As anyone who has completed an international assignment will tell you, each country has cultural differences and norms that can make expatriate life challenging. In this post, we will examine some of the aspects of culture in Brazil, a common location for international assignments. Below, our long-time trusted partner, IOR Global Services, provides important information for successful cultural integration.

Quick Facts

  • Group Orientation: Brazilians draw their sense of identity from groups and family. Overall harmony and “saving face” are paramount in dealing with any problems. Jeitinho, or “the way around,” is the solution; appearance and final results tend to be more important than promptness. In a professional setting, personal initiative is not expected. This is considered the supervisor’s job, and taking responsibility does not come naturally.
  • Relationship Focused: Personal interaction is highly valued, and friendship is a powerful bond. Business relationships require a particular kind of social interaction, and building strong, personal connections are key to creating a pleasant work environment. Family and friends are the primary social unit and consideration.
  • Hierarchy: Respect for hierarchy, status, age, experience, and etiquette is a must. Subordinates are expected to show respect, and supervisors are expected to take care of and guide their employees. Personal initiative is not expected and decisions are usually made at the top.

Gender roles tend to be traditional and strict, but this pattern continues to evolve, especially in metro areas. Afro-Brazilian women and women in rural areas tend to experience a higher degree of discrimination. Same-sex marriage was legalized in 2013. Marginalized groups have seen advances over the past decade, but systemic inequalities persist, with poverty and hardship seen throughout the country.

Fun Facts

  • Brazil is the fifth largest country in the world and the seventh most populated
  • The country exports a quarter of the world’s coffee supply
  • Nearly 100% of the population speaks Portuguese, which differs only slightly from the dialect spoken in Portugal and varies moderately by region within Brazil

WATCH OUT! – Cultural Taboos

  • Discussing religion in public may be perceived as an invasion of privacy. The country is predominantly Catholic.

Communication in Brazil

  • Emotionally Expressive: Showing emotion signals interest, dedication, and enthusiasm. Touching is welcome between close friends and family at work. A firm, prolonged handshake is often seen in business. Embracing and “air kissing” are also common. Quiet, reserved behavior may be perceived as unfriendly or lacking commitment to a relationship or project.
  • Indirect: Friendly communication is critical to establishing social and business relationships. Direct communication may be seen as cold and unfeeling; “face” is very important. Criticism must be intermingled with praise to soften the blow. Always take time to greet amigos and colegas. People come before appointments. Shaking hands is expected each time you greet a colleague. Gestures often add to the message and may even contradict the verbal message.


*Image courtesy of IOR

Want to learn more about an assignee’s day-to-day life in Brazil (or any other country)? Please contact your Aires representative.

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