rio de Janeiro. Nearly half of the population is under 20 years old.

In Brazil, Portuguese is the official language. However, some of the population speaks Spanish, Italian, and different Amerindian languages.

There is a multiparty Federal Republic in Brazil. The President is chief of the state as well as the head of the government. There are two legislative houses in Brazil: an 81-member Senate and a 503-member Chamber of Deputies.

There is not an official religion in Brazil, but Roman Catholicism is predominant, practiced by over 90% of the population.

Since 1994, the currency of Brazil is the Brazilian real, demarcated R$.

Greet and say goodbye to everyone present.

Men shake hands and maintain steady eye contact

Women kiss twice on each cheek if married, at third time if single.

Women should extend their hands first if they wish to shake hands with a man.

Anticipate that Brazilians will stand close and touch when speaking. Touching elbows, arms, and backs is common.

The hand gesture for okay is rude.

Business is relationship-driven. Expect to invest time in your connection with business people.

Brazilians are willing to do anything for friends.

You don’t have to raise your voice but if you feel compelled, don’t worry about it.

Maintain good eye contact.

Expect to discuss matters for a time before getting to the business at hand.

Initial facts may not be entirely correct in a meeting.

Expect to do most of your business face-to-face rather than by phone, fax, or e-mail.

Confirm business meetings two weeks in advance.

Upon an initial meeting with a Brazilian, a gift is not required, but when a relationship has formed, a gift would be in order. Gifts could include: music, artwork, nice pens, address books, quality notebooks, whiskey, or fine wine.

If you are invited into an Brazilian’s home, bring flowers or a small gift for the hostess.

When giving a gift, avoid the colors of black and purple for these are colors of mourning and do not give handkerchiefs.

Flowers after a visit are welcome.

Orchids are appreciated, but not purple ones.

Gifts will be opened when received.

Avoid any gift with a sharp edge for it represents the severing of relationships.

Do not give practical or personal gifts. (Ties, wallets, jewelry, perfume, etc.)

Avoid giving a gift that is too expensive for the Brazilian counterpart may be embarrassed by the generosity or assume it is a bribe.

Refrain from giving gifts when business is being discussed; wait until the meeting has ended.

Dress well to make a good impression. Brazilians dress with flair.

Women tend to dress “sexy” and non-conservatively.

Expect a lot of noise in restaurants and other public places. Conversations get quite loud and the Brazilians use many gestures while talking.

Being on time for social visits is considered rude. Arrive half an hour to an hour late, a half hour for a dinner, an hour for a larger group.

Don’t discuss Argentina, politics, deforestation, poverty, religion, age, salary, or marital and job status. Stick to soccer, family, Brazil’s growth and beaches, positive subjects, intellectual subjects like travel, art, music, books.

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