Do's and Don'ts in Brazil

Brazilian Etiquette Tips

Fashion is very important in Brazil. Dress fashionably, but never too conservatively. All clothes should remain clean and neat, without scuffs or rips. Beach fashion is also important in Brazil, with trendy bikinis being sold right on some of the beaches. So, use your trip to Brazil as an excuse to buy some stylish new clothes and you'll fit in with the locals in no time!

Brazil is a large and diverse country with a variety of fascinating traditions. From table manners to business etiquette, it's important to learn about Brazilian customs before traveling there. Below is a list of some basic Brazilian etiquette.

1. Dress Attire

  1. DO dress very nicely. Women who want to blend in shouldn't dress overly formal or conservative, but should still dress elegantly.
  2. DO wear clean and stylish shoes.
  3. DO keep nails manicured.
  4. DO dress more conservatively for business functions. Men should wear dark suits, shirts, and ties. Three piece suits indicate that you are an executive, and two piece suits indicate that you hold a lower position. Women should wear dresses and suits, but they should still be feminine.
  5. DON'T wear yellow and green together. Those are the colors of the Brazilian flag.

2. Table Manners

  1. DO expect meals to last long. Lunch itself can last over two hours.
  2. DO wash your hands before eating.
  3. DON'T eat with your hands.
  4. DON'T discuss business during meals unless the host initiates it. However, discussing business at meals is more common in Sao Paulo and Rio.

3. Tipping

  1. DON'T tip at restaurants unless the service was outstanding. It's not customary in Brazil. There is usually a 10% service fee at the end of the bill, but paying it is optional.
  2. DON'T tip cab drivers. The bill for a taxi ride is rounded up to the next whole number.
  3. DO give a small tip to hotel porters. R to R will do.

4. Gift Giving and Accepting Gifts

  1. DO give flowers, but avoid purple flowers aside from violets. Purple flowers are traditionally funeral flowers. Orchids are always appreciated, but again, avoid purple.
  2. DON'T give gifts that are purple or black. Those colors are for mourning.
  3. DON'T give handkerchiefs because they are associated with funerals.
  4. DO open your gift immediately.
  5. DO give gifts of liquor, books, or nice pens.
  6. DO give gifts to children.

5. Body Gestures

  1. DON'T make the "OK" sign with your hand. It's considered a very rude gesture in Brazil.

6. Greetings

  1. DO shake hands with everyone who is present and maintain eye contact during the handshake. Women also often greet by exchanging kisses on the cheeks, starting with the left cheek.
  2. DO expect hugs and pats on the back among people you are familiar with.

7. Visitors Etiquette

  1. DO arrive about a half hour late for dinner. For a larger party, arrive about an hour late.
  2. DO bring your hosts a small gift, such as flowers. You may also send flowers the following day.

8. Business Meeting

  1. DON'T be the first to bring up business at a meeting. Let your host bring it up first. This will usually happen after some get-to-know you small talk.
  2. DO schedule meetings about two weeks in advance and have it confirmed in writing.
  3. DON'T bring a gift at the beginning of a business relationship. Also, gifts should not be exchanged at a formal business meeting.
  4. DO be on time. In some parts of Brazil, they are very casual about punctuality, but as a guest to their country, don't be late. However, in Sao Paulo and Brasilia, meetings tend to begin on time.
  5. DO be patient. Brazilians negotiate slowly.
  6. DON'T change your negotiating team while negotiations are in progress. Brazilians prefer to negotiate with the individuals, not the company as a whole, and changing your team could set things back.
  7. DO business face-to-face as opposed to over the phone and email.
  8. DO impress your Brazilian business associates by staying in a nice hotel.
  9. DO expect to be invited to have a drink after work.

9. Socializing and Conversation

  1. DO be aware that Brazilian women can be very up front and may try to flirt with a man, even if he is out with his wife. If you don't like the attention, be cordial but not overly friendly.
  2. DON'T discuss Argentina, religion, the Rainforest, and Brazil's class system.
  3. DON'T ask personal questions, such as questions about age, salary, or marriage.
  4. DO discuss soccer (football), the beach, and Brazil's growth as a country. Those are all safe and interesting conversation topics.

10. Beach Etiquette

  1. DO as the locals do at the beach. Local women usually wear shorts, t-shirts, skirts, or tank-tops while going to and from the beach, wearing a bikini underneath. Local men wear a t-shirt and a pair of swim trunks, with Speedos underneath.
  2. DON'T wear long sleeves, street clothes, or dress shoes at the beach. You'll stick out like a sore thumb!
  3. DO keep your top on at the beach while soaking in some sun! Tan lines are considered attractive in Brazil and topless sunbathing isn't common these days.

In spite of the long list of etiquette, many parts of Brazil are very used to foreign tourists. Even so, if you want to fit in, especially if you are there for business, remember the above list of etiquette on your trip. Happy travels!

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