While Brazil is well known for Carnaval, its business environment is very sophisticated, and foreign businesses should make efforts to comport themselves accordingly.
It is important to be flexible and accommodating if sudden changes occur – for instance postponement of a previously confirmed meeting. It is recommended to re-confirm a meeting before a visit is made.
Depinding on the location, Business meetings may start late – sometimes more than 1 hour late – and they will often run late. Traffic in São Paulo above all other Brazilian cities means that sufficient time should be scheduled for transportation.
The Brazilian business environment is quite hierarchical. Brazilian business people are often relatively formal at the first meetings, but later – when a more personal relationship has developed along with the business relation – they are normally found to be quite relaxed. In a business context Brazilians are generally open-minded and ready to discussing a wide range of subjects.
In general Brazilians are willing to put up with much more than the average Western is ready to accept. Of course depending on the situation it is considered impolite to express impatience.
Dinner in Brazil, even during the week, usually starts at 8:30 p.m. at the very earliest. On the weekends, the meals may start even later, and last well into the late night or early morning.
Business dress is often formal, though it will depend on the type of business and position of the individual with which one is meeting.
Business visitors should become accustomed to several business conditions specific to Brazil. It is part of the Brazilian business culture to build personal relationships with associates, and it is unlikely to commence negotiations before such a reliable relationship has been established.
The pace of negotiation is slower and is based much more on personal contact. It is rare for important business deals to be concluded by telephone or letter. Many Brazilian executives do not react favorably to quick and infrequent visits by foreign sales representatives. They prefer a more continuous working relationship. The Brazilian buyer is also concerned with after-sales service provided by the exporter.
The slower pace of business negotiations does not mean that Brazilians are less knowledgeable in terms of industrial technology or modern business practices. In fact, one should be well prepared technically when making a call on a local firm. In addition, it is advised to learn as much about the Brazilian economic and commercial environment as possible before doing business.
Personal space standards in Brazil are different than the West, so one should not be surprised if a local contact is standing very closely while speaking, pats one on the shoulder or even hugs. In spite of the difference in personal space, it is smartest to act more formal rather than less during an initial meeting.
Portuguese is Brazil's official language. Most Portuguese speakers understand also Spanish. While many Brazilians may speak English, they may wish to conduct business in Portuguese. The non-Portuguese speaking may need an interpreter on more than 50 percent of business calls. Correspondence and product literature should be in Portuguese, and English is preferred as a substitute over Spanish. Specifications and other technical data should be in the metric system. English is spoken among most high level businesspersons, though it is often a good idea to have a translator accompany you on special meetings to ensure that there are no major misunderstandings.
Crime rates throughout Brazil remain highest in the larger cities. While the risk is greater during the late evening hours, street crime can occur during both the day and night, and safer areas of the city are not immune. Several Brazilian cities have established specialized tourist police units to patrol areas frequented by tourists. However, most policemen do not speak English.
Travelers should "dress down" when outside and avoid carrying valuables or wearing jewelry or expensive watches. Very poor neighborhoods known as "favelas" often located on steep hillsides in Rio de Janeiro, are found throughout Brazil. These areas are sites of less controlled criminal activity, therefore it is not advised to enter these areas. Read more about Safety Here
While the ability of Brazilian police to help recover stolen property is limited, it is nevertheless strongly advised to obtain a "boletim de ocorrencia" (police report) at a "delegacia" (police station) whenever any possessions are lost or stolen. This will facilitate the traveler's exit from Brazil and insurance claims.
Travelers are advised to check yellow fever vaccination requirements prior to arrival.
Brazil observes Brasília Time (BRT) all year. since 2019, Clocks do not change in Brazil during winter/summer.
While office hours are generally 8 am - 6 pm, decision-makers begin work later in the morning and stay later in the evening. The best times for calls on a Brazilian executive are between 10 am - noon, and 3 - 5 pm. Official Lunch time is up to 1 hour, however lunch may take up to two hours.