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Cultural Awareness

Culture Overview

The Brazilian people are religious, resilient, and easy-going. Most of them love soccer, carnaval and soap operas. Here are some key highlights of the local culture in contrast with US culture:

Brazilians do business with people; Americans with companies

  • Brazilians work to live; Americans live to work.  The culture is naturally extroverted and this can often times lead to exaggeration of the facts.  

  • The “time is money” concept does not apply in Brazil.

  • If someone calls you a “Gringo” it is not an offensive term.

Brazilians feel disrespected when foreigners:

  • Think all Brazilians can understand and speak Spanish.

  • Think that all of Brazil is Rio de Janeiro and favelas (slums)

  • Think that naked women in thong bikinis are an everyday reality.

Logistical problems are always an excuse

  • Be careful about keeping your appointments. In Brazil, especially São Paulo, you must always worry about traffic. If it is raining, or there is an accident, it can kill your entire day. As a precaution, leave your place one hour before you were think but even then there is no guarantee you will arrive on time.

  • It is common for Brazilians to arrive up to half an hour late to an appointment.  Do not take offense to this.  Brazilians tend to build this half-hour flexibility when scheduling and you should always be prepared for this.

Words can be deceiving

  • "Yes" does not always mean "yes". Brazilians are very informal in social life and also in business. When the time to get to an agreement comes, be aware that "yes" does not always mean "yes". Brazilians don't like to openly say "no", so a "yes" usually turns into a "maybe". Also, if somebody says "I'll call you", don't wait for them to call!  It’s on the entrepreneur to follow up.

Cultural Similarities

Brazilian culture is similar to the US and Portugal in many ways. Brazil resembles the US culture in the following aspects:

  • Brazilian love to spend and take on a lot of debt.  (Boletos & credit cards)

  • Latin american spanish speaking countries (all other countries in the continent) think of Brazilians in a similar way as the rest of the world thinks of US people: flashy, rich, loud.

  • Both Brazil and US are continent sized countries; built on gold, cash crops and slaves.

  • Brazilians have an incredibly diverse range of ethnicities.  

Brazil resembles the Portugal culture in the following aspects:

  • Language (although not 100% the same, the structure is strikingly similar.  Work has been done in the last several years to unify the two languages.)

  • Catholicism as the primary religion;

  • Cuisine and architecture are incredibly similar

Cultural Surprises

  • Brazilians are incredibly hospitable and welcoming. Expect to drink a lot of beers with potential business partners before doing deals;

  • Trust is the hardest thing in Brazil.  Business is often times not discussed in the first three meetings.  They need to be able to trust you first.

  • Life is a party. Brazilians celebrate everything (2 weeks of pre carnival and then two weeks of regular carnival) The country shuts down for almost a week and can prevent a startup from reaching important milestones.

  • Anyone can be a Brazilian: Sao Paulo feels more cosmopolitan than NYC. Brazil has the largest population of Japanese ancestry outside of Japan.

  • Slow to react: Brazil is a bit slow to react. Meetings typically run about 10-15 minutes late. -"Sometimes a foreign catalyst is needed to get the ball rolling." @bedy

  • There is a lot of red tape, but you don’t need to abide by it all. Certain regulations are not strictly enforced.  It's critical to prioritize certain legal matters over others to avoid becoming stagnant with your startup.